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SACC Will Push For a Fall Vote on Proposed Charter Changes

Wilson, committee ready to recommend shift from Town Meeting to Town Council form of government.

According to Chairman Scott Wilson, has decided to present proposed changes to the current form of government to voters at the October Special Town Meeting.

"The committee has decided to keep it alive and to focus on the Town Council form of government," said Wilson.

Aug. 5 is the deadline to get the proposal on the October Special Town Meeting Warrant.The committee plans to invite Town Counsel Charles Zaroulis and to its meeting tonight (July 6) at 7 p.m. to determine the legality of the language in the document.

On July 12 at 6 p.m., the committee will invite selectmen to a working session to discuss line by line revisions to the draft charter, before the selectmen's meeting.

Wilson stated that the committee does not need the selectmen's approval to put its proposal up to a vote on the town warrant in October.

The three forms of government that have been  Representative town meeting consists of a pre-designated number of elected community members who vote on issues in town.

The town council format supports more meetings with a smaller number of people and far less citizen participation.  Committee member Richard O'Neil stated approximately seven council members would be elected to the council, which would replace the Board of Selectmen.

The committee has presented two drafts, one calls for changes to town charter while keeping the Open Town Meeting and the other plan is adopting a Town Council form of government.

Most of the committee members are comfortable with changing to a town council form of government and to allow voters a chance to decide in October if they want to make the change, said Wilson.

If the voters reject the town council at the Special Town Meeting in October, the committee could go back to the other proposal of keeping the open town meeting with less drastic changes to the charter.

Wilson stated that the committee is looking for a plan for the next 10 years and likes the model that includes election of the other boards. The traditional town council form of government would call for councilors to appoint those boards. The committee has been working to incorporate elected boards into a Town Council structure in a so-called "Hybrid Town Council" model.

Attached to this story are printable PDF copies of the Town Council Charter Draft, the Town Meeting Charter Draft and the SACC's public presentation from last month.

