Time for Charter Review
City Councior (for now) Jay Cruz is fixing to get moving on charter review right after the first of the year, with the goal of making a big splash in time for the Feb. 5 presidential primary.
Cruz has been a firm believer in the need for charter reform, and has been actively pushing it. At least there's one. Many a public official voiced support for a charter review during campaign season, but most said they wanted nothing to do with organizing an effort. Cruz is taking that on, and good for him -- and the city.
I like Cruz, and wish he had won in November, but his losing might actually be a good thing in terms of making charter review a reality.
This is no easy task. Cruz and his band of merry reviewers need to get about 3,500 signatures to move to create a charter committee. Really, they'll probably need more 4,000 to cover throw-aways, duplicates, and other signature foul-ups. There is a set time period for getting those signatures, so the pressure is on.
Cruz is targeting the presidential primary as a big signature day, thinking that many activist voters will sign the forms. Not bad thinking. One thing he's checking: How close he can get to the polls without breaking the law. That will be key.
Part of the problem with gathering signatures is that most people have no idea what charter review means. Most don't know what the charter does, and fewer probably care. There also isn't a great single issue to rally a campaign behind. The mayor-manager question is one that would create some heat, but pro-reviewers don't want to make that an issue just yet. It'll be looked at, but they don't want the review to look like a mayor-manager referendum.
From there, it probably actually gets easier in some ways. The charter committee would get elected, spend 10 to 18 months coming up with recommendations, and figuring out what should and shouldn't happen. Then it goes to the City Council and the voters.
Changing the charter isn't easy, and it shouldn't be. Like amending the Constitution, it should only done with great thought and research, and even then it might not happen.
In this case, there are some technical issues that need addressing, along with probably a once-and-for-all decision on mayor-manager. The charter hasn't been looked at in four decades, so it's about time.
We're trying to figure out how to help Cruz out, beyond signing the petition, trying to figure out a way to get it in front of mass audiences to make sure the signature requirements are met. If you have any ideas, pass them along. And if you see the petition, sign it. Sign it.
While we're here, make sure you pick up tomorrow's Fitchburg Pride. The first of what should a number of exit interviews with Mayor Dan Mylott (the second after Mylott's appearance on the Chuck Morse Show last week) is in the paper this week.
Labels: charter review