Will the Proposed City Charter Fly?

November 2, 2011
By

Does Everett need to change its form of government?  That is the question before the voters on Tuesday.

In the last municipal election, voters overwhelmingly supported the creation of a charter commission to re-draft a new city charter.

One major highlight of the newly proposed Charter is going from a bi-cameral form of government to a single board of 11 Aldermen.  Six aldermen would represent and must reside in the each respective ward and five aldermen would be at large candidates. All aldermen must run citywide.

In the new charter, the term of Mayor would go from two years to four years.  This has turned into more of an issue than was originally expected according to longtime political observers.  According to this group, this single item might sink the new charter proposal.

However, all these ponderings might prove to be a tempest in a teacup if the new charter is accepted.

While many aspects of the charter if accepted by the voters would not take place until 2014 like the combining of the Common Council and Board of Aldermen, other provisions would take place as soon as the City Clerk has certified the results and these could fundamentally change the way the City has to operate.

According to the second to last line in the proposed charter going before the voters, it states, “so much of this charter as is possible shall take effect following its adoption by the voters.”

One item that would be affected is the municipal budget for next year, fiscal year 2013 that will be taken up starting in March of 2012.

Presently, the School Committee submits their budget and it cannot be altered by either the Mayor, Board of Aldermen or Common Council.  The Mayor submits the school budget and then his budget for running the rest of the city to the Common Council and Aldermen for their review and vote.  The Common Council and Aldermen can reduce the Mayor’s budget.

Under the new Charter, the Mayor must have a joint meeting of the School Committee, Superintendent of Schools and City Council to coordinate the budget. The City Council in this scenario would include members of the Common Council and Aldermen.

Unlike the present method of putting together the city budget, the school budget would be able to be decreased by members of the City Council and Mayor.

Also, not only the Mayor but the City Council must have the funds to each have an outside auditor go over the proposed new budget.

Lastly, the Mayor must put in very clear parameters the capital improvement projects that are contained in the budget.  For example if Broadway from Ferry St. to Chelsea St. was to be repaved then the Mayor would have to put this on a list and could not deviate from the list as presented in the budget process.

Another new proposal in the proposed charter that would have to be followed is what happens if an member of elected government leaves office before the term has expired.

According to the new charter, the runner up must receive at least 20% of the vote to automatically assume the seat.  If the candidate does not then receive the 20%, then a member can be appointed by the City Council as long as they live in the Ward if it is a ward seat.

Lastly, the new charter question will require the voters to physically turn over the ballot and vote.  Hopefully, everyone will remember this fact.