Bob Ferrari July 06, 2011 at 05:17 PM
No NO NO NO NO! No change in the current form of government. Once you vote (or don't vote) to shut your voice, it will be GONE FOREVER! Look at the people who are involved in this. Most of them are connected townies grabbing pensions, and lawyers. Remember the last big lie told to the Tewksbury Taxpayers? That we would be getting millions of dollars every year in revenue from the Mills Super Mall. The sheep of Tewksbury voted the mall in. How's that working out for you? Some of the very same people who shoved that Mall down our throats also support this. "This is how liberty dies... to the sound of thunderous applause." Come discuss losing your voice in Town Government here: http://www.tewksburyissues.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=36&t=9468 Bob Ferrari Webmaster of http://www.TewksburyIssues.org
Karyn July 06, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Just so we're clear....make no mistake.... a "voice" is NOT the same as a VOTE....one can voice all they want...doesn't mean those "7 few" making the decisions will listen. RETAIN YOUR INDIVIDUAL VOTE.....KEEP OPEN TOWN MEETING.
charles anzuoni July 07, 2011 at 02:09 AM
I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion. Thomas Jefferson
Sean Czarniecki July 07, 2011 at 08:58 AM
Please don't take my individual vote away from me. Keep Open Town Meeting.
David Gay July 07, 2011 at 11:45 AM
In reply to Bob, Karyn, Charles, and Sean, I am in total agreement that Tewksbury needs to preserve our individual votes and Keep Open Town Meeting. Over the past six months, I have read all the comments on this site, on TewksburyIssues and received a number of comments from my site, davidgayselectman.org and have not read even ONE comment in support of eliminating Open Town Meeting except from members of the SACC. Please keep the comments flowing.
Jade July 07, 2011 at 12:39 PM
Keep open Town Meeting! Fix it and make it more conducive for people to attend. Send out Town Warrants, advertise the night and time of the meeting in a better way, keep people motivated. Let the residents have a say!!
charles anzuoni July 07, 2011 at 07:58 PM
Well its good to see one officical isn't drinking the kool aid. Hopefully residents can see through the smoke screen that its more political rather than a better form. Town meeting is the only form of goverment that residents can participate,address the issues,listen to town and residents debate and directly impact the outcome with their vote. Residents can choose not to participate accept the judgements of others. There is no evidence that town council would make better decisions than the residents.
Marilyn July 08, 2011 at 04:26 AM
The Tewksbury townspeople would need to be better informed to accept a change to our town government future plans. A lot of information would be required before a vote. I for one am not sure what benefit a town council would provide over town meeting. Although, I do believe we probably have outgrown town meeting. What would be the expected cost to the town if there were seven council members? Would we have districts in town and they would be elected from the different districts. Some towns only have volunteers we cannot afford more expense. Also I am not sure about appointees that encourages a lot of politics and/or nepotism.
J. S. July 12, 2011 at 12:20 PM
I think we need a new system, the town meeting system does not work. Our town is too big, nobody goes except for the "big ticket items", and then you can barely find parking, get in the door. Trying to get home from work and get to the regular meetings is hard too. We wish we could but in this day and age it is simply not practical for most families. There has to be a better system than the town meeting for a town of this size. It is unfair for working individuals with children who cannot leave work and rush home and try to get to meetings, some can and some cannot.
Kathleen Brothers July 12, 2011 at 03:14 PM
I never in the world thought I would agree with anything "Mr Ferrari" says, but this time I do. Keep the Open Town Meeting! I have suggested before that maybe a Saturday meeting would do the trick for those people who work. Giving the citizen no voice is not a good idea, in my opinion!
Karyn July 12, 2011 at 04:33 PM
If I were a person who couldn't make it to Town Meeting, I would STILL rather have decisions made by the (usually) more knowledgeable (and still greater number of) TOWN CITIZEN attendees who do faithfully attend...rather than a group of SEVEN people via a Town Council. IMO, that type of governing is just ripe for abuse. KEEP OPEN TOWN MEETING.
Karyn September 01, 2011 at 02:03 PM
From today's Lowell Sun: Tewksbury charter panel withdraws from warrant By Joyce Tsai, jtsai@lowellsun.com Updated: 09/01/2011 06:36:32 AM EDT TEWKSBURY -- After firing back at recent criticism from a number of town officials that it has been rushing its proposal, the Special Act Charter Committee voted last night to withdraw from the Oct. 4 Special Town Meeting warrant its proposal to change the town's form of government. The committee voted unanimously to withdraw the article, which would eliminate Open Town Meeting in favor of a Town Council form of government. The move was made, board members said, so they could continue to refine its proposal and place it on a future Special Town Meeting warrant. But the decision to postpone was not due to recent criticism by town officials, said committee member Sandra Barbeau, who made the motion to withdraw the article. Rather, the committee needs more time to incorporate some significant changes that were recommended from a town-charter expert at the Massachusetts Municipal Association and other tweaks recommended from Town Counsel Charles Zaroulis in the past week. She also said she didn't believe the committee would be able to finish the draft by its target date of today to submit it to the Board of Selectmen for its Sept. 12 meeting. "And even after all the time we have put into this, if we are not ready, we're not ready," she said. "And if we have to take more Sunday meetings, then we should do that."
Karyn September 01, 2011 at 02:06 PM
