PITTSFIELD -- The Charter Review Study Committee has heard from officials, past and present. Now, it's turning to the public for suggestions for changes to Pittsfield's 80-year-old city charter.
The 11-member group, which is expected to issue a report to the mayor and City Council later this year on possible charter changes, has invited members of the public to its next meeting at 5 p.m. today (Jan. 2) in City Council chambers.
City officials, who earlier offered their own suggestions, report that they have heard from residents on a number of issues, some almost universally accepted as necessary, and some controversial.
A key decision will be whether to add a city manager to Pittsfield government, possibly hired by the council, or a deputy mayor to the existing governmental format to help the mayor oversee city departments and personnel. Officials were split on what change -- if any -- should be in the revised charter.
Among city officials, there was wide agreement on a proposal to lengthen the terms for some or all city officials -- generally from two to four years.
The lengthening of terms has primarily been discussed for the mayor, council and School Committee. Most speakers believe two years does not allow an office-holder time to pursue an agenda before having to begin campaigning for another term.
Some have mentioned a three-year term, but City Clerk Linda Tyer was opposed to any change that would force the city to hold both a local
Payment for School Committee members, who now are barred by the charter from any payment, has been strongly supported. Some said that their payment should be set at a percentage of pay for other officials.
Other ideas floated by the officials who offered comment before the charter committee included:
* Lowering the number of voter signatures required to run for School Committee and other city posts.
* An overhaul of the provision for citizen petitions or referendums, first of all to simplify the process and the language, which Tyer and others said was nearly impossible to decipher.
* A general modernization of the charter language to ensure citizens can understand it.
* A change allowing the mayor to make appointments without council approval.
The charter committee also plans a second meeting to gain input from the public before it begins deliberations. The group's consultant, Stephen McGoldrick, has recommended scraping the 1932 charter version and starting over on a new charter.
Any changes would require approval by city voters.
To reach Jim Therrien:
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On Twitter: @BE_therrien