One of the items slated for discussion by the Charter Commission is the size of the City Council. Recommendations regarding ward vs. at large, potential term limits and staggered elections are also on the table, which will be covered in future posts here on NewtonForum. For now, let’s talk size. I have heard that the impetus for the Charter Commission review was to reduce the size of the city council. However, I have not heard any examples of why our current size is bad. I have attended three Charter Commission meetings/hearings and heard “other cities and towns our size have smaller city councils.” That is not a good enough reason for me to believe the size needs reduction. It reminds me of “all the other kids are jumping off the bridge, so I should, too” mentality. I heard “some people in Newton don’t even know how many councilors there are.” So, making the council smaller will change this? I think not. I heard, “24 city councilors is inefficient.” In what way? I have attended at least one hundred city council committee meetings over the last two years, and the only inefficiencies I have witnessed are by councilors who are not skilled in running a meeting. It is not the quantity but the quality of city councilors that matters.
I can tell you what is good about 24 city councilors: I believe that more city councilors means more resident representation, and a broad range of opinions represented in decision making. I believe that the amount of work done by the city councilors is immense, and the ability to break into multiple sub committees enables this work to get done.
The Charter Commission will be discussing this “Legislative Branch” of our city government on April 13 & 27, and there will be a public hearing on March 30. It is important that residents share their views with the Charter Commission in order for this to be a democratic process. Do you think the size of Newton’s City Council should change, and why?