Charter Commission

Last Night, the Charter Commision held a public hearing and live broadcast.

The topic was public input on the current proposed changes to Methuen’s charter.

Here is the story in the Eagle Tribune. [ Methuen Residents call for stronger term limits]

Let me note that Mr. Robert Leblanc gave a wonderful presentation of his feelings.

Here are the notes I used for my presentation.

I wish to speak on two subjects tonight.

I begin quoting from the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, PART THE FIRST,
A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Article VII (7). Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men: Therefore the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity and happiness require it.

Article VIII (8). In order to prevent those, who are vested with authority, from becoming oppressors, the people have a right, at such periods and in such manner as they shall establish by their frame of government, to cause their public officers to return to private life; and to fill up vacant places by certain and regular elections and appointments.

I support term limits as the founding fathers envisioned them. Serve and then return to civilian life. Six years seems to be the original norm and has been the norm in Methuen for a very long time.
Before politico’s began to tamper with the process, the electorate stated emphatically that they support lifetime term lmits.
I ask that you stop looking at your own vested interests and begin to think of implemeting lifetime term limits after six years of service. One only needs to look to the original Articles of Confederation and the letters of Thomas Jefferson to comprehend that term limits were an expected part of citizenship.
Term limits are not a negative statement about the character or characteristics of existent politicians. It is a means of engaging a larger populace in the decision making process that creates the climate we all live in.

If the playing field were level then I may buy the argument, so often presented, that elections are the democratic means of arriving at term limits. Perhaps, in a day when the moral climate was different, or existent, and incumbancy, war chests and career politicians were not the norm a facile argument could be proferred. Today it is a demeaning argument that assumes the electorate is oblivious and tends to be presented by entrenched politicos who use it as a polite way of speaking down to the electorate, instead of engaging them, and recognizing the truth in the statement that governments are formed “of, by and for the people”

An aside Regarding Appointments. Any opening shall be filled within 60 days. All positions spelled out in the charter or by statute or ordinance should be either filled or removed within this time frame.
Secondly, I once signed the Open Government Pledge. which states;
“I believe the government of Methuen belongs to the citizens it serves.
I believe that government functions best when its discussions and decision making occur in the light of day.
I believe that citizens of Methuen have the right to access government records, discussions and decisions, outside of narrow exemptions specified by law.
I then pledged to abide by the spirit and letter of Massachusetts’s Public Records Law and Open Meetings Law; and support legislation or initiatives that promote openness and transparency within government.
Specifically, I pledged to support legislation requiring the posting of all government contract and financial transactions in an online, easily searchable database that includes the amount of individual payments, to whom each is made, an explanation of the payment, and an explanation of the budget category under which the payment falls.”

Make Note;
The US Congress passed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Public Law. 109-282) to increase transparency and accountability in government spending by providing the public with access to information about federal awards through a free, single, searchable website.
Under the act, “federal awards” include grants, subgrants, contracts, subcontracts, loans, cooperative agreements, purchase orders, task orders, delivery orders, and other forms of financial assistance. They do not include individual transactions valued at less than $ 25,000.

In the intervening years five states (Hawaii, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Texas) , in response to the federal law, enacted legislation establishing public-access websites to track government spending.

In addition, the governor of Missouri issued an executive order for the same reason. Indiana’s executive order establishing a website to log state contracts on the Internet preceded the federal law’s passage.

Several other states, including Illinois,Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, New Mexico, and Tennessee, have discussed similar proposals.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act establishes a public-access website to track government spending. The website must be up and running by January 1, 2008 and provide the following data for each federal award:
1. the recipient’s name;
2. the dollar amount;
3. the transaction type, funding agency, North American Industry Classification System code used to identify market sector or Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance number, and funding purpose;
4. the recipient’s location as well as the primary location of performance under the award, including city, state, congressional district, and country;
5. a unique identifier for the recipient and the recipient’s parent entity, when applicable; and
6. other information that the Office of Management and Budget deems relevant.

The act exempts from disclosure personal information on federal employees and federal assistance recipients. In addition, the website does not have to provide information on (1) credit card transactions until October 1, 2008 or (2) subgrants or subcontracts until January 1, 2009.

Generally, the major aspects of existing state transparency laws are similar to each other and the federal law. They all establish a free, publicly-available, and searchable website of state expenditures.

I strongly recommend that real transparency, as embodied in the Federal legislation, be incorporated into the next Charter of Methuen. Establish in the charter a free, publicly-available, and searchable website of all municipal expenditures.

Thank you.

admin posted at 2010-10-7 Category: Boards and Commissions, Charter

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