Charter review committee minutes 2010 08-11

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Charter review committee minutes 2010 08-11

  1. 1. Northampton Charter Review Committee Councilor Jesse M. Adams Colleen Currie (Secretary) Councilor Marianne L. LaBarge Councilor David A. Murphy Alan Seewald (Vice-Chair) Margaret Striebel Marc Warner 1 August 11, 2010 7- 9 P.M. Present: Jesse Adams, Colleen Currie, Marianne LaBarge, David Murphy, Alan Seewald, Samuel Welson Not present: Margaret Striebel Documents: Open Meeting Law Guide Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley, July 2, 2010 MINUTES Agenda 1. Public comment period No public comment. (Adam Cohen present to film meeting.) 2. Review and approve minutes from June 9, 2010 meeting Councilor LaBarge moved to approve the minutes. Mr. Seewald seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously. 3. Changes and/or additions to agenda None.
  2. 2. 4. Discuss constituent request to Councilor Adams that email addresses of committee members be posted on committee website, per “best practices” as noted by the constituent. Mr. Welson does not want to post his personal e-mail address. Ms. Striebel had notified him she is also reluctant to post her personal e- mail address. Mr. Welson suggested maybe set up e-mail address for Committee. Mr. Adams noted that councilors’ e-mail addresses are already posted. Mr. Seewald and Ms. Currie do not mind posting their personal e-mail addresses. Mr. Seewald suggested that since some members of the Committee are not comfortable posting personal e-mail addresses, a common e- mail address be set up which would forward mail to each of us. We have a responsibility to act in a public forum. If we get individual e- mails, we will not know what we are each getting. Mr. Welson will set up a common e-mail address for us. 5. Review future meeting dates. Currently scheduled meeting dates are for 7:00 P.M. on the second Wednesday of each month (September 8, 2010, October 13, 2010, November 10, 2010, December 8, 2010, January 12, 2011, February 9, 2011). Earlier discussions raised concerns about the possible need for more frequent meetings and conflicts with religious days of observation. We already changed September 8 to September 15, and October 13 to October 6. No need at present time to add meetings. Councilors particularly stretched in terms of meetings for subcommittees. 6. Review and discuss previously identified city charters with the goal of identifying the most desirable model(s). Mr. Seewald noted the charters [listed in June 9, 2010 minutes] share a common skeleton, establishing a clear delineation of structure, delineation of powers, etc. The issues of length of terms, questions of whether mayor or council appoints, etc. is for a charter commission working with professional consultants. Ms. Currie agreed our job is not to develop details.
  3. 3. Mr. Welson said if we just say we need a shorter, more concise charter, we will have failed. We need to look at some issues raised, and get input from others. Mr. Adams stated we will fail to take an opportunity for real reform if we do not make recommendations regarding Best Practices #10 (mayor chairing city council and school committee). He wants to hear from mayors in other communities Mr. Seewald stated the issue of separation of powers is intuitive. It would also be helpful to hear from our past mayors Councilor LaBarge noted another issue, i.e., city councils having a president and vice-president. Mr. Welson asked whether we need to discuss specifics in charters. What is our next step? Mr. Seewald said he was struck by some things, e.g., some of Easthampton’s definitions. Mr. Adams asked whether we should recommend a particular charter. Ms. Currie said she thought we should, or parts of various charters if we do not find one in particular. Mr. Seewald disagrees. We should make recommendations regarding issues raised and leave policy considerations to a charter commission without influence from us regarding a particular charter. Regarding the office of council president, e.g., should it be filled by an at-large or ward councilor? Should we decide who to invite and be specific regrading their experiences with the charter? Mr. Adams suggested we invite the present mayors and former local mayors regarding their roles on city councils and school committees. Mr. Seewald suggested also inviting present and past councilors regarding the same topic, i.e., the mayor as chair of city council.
  4. 4. Mr. Adams suggested we ask them to submit something in writing. Numbers could be excessive, although we would miss interaction with them. It could extend the time we would have to work. Mr. Welson noted the school committee should also be involved. Charters vary in terms of the power school committees have. Mr. Adams said we could ask someone, like the city clerk, for a list of past elected officials - mayors, city councilors, school committee members. Mr. Welson suggested a request could be posted in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Ms. Currie made a motion to solicit information from past and present mayors, city councilors, and school committee members regarding chairing the council and school committee . Councilor LaBarge seconded the motion. She also noted the mayor also chairs the Finance Committee, Mr. Murphy noted the charter provides the mayor is the chair of any committee on which s/he serves. Mr. Adams stated he does not believe the charter requires s/he be on particular committees. Mr. Murphy states the charter places the mayor on some committees, and the council president chairs others. There was discussion regarding other committees on which the mayor serves and chairs. Mr. Welson stated we need to expand the list of those from whom we solicit information. Mr. Seewald asked whether the issue is broader - on what committees, etc. should mayor served, etc., the proper role of mayor in city government, the proper role of the president of the council. What level of detail do we need to address, e.g., whether president of council is at-large or ward representative.
  5. 5. Mr. Adams stated at a minimum we need to address Best Practices #10. Mr. Welson stated it is difficult to decide until we have done research. Mr. Seewald asked what are we going to ask them to address. Mr. Welson suggested Marilyn Contreras may have a list of issues which have arisen. Ms. Currie stated she assumed the issues raised repeatedly by at least two city councilors will be included. Mr. Welson agreed, but stated it would not be only those two issues. Mr. Seewald stated he would be willing to e-mail Marilyn with a request for questions. Mr. Welson said he would try to get a list of people through the city clerk. He also asked whether we would expect to have that input by our next meeting. Mr. Seewald asked whether the next meeting should be a public meeting. We will have to discuss Marilyn’s questions. Mr. Seewald asked Adam Cohen how he gets information. Mr. Cohen cited several different sources. Ms. Currie questioned the purpose of open public forum. Mr. Welson said to get ideas of how charter can be improved. Mr. Seewald asked whether we are doing a public session at our next meeting. The response was that we are. Councilors were solicited for publicity methods. Mr. Cohen was solicited for information on how he becomes aware of meetings. Mr. Cohen was solicited for public comments as to how the Committee is doing.
  6. 6. It may be a good idea to have a public e-mail list, and one e- mail address for the committee. How to publicize - Gazette; WHMP - Mr. Welson will talk to David Narkiewicz. Councilor LaBarge said that as chair of the Committee he could do a press release, could speak on WHMP. Mr. Welson declined. Mr. Welson asked about Facebook. Councilor LaBarge said she did not want to get involved in Facebook. Ms. Currie agreed. Mr. Cohen clarified he was not suggesting a full interactive web site; maybe Yahoo or Google Groups. Best Practices Committee may have had such a list. Adjourned 8:15 P.M.
  7. 7. It may be a good idea to have a public e-mail list, and one e- mail address for the committee. How to publicize - Gazette; WHMP - Mr. Welson will talk to David Narkiewicz. Councilor LaBarge said that as chair of the Committee he could do a press release, could speak on WHMP. Mr. Welson declined. Mr. Welson asked about Facebook. Councilor LaBarge said she did not want to get involved in Facebook. Ms. Currie agreed. Mr. Cohen clarified he was not suggesting a full interactive web site; maybe Yahoo or Google Groups. Best Practices Committee may have had such a list. Adjourned 8:15 P.M.

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