LWVA Charter Review Task Force Stresses Good Government Principles in Opening Discussion


Photo: League of Women Voters Amherst

by Art and Maura Keene

The League of Women Voters of Amherst (LWVA) Charter Review Task Force held its first of three discussions on the upcoming charter review process on March 17 on zoom. The first discussion looked at a few sections of the Amherst Home Rule Charter pertaining to the Town Council (Article 1) and to financial policies and procedures (Article 5). Rebecca Fricke, Steering Committee Chair, was the moderator. A recording of the meeting is expected to be posted on the LWVA website soon.

The Task Force opened the discussion by explaining the background of the LWVA’s town charter education efforts, beginning with an educational program for town voters in 2018 and continuing with the Task Force work reviewing the new Charter. The Task Force conducted a survey of residents in 2023 on town government performance, followed by its current work of looking at what specific amendments to the charter might be needed after 5 years of experience with a Town Council/Town Manager form of government. The League’s efforts are focused on whether the new charter is delivering a government that complies with the League’s good government principles of accountability, checks and balances, widespread inclusiveness and participation, diversity, transparency, honesty and non-corruptibility and efficiency.

The first discussion included presentations by Task Force members on six sections of the charter that may or may not need amendment and comments by participants.

Questions included:

  1. Should the eight week lame duck period between elections and seating of new councilors be reduced?
  2. Should the number of consecutive terms a councilor may serve be limited?
  3. Should the charter limit the number of one year terms served by a council president?
  4. Should the charter be amended to give each councilor an equal voice and vote on the major standing committees of the Town Council?
  5. Should the charter be amended so that no single town councilor can unilaterally postpone a discussion?
  6. Should the three non-voting members of the Finance Committee have a vote?

The March 17 slide presentation for the first discussion, with rationales for possible amendments can be found here.

Upcoming Zoom sessions are scheduled for April 14 and May 5. There will be a meeting for League members on June 2, prior to the Annual Meeting.

Agenda -Sunday, April 14, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Town Manager (Article 3)
Incorporation Powers (Article 1)
Elections (Article 7)
Zoom link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83271559250?pwd=hESFauTfCYXMtW7r7teejAi5RTSayf.1

Agenda – Sunday, May 5, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Public Participation (Article 8)
Transition Procedures (Article 10)
Zoom link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83034246172?pwd=0z9cTpybUhSjPnmxrl8OEY4bNlYcQL.1

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