Ordinance/Charter Review Committee Proposes Changes

The nine-member Winthrop Charter/Ordinance Review Committee, chaired by Marc Chapdelaine, presented a report to the Town Council Tuesday, suggesting some key changes to the election process and the membership of the Council itself.

Chapdelaine appeared at the Council meeting to submit the months-long work of the Charter/Ordinance Review Committee. The committee recommended upwards of 20 changes between the town charter and town ordinances.

Change The Council to Eight At-Large Members

“One of their recommendations is to change the composition of the Council from six precincts and two at-large councillors to having all at-large councillors,” said Town Council President James Letterie.

Letterie said the ORC’s reasoning for the change is to encourage more people to seek election to the Council. It is believed that in approximately 80 percent of the precinct council races, the incumbent has not faced an opponent.

Reducing Length of Terms

Another major change, according to Letterie, would be the reduction of a councilor’s term from four years to two years.

“That would mean that every two years, every councilor would be up for re-election,” said Letterie.

The thought is that prospective candidates might be willing to make a commitment to serving in office for two years, as opposed to four years.

Council President’s Term Would Be Lengthened to Four Years

Also generating conversation is the Ordinance Review’s Committee recommendation to extend the term of the Council President from two years to four years.

The thought is that it is difficult for the Council President to build an agenda in a two-year term, with the next election seemingly just around the corner.

The Next Step in the Process

President Letterie explained that any change in the town charter would require a two-thirds vote (six votes) of the Town Council.

“Any major change, which they call substantive change, such as changing the composition of the Council, would require a two-thirds vote of the Council, and then on to the State Legislature for a home-rule petition – meaning the state would have to approve the change,” said Letterie. “It would then still have to go on the town ballot for the general public.”

The next possible time for a town-wide vote on any of the changes being proposed would be the November, 2023 election, which is a regularly scheduled election, as opposed to a special election.

Todd Sacco Sends Letter on Serving on the Committee

First, let me thank Mr. Letterie for providing me the opportunity to be part of such an important committee. Town government is the most important government as all politics starts at the local level. I was honored to be part of such an important undertaking.

In the coming days you will be presented with the final product of our work. I am writing to strongly encourage you to consider presenting the proposal to the town for vote in its entirety and without change.

The reasons are simple. Our current Council President has the authority to appoint this board. The people of Winthrop overwhelmingly chose Jim Letterie as their leader. And, I remind you his victory was historic, he won every precinct, and won by over 600 votes.

Jim was thoughtful and meticulous in his selections and I thought we had a very diverse group that accurately represents the political makeup of our electorate.

It is because of these facts that it makes perfect sense, and it is the just thing to do, to move these questions to the ballot in their present form, for the people of Winthrop to decide. Anything else would demonstrate a lack of faith in the Ordinance Review Committee and the community at large.

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