Greenfield panel formed to revisit citizens petition process

Staff Writer
Published: 8/3/2022 5:40:25 PM
Modified: 8/3/2022 5:37:18 PM

GREENFIELD — In an effort to begin a “more inclusive” conversation on the section of the charter that deals with citizens initiative and citizens referendum petitions, Appointments and Ordinances Committee Chair Dan Guin has formed an ad hoc committee comprised of city officials and community members.

The committee will include two city councilors (Precinct 1 Councilor Katherine Golub and Precinct 9 Councilor Derek Helie), two members of the public (Al Norman and Isaac Mass), two mayoral appointments and resident David Singer, who will chair the committee.

“My hope is after they sit down, they can collectively come to an idea that would work well for the community,” Guin said.

The formation of the committee follows a November 2021 ballot question, which sought to change the number of signatures required by the charter for a citizens referendum petition from the current threshold of 10% of voters voting in the most recent biennial city election (but no fewer than 2.5% of registered voters) to 7% of all registered voters in the most recent biennial city election. The question came as part of the charter review process, which takes place every year ending in zero.

The ballot measure was defeated by a vote of 1,485 “no” votes to 1,321 “yes” votes. This meant the language in Section 7-8 of the charter would remain as it is currently.

“It was very close,” Guin recalled.

Guin explained that in light of the November vote, the Appointments and Ordinances Committee previously recommended no changes to Section 7-7, which pertained to the citizens initiative petition process. However, this recommendation was met with criticism from residents who felt the processes for the two types of petitions should be more in line with one another.

With citizens initiative petitions, new issues or ideas can be proposed to the City Council or the School Committee, or brought to a ballot if rejected by the respective body. By comparison, the citizens referendum process allows citizens to propose an existing law or ordinance be brought to the voters for reconsideration.

Under the current charter language, a resident seeking to submit a citizens initiative petition must collect signatures equivalent to 10% of voters voting in the last biennial election — but not less than 5% of all registered voters at the same date — for the City Council or the School Committee to either accept or reject.

If rejected, that resident would then need to collect an additional number of signatures equivalent to 5% of voters voting, but not less than 2.5% of all registered voters.

Guin noted the full set of charter changes has already been sent to the Legislature for approval. He explained that City Council has the authority to recommend changes as needed. Any changes will require the approval of the mayor, followed by the Legislature.

The ad hoc committee will begin to meet this month, he said. It will act in an advisory capacity to the Appointments and Ordinances Committee, which will in turn consider a recommendation to forward to the full council.

“I wanted a diverse group of people who have different opinions,” he said, noting there is representation from both “yes” and “no” voters from the November 2021 ballot question. “I think we’ve got some of the best minds on the topic to work this out for us.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.


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