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Selectmen Won't Schedule Special Town Meeting On Charter Changes ... Yet

Board instead votes to schedule two public hearings on the proposed charter changes in January.

It's rare when the Tewksbury Board of Selectmen is genuinely divided on an issue. But such was the case last night __ regarding the issue of__

The board voted, 3-2, against a motion to set a tentative date in March for a Special Town Meeting for the purpose of considering changes to the charter.

The motion had been __ and was supported by Selectman Scott Wilson, who also serves as chairman of the Special Act Charter Committee, which is recommending the proposed changes.

Johnson expressed concerns that denying the request by the SACC to schedule a Special Town Meeting after nearly two years of work might discourage residents from participating on such committees in the future.

Selectmen Doug Sears, David Gay and Anne-Marie Stronach voted against it, taking the position that there was no need to rush the process.

Instead, the board voted unanimously to schedule two public hearings in January. The hearings will offer the opportunity for additional public feedback and questions, as well as examining some of the finer points of the proposed changes and how they would impact existing boards and committees.

The biggest change being recommended by the SACC is a switch from an Open Town Meeting form of government with a five member Board of Selectmen to a nine-member Town Council form of government.

If approved by voters at a Special Town Meeting, the goal of town officials is to present the issue as a referendum question on the November Election ballot.

Scott Wilson December 02, 2011 at 06:04 PM
As to changes to improve town meeting….what are your recommendations. That was not our mission. My biggest problem with town meeting is that people don’t come. If you have a solution to that, please share. I think many of the changes made to town meeting over the last 15 years have streamlined it and made it more efficient. But that doesn’t change the less than 2% turnout. I would ask you how many warrant articles have been supported by the majority of the BOS and then went to Town Meeting floor and were voted against by the electorate? Are the residents typically voting the same way that the BOS are voting? People need to take time to understand the proposal, and not throw out suggestions of conflict of interest or personal gain. I can’t understand for the life of me what I have to gain out of a council vs. a BOS. I actually think about this proposal as what would I want if I were a resident in town. What would I want when I am not sitting as a member of the BOS.
Ten December 02, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Bill, (I'll try to reply point by point.) I re-read the mission, it seems very clear and I agree with the 3 BOS who stood up for it. Why do you want to compare other town's charter committees to ours? Other town's SACCs and their missions have no baring on this issue. Where is my "power grab" comment? I do not recall ever saying that. In the interest of accuracy, I will re-word something, so the question is- Did I think SOME of the SACC members had a "pre-determined goal"? Why does that even matter at this point? Who says they cannot have a "pre-determined goal"? Its not a crime. Did I say that SACC members have something to gain by abolishing open town meeting? I do not recall saying that. I have some questions. When did the SACC discuss and vote to recommend to the BOS that our town do away with open town meeting and move to a city form of government? (I am assuming they did this at some point because they spent so much time, effort and town resources drafting a new charter to do it, although I've never heard or read anything about it.) Also, what were the reasons and what were the vote splits, if any? We all know the end result, I am wondering how it all came to be. Not having seen or attended all the meetings, I would appreciate it if anyone can answer these questions.
Ten December 02, 2011 at 07:15 PM
Special Act Charter Committee Mission (SACC): To examine our current local government structure and to investigate the following forms of government; the Open Town Meeting, the Representative Town Meeting and a Town Council Format, including the efficiency and cost effectiveness of each and to prepare a preliminary report to the Board of Selectman within 18 months of the formulation of the April 2009 Special Act Charter Committee.
Bill Gilman December 02, 2011 at 07:28 PM
Excellent point Ten. It certainly appears that the original mandate called for a "compare and contrast" report and did not call for a recommendation. So the question remains, at what point did that directive change ... or did it? Was there an assumption that the committee would submit a recommendation after evaluating all three forms? That seems to be where town officials differ. Now, there have definitely been changes to that directive. For example, the 18 month window was, in fact, extended.
Ten December 02, 2011 at 07:33 PM
“Only that dawn breaks to which we are awake” ― Henry David Thoreau

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