“Charter” refers to a written instrument that defines the government structure under which a city and town operates, that may create local offices; distribute powers, duties and responsibilities among local offices; and that may establish and define certain procedures to be followed by a city or town government.

Newburyport’s Charter was last modified in 1919, when the Mayor’s term was changed from one-year to two-year. For example, Charter Review would look at whether the Mayor’s term would stay the same or lengthen to 4-years or instead whether we should instead have a City Manager chosen by the City Council; whether the number of Councillors and terms should remain the same; whether certain Boards and Commissions are elected or appointed; etc.

This is a website that we’ve found helpful here from the State’s website.

The process to review a Charter is very transparent and inclusive of public participation. Here is an outline of the process:

1) 15% of registered voters need to petition the City Council to order a local ballot question (SPRING 2009) STATUS: PETITIONS HAVE BEEN PRINTED AND ARE READY FOR DISTRIBUTION

2) the completed petition and signatures are certified as valid (MAY AND JUNE 2009)

3) the city council has 30 days to adopt the order and place the question on the ballet of the next regular election which may not be within the ensuing 60 days. (LATE SPRING 2009)

4) When votes are cast on the question of forming a charter commission, votes are simultaneously cast to elect the nine commission members who qualify for nomination through the collection of voter signatures. (NOV 2009)

5) If a majority of the voters approve the question, the top nine vote getters sit on the Charter Review Commission which is directed by statute to hold its first public hearing within 45 days of the election. (DEC 2009)

6) It must complete a preliminary report within 16 months, then publish and submit its preliminary report to the attorney general for an advisory opinion, (BY MARCH 2011)

7) the Commission completes its final report within two additional months (or 18 months from the election (BY MAY 2011)

8) Charter commission recommendations are then placed before the voters for acceptance or rejection. (NOV 2011)

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