The Recorder – Greenfield charter review committee begins talks on citizens initiative requirements

GREENFIELD — A panel of residents, city councilors and city officials met for the first time Tuesday night to begin a review of sections 7-7 and 7-8 of the city charter, with discussion primarily focused on requirements for the citizens’ initiative process .

During the two-hour discussion, members addressed broad issues, particularly focused on Section 7-7, including the number of signatures required for a petition to be considered by City Council and the time required to collect signatures and for whom counsel is intended to act. There was also discussion as to whether there should be a two-step process for putting a petition to a vote.

Citizens’ initiatives, described in Section 7-7, can be used to propose new topics or ideas to the city council or school board, or, if rejected by the respective board, to a city-wide vote. As Section 7-7 is currently written, petitioners must meet a threshold to reach the city council and a second, additional threshold to put a petition on a vote if the original petition is rejected by the council.

“My goal is that we can at least reach consensus on 7-7 of the charter,” said David Singer, chair of the ad hoc committee. “If we’re able to reach a consensus, we’ll take that opinion to the City Council’s nominating and ordinances committee and they’ll take it from there. We have no authority to do anything other than make a recommendation.”

In addition to Singer, members of the ad hoc committee include Chief of Staff Danielle Letourneau, District 1 Councilwoman Katherine Golub and District 9 Councilman Derek Helie, former councilors Isaac Mass and Ashli ​​Tempel-Rae, and local resident Albert Norman . Stamp-Rae was absent from Tuesday’s discussion.

“We all represent a different part of our community that I think has a lot to contribute to the conversation,” Singer said of the committee’s makeup.

The formation of the ad hoc committee followed a November 2021 poll that sought to change the number of signatures required to petition for a citizens’ referendum – described in Section 7-8 as the procedure by which a residents can propose an existing law or regulation to be reconsidered by voters – up from the current threshold of 10% of voters voting in the last biennial city election (but not less than 2.5% of registered voters). 7% of all registered voters in the last biennial city election. The question came as part of the charter review process that takes place every year and ends in zero.

The voting measure was defeated by a vote of 1,485 “no” to 1,321 “yes”. This meant that the language in Sections 7-8 of the Charter would remain as it is at present.

After the November vote, the Nominating and Regulations Committee recommended no changes to Section 7-7, which related to the citizens’ initiative process – a recommendation that drew criticism from residents who felt the processes for both petitions were more aligned should Another.

Under current statute language, a resident wishing to petition a citizens’ initiative must collect signatures equal to 10% of the electorate voting in the last biennial election – but not less than 5% of all registered voters on the same day – for the City council or the school board can accept or reject it.

If rejected, that resident would then have to collect an additional number of signatures equal to 5% of the voters who voted, but not less than 2.5% of all registered voters.

Singer said “in fairness to the election” he wants to focus on reviewing Section 7-7 and leave Section 7-8, which has already been presented to voters, as “second business.”

Norman advocated focusing on Section 7-7.

“I want to respect what voters said. We – some of us – said we would leave (Sections 7-8) to voters to decide. This is a voter mechanism,” Norman said. “What we are talking about tonight, 7-7, is also a voter mechanism. These are things that make direct democracy possible in our small town.”

He added that it was important to acknowledge and respect the vote.

“Although (Section 7-7) is flawed in the way it is currently written … I believe this group of people could come to a consensus and I am willing to work towards that,” he said.

Some members, including Mass, suggested it should be easier to contact the city council and more difficult to get a petition on a vote. In other words, it should take fewer signatures to appear before City Council than it does for a petition to get to the vote.

Ultimately, the group seemed inclined to make the process easier for residents.

“It seems that we mostly agree on some of the philosophies about some of the changes,” Letourneau said. “It sounds like we would all agree to make it a little more accessible to some degree, but we recognize that the legislature has a greenfield place.”

The ad hoc committee is not expected to meet again until January.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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