In a vote, 7-3, the City Council on Monday approved a Home Rule Petition to the State Legislature that would change the City Charter to enact term limits on Councilors, School Committee members and the mayor.
The measure came somewhat out of the blue by Councilor Anthony DiPierro two weeks ago, when he introduced it at the April 26 Council meeting. However, such a thing has been discussed for several years off and on.
Those voting against the measure were Councilors Fred Capone, Gerly Adrien and John Hanlon. Those voting in favor were Councilors DiPierro, Rich Dell Isola, Rose DiFlorio, Jimmy Tri Le, Mike Marchese, Stephanie Martins, and Michael McLaughlin. The measure did require a super-majority (8 votes), but with Councilor Wayne Matewsky out on medical leave, it meant only seven votes were required. The matter goes to the State Legislature where it must be approved by both branches and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker.
“I’m pleased my colleagues voted to pass term limits for local offices in the City of Everett,” said DiPierro afterward. “Term limits increase the ratio of competitive elections, encourage more ordinary people to get involved in local government and promote a constant flow of fresh ideas. This change was a good compromise and doesn’t rule any one individual out from ever serving again.”
The measure would be pegged to start on Jan. 1 after the Municipal Election in the fall. It would allow Councilors and School Committee members to serve five terms, or 10 years. The mayor would be limited to three terms, which would be 12 years. The is also a clause for “break in service,” which means one could run for a different office and continue serving in a new capacity, or take a term off and then run again in the next Municipal Election.
The measure did create a lot of debate within the Chambers Monday, and only Hanlon was against the concept of term limits.
“I’ve always been against term limits and always will be,” he said. “Anyone can run for any office at any time if they want to…There’s no guarantee anyone up here will win their re-election. The way you win an election is to do a good job. I don’t think we should have to get rid of a good person when they’re doing a good job.”
Councilor Fred Capone was against the measure because it was yet another Charter Change proposed over the last 12 months that didn’t go to a vote of the people. On all the other Charter Changes – which has included Ward-only voting and adding the mayor to the School Committee, among others – Capone has opposed them due to his belief such changes need to go to the voters of the City.
“I’m not opposed to term limits, but I’m opposed to how we have proposed them,” he said. “It’s yet another Charter Change…Any change to the Charter should be decided by the voters…If we continue to change the Charter at a whim, we will not have a Charter anymore. It shouldn’t be this easy to change the Charter.”
Others, such as Martins and Marchese, didn’t like the current proposal as they thought it wasn’t strict enough, though they said they would vote on it to get something on the books. They preferred fewer years, such as eight years on the Council.
“The experience I’ve had over so many years is this makes you a better City Councilor when you have to go after it and your time is restricted and you have to make an impact quickly,” said Marchese. “I’m going to vote for it because it’s before us, but I don’t think it’s restrictive enough.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin was in full support of the measure and indicated it would bring in fresh ideas to the Council.
“We all know that it can be easy to get complacent and too comfortable,” he said. “This measure says you can serve 10 years and then you’ll have to sit out one term, and that gives room for someone else with fresh blood to come in with new ideas.”
Councilor Adrien said she’s in favor of the concept, but she questioned the agenda behind DiPierro’s measure. First of all, she said it was equitable because it didn’t start immediately, but rather allowed those already elected to stay in office for another 10 or 12 years starting Jan. 1. She said it should start fresh on Jan. 1 for anyone that’s served more than 10 years or 12 years already.
“From my personal experience with one of the councilors that is a sponsor, I’m wary of anything he puts up because there’s always an agenda behind it,” she said.
DiPierro said he had reached out and asked Adrien to collaborate on the matter, but she did not answer him back.
“I can’t change your personal opinion of me,” he said. “This was in Legislative Affairs and there was a meeting on it. One month ago I called you and asked you to co-sponsor and collaborate on this piece and I did not receive a response. So, that comment doesn’t fly with me. I understand where you’re coming from on this, but I can’t change your opinion of me.”
After the meeting, Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he does not support the term limits proposal.
“I want my position on this matter to be clear – I strongly oppose the imposition of term limits on local elected officials,” he said. “My opposition of term limits encompasses all local bodies: City Council, School Committee, Mayor, State Representative, and State Senator.
“As it is the elected position I currently have the pleasure of holding, I will begin by substantiating my stance with the position of Mayor,” he continued. “The job of the Mayor is to craft the overall vision of the City through the creation of innovative ideas and the implementation of methods to achieve these goals. While formulating a progressive and beneficial vision for a City is a time-consuming task, it pales in comparison to the time required to make tangible and effective steps toward the achievement of the vision. This requires assembling a team of professional staff members, forging relationships with fellow elected leaders on a local, state, and national level, and understanding the community’s needs and desires through constant engagement with our residents. Very often, innovative ideas cannot be crafted and implemented in one term; the approaches we have taken as a City and have been recognized as leaders for take time to come into fruition. Large-scale ideas like cleaning up a Brownfield site and attracting a multi-billion dollar resort, working with partners at the State House and in the Senate and House of Representatives to secure funding for Bus Rapid Transit, reimagining the future of cost-effective, environmentally friendly, equitable methods of transportation, opening up our waterfront, and many more ideas once-thought to be an unachievable dream can be achieved when we not limit our local leaders to a defined length of service.”
•Backtracking on Nip Bottles
The City Council was ready to all-out ban nip liquor bottles two weeks ago at its meeting, but since that time backed off on the idea. On Monday, they decided to not ban nips, but instead send a letter to support legislation at the state level that Sen. Sal DiDomenico is championing to get such bottles included in the “bottle bill.” That bill still has a long road ahead of it, and it may or may not pass. If it did, it would allow redemption of nip bottles at 10 cents per bottle.
Councilor Rosa DiFlorio said she was in favor of the ban, but the co-sponsor of the piece – Fred Capone – argued they should take a more measured approach to consider the impact on businesses.
“My feeling is let’s have this go one year and see about Sen. DiDomenico and Rep. McGonagle getting a 10-cent deposit on them, and if there is still a problem in a year, we’ll abolish them,” she said.
Said Capone, “To ban them completely would put a huge hit on these businesses. We need to be cognizant of that and know these things.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said after the meeting he also doesn’t agree with the ban.
“While I disagree with the outright banning of nip bottles, I do agree with adding a deposit fee to the purchase,” he said. “Even a one-cent deposit would increase the incentive of returning these bottles rather than littering them. Nip bottles allow someone to control the amount they’re drinking while having the option to purchase a small amount of alcohol. The real issue here is personal responsibility.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin stayed the course on the ban, though, and was pretty much the only one left who still favored such a ban – which has successfully been enacted in Chelsea for almost three years.
“We have talked about this as long as I’ve been a city councilor and it never gets any better,” he said.
“If we’re going to get anywhere and stop these nip bottles from being everywhere on our streets, then we need to do more than just supporting state legislation,” he continued. “The City of Chelsea did it and it eliminated a lot of problems and it did not hurt businesses there in any significant way.”
The Council voted 10-0 to send a letter of support on DiDomenico’s bill.
•TND Responds to Pope John
Mayor Chief of Staff Erin Devaney told the Council on Monday night that The Neighborhood Developers (TND) had been the only respondent to the Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop the former Pope John High School into affordable housing.
The project would be to redevelop the property for affordable senior citizen housing and for disabled veterans.
“We’re examining that proposal to make sure the City can accept the terms of the proposal,” she said.