Beth Greeley

I have attended or watched nearly all the Commission meetings. Two prominent themes since the beginning have been how to create a charter that will deliver “full and fair” representation for all corners of Framingham. And how to create a charter that can motivate more contests of ideas and experience at the ballot box.

After listening and learning, I’ve changed my view on two aspects of the current charter draft: council size and term limits.

For “full and fair representation,” I urge the Commission to reconsider keeping the existing 18 precincts. It preserves village and community identity, and prevents neighborhoods from being marginalized by combining them with others that may not share a common history. It levels the playing field among precincts with fewer activists and those chock full of organizers. Further, as we, potentially, move from a participatory form of government to a more representative form, transition to a larger council – tied to the precincts we already have – seems a better fit.

The 13-member council proposal – made up by collapsing the current 18 precincts into 9, electing a councilor from each and electing four at-large – seemed promising. But 13 could turn out unlucky. The at-large councilors could conceivably come from one single district. If the at-large councilors team up with that district’s own councilor, we could have five councilors from one district. That’s not full and fair representation by any stretch; in fact it echoes problems we have now with so many districts at a representation disadvantage. Taking that possibility further, those five would only have to recruit two more councilors to gain a majority on any issue they see fit.

The last two Commission meetings, in particular, bemoaned falling voter turnout trends. It’s pretty dramatic. The Commission also noted how normal it is now for uncontested elections for important seats. Getting rid of the at-large seats could help counter that. At-large elections are much more expensive and time-consuming to run. By nature, they favor well known, well financed candidates. And at-large races certainly favor incumbents. Making all the seats district seats means folks can activate their neighborhood, school, club, church, sports networks to run. It’s more personal, more affordable, more doable – and invites newcomers in.

 

Regarding term limits. The Commission’s own advisors – the Collins Center – point to term limits as an answer to motivating competitive elections. They wrote:

  • Term limits allow for turn-over of elected officials potentially increasing new ideas, nurturing new leaders and community involvement
  • They encourage more people to run because open seats more often draw multiple candidates
  • They enable more opportunities for women and minorities

My ask, again, is to reconsider a larger council, eliminate at-large seats, and put in sensible term limits.

Thank you.

 

Watch Beth’s presentation to the Charter Commission at its Public Hearing on September 22, 2016.

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