New Bedford Charter Commission Vote Unlikely This Year
NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — The likeliest path for term limits on New Bedford City Councilors is unlikely to become a ballot question this November.
New Bedford City Council President Linda Morad said she would not support putting forth a ballot question to create a charter commission for this year's local election.
In her weekly appearance on WBSM, Morad said there was not enough time to put the question to voters on creating a charter commission and said there was "no need" to change the charter's language regarding city councilor terms at the current moment.
She said any changes to the charter would require a conversation with the council, Mayor Jon Mitchell's administration, and the City Solicitor's Office.
"We need to have methodical discussion," Morad said. "We should have a conversation on what the direction should be. It's not going to be a conversation to happen in the month of August."
The discussion of creating a commission comes after a petition for a ballot question that would set a four-term limit on city councilors failed.
The petition organizers, Catherine Adamowicz and Paul Hankins, had spent their summer trying to collect over 3,100 signatures for a petition for a ballot question that would have set term a four-term limit to any councilor elected once it is in place but would not take previous service into account.
After collecting about 2,700 signatures, the two were notified by City Solicitor Eric Jaikes that collecting signatures for a ballot question was not the correct procedure in this case.
Jaikes told the two the only way to set term limits for the city council would be through the amending the city charter.
Adamowicz and Hankins argued that term limits prevent power from becoming centralized by elected officials who have served more than 10 years in office.
Morad disagreed and said those who have served multiple years on the council offer "experience" to keep the city government running.
She added that only one councilor, Councilor at Large Brian Gomes, has served for over 10 consecutive years.
"I have always had a concern that all the councilors could be removed in year one," Morad said. "You need experience to keep things going."
While Morad said she doesn't think a charter commission is necessary now, Councilor at Large Naomi Carney said it might happen in the near future.
Carney, who confirmed that she wants to run for council president if re-elected in November, said she believes a charter review is necessary to determine if the language needs to be updated.
However, she added that creating a commission would take time.
If the council and Mayor Mitchell were to approve a measure to create a commission, it would still need approval from the Massachusetts Legislature via a home rule petition.
Establishing the commission would be the quickest way to do it but it's not quick.
"At some point though, we do need to start the process," she said.
Adamowicz said the question should be on this year's election ballot.
Speaking on WBSM's Tim Weisberg Show on Monday, Adamowciz dismissed Morad's claim that conversations were needed to create a commission.
She said the 2,700 signatures she and Hankins collected on the petition indicate that the public is interested in implementing term limits.
"This petition has been going on since June 21," she said. "Where were the city councilors when we started? There's no reason that the question can't be put on the ballot this season."
After the campaign to collect signatures failed, Adamowicz began a new campaign to get supports to call the mayor and the city council and ask them to put the question on the November ballot.