Sunday, December 18, 2016
Charter Fork In The Road
The Amherst Charter Commission has scheduled a marathon four hour meeting Monday night in an attempt to close out the year with a major milestone setting a direct course for a noteworthy final destination: a new and improved local government.
And all roads lead through the question whether Town Meeting should continue beyond the 257 year mark?
At the consultants urging -- with time starting to run out -- the Commission will probably come to a straw vote on whether to keep Town Meeting in some form as the legislative branch.
A majority of members have telegraphed enough discontent with Town Meeting to indicate a yes vote for a replacement Council form of legislative branch, but a 5-4 vote will not be overly reassuring to the voters who have to approve the new Charter by majority vote.
But even Gerry Weiss, stalwart defender of Town Meeting seems agreeable to at least downsizing the body from the current 240+ members and he also liked the idea of replacing the five member Select Board with a Mayor, but was told by the consultants the Attorney General would not accept such a hybrid.
Back in 1996 a Charter that failed miserably downsized Town Meeting to 150 members, kept a Town Manager but added a separate Council and a weak Mayor (elected only to lead the Council).
Something for everyone to hate.
The most contentious issue that will create the most enthusiasm for both enacting and/or defeating the new Charter proposal is this issue about keeping or killing Town Meeting.
The Charter Commission, after nine months of meetings, public hearings and general outreach needs to bite the bullet and make this epic call. Now!
Hint: Any new Charter that maintains antiquated Town Meeting -- in any form -- is doomed to failure.