By Meredith McCulloch
The Charter Review committee has been working over the summer on adjustments to the document and will be ready to make their recommendations to the Selectmen at the September 22 Selectmen’s meeting. The nine-member committee is chaired by Betsey Anderson, Town Moderator.
The goals of the review are to reconcile differences between the Charter and current practice, to clarify language, and most important, to recommend more substantial changes that the committee believes will improve the functioning of town government.
Suggestions have been sought from the public and from Town Boards and Committees, and are still welcome. Additional meetings of the Charter Review Committee are scheduled for September 11 and 18, and there is a public comment period on each agenda.
Changes approved so far by the Committee for recommendation are:
- Provision for the annual appointment of a Deputy Moderator by the elected Moderator;
- Elimination of committees and positions no longer in use, such as “Measurers Of Wood Bark And Manure.”); and
- Changing the number of signatures required for a recall petition from 10% to 20% of registered voters, the standard used by most towns that have a recall process.
Two issues still under discussion are a possible change in the size of the Volunteer Coordinating Committee and a change in the deadlines for their recommendations. The appointment process for Finance Committee members is also being reviewed.
Several steps are required to complete the process of amending the Charter. Once approved by the Selectmen and after a public hearing, the recommended changes will be placed on the warrant of the Special Town Meeting this fall. After Town Meeting approval, the changes will appear on the ballot for the annual Town election in March for an up or down vote. Finally, the state’s Attorney General will review the changes to make sure there is no conflict with state law.
The Charter is essentially the constitution of the town and describes the basic parameters for its governance. It is supplemented by the By-Laws. The Charter was first adopted in March 1974 under a Home Rule Petition that allows the town to make many changes to town government without seeking legislative approval. Bedford’s charter includes a requirement that the Charter be reviewed every five years and the Charter and By-Laws every ten years.
For a complete list of committee members see: https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2014/03/17/review-of-bedfords-town-charter-underway/