I have been paying attention to town government since the mid-1980’s. I started paying more careful attention in the late ‘90’s, and have been paying even more careful attention since. I also recently read through the town reports, late 1800’s to the present. So one thing I can tell you is that “it’s always been done this way” is neither an adequate nor truthful answer to questions about how our town government operates now.
Decisions have been made by those in place at the time, according to the exigencies and good ideas – and, yes, good intentions – of the moment. But nowhere is how our local government is supposed to handle its business written down.
This is what a town charter can rectify. It will put all the rules in one place, for us citizens to refer to any time we want. It will allow us to keep government accountable, as it ALSO enables each iteration of elected leaders to follow a format in their work, and not have to reinvent their framework with changing personalities.
Our form of government the way it stands now – 5 elected selectpersons, 1 town manager, and an annual town meeting – may continue under a charter; it is one of 5 forms allowed by state statute. This, and everything else a Charter Commission (largely elected by the public) decides will come from research and input from New Gloucester residents. And the final result will be accepted – or rejected – by town voters by ballot at the polls.
· Who says how a budget must be presented to the voters?
· Who gets to name a ball field, or memorials?
· Who says if or when the public may speak at public meetings?
· Who says when – or if – the BOS or manager must answer questions posed in public?
· Who says which committees have liaisons from the Board of Selectmen who vote on that committee, and which have non-voting liaisons?
These are some of the many things you, as voters, may wish a charter to clarify.
Please vote YES to create a charter commission. Then YOU, not the board of selectmen or the town manager – will have the final say.
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