Five Ballot Questions Seek to Alter the Town Charter

Thursday, November 3, 2011
By Joe Domelowicz

Just a few short years after first voting to dramatically change the way government operates in town, voters will be asked on next Tuesday’s Town Election  to consider some changes to the new charter.

Five ballot questions dealing with a Town Charter Amendments will be up for consideration of the voters. Among the changes that are being sought, are a shorter “cooling off period”  when elected officials can take paid positions in the town; authority for the Council to confirm Town Manager appointments; a change in the filling of vacancies on the Housing Authority Board; a change in the authority of the Ordinance Review Committee; and a name change for the Handicap access commission.

In short, the first question allows former elected officials to seek paid positions in the town six months after the end of their elected service; the second question gives the Council more authority to oversee the Town Manager; the third question gives the Town Council a voice in filling Housing Authority Board vacancies; the fourth would allow the Ordinance Review Committee to make any recommendations it determines are appropriate and the fifth question will rename the Handicap Access Commission to Commission on Disabilities.

Each of the five questions on the ballot were placed there by the Town Council, following a Town Charter Review process, that was included in the language of the original charter and begun after the fifth anniversary of the new form of government, earlier this year.

Though there was no requirement that review process actually result in recommendations for changes, these five questions represent the issues the Council felt were most important  to be addressed by the voters.

Question 1 – parts 1 and 2:

Section 2-3(a) Prohibition Against Former Town Councilors Holding Another Position with the Town; and Section 5-1(g) Prohibitions Against Former Town School Committee Member or Library Trustee Holding Another Position with the Town.

This question would amend the cited sections of the Town Charter, and reduce from one year to six months the period during which a former Town Councilor, School Committee member or Library Trustee is barred from holding a paid position within the town.

Question 2

Section 4-2(b) Town Manager, Powers and Duties

The proposed amendment would revise the cited section to authorize the Town Council to confirm the Town Manager’s appointment of all department heads, rather than just the appointment of the Police and Fire Chiefs.

Question 3

Section 5-1(h) Filling of Vacancies

The proposed amendment would revise the cited section to include the Housing Authority in the section on filling vacancies in elected positions. The existing section already includes the same language for the School Committee and Board of Library Trustees.

Question 4

Section 9-6(a) Review of Ordinances

The proposed amendment would revise the cited section to clarify the authority of the Ordinance Review Committee, to make such recommendations it sees as appropriate, including substantive recommendations, concerning a proposed revision or recodification of the town ordinances.

Question 5

Section 10-5(p) Town Administrative Organization

This proposed amendment would simply change the name of the existing Handicap Access Commission to Commission on Disabilities.

Town Clerk Vitale said on Tuesday, that additional copies of the ballot questions, along with a summary of each question, will be available at the polls for voters to review before they step into the voting booths.

“I’m hoping that by having the material available outside of the polls for voters to review, we can streamline the voting process a little for people and reduce waiting at the polls,” said Vitale. “They’re complicated questions and we want people to feel that they’re informed when the step in to vote.”

This year’s poll locations are as follows:

Precincts 1, 2 and 5 at Memorial Gym on Pauline St.

Precincts 3 and 6 at Winthrop High School, the Cross Street entrance.

Precinct 4 O’Connell Hall at 9 Golden Drive.

For more information about Tuesday’s including voting “over the counter” with an absentee ballot, contact Town Clerk Carla Vitale at 617-846-1742 or visit the town website: www.town.winthrop.ma.us.

  • maverick

    The ruling poobahs are making too many efforts to politicize the town charter.  There is no need for the town council to overrule the town managter on department head appointments. That will merely give the council the power to place popular names in charge rather than people the town manaer selects as best suited for the positions.  The town council is also obvioiusly trying to make it easier for themselves and other elected officials  to take town jobs after serving in the elected office.  Let them wait the yhear that the town charter designers stipulated.  Why should they have to rush to be appoint ed by their fellow political buds? 

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