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Mayor and Council President announce joint public process to update City’s governance structures to meet modern needs
Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and City Council President Matt McLaughlin announced today their intention to undertake a comprehensive review of the City’s charter, committing to working together to complete this effort as expeditiously as possible. The charter is the City’s constitution and determines how the City is structured and run. It establishes the responsibilities of the Mayor, City Council, School Committee, and other decision-making bodies and informs governance in Somerville.
“City government must remain responsive to the challenges of the ever-changing world around us. Doing so often requires that we be flexible in our approach to the structure and rules of our government,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Charter review -- as technocratic as it sounds -- allows us to do just that. We do not undertake this process lightly; while government must be flexible, it must not change hastily. We will give this effort the resources and serious consideration it demands to ensure we are providing for the best possible government for the residents of Somerville now and for many years to come.”
The City is launching the charter review effort with initial funding requests to the City Council to contract with a technical expert to guide the process as well as to hire a part-time City employee to manage this important effort. These funding requests will appear on the final agenda for the City Council’s October 22 meeting. Assuming the request is approved by the Council, the City expects to have an expert and staff member on board by the end of the calendar year.
To ensure residents have a strong voice in this effort, Mayor Curtatone and President McLaughlin will seek community members for a Charter Advisory Commission, which will ultimately be responsible for submitting recommendations to the Mayor and City Council. Any changes made to Somerville’s charter will need to be approved at the state level. A call for participants will be released later this fall.
“Somerville has changed tremendously over the years. Our form of government should change to meet the times as well,” said Councilor McLaughlin. “Our charter should reflect the community’s active participation in government, strengthen the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branch, and increase transparency and accountability in government. I look forward to working with Mayor Curtatone to create a city charter of the 21st century.”
Somerville's charter was originally approved in 1871 and a revised charter was accepted in 1899. Since 1899, the charter has been amended several times -- most recently in 2012 -- to keep it in line with modern needs.
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