Friday, April 1, 2016

The Cost Of Democracy

Andy Churchill, who received the highest number of votes for the nine member Charter Commission at Tuesday's election, appeared before the Finance Committee last night to defend his petition article to Town Meeting requesting $30,000 in seed money over the next year or so for Charter expenses.

 Andy Churchill is a former School Committee Chair

Churchill told the fiscal watchdogs he had talked to a member of the Collins Institute, a think tank who has provided such work to 14 Charter Commissions, and he corroborated the amount as "ball park".

Furthermore, the 2001 Amherst Charter Commission spent a total of $29,249 (over two campaigns) and East Longmeadow recently approved $30K for its Charter Commission.

The money would mainly go towards a consultant who would provide, "Expert support, do the legwork between meetings, research, organize articles, collect citizens input, and help draft the final legal document that will pass muster with the Attorney General."

The town is legally required to provide $5,000 to a Charter Commission within 20 days of the election and Churchill said his $30,000 figure did not include that amount, so he would amend his motion down to $25,000.

Finance Committee Chair Kay Moran also suggested he be less specific and simply make it a request for "Charter related expenses" rather than directly tying the entire amount to a consultant, since there will also be advertising and printing costs.

In addition he should spell out a source for the funding.

FinCom member Marylou Theilman suggested Churchill verify with the rest of the Charter Commission at their first meeting April 5 whether they approve of this request and get back to them by next week's meeting.

 Click to enlarge/read

The Charter Commission's initial agenda is to organize themselves by electing a Chair, Vice Chair and Clerk.

Since Churchill was by far the #1 choice of voters, he should be given the leadership role. 


Anonymous said...

So much for fiscal responsibility. This would have a lot more credibility if it demonstrated an attitude of fiscal restraint.

Anonymous said...

Considering own meeting lost $2 million in state funds for pine street, $30k is cheap.

Anonymous said...

Source of funds - Leisure Services since the commission is providing something to do for a wide variety of town folks who likely do not use any of the current Leisure Services programs.

Alternatively Council on Aging since the commission is programming for those over 60.

Anonymous said...

that only comes out to roughly two dollars per year, per amherst resident who doesn't vote.

Mark Warren said...

Can't the commission review other town/city charters and copy their legal papers?...literally? Why reinvent the wheel?

Anonymous said...

"Copy their legal papers." Yeah, you've sure got a grasp on how this works, doncha.

Dr. Ed said...

Doesn't a $30K contract have to be put out to bid? (Not that folks much care about legal niceties in Amherst.)

Above & beyond that, towns have become cities in Massachusetts for how many hundred years? Why re-invent the wheel?

People voted for a commission, not a consultant...


Larry Kelley said...

It will go out to bid.

Mark Warren said...

I wasn't being serious, doucha.....but now that Dr ed is backing me up..

Anonymous said...

Will this article require a majority or two thirds vote?

Larry Kelley said...


(Unless the funding source is via an Override.)

Anonymous said...

This will eventually be amended to $5K, since anything more will not get a majority in Town Meeting.

And Larry, that was a great photo, depicting what we in the business world call a "$#!+faced grin" ;->

Anonymous said...

I think it will EASILY get a majority. Especially with our new clicker system of accountability. How could TM members ever justify a no vote on funding a process that such a large portion of voters approved? Those kind of tactics would surely come back to bite them.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, either way they lose.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Town counsel has great expertise in charters and we pay them a retainer. Why not wait until the public process we've all promised is over, ideas are drafted and town counsel has weighed in? Town manager has discretionary funds too. Everyone on the charter commission can read the old reports, the state's website on charters and other towns charters. If some more money is needed, ask then. Let's get back to Yankee stinginess and hard work.

Anonymous said...

Step 1: Convert current charter to a word file
Step 2: Search for "town meeting" and replace with "town council"
Step 3: Search for "240" and replace with "9"
Step 4: Search for "town manager" and replace with "mayor"
Step 5: Search for "select board" and delete
Step 6: Search for "appoint" and replace with "elect" (except when you don't)

You're done!

That will be $25,000 please

--Your consultant