See the Newton Tab editorial last week supporting a NO VOTE on the CHARTER and a subsequent city council plan to give voters a different city council option in 2018:
One way or the other, our 24-member City Council appears likely to be substantially smaller in the next few years.
Now voters could have a choice about its size and composition, thanks to a docket item co-sponsored by 14 councilors, guaranteeing its approval if the full City Council can vote on the matter before year’s end.
In a nutshell, here’s the scenario: The Charter Commission has proposed a 12-member City Council, all elected at-large, to be acted upon by voters Nov. 7. If approved, this version of a smaller City Council would become effective in January 2020.
The City Council plan (which would move ahead only if the Charter Commission’s ballot initiative is rejected by voters) proposes 16 councilors, eight elected by ward only and eight citywide. This plan would be forwarded to the state Legislature as a Home Rule petition and following its anticipated approval would return for voter ratification here, perhaps as early as November 2018.
While not perfect, we think the City Council’s plan is a far better option because it would preserve exclusive ward representation. In other words, councilors elected by the ward, for the ward. This system of government has served the Garden City well since the late 19th century, ensuring that each section of the city has a representative directly accountable to its residents... and their specific needs. An entirely at-large City Council, regardless of residency requirements, would not do that.
When the League of Women Voters was collecting thousands of signatures to put the establishment of a Charter Commission on the ballot, a consensus seemed to emerge that 24 councilors was too many. We agree, but maintain residents’ best interests would not be served at all by eliminating ward councilors.
Think about this before heading to the polls in six weeks: You can protect ward representation by voting against the charter revision question while at the same time knowing a process is underway to reduce the size of City Council by a third. In our opinion, this is a sensible option.