The Everett Charter Commission held a public hearing to give residents an opportunity to make their comments about the proposed changes in the structure of Everett government as outlined in the Commission’s comprehensive preliminary report.
In his remarks at the hearing held last Wednesday night at the city council chambers, Chairman Paul Schlosberg said the key recommendations include: replacing the current two-tiered 25-person bicameral Everett City Council with a streamlined unicameral single-branch 11-member city council; adopting a four-year term for Mayor in order to maximize efficiency for the entire city administration; and a provision to recall any elected official.
The 11-member city council would consist of six ward members elected citywide and five members elected at-large citywide. The school committee would remain a nine-member body, with six ward members elected citywide and three members elected at-large citywide.
Ward 2 Alderman Michael Mangan began his remarks by thanking the Charter Commission for its hard work over the past 17 months in compiling its report.
“I agree with most of what’s in the charter – the only issue I have and I’ve gone back and forth on this is the reconstruction of city government,” said Mangan. “Although I do believe that some believe changes need to be made, I think just by going to one body [city council], it’s going to eliminate a lot of people that are trying to get into the process. Most of our mayors at some point had come from the city council or started out on a board and worked their way up.”
Mangan suggested that the city keep its bicameral form of government but eliminate six of the positions and make it 12 [elected positions], two per award, and each elected official must opt to take a salary or a health insurance package from the city, but not both.
Peter Napolitano, a lifelong Everett resident and member of the Common Council, said he had issues with two of the items in the Charter Commission’s preliminary report.
“One is the four-year term for the mayor,” said Napolitano. “The reason I say that is because the people of Everett like to keep their elected officials accountable. The other issue is the vote of the mayor on the school committee. I’m not stringent on that but I think it’s a good idea that both city government and the schools work more closely together than they currently do.”
Superintendent of Schools Frederick Foresteire thanked the Commission for giving the community the chance to have input in the new charter.
“My only issue was with the 11 members of city government – I think that number should be reduced to nine, it’s more than enough to represent this community,” said Foresteire. “As far as this issue of the mayor being a voting member of the School Committee to control spending, anybody who understands the law, the state sets the school budget; the mayor doesn’t do it. The only thing the mayor can do to the school budget is add to it. He can’t take away. The criticisms that I’ve heard in this chamber from elected officials about the way the city is being managed – then they want to put the person on the School Committee, these same people. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Two conclusions became clear from the speakers at the hearing: 1) the Charter Commission did a thorough and professional job in its comprehensive review of the current city charter; and 2) some form of change to Everett’s bicameral form of government, though often discussed in the past, was overdue.
Schlosberg said that at the April 13 meeting the Charter Commission will vote on the proposed charter.
“By May 3, we must present this charter to the City Council in order for them to then put it on the ballot for November, 2011 election,” said Schlosberg.
If the voters approve the new charter, it will take effect in the September, 2013 preliminary election.