Pittsfield charter review taking shape
Thursday May 17, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- The City Council has endorsed the creation of an 11-member city charter review committee to scrutinize the entire charter, which has been virtually unchanged for nearly 80 years.
During a special meeting Wednesday night, the council unanimously agreed to the size of the ad hoc panel and to the process through which it would be formed -- the councilors would choose seven of the committee members and the mayor would select the other four.
"What better way to bring diversity to the committee than have the council pick most of the members," said Ward 6 Councilor John M. Krol Jr.
The council is expected to take a final vote on the makeup of the committee at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night. If approved, the measure will be referred back to Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi for his endorsement.
Bianchi originally requested the council create a nine-member committee, with him appointing all the members subject to council approval. However, the mayor has said he would support a larger committee and be willing to share the appointment duties with the council.
"He would like to see the [committee] selected by the City Council and by himself," said Donna B. Mattoon, the city's director of administration services. Mattoon was speaking on behalf of Bianchi, who was attending a conference of Massachusetts mayors.
Council members agreed with the mayor that no elected officials should be considered for the committee, but they did recommend a liaison from the council be named to the ad hoc panel as a non-voting member.
The committee would take one year to examine the charter, seek public input on potential changes, and make recommendations to the council and mayor. Any changes to the charter ultimately would need the state Legislature's approval.
All committee meetings would be open to the public, with at least two public hearings held to review potential recommendations. The panel would request that Pittsfield Community Television consider broadcasting the gatherings.
The council also supports the committee, with approval from the mayor and council, hiring a consultant with know ledge of Massachusetts mun icipal government at a cost of up to $30,000.
"A consultant would be a very good guiding factor in getting our charter reviewed," said Ward 1 Councilor Chris tine Yon.
While the council unanimously agreed to the makeup of the city charter review committee, several councilors were concerned their proposal didn't guarantee the city's seven wards would each have a representative on the panel.
"I want to make sure the committee is very inclusive in representing the city," said Councilor at large Melissa Mazzeo.
Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop was among the councilors who advocated for the best committee possible to review the charter.
"The best membership trumps whether someone is on there from Ward 5," Lothrop said.
He noted the manner by which the council will vote on its appointments should result in diversity on the committee. Each councilor will submit two names, with all 22 nominees to be listed on a ballot. The top seven vote-getters would be placed on the committee.
The charter's last major overhaul was in 1932, which resulted in the current system of electing a mayor every two years and an 11-member City Council comprised of seven ward and four at large council seats.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.
What's next ...
- The Pittsfield City Council will take a final vote on its proposed 11-member city charter review committee Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall.
- If approved, the council will refer its recommendation to Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi for his endorsement.
- The committee would be charged with reviewing the entire charter, which outlines how city government is set up and operates.
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