The following letter was sent by Marilyn Petitto Devaney, former-Town Councilor, former-Town Meeting member and current Governor’s Councilor:
The Watertown Charter Committee consists of nine elected town councilors and six residents appointed by the Council president who acts as chair. They are charged to conduct a 10 year review of the Watertown Charter. They are to review entire charter to determine if any changes should be made in the structure of the government in addition to other agenda — i.e. considering all forms of government.
The committee publicly stated they would go through the charter completely, but have not. This committee has been having meetings on Zoom at 6 pm. Most people are unaware — preoccupied with the pandemic — trying to get a vaccine, out of work, or trying to work and do home schooling with their children-dealing with the different school schedules. Many residents don’t do ‘”Zoom.”
Realistically zoom meetings should not have taken place during this pandemic. The review committee has by state law- 6 more months to hold meetings. They could have held public meetings outside.
No vote should be taken this Tuesday by the committee before there is a public forum. It could be held outside the Town Hall on a Saturday afternoon in June according to health regulations.
The secretary of state has advised that Watertown has until September 28th to submit the wording to the town clerk office to be placed on the ballot for the November election. The review committee on April 6th is going to choose one form of government — between City Mayor form and Watertown’s present form of government. The voters will vote on the one they decide.
There are 3 forms of government in Massachusetts – They will not consider even talking about town government (elected select board and citizen town meeting members.) They are excluding for voter consideration the most popular form of government — Town Government like Belmont, Arlington, and Lexington etc. Brookline has town government with a population of nearly 60,000 residents. They have 244 citizen town meeting members.
CONSIDER THESE FACTS
- In Massachusetts there are 294 town governments – 43 Mayoral cites and only 14 cities known as a town. The Charter Committee is not giving the residents the right to be educated on ALL 3 FORMS OF GOVERNMENT.
- Watertown has the strongest town manager form government in the country. For the purpose of history -When Watertown was a town for 350 years until 1980 It was a town government with town meeting members.
Let’s look at the comparison of former town government with present city know a town. Before 1980 Watertown voters voted for Selectmen (Now called select board) 166 citizen town meeting members who were the legislative body now replaced by 9 councilors. (Brookline with nearly 60,000 residents has over 240 town meeting members. which resident Governor Dukakis is quite proud).
Let’s compare what Watertown voted for before 1980 and what they are allowed to vote for
On the ballot – IN PAST GOVERNMENT – Watertown Voters voted for: THEN – Selectmen (Now called select boards) and 166 Town Meeting Members ,Town Clerk, Board of Election Commissioners, Town Auditor, Town Treasurer, Town Assessors, Members of the Planning Board, Members of the Zoning Board-licensing, health director, Board of Health, Board of library trustees, School Committee, Member of the Housing Authority, Tree Warden, and others.
Informational Public warrant meetings would be held weeks ahead. All residents would receive a mailing of the warrant containing all the articles that would be presented for the town meeting members to vote on. The 1980 election had all these elected positions removed. All elected positions are appointed by the Town Manager – except – two — library trustees and school committee
NOW — The voters have ONLY three positions to vote for on the ballot — library trustees, School Committee Members — and 6 Town Councilors (president, 4 at large and one district councilor). There are a total of nine councilors (with
four district councilors).
Example of the apathy, last election there were three (3) library trustees to be elected. There were only two (2) candidates. The third had to be appointed.
No reflection on the candidates, but the apathy exists where traditionally councilors go unopposed. A district councilor ran unopposed the first time he ran and unopposed in every election.
Now in comparison in our present city form of government to the former town government. When Watertown was a town- the high school auditorium where town meeting met there was standing room only. This like other towns today was the place where all the residents met