Monday September 17, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The newly appointed Pittsfield Charter Review Study Committee plans to hit the ground running when it gathers for the first time this week to begin scrutinizing the city’s governing document, which has been virtually unchanged for 80 years.

The 11-member committee is scheduled to meet Thursday at 6 p.m. at City Hall. The meeting will be broadcast live by Pittsfield Community Television on the local Time Warner Cable system.

The ad hoc panel’s agenda includes selecting a committee chair, an orientation on the current charter, discussion of hiring a consultant and an overview of the review process and timeline.

The City Council and Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi anticipate the committee can complete its work by the fall of 2013. Committee member William D. Barry believes the panel can meet the roughly 12-month timeline.

"It’s kind of an ambitious schedule, but it holds our feet to the fire," said Barry, an attorney and former city councilor.

Peter M. Marchetti said he and other committee members have already started to review the charter on their own.

"Everyone I’ve talked with has done their homework; read the charter and made notes," said the local banker and former city councilor.

The charter review committee will examine the entire charter, seek the public’s input on potential changes, and make recommendations to the council and mayor.


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Any changes to the charter ultimately would need the state Legislature’s approval.

The charter’s last major overhaul came in 1932. It resulted in the current system of electing a mayor every two years and a City Council comprised of seven ward and four at-large council seats.

Last month, the council, through the mayor, established the committee that includes two attorneys, two former city councilors, a retired judge, a labor union leader, and a one-time high school history teacher.

Bianchi and Council President Kevin J. Sherman say the committee assembled can handle the daunting task of reviewing the city charter.

"We have such a tremendous group of people, very energetic and committed to their mission," Bianchi said.

"I also want them to feel free to go about their business," he added. "I don’t think we need to meddle or mess with the process."

Sherman, who first strongly advocated for the charter review 16 months ago, vows to watch the review process from the sidelines, unless called upon by the committee for assistance.

"I’m a phone call away at anytime for those with questions or concerns -- but they’re driving the train," he said.

Nevertheless, Marchetti believes the committee engaging the public in the review process will be key to its success.

"If we do our job and illicit plenty of public input, it will be clear what the community will support and won’t support in terms of changes to the charter," he said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.