DRAFT CITY CHARTER

FACT has carefully and thoughtfully considered the structure of city government proposed in the draft city charter created by the Framingham Charter Commission, which is available on the Charter Commission Documents page on the Town’s website.

We believe that it is essential that Framingham’s legislative body provides strong checks and balances to the executive branch of government and ensures that everyone’s voice is fairly represented and heard in Framingham’s decision-making process. We have serious concerns about the ability of a Council to fulfill this fundamental role in the Mayor/Council form of government as currently proposed by the Charter Commission. However, we believe that the following changes could be made within a Mayor/Council governance structure to address key concerns:

ENHANCE REPRESENTATION AND PROVIDE FULL ACCOUNTABILITY TO VOTERS

  • One representative from each of our existing 18 precincts would provide better neighborhood representation and accountability to every segment of our diverse community. [The draft charter combines pairs of existing precincts into 9 new “districts,” with only one councilor elected from each district.]
  • 2-Year terms for all Council members would provide greater accountability and responsiveness to voters. [The draft charter specifies 2-year terms for district councilors, but it specifies 4-year terms for two councilors elected at-large (city-wide).]
  • Requiring a Council vote on mayoral appointments, citizen’s initiatives, and all of the budget (rather than allowing a default outcome in the absence of a vote) would provide better transparency and accountability to voters.  [The draft charter specifies that approval is by default in the absence of a vote of disapproval by the Council.]

CREATE STRONGER CHECKS AND BALANCES

  • Approval of the appointments of all officers and division heads by a majority vote of the Council would provide an important check on appointments of marginally-qualified but politically connected candidates. [In the draft charter, appointments of officers and division heads are approved by default, unless rejected within 30 days by a 2/3 vote of the council.]
  • Allowing more time for review of the annual operating budget would provide the opportunity for meaningful department reviews and budget oversight. [In the draft charter, at least 60 days prior to the start of each fiscal year the mayor must submit to the Council a proposed operating budget for the ensuing fiscal year. The Council immediately refers the proposed operating budget to its Finance subcommittee, which must present its recommendations to the full Council within 21 days.  Within the following 21 days, the Council must adopt the budget. Thus, the budget review period is a maximum of 42 days.]

FAIR AND COMPETITVE ELECTIONS

  • Eight-year Term Limits on Consecutive Terms would facilitate competitive elections that give voters meaningful choices. [The charter does not impose any term limits on either the mayor or councilors.]

SECURE REASONABLE CONSENSUS ON DEVELOPMENT DECISIONS

  • Including a provision requiring a 2/3 vote for approval of zoning ordinances and super-majority approval for special permits decisions would provide some insurance against  state legislative initiatives that would undermine these requirements
  • Requiring that special permit granting authority be retained in multi-member bodies (such as the Council, Planning Board, and Zoning Board of Appeals) and not be delegated to a single appointed individual such as a zoning administrator, to ensure that development decisions are made in meetings that are posted in advance and open to the public. [The charter has no such requirement.]

Throughout the charter development process, FACT has endorsed a governance model that lays the foundation for both strong professional management and broad legislative representation. We have strong reservations about the Mayor/Council form of government, to which the Charter Commission is committed.

 

2016 FALL SPECIAL TOWN MEETING ARTICLES 35-39

FACT has reviewed and carefully considered Articles 35 through 39 of the 2016 Fall Special Town Meeting warrant, articles proposed by the Government Study Commission. We invite you to read the attached FACT Position Paper, which sets forth our conclusions about these articles.