Here is a complete blip.tv video of last night’s organizational meeting of Northampton’s Charter Review Committee. The committee members include Councilor Jesse M. Adams, Councilor Marianne L. LaBarge, Councilor David A. Murphy, Colleen Currie, Alan Seewald, Margaret Striebel, and Samuel Welson (who was elected chair). The video is 2 hours 4 minutes long and was recorded by Adam Cohen.
Here is a 10-minute YouTube excerpt of the committee debating the scope of its mission. Some members are inclined to recommend a wholesale rewriting and modernization of the charter. Others want to prioritize specific changes such as term limits and the role of the mayor at City Council meetings.
Seewald: “I came away from this charter saying, ‘This thing needs to be built from the foundation.’ We need an entirely new charter… It just seems so disjointed.”
Here is another 10-minute YouTube excerpt where the committee debates how to solicit input from the public. Some members want to invite public input at every meeting. Others prefer a more organized approach for greater efficiency.
Adams: “I absolutely disagree [with trying to channel most public comment into a single big forum as opposed to also making a regular place for public comments at the committee’s business meetings]… I think that that serves an extremely valuable function, having people come before our business session [at City Council]…and letting it be open to the public. I absolutely think that we should begin with public comment.”
The Charter Review Committee’s next meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 26 at 7pm. Check the City Calendar for details as that date approaches.
Michael Bardsley: “For the executive position, yes, I do support term limits, comparable to what we have for the national government… Running for office is very difficult. Running against an incumbent is even more difficult. It’s a lot of time. It’s a lot of money… We need term limits. It’s healthy for the community to force an election periodically and have a change…”
These reforms and their effects are as follows:
…Off-year elections. It was argued that local elections should not be held in the same year as national elections because city issues are different. What this reform did was to break the many policy connections between local and national levels, while at the same time reducing voter turnout for local elections, thereby favoring conservative candidates…
Elimination of salaries for city council members. It was argued that serving on a city council should be a civic service done in a volunteer fashion in order to eliminate corruption and self-serving motives for seeking office. The effect of this reform was to make it more difficult for average-income people to serve on city councils because they could not afford to do so…
Video: Presentation of Final Recommendations of the Best Practices Committee to City Council, 3/5/09
Download the recommendations online or view reference copies at Forbes Library, Lilly Library, and at City Hall in the offices of the City Council, Mayor, and City Clerk.