Our Charter is quite simply the collection of bylaws that say how we organize our government and what we expect it to do. It establishes the city’s elected offices, defines how those people are elected, and lays out what they are supposed to do. It also establishes various procedures, administrative departments, and other responsibilities of the City government.
Why Review the Charter?
Newton has historically treated the charter as a living document, subject to the changing needs of the time. Ever since Newton’s establishment as a city in 1874 (we were first established as a town in 1688), we have periodically reviewed the charter to make sure that city government does what we need it to do.
Past changes have included lengthening the Mayor’s term from 2 to 4 years, moving from a bicameral legislature to the board of Aldermen (soon to be city council), and stating that vacancies in the Board of Aldermen must be filled by special election (rather than by appointment).
We last reviewed the charter in 1971. Since that time, new questions have arisen about establishing candidate residency, about term limits, and the responsibilities of the Board of Aldermen. There has been a long-term discussion about whether our elected legislature is appropriately sized for our City.
This is only a short list to begin with, but there will be other areas the City might want to examine as the Charter Review Commission reviews the broader concerns facing the city and examining what other communities have done.
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