Charter Commission last night (Julie Rueschemeyer not yet arrived)
Town Meeting last moth: four sessions, 3 hours each; Nine sessions last Spring
The Amherst Charter Commission, after nine l-o-n-g months of public meetings, made their first real decision concerning a core requirement for any form of government that's legal in Massachusetts and fortunatley it was the right one: replace Town Meeting with a smaller more efficient and professional Council.
The first hour or so of the meeting saw each member give a brief presentation of where they are at and it was quite clear that five favored replacing Town Meeting and three did not. But Julia Rueschemeyer was missing at the time due to car problems.
Nick Grabbe however hit the nail on the head during follow up when he said it's better to go with the right Charter even if it is only endorsed by a 6-3 vote than to compromise too much to get it to a 7-2 or 9-0 vote of the Commission.
Ironically the nine-member Charter Commission is pretty much acting like a nine-member City Council: put them in a room to deliberate over a given problem and let them come up with a solution.
So even a 5-4 vote passes, and somewhere down the road if voters give it that same 55% approval it pretty much proves the Council/Commission "represents/matches the will of the voters."
Fifteen years ago in the early stage of deliberation the Charter Commission took their fateful vote and decided to ditch Town Meeting by a 7-2 margin. And six months later when the Charter was completed it was the exact same 7-2 vote to send it to the voters.
In fact the two Town Meeting loyalists back then became almost obstructionists after that initial kill-Town-Meeting vote and started to work against the Charter well before it was complete.
Of course the other fateful decision they made by a much narrower 5-4 vote was to keep a Town Manager and give him more authority than a Mayor who would be pretty much a ceremonial figurehead.
Let's hope this Charter Commission has learned from (recent) history.