To the editor:
On behalf of the dedicated volunteers collecting signatures to create a Gloucester Charter Commission, we are writing to update you on our efforts.
To recap: The charter is the city’s constitution. It outlines the basic form of our local government (mayor, City Council, School Committee) and details the scope of authority for those positions. Our charter was passed in the 1970s and updated in the 1980s but has not been reviewed by the citizens since then.
By way of example, every reference to the mayor is in the male gender. There are no staggered terms for elected officials and it has happened in recent years that majorities of the City Council and School Committee have turned over in one year, wasting precious time on orientation that should be spent on governing. Some feel that the current two-year terms are too short, others feel they are just right. In the meantime, the internet has become the standard mode of communication, which is not reflected in the charter. It is simply time to review this vital document and bring it up to date.
Changing a city’s charter is not easy. We need to get 3,200 signatures of registered voters by July 26. We are about halfway to the total number we need. Ahead of us are major events — St. Peter’s Fiesta, the Horribles Parade, and the July 13 block party — where we are determined to wrap up the remaining signatures. From an operational viewpoint, we need another 45 signature sheets.
If and when we hit our mark, you will see two questions on November’s ballot: Should the city create a charter commission and whom should it elect to that commission? By state law, the commission has nine members. Three people have already taken out papers to run for the commission. The deadline to return the papers is in September.
You are likely to see one of our volunteers in the next few weeks, standing in front of supermarkets, walking down the Boulevard or elsewhere. Signing the petition does not commit you to anything other than a review. We hope that you will support this effort.
We are deeply grateful to the dozens of volunteers who have been collecting signatures, to the Cape Ann League of Women Voters for its continued support, and to City Clerk Joanne Senos and her staff for their patience. If you have any questions or wish to carry a petition, we have a Facebook page called 21st Century Gloucester, or you can call Ruth at 978-764-6710 or Meredith at 978-515-7224.
Meredith A. Fine