Will a Charter Benefit New Gloucester?

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.

Peter Bragdon
prbragdon@gmail.com      740-7528