Friday, January 09, 2009
By KEN ROSS
HOLYOKE – Many city councilors support the idea of creating a charter commission to study possible ways to change the city’s government structure.
But councilors are divided over who should initiate the drive to create such a commission, which would review issues like the size of city council and who should appoint certain city officials.
Some believe the council should initiate the process. But a majority of councilors Tuesday rejected a proposal to place a question on the November ballot. Instead, many of the councilors who voted against the proposal said they believe residents should initiate the drive.
“Let’s get the people involved,” City Councilor James M. Leahy said. “Let’s just wait and see what the people have to say.”
Others agreed. “If you’re really serious about this, I think the people should be involved first,” Councilor John P. Brunelle said.
The council voted 8-7 against placing the question on the ballot. The seven councilors who voted in favor were Anthony M. Keane, Rebecca Lisi, Joseph M. McGiverin, John J. O’Neill, Timothy Purington, Peter R. Tallman and Donald R. Welch.
O’Neill introduced the resolution to place the question the ballot. At Tuesday’s meeting, O’Neill spoke at length about the importance of creating such a commission.
“There are many issues that are out there,” he said. In particular, O’Neill cited proposals to review whether to reduce the size of the 15-member City Council and to review the city’s management practices. In recent years, there has been much debate about who should appoint certain city officials: the council or the mayor.
“It makes sense to do these things together,” he said. “Things have changed in 35 years and it’s high time we looked at it again.”
Tallman agreed. “I think it is important we do take a look at what’s happening in our city,” he said.
But like Leahy and Brunelle, City Councilor Kevin A. Jourdain said he believes residents need to initiate the process, not the council. Jourdain also noted that the process is a very long and expensive one. “To actually have an informed decision about this will require a lot of resources,” Jourdain said.
In order to create a charter commission, 15 percent of the city’s registered voters need to sign a petition requesting the creation of a charter commission, according to City Clerk Susan M. Egan. A question requesting the creation of a charter commission can then be placed on a ballot for residents to vote on.
The earliest such a question could appear on a ballot would be this November, Egan said. If approved, any changes recommended by the charter commission would not go into effect until 2013.