Cohasset Advisors say no to governance as a standing committee

“I don’t see what you’re fixing,” Pescatore said. “We don’t know either,” Brown said

Advisors first noted that the proposed citizens’ petition to make governance a standing committee had no term limits.

Governance committee member Merle Brown, first signer on the petition, said the 7-member committee would be appointed by the Troika and have staggered terms.

Advisor Nan Roth said, “Yes. They start at one year and go on forever.”

Pescatore said the committee’s powers seemed to be very broad and encroached upon the duties of the board of selectmen. “This would be investing a lot of power in an ill-defined committee,” he said noting that the petition gave governance direct assess to the warrant.

Brown argued that sometimes you might want town meeting to make the decision directly, bypassing the selectmen.

Roth countered that then selectmen would have to do what governance said.

Larson said selectmen could vote to not recommend the article.

Tanya Bodell said she didn’t see a lot of checks and balances in this article. “If there is a need for this, why wouldn’t you reconstitute the committee for a set period of time. You’re talking about (cleaning up) legacy issues. Once they’re cleaned up, it’s over (the need for governance.)”

This is the line in the petition article that drove everyone crazy:

“The committee shall provide ongoing review of Town governance and make recommendations for the improvements thereof, including potential changes to the Town’s governing documents, as deemed necessary.”

Pescatore said it was too far-reaching. “If this committee decided there should be a three-person board of selectmen and not five, or that selectmen should combine water and sewer departments…that would be way out of line.”

Roth wondered about this part of the petition that stated the committee’s charge would be…”to promote better governance, including accountability transparency, and the effective and efficient use of limited town resources.” She said that would allow governance to entertain just about anything it wished.

“It could be very destabilizing,” Tom Reardon proffered.  He added that a committee that is permanent vs. task-related could keep churning stuff forever.

Addressing the governance committee, citizen Ronnie Goodwin said: “You keep referring to the selectmen and your lack of confidence in them. “They’re the people who are running the town. This seems to be a power grab.”

Brown and Dormitzer said anything the committee didn’t like could be changed on town meeting floor. Dormitzer added that the line saying selectmen should reserve a space on the town meeting warrant for governance doesn’t mean the selectmen couldn’t change it.

“Yes it does,” Fitzpatrick said.

“I don’t see what you’re fixing,” Pescatore said.

“We don’t know either,” Brown said.

Advisor Lynda Moony commented that if this article were voted governance could have more power than the board of selectmen.

“This committee went into areas it wasn’t charged to go into, Tanya Bodell said. “It’s looking for reasons to exist.”

Brown said the selectmen decided to sunset the committee…”But work needs to be done.”

Roth wondered why selectmen couldn’t make governance an ad hoc committee. “Did they sunset you for a political reason?”

Dormitzer said the selectmen didn’t like the amended town manager’s act.

Fitzpatrick said the selectmen intended to sunset the committee from the beginning – then it was extended.

“You had a one-year to do committee work, you didn’t do what you were supposed to do;you got involved in politics and looked at the town manager’s act,” Pescatore said.

Dormitzer said there was much confusion over lawsuits and former town manager Mike Coughlin.

When Bodell suggested that governance might morph into an ad hoc committee, Dormitzer said an un-empowered group doesn’t have much chance at succeeding

If governance were to be created at annual town meeting, “It would be on an equal status with selectmen. And once created they would never go away,” Pescatore said.

Larson said the intention of the article was to advise selectmen and involve citizens in review of governance documents. “The Troika would choose people for this committee.”

Earlier in discussion, Pescatore, a member of the Troika, said the Troika was not set up for anything like this.

© Copyright 2014 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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