Linda Dunbrack

Tonight I am here to present further thoughts of the Framingham Alliance for Civic Transparency (FACT) about the legislative branch as currently proposed in the charter, beyond our previously stated support for a larger Council with 18 district representatives and for reasonable term limits. We see a need for improved checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches and greater accountability to voters on key legislative issues.

  1. FACT supports a provision that would require that the Council confirm appointments of officers and division heads by a 2/3 vote. Such a requirement would foster collaboration between the legislative and executive branches, reduce the likelihood of patronage appointments, and allow appointees to work with the confidence of having the support of the Council. The current draft charter provision requires a 2/3 vote of the Council to reject appointees. This provision is inconsistent with charters in other communities highlighted by the commission, all of which require a majority to approve appointments.
  2. We also support provisions that require a 2/3 vote of the Council for special permits, changes in planning and zoning ordinances, and the master plan. These development-related decisions greatly impact on the quality of life in local neighborhoods. The Council, as the voice of the neighborhoods for their districts, should have substantial input into such decisions.
  3. FACT also supports requiring that the Council be required to vote on all key issues, including the budget and citizen’s initiatives. Allowing budget provisions to pass without a vote or citizens petitions to be rejected without a recorded vote does not allow voters to hold their Council representatives accountable for their votes. Such provisions also provide opportunities for abuse by an unscrupulous Council President, who might fail to schedule a timely meeting or a vote in order to trigger the default result.
  4. FACT supports allowing more time for the legislative body to review the operating and capital budgets, which are large and complex. The 42 days in our current charter is the lowest of all the communities highlighted by the commission. FACT recommends allowing at least 90 days for budget review, including 60-days for Finance Subcommittee review and 30 days for Council to act.
  5. FACT supports 3-year terms for both Council and School Committee to provide better balance between accountability to voters, time spent running for office, and the demands of learning the job of serving on each body.

One final note on another issue: FACT believes that any changes to planning and zoning bylaws that would be legally required as a result of becoming a city be spelled out by the Charter Commission to provide transparency to voters.

Thank you very much for your time and attention.

 

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

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