, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 17, 2009

City Charter Commission race draws 20

NEWBURYPORT — Just when it seemed there was a level of apathy citywide to run for public office, 20 citizens will vie for nine seats on the city's Charter Commission at the Nov. 3 election.

In November, voters will be asked to both decide on the ballot question that would create the Charter Commission and vote for the members who would make up the board.

Efforts to form a Charter Commission and to spark residents to run for the proposed board has been a months-long process for a group of citizens in the city. Candidates had until Tuesday to return their nomination forms.

The charter, the city's governing document, hasn't undergone a review since 1919 — 10 years before the Great Depression and decades before color television.

"This is something that many of us think is way overdue," Ward 4 Councilor Ed Cameron said at a public forum last week. "1919 was a long time ago, and the world has changed in many ways. It's important that people to look at our structure to make sure that we are best serving our population."

The Charter Commission would be charged with rewriting whichever portions of the city's current charter it deems necessary. This could mean anything from changing the length of a mayoral term to choosing an entirely new form of government.

Currently, Newburyport has a "Plan B" form of government, in which the legislative body is composed of a mayor and an 11-member City Council, with five councilors elected at-large and six representing the city's wards.

Cameron was among several citizens to spearhead the efforts to launch the charter review process. That process included gathering signatures from 15 percent of Newburyport's registered voters to get the question of forming a Charter Commission on the ballot. More than 2,200 signatures were collected, allowing the process to move ahead.

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