Tuesday, January 26, 2016

No Charter Cheerleading

Amherst Select Board, the executive branch of town government

The Amherst Select Board heard from two Kopalman & Paige ("The leaders in pubic sector law") attorneys last night on the do's and dont's of all things Charter change.  Most of it common sense, which this current Board has in abundant supply.  

Prior to the March 29 election the Select Board can do nothing out of the ordinary to influence voters one way or the other on how to vote especially if expends taxpayer funds.  No use of snail mail, email list serves, extra notices on the town website, etc.

Joel Bard and Lauren Goldberg update Select Board on Charter matters

After the election the 9 member Charter Commission becomes like any other town body but with the added bonus of $5,000 in town funds, guaranteed office space and direct use of the town attorney. 

And again the same hands off rules apply with the Select Board for dealing with the more epic vote of passing the new Charter.

The Select Board can assign one of its members as liaison to the Charter Commission to attend every meeting and report back to his/her Board, and Open Meeting Law even allows for a quorum of Select Board members to attend any Charter Commission meeting as long as they do not participate in a "deliberative" manner.

The Select Board can, however, take a formal vote as to whether they support the new Charter and issue a press release.  

Interestingly the Interim Town Manager sneaked a pay raise into the upcoming FY17 budget for the Select Board going from a $300 annual haul all the way up to $1,500 (plus an extra $500 for the Chair).  

Yes, a long ways from the $9,000 Northampton City Councilors make -- but still a solid move towards a more professional government. 

Something needed now more than ever.


Anonymous said...

The fact that our townwide (not district) elected select board members are prevented BY LAW from any type of advocacy is yet another compelling reason for massive and revolutionary change in our government.

It seems like current Town Meeting members - ostensibly our "representatives" - are apparently subject to no restrictions under Open Meeting Law, public advocacy or anything else for that matter. They can have secret meetings in any numbers without the risk of a quorum or OML violation. They can freely engage in self-serving diatribes in print or in any public meeting. And they are given essentially free rein by the moderator who, like his predecessor, refuses to set time limits for reasonable debate (as long as they don't "impugn anyone's character".

Did Bard weigh in on whether Town Meeting members are legally bound to abstain from the debate, or should at least consider themselves morally bound to keep quiet?

Anonymous said...

Any info on who on the current Select Board signed the petition, effectively being willing to put themselves out of a job in hope of a better system of governance?

Larry Kelley said...

All of them except Jim Wald.

Former Congressman John Olver signed, as did Stan Rosenberg and Ellen Story.

Anonymous said...

Surprising on Alisa Brewer. She was active last time around in the effort towards working to preserve Town Meeting. Wondering if her opinion has changed or if she just signed in order to enable the conversation to take place. Either way, kudos to her, as opposed to Charter Commission candidates like Weiss, McGowan and McKenna who have seemed more interested in quelching the conversation.

Larry Kelley said...

Her husband also signed.