PITTSFIELD, Mass. — After many months of deliberation between the City Council and mayor, a new 11-member commission has been appointed with the task reviewing the governing charter, which has not been substantially altered since 1932.
The commission consist of four members submitted by Mayor Daniel Bianchi and seven submitted by the City Council. The seven were selected in discussions with Bianchi, City Council President Kevin Sherman and Vice President Jonathan Lothrop from a pool of names put forth by all of the 11-member city council.
The new commission consists of Bill Barry, Diane M. Ferrero, Brad Gordon, Michael P. Filpi, Arthur S. Jones, Vicki Kane, Edward J. Lapointe, Peter Marchetti, Michael A. McCarthy, David W. Murphy and Deborah A. Sadowy.
By the rules agreed to by the city council, the body could not include any current elected officials.
Bianchi's initial call to begin the charter review process called for a nine-member commission with members appointed by him and subject to council approval. Over the course of several special meetings, the City Council reached an agreeable compromise to divide the role of selecting members between the two branches of government.
Councilor Melissa Mazzeo expressed some disappointment that the final list of names does not include members from every city ward.
"It's ironic that we have no one in Ward 3 and no one in Ward 5," said Mazzeo, who suggested that in the event someone cannot discharge their committee duty that this could be taken into account when appointing an "alternate" from the remaining pool of qualified names.
Ward 3 Councilor Paul Capitanio said he had no one in his ward express willingness to volunteer for the committee.
The committee is to hold hearings and gather information, with the help of a paid consultant, in reviewing the entire charter document governing the city of Pittsfield to see if any changes should be made. The group is expected to release a preliminary report within six months, and supply its final report to the city in one year.
Any changes proposed by the special committee will be taken as recommendations by the City Council. To take effect, they must be approved by the council and the mayor, and put before the voters at the next municipal election. Only if affirmed would the charter then be sent to the state Legislature for approval.
Any modifications would take effect immediately upon approval, unless they impact the term lengths of elected officials, in which case they would take effect at the conclusion of that term.
"Give us a call when you're done," joked Sherman after the appointments were ratified.
All commission meetings will be open to the public, with input allowed through some type of open mic process established by the committee itself. In addition, the order establishing it requires at least two major public hearings that are to be legally posted two weeks in advance.
The need to update the city's current charter, which dates to 1932, was first enunciated by Sherman a year ago, in response to controversy over then Mayor James Ruberto's decision to bypass council approval on key appointments.
The charter has had amendments made at least twice since its origin. Another charter review attempt, in 1995, did not ultimately result in any changes.
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