Minutes: Charter Review Committee Hears from Higgins, Bardsley, Narkewicz, Plassmann

Here is a draft of the minutes of the 10/6/10 meeting of Northampton’s Charter Review Committee. The committee received input from Mayor Clare Higgins, former City Councilor Michael Bardsley, and City Councilors David Narkewicz and Angela Plassmann.

See also:

Video and Documents: Charter Review Committee Meeting of 5/26/10; Origins of Northampton’s Charter
Contreas in YouTube excerpt: “This charter very much reflects its time…its 1883 time. The legislature as a group was very suspicious of centralized executive power. They liked to see these things that were incredibly dispersed, where the council has some independent role, and the mayor has to come to the council to get certain things done… When you read the new [modern-day] charters…that’s all gone. The mayor does this, the council does that. Those are the roles… You don’t see this commingling of powers and responsibilities that you see in these older documents.”

Video: Bay State Village Forum for Mayoral Candidates, 10/21/09; Term Limits; North Street Condo Proposal
Clare Higgins: “We have term limits. It’s called the ballot box… I don’t think that term limits necessarily are helpful… I also think my opinion is less important than what the full citizenry’s opinion is, and that’s something that, if we do a charter review, that may be very well what is one of the things that is taken up in a charter review process.”

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…”

“Power at the Local Level: Growth Coalition Theory”
The urban policy-planning network began with a meeting in 1894 of local reformers from 21 cities in 13 states…

The reforms were put forth as part of the ideology of “good government,” which meant “efficient,” “businesslike” government by experts and technicians, as opposed to the “corrupt,” “machine-dominated,” and “political” government alleged to exist in a growing number of cities. The new movement claimed to make government more democratic and less boss-dominated, although the actual effect of the reforms was to increase the centralization of decision making, remove more governmental functions from electoral control, and decrease the percentage of workers and socialists elected to city councils.

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…