-continued Committee Chairman Scott Wilson, a selectman, said he thought a Special Town Meeting should be called, for which the proposal is the only article on the docket. That way, no one could accuse the committee of trying to "sneak it in," he said. Wilson also said he was extremely frustrated by recent news reports, in which town officials criticized the committee for rushing at the last minute to complete its proposal. "It's offensive to me personally because I know we are trying to do everything we can to do this right and make positive changes," he said. Committee member James Biewener also called criticism inaccurate and "propaganda." "Why are other committees that have nothing to do with us putting us on their agenda?" he asked. Meanwhile, committee member Dean Graffeo said he was "furious at the accusations and the nonsense that keeps coming up." "I put in 2 1/2 years on this, and to say that I rushed on this really burns me up," he said. "Look at the proposal and try to understand it."
Karyn September 01, 2011 at 02:09 PM
-continued Economic Development Committee Chairman David Gay, also a selectman, said he attended last night's meeting in response to criticism that he had not attended any meetings. He said he was glad to go because it gave him more of an understanding of what the committee is trying to do. "It was very clear from what I saw ... that they were not prepared and not ready," he said, adding he is pleased that the committee is postponing its proposal. He also said it was clear from their questions that even committee members found portions of the proposed charter hard to understand at times, "so for the general public, to get that in a quick read, it's just not feasible." Gay also said he understands the committee's frustration. "They are working on it very diligently, and they believe in their hearts they are doing the right thing," he said. "But they lose sight of the fact that people need to understand and really look at what they are doing." http://www.lowellsun.com/local/ci_18802898
Kathleen Brothers September 01, 2011 at 03:21 PM
Thanks for bringing this article to us, Karyn. I find the whole article very interesting. I am glad that they are withdrawing this article. It is very important that every citizen understand what is written and what they are putting out there for consideration. Thanks to the committee for their diligence but this is a very important matter and IT should be right on the money. I am sure their finished product will turn out fine and then we can all vote on it. My advice, take your time and get it right......
Northguy October 04, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Don't they mean city council form of government? There is no such thing as a town council form of government in Massachusetts. Any municipality with a council is a statutory city and is recognized as such by the Commonwealth. Per Massachusetts law, municipal corporations with selectmen and town meetings are towns and municipal corporations with councils are cities. If anything is to change, the committee should consider a representative town meeting with a healthy membership. This preserves a town form of government while streamlining Town Meeting and, historically, is quite responsive to its constituents. Many towns in the area use this form quite successfully (Burlington, Billerica, Lexington, Winchester, Stoneham, Reading to name a few).
Bill Gilman (Editor) October 04, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Hi Northguy, for better or worse, representative town meeting was examined in detail and the committee determined it wasnt suitable. They pointed to several towns that established that form of government but are now looking to switch, including several you named. As to a council making a town into a city you are incorrect. That question has been asked and answered and there is nothing legally that prevents Tewksbury from having a nine-member council and still being a town. So voters will have a clear choice ... open town meeting/Board of Selectmen or simply a nine-member Town Council.
Northguy October 07, 2011 at 09:07 PM
@Bill: Which towns that I named are considering changing to a city form of government? None that I can find doing a quick search. And I lived in one of those towns (I won't mention which) for a long time and the residents were quite happy with their system. It was efficient and responsive its residents needs (hint: this town has never needed to resort to a Prop 2 1/2 override). Also, again, the Massachusetts General Law (the chapter of which I can't remember off the top of my head) which spells out what kind of forms of government municipalities may choose does not recognize municipalities with city forms of government as towns. It recognizes them as cities. Also, the Commonwealth does not recognize minucipalities that have reoncorportated as cities as towns regardless of what they call themselves(Amesbury, Palmer, Winthrop, Weymouth, Barnstable to name a few) . Another thing, is that the Charter committee cites the example of Palmer, which adopted a city form of government a few years ago, but fails to mention that there is a movement there to re-charter it back to a town form of government because residents are not happy with the new charter. Tewksbury would be making a grave mistake by chartering itself into a city by choosing a city form of government.
Bill Gilman (Editor) October 07, 2011 at 09:39 PM
I think you misread my last post. I did not say there were towns looking to change to a city. I said there were towns using the representative town meeting that were looking to drop it. Now, that might be to go back to open town meeting, I dont know. As for Palmer, you bring up an interesting point. There are in fact 12 communities in Massachusetts that are recognized as having a "city form of government" but still call themselves a town. For what its worth, Palmer has under 13,000 residents and certainly looks every bit like a town, save for the government style. Personally, I would contend that what makes a city or a town is much more than its dtyle of government. Take Framingham ... representative town meeting (at last check) and thus a town ... yet more than twice as many residents and far more urban than Tewksbury.

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