I am embarrassed by the work of the Charter Commission. Their work reflects an unfortunate but honored tradition in American government: pursing predetermined conclusions and building fake consensus. Voters in Newton must reject their proposal decisively.
The issues become clearer when considering the 100% reduction in representation for local wards. Fewer voices means fewer ideas. This is made worse by the at-large design recommended by the commission, a design deliberately chosen and not at all necessary. Among many other issues is the commission’s reliance on consultants, whose jobs depend on cozy relationships with—and the continued tenure of—the officials they serve.
City councilors will be elected at-large and represent no one, much like US Senators. When is the last time you spoke to or influenced Markey or Warren? The requirement to run city-wide will force candidates to prioritize fundraising and avoid taking sides on any issue that may threaten their reelection.
From conversations I’ve had, citizens are far less concerned about the absolute number of councilors than their access to and power over councilors. Residents want the noticeable improvement of their daily lives to be the sole priority of councilors and government, free of outside influence and personal aggrandizement. These possibilities were not investigated because they are inconvenient to predetermined conclusions.
The proposed changes don’t come close to the committee’s stated objectives, especially its commitment to “provide for a more effective and responsive government.” This was demonstrated in its penultimate meeting, where the committee wasted no time dismissing questions and instead focused on gilding its Final Report to appeal to readers and voters.
The commission has hijacked consensus that yearns for democracy to concentrate power for councilors. Voters must vote ‘NO’ in November and reject the changes recommended by the Charter Commission.