Charter Committee Recommendation Starting to Take Shape

Public invited to give input, feedback at meeting Tuesday night at Town Hall.

When Selectman Scott Wilson took the reins of the Special Act Charter Committee (SACC) a few months ago he had two priorities -- one was legal, the other perceptual.

Wilson was appointed as a liaison from the after it was determined that His first objective was to "recreate" the meetings that had been deemed illegal. Despite a couple of early hiccups, that issue is being dealt with

But the second objective was, perhaps, more important and more challenging ... add transparency to the process of the charter review.

With that in mind, Wilson and the committee scheduled a series of three public forums to gain input and feedback from residents on possible changes to the Town Charter and, in particular, the form of government best suited for Tewksbury moving forward.

The first, back in April at the Senior Center, attracted about 20 residents. The second is scheduled for Tuesday, in the starting at 7 p.m. Wilson said he anticipates being able to give residents a framework of the types of charter changes the committee will be recommending.

"The first public meeting was great. We got some terrific input from people," said Wilson. "I think by the meeting on (June 7) we should be able to give people a sense of where we are leaning."

Generating the most interest among residents is the possibility of Tewksbury abandoning its open Town Meeting form of government and

Wilson and the SACC discussed the three types of government being considered when they met with elected officials in May.

"They asked some great questions," said Wilson. "Depending on where they were coming from (and what board they served on) they asked different types of questions."

Wilson admitted there is a not a consensus yet among SACC members on possible recommendations. He said that while a majority of the nine-member committee may be leaning a certain way based on what they feel is best for Tewksbury, it's more of an even split when it comes to what the public will accept and support.

As for Wilson, personally, he sees the benefits of a seve-member Town Council and doesn't believe it would strip residents of any control.

"I don't think people would have less control (if Town Meeting is abolished), I think they would have a different type of control," he said. "What I like about the council (form of government) is that people would actually have more control."

Wilson explained his position by saying that when the Board of Selectmen hold public hearings on issues that matter to people, there tends to be a strong turnout and passionate debate. He said that in an open Town Meeting, less people tend to be involved in the discussion.

"I love those passionate debates. A lot of good things come out of those meetings," he said, adding that voters would always maintain the ultimate control at the ballot box. Wilson believes that if a council form of government were to be adopted, a workable recall procedure must be part of the checks and balances.

Moving forward, Wilson said he doesn't believe that any proposed changes to the Town Charter will be ready to present to voters at the Fall Special Town Meeting. He feels early 2012 is a more realistic target for completing a draft, having it reviewed by Town Counsel and conducting a series of public information sessions before bringing it to Town Meeting voters.



Karyn June 08, 2011 at 07:19 PM
I "could" be wrong but I believe there was some mention that the TC members would not be "precinct specific." Also discussion on whether or not current Selectmen whose terms weren't up yet at that point would be "carried over" as TC members, or if the entire seven would be newly elected. As to costs, which do you think will cost more...the two mtgs. a year or the significant and not yet addressed "monetary compensation" for SEVEN people full time which will be much higher than the tiny stipend current BOS members receive? Also, I don't believe a resident question asked last night was fully answered as to whether or not THIS CURRENT committee had looked at alternatives to IMPROVING the present system which I think would be a better and more cost effective solution & far more palatable to us diehards plus serve to encourage newbies to become more involved if they understood the TM process better. If the excuse is it's "not part of the mission statement" than I would say it "should" be. The fact that TM was streamlined & warrants were more explanatory with a glossary of terms and executive summaries added by a LONG DEFUNCT committee from the pre-internet days was not answering the question & now that warrants are no longer mailed anyway makes it pretty much a moot point IMO. I STILL disagree that this is not a RADICAL change...a person's individual VOTE, SIMPLY BY ATTENDING TOWN MTG. would be taken away...it is what it is & no amount of checks and balances will change that FACT.
Ten June 08, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Sean wrote: Open Town Meeting is the only way you always have the opportunity to enter a vote that is the way you want to vote... Scott replies: Not true My reply: Sean is 100% correct! A vote is a vote. Scott is incorrect, public input is not a vote.
Ten June 08, 2011 at 08:22 PM
Wrong, here is what the article says and anyone who saw the meeting last night knows where you and some of the other members stand on this issue. You want to do away with OTM and let 7 councilors make decisions for all voters. As for Wilson, personally, he sees the benefits of a seve-member Town Council and doesn't believe it would strip residents of any control.
Melissa Gleaton June 09, 2011 at 02:27 PM
What do the other 23 communities have?
Scott Wilson June 09, 2011 at 06:52 PM
My mistake only 71 communties over 25K in MA.


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