What is wrong with the current form that requires correcting. Your commission did not specifically address this, however a number did say there was nothing wrong with it.
While the Commission may not have dedicated a specific agenda item at a specific meeting to discuss what is wrong with the current form, let me outline what the Commission did do.
You can find this information in our meeting tapes and find the results on the Charter Commission website: www.charter.merrimacknh.org
Here is a bit about our process in the first couple of months:
1.) We invited many people to come visit with us in the first weeks of our meetings. These people included:
- You the public. We had 2 public hearings in our first 6 weeks of meetings. We also asked and heard from people as they joined us and talked during the public participation period at each meeting.
- All the major Boards/Committees/Commissions in the Town, the School Board, and Village District Commissioners.
- Experts in City Government.
- Town Councilors, Town Managers, and Municipal Attorneys from New Hampshire Towns outside of Merrimack.
- Merrimack’s Town Clerk, Town Moderator, and Supervisors of the Checklist.
2.) We created 3 sub-committees of the Charter Commission, to research our current government, City Government form, and all Town Government forms. Then, we created reports and a comparison matrix of these forms which is available on the CC website.
3.) We researched and analyzed the last 8 years of Town Ballots and the Votes for each item on those ballots. An Excel presentation is available on the CC website.
4.) Analyzed and compared the Town’s Administrative Code with the way our Town Government actually operates. A PowerPoint presentation is available on the CC website.
5.) We gathered all the Town and City Charters for those Cities and Towns that have them in New Hampshire. They are available on the CC website.
6.) We gathered discussed and made available the relevant Charter RSA's.
During this process we learned the following about Merrimack’s Town Government:
1.) People in our Town are concerned about SB2 and the Deliberative Session process.
2.) People have complained to the Town Clerk and Town Moderator about the length and type of articles that appear on the Town Ballot.
3.) The Town does not follow its Administrative Code or more accurately, the Town has not updated the Administrative Code to match the current form. (Note: State law does not require an Administrative Code)
4.) People are concerned about the BOS and wish they were better represented.
5.) People are concerned about taxes.
6.) People wish articles on the ballot would be binding and that people had more say in government.
7.) People wish we did not have to wait for Town Meeting to have decisions made and ordinances enacted.
8.) People want to vote on the Budget.
9.) People in Town Government, members of the current Budget Committee (both on the CC and those not on the CC), and members of the public find the Budget Committee Process is not effective or needed.
Now let’s examine what the Commission did with this knowledge:
- The Charter proposes a Council of 7 to provide more representation. In 1978 we went from 3 to 5 Selectmen with a Town population of approximately 14000. Now we have 28000+ and propose a Council of 7. Note that State Law only allows a BOS of 3 or 5 members.
- The Charter requires the Town Manager to update/submit a new Administrative Code that is accurate and requires a periodic review of the Code.
- The Charter reduced the length of the ballot (and time it takes to vote) by moving ordinances to be under the direction/decision of the Council. This also allows for more timely ordinances. The Charter does provide a way for citizens to participate in the process, petition ordinances, and provides the Council with ability to place ordinances on the ballot if they want to do it on their own.
- The Charter keeps the Budget vote in the hands of the Voters using the Official Ballot process.
- The Charter removes the Budget Committee.
- The Commission wrestled with the Deliberative Session but in the end, left it alone due to the restrictions of State Law.
- The Charter provides a way for people to petition for ordinances, measures, and action from their government. The Charter provides a way for people to overturn their Government when a majority disagrees with the Governing Board.
Yes, it is true we did not specifically have a meeting devoted to what is wrong with our current form, but our process shows the Commission did not miss this step.
Remember, the Charter is amendable. I believe the Commission realizes the Charter is not the perfect document to describe a form of Government for out Town, but it is a step in the right direction and it is better. Time will show how close we got and please realize:
The Council or the Voters can petition for changes, amendments, and even do full revisions. Many Towns do this as needed. It is not a rare event; it is an expected event and happens every few years in all Towns/Cities with Charters.
That is not possible with our current form which is dictated by State Law and those who vote in Concord.
The output shows the input was not ignored.