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A Home Rule Charter is a document that establishes a city’s government structure and defines the organization, functions, specific powers, legal control and essential procedures of a city government.
In Watertown, the Charter explains the responsibilities of the Town Council, Town Manager, School Committee, Library Trustees, Boards and all aspects of government, from how elections are run to how our budget is developed and approved. The Charter is a city’s constitution & its most important legal document.
The Charter is available here or visit the Town Clerk’s Office at Town Hall, 149 Main Street to acquire a copy.
Watertown’s Charter states that it must review the Charter every 10 years.
Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Charter Review process was delayed until October 2020.
The Council voted in December 2020 to extend the Charter Review Process through June 2021.
Local government provides a vast array of services to residents, ranging from public safety to utilities, recreation, education, transportation, storm water management, zoning and land use regulation and enforcement, construction permitting and inspection, not to mention transparency, accessibility, public engagement and much more.
Charter Review enables Watertown to evaluate how well it functions and serves its residents. It is an opportunity to learn how the town operates and guide how services are delivered in the future.
Many aspects of the Charter can be changed via the Charter review process from the form of government (i.e.: Town Council & Manager to Mayor) to how often the Charter Review is conducted in the future but there are some limits:
Charter change CAN...
Charter change CAN’T...
Good charters set forth general principles rather than legislative details. While a certain level of control over governmental action is necessary and appropriate, balancing control with organizational and process flexibility and discretion should be the ultimate objective of any charter.[edited from, Guide for Charter Commissions, 6th ed., National Civic League, and Model City Charter, 2nd ed. 2011, National Civic League]
The CRC meets remotely on the first & third Tuesday of each month at 6pm via Zoom.
The public is encouraged to watch & interact via Zoom (links are found on the meeting agenda)
Visit the CRC website (watertown-ma.gov/charter) to stay updated and participate in polls and/or submit questions and find links to attend or watch the meetings.
Agendas, minutes and a wide range of pertinent documents including the current Charter, sample charters from other cities, sample preambles and links to videos of past meetings are all available at the website.
Many of these items will also be posted on the bulletin board in front of the Town Clerk’s Office, in the basement of the Town Hall, 149 Main Street.
Currently the City of Watertown has a Council/Manager form of government. Our legislative branch consists of eight Councilors & a Council President directly elected to two year terms in part-time positions. The day-to-day management of the city is handled by the Manager, a full-time, contract employee who reports to the Council. The manager serves under a contract that is reviewed and approved by the Council. The manager oversees the entire administration of the city and heads of all major departments report directly to the Manager. The Council President is also President of the School Committee.
Watertown Government Organization Chart https://www.watertown-ma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/31215/Watertown-Org-Chart
Watertown became city in 1980 by making changes to the Charter through the Charter Review process. It does matter because different state laws apply to towns and cities.
This is something that the CRC is considering.
The Charter describes the overall makeup of the CRC as 15 members consisting of all 8 sitting councilors, Council President & six residents selected by the Council President.
In January 2020, a call for letters of interest from residents was made & the Council President interviewed candidates in February, March & October 2020 before announcing the six residents immediately prior to the first Charter Review meeting.
Watertown’s current Charter calls for a 15 member CRC comprised of the Council President, all eight councilors and six residents (selected by the Council President)
Watertown Charter Review Committee 2020:
Town Council President, Mark Sideris
Angeline Kounelis, Councilor District A
Lisa Feltner Councilor District B
Vincent Piccirilli Councilor District C
Kenneth Woodland Councilor District D
Caroline Bays Councilor-At-Large
Anthony Donato Councilor-At-Large
John Gannon Councilor-At-Large
Anthony Palomba Councilor-At-Large
Email the entire Charter Review Committee via firstname.lastname@example.org
You can e-mail questions and comments to all Committee members at email@example.com.
Or find their individual email addresses in the answer to the previous question
If you do not have e-mail, you can call the Council Clerk at 617-972-6470 with any questions or comments for the Committee members.
The CRC votes to recommend any changes to the Charter, those recommendations are sent to the Town Council for a vote. If they accept & there are major changes to the Charter, a ballot question must be voted on by the town & if approved, registered with the state.
The Charter Review process was started in January 2020 with a call for letters of interest from residents to serve on the CRC by Council President Mark Sideris.Interviews were held in February and March before the Charter Review was put on hold by Council President Sideris due to the COVID-19 global pandemic outbreak. Council President Sideris conducted more interviews in October 2020 and announced the six resident members the day before the first CRC meeting which was held on October 6, 2020.
It was announced that the CRC would meet on the first and third Tuesday on the month at 6pm via Zoom video conference & that the meetings would be available to the public via Zoom & broadcast live on Watertown Cable Access. Links to the meetings can be found in the agendas posted here.
The CRC has been meeting regularly since October and will continue until a report is completed (tentatively June).
The CRC reviewed the charters of several other cities in Massachusetts, hosted Q&As with several town managers, councilors and mayors to learn about different forms of government.
In February CRC began discussing Watertown’s charter specifically and potential changes that may be recommended.
CRC meetings and discussion of changes to the charter are expected to continue through the spring with a report of recommendations that is tentatively planned to be finalized in June.
The final report is then forwarded to the Town Council for approval. Recommendations will be on the November ballot for approval by the electorate if necessary. The draft timeline prepared by the Collins Center is located on the website.
Watertown has engaged the Collins Center to facilitate the Charter Review process.
All Watertown residents and employees are invited to participate in the Charter Review Process.
It’s important that voices representing a wide range of perspectives are represented in the Charter Review process. All residents have the opportunity to learn how their town government operates and how decisions are made that affect the quality of our services, schools and the strength of our community. Learn about your local government and invest in Watertown's future by participating in the Charter Review.
Every resident is encouraged to participate in Charter Review.There are many ways to get involved:
THINK ABOUT AND DISCUSS WITH NEIGHBORS
Watertown’s Charter is divided into nine sections, or articles.
Article 1: Defines the type of government and its scope of powersArticle 2: Defines the composition and general powers of the Town Council (Legislature)Article 3: Defines the role and powers of the Town Manager (Administration)Article 4: Defines other elected officials besides the Town Council. In Watertown, this is the School Committee and the Library Trustees.Article 5: Financial Management: Defines how the budget is created and approved.Article 6: Describes how the administration is organized and rules for reorganization by the Town Manager.Article 7: Elections: Defines how elections are run, eligibility; also defines citizen’s initiativesArticle 8: General Provisions: Describes charter changes, rules and regs, ordinances, meetings, etc. Article 9: Transitional Provisions: Describes transfer of powers if necessary when changes are made to the charter.
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