Opinion by Peter Bragdon – Board of Selectmen Candidate
As you have probably seen there is a push in New Gloucester by a group of citizens to form a Charter Commission. I am involved in this diverse group which includes Democrats, Republicans, Independents, a retired town employee, past selectmen, current selectmen, retired Maine Municipal leaders and a retired town manager. I want to share why I think a Charter will benefit the town.
I think it is important to be clear that the question going forth to the voters in June is whether or not we want “to establish a Charter Commission.” It is not to actually accept a Charter! If the question passes, then 6 committee members will be elected and 3 appointed by the Selectmen. Anyone can run for this Commission and the election will be held in November. A year-long process takes place developing the Charter to include extensive public input. A final vote of pass or fail is held by the town. The Charter can be changed at any time by a vote of the people. Again, anyone can run and be on this Charter Commission. It is not going to automatically be the Citizens Group.
New Gloucester does not have a formal set of rules for the Board of Selectmen and general government to operate on. I do not think this is okay and there should be rules, guidelines, bylaws or a Charter. Whatever it may be called, we need something. This will allow everything to be black and white and done a certain way. More importantly the same way, all the time. We have many “Unwritten Rules” here in town. Or I get told “because that’s the way we always do it”. That may be fine in some cases but why not have them in writing?
What could be included in a charter (but not limited to / or means that it will be included):
• Detailed Budget Process
• How items are put on the Selectmen’s agenda
• Meeting times
• How the board is comprised
• Length of terms, staggering etc
• Appointment to committees
• Code of Conduct
• Public Participation at meetings
• Undesignated Fund Balance management
• How/ when agendas are posted
• Clarification of votes (majorities)
• Calling/Cancelling Meetings
Some of the myths being circulated about a Charter:
• It is only people wanting term limits
• We will lose town meeting
• We will have a town council
• It is going to cost the town a lot of money
• Every community that has a charter doesn’t like it
To help explain the process there will be a Public Informational meeting on Thursday March 21st at 6:30 PM, in the Community Room at the Congregational Church, 19 Gloucester Hill Rd. There are guest speakers with extensive knowledge about charters. There will also be a time to ask questions and public input.
There will be a breakfast THIS SUNDAY (March 17) at the Eagles Club from 8am-11am. Open to the Public. It is to raise money by the Citizens Group to be used for educational material, etc. $8 for all the fixins.
In closing, I support forming a Charter Commission to see what a Charter would look like for New Gloucester. Either way, we need rules and guidelines that are specific to our town.
I look forward to your Vote in June as we restore Communication, Transparency and Trust. Feel free to reach out to me.