I strongly believe in the process for charter reform via a charter commission. I believe that if we elect nine open-minded, thoughtful people who are committed to hearing voters and exploring options, the commission will serve Newton well with worthwhile proposed changes that will be accepted by voters.
Of course, any candidate will come into the process with biases based on experiences they have had while serving in various roles in Newton. As a 21-year resident of Newton, I have had many experiences with our governance that shape my perspective.
As co-chair of the League of Women Voters of Newton’s charter study in 2010, I learned a great deal about how our charter compares to that of comparably sized cities in Massachusetts. I think the League’s positions for charter change are sensible and rooted in thorough study.
However, I would not enter the charter commission committed to the League’s positions. I expect the charter commission to do its own review of alternatives in governance, and to consider the League’s ideas along with those of other organizations and individual citizens.
I think the following issues will merit thoughtful examination by the charter commission:
- Our Board of Aldermen has 24 members. The other cities our size in Massachusetts (50,000 to 150,000 residents) have city councils ranging from 7 to 15 members. Would a smaller Board be more effective?
- Presently, Newton voters decide in 25 contests every two years. Would reducing this number (by creating 4-year, staggered terms, for example) improve voter engagement?
- Newton has term limits for School Committee (8 years) and no term limits for Board of Aldermen. Should these two bodies have consistency in term limits?
- Many city charters provide for an automatic charter review every 10 years. Would this be a benefit to Newton?