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Pittsfield Decides Structure Of Ordinance Review Committee

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
10:27PM / Tuesday, December 10, 2013
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In what is likely its last meeting of the year, the City Council spent almost two hours outlining the structure of a committee to review city ordinances.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It took nearly two hours Tuesday night but the City Council decided that it will form an ordinance committee and it will have people on it.

The new charter requires the council to create a five-member committee to review city ordinances and ensure they don't conflict with the charter.

The committee needs to have City Clerk Linda Tyer as member but who will comprise the rest of the committee was up for debate Tuesday — after the council spend nearly a half-hour debating whether the charter's language of "immediately" to form it meant Tuesday night or in January.

Ultimately, the council opted to cap the number of city councilors on the committee to two, meaning there could be none, one or two. Councilors then said the remainder of the committee would be from the public. Councilor at Large Barry Clairmont was eventually voted onto the committee.

The committee's formation also includes a clerk, who will be hired for $1,500 for the duration of the yearlong process, and an option for later contracting a consultant. The city solicitor will serve as an adviser.

Led by President Kevin Sherman, who believed the council had the obligation to form the committee on Tuesday because of the "immediately" wording in the charter, the council broke the committee's structure into four parts.

Sherman initially proposed to have three councilors, the city clerk and then one member of the public with a background in municipal government or law as voting members, the city solicitor and the hired clerk.

His proposal had a stipulation saying if the committee could ask the mayor and the council for a consultant if it felt one necessary.

"This is getting an administrative committee to watch paint dry," Sherman, partly joking about the task but also saying the issue shouldn't be devisive among the council. "I put this together as a starting point."

While many councilors voiced opposition to forming the committee because there will be new councilors in January, they dove into the formation of the committee and approved it with changes.

The first issue debated was the number of councilors. Many thought Sherman's proposal of three was too many.

"To have a balance of having two and two is a good approach to this," said Ward 1 Councilor Christine Yon.

But others thought there may not be enough councilors interested in serving and others thought one would be enough. They eventually agreed to have as many as two so as to eliminate concerns with it being too heavily loaded with councilors.

Then, the council debated if the members of the public needed a background in municipal government or law. The council finally settled on language that did not eliminate anyone from joining the committee.

After settling the question of councilors and members of the public serving, the council took aim at the language allowing the committee to have a consultant if approved by the mayor and council and the language saying there would be a hired clerk.

The council debated again if a consultant was needed. Once the council circled back to agreeing to leave the option in, councilors left that language alone.

"If we approve this, we are not approving a consultant," Sherman said.

Finally, the clerk position came up. Some said the clerk position was unneeded while others said it was. In the end, a motion to eliminate the position from the structure and a motion to require future council approval for the position were both defeated. The position stayed in the final structure.

The council then voted 8-3 in favor of the structure of the committee. Sherman nominated Clairmont to the committee and despite some saying they did not want to put anyone on it yet, the vote passed and Clairmont was appointed.


Tags: charter review,   city council,   

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