Greenfield charter’s 10-year review topic of Monday hearing

  • SINGER

Staff Writer
Published: 10/1/2020 4:43:23 PM

GREENFIELD — The city’s Charter Review Committee is in the middle of its 10-year review and is considering proposals from both city officials and the public that so far include reducing the size of the City Council from 13 to 11 members by eliminating two at-large seats, allowing the mayor to chair the School Committee, adopting a ranked ballot system, and increasing the number of signatures needed to hold a citizens referendum, among others.

The committee will hold a public hearing Monday at 6 p.m. to allow the public to weigh in on what changes they might like to see made. The city reviews the charter every 10 years ending in “0,” so it will be fully reviewed again in 2030, though changes can be made by vote between reviews. 

Chair David Singer, a former City Council president who represented Precinct 5 during his tenure, has received input from city councilors, three of whom are on the committee, who early in the process were asked to read the charter from beginning to end and provide their suggestions and revisions. 

When the committee’s work is done, it will make a recommendation to the full council, which will hold at least one public hearing and eventually vote on a revised charter that will guide the city for the next 10 years, until the city’s next review in 2030. The revised charter will also have to receive an “OK” frrom the state Legislature and governor, according to Singer.

“We’re taking everyone’s suggestions and considering them all equally,” Singer said. “We’ve been meeting since June and have heard from numerous people. We hope to hear even more Monday night.”

Singer said his seven-member committee will allow everyone who attends Monday’s virtual meeting five minutes to speak. Depending on how many attend, he might allow more time. He said people will also have the opportunity, if they’d like, to speak about suggestions made already by others.

“There will be time for debate, though, when all of our changes are presented to the council,” he said. “We expect that to happen by the beginning of the year. At that time, the council will discuss the changes, make some of its own, hold public hearing(s) and eventually vote an updated charter.”

Singer said people typically go about their daily lives unconcerned about what the charter says, so this gives them an opportunity to stop, read it and decide what they think needs to be changed — everyone’s suggestions are given equal weight, at least while the committee is gathering information. It will talk about all of the suggestions in coming public meetings and make decisions about which ones to include in the update.

Under Greenfield’s current charter, for instance, citizens who want to hold a referendum vote on a City Council action must gather 10 percent of signatures of those who voted in the last biennial election, or roughly 550. There has been a proposal to raise amount of signatures needed for a citizens’ referendum to 12 percent of all registered voters.

“On this one, for instance, the language needs to be clarified,” Singer said. “It’s very unclear, so whatever our recommendation is, it will definitely have to be rewritten.”

Another proposed change would eliminate any reference in the charter to the mayor’s salary, allowing the City Council to set it. There is also a proposal to allow the mayor to be not only a voting member of the School Committee but its chair, as well. And there is a change that would allow the School Committee to see the mayor’s school budget before it is submitted to the council, while there is another proposed change that would allow “tightening up” the process for capital improvements, as well as changing membership of the Public Safety Commission to include people who have civil service experience.

On Monday, the committee will allow people to discuss all of those items, if they so wish, but also hopes people have proposals of their own, because this is the time to make them, Singer said. The committee, whose members besides Singer are Alan Woods, Erin Donnally Drake, John Lunt, and City Councilors Shiela Gilmour, Christine Forgey and Vice President Otis Wheeler. Ex-officio members City Council President Ashli Stempel-Rae and Mayor Roxann Wedegartner have no power other than to make recommendations to the council.

“We just need to be intelligent about what needs to happen and what changes might need to be made,” Singer said. “We’re here to be a guiding light. We might add some of our own flavor, but ultimately, the Council and mayor make the final decisions.”

Singer said some changes will simply receive an “OK” from the mayor and a vote from City Council, while other issues, like ranked ballots, will eventually find themselves as ballot questions for Greenfield voters to decide.

For more information or to reach members of the committee, email 2020charterreviewcommission@greenfield-ma.gov.

People can participate in Monday’s virtual public hearing at: bit.ly/2SmbvDn. To join by phone, call 408-418-9388 and use access code 1328290822

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.




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