I’ve been waiting for someone to bring it up at the Charter Commission public hearings but everyone has been concerned over the overbearing mayoral provisions and recall issue. So, let me bring this to your attention.
It was the tremendous pressure of the Citizens for Environmental Balance (and other political groups) through citizen petitions that has dramatically affected the future of our City.
There was a concerted effort to take the swath of undeveloped public lands along Route 95 and use it to develop large tracts of businesses and homes. It would have dramatically changed the very character of Newburyport. CEB did a non-binding petition to put the issue before the voters and this area was spared. (for the time being.)
Then CEB pushed hard to have the CPA put on the ballot as developers were trying to consume open spaces, watersheds, wildlife areas and decimate our historic assets. It won making Newburyport as one of the most enviable places as farms were saved, watersheds and wildlife areas were spared and historic assets became…well…economic assets.
The opponents pushed hard to reduce the CPA surcharge and they were defeated but they did it through bringing the choice before the voters through a petition drive.
Then, when Mayor Moak tried to do a Proposition 2-1/2 override; the ‘Know’ group defeated it by pushing for ‘no’ on the ballot.
Well, now, all those transformational acts of bringing tough choices before the voters is in danger.
Sometimes the devil is in the details. They have inserted a small measure that will have horrific consequence in the future starting in 2014.
SECTION 8-6: REQUIRED VOTER PARTICPATION
For any measure to be effective under initiative procedure and for any measure to be declared null and void under any referendum procedure, at least 30 percent of the voters as of the most recent city election must vote at an election that includes on the ballot submission of one or more initiative or referendum questions to the voters. (The last election barely had 30% of the voters!)
So basically, you can slave away knocking on doors, having citizens on the street sign the petition, then get it on the ballot but if less than 30% of the voters bother to show up, it is all in vain. In addition, they have increased the percentage to 15% (formerly 12%) of the registered voters to make a citizen petition ironclad. (Section 8-2)
I think this is unacceptable and is a horrible blow to true democracy. Not only do some of these commissioners want a stronger mayor but obviously want government to be a huge bulldozer that buries any opposition along its blundering path.
Will not someone please join me in informing the Charter Commission these barriers to citizens should be struck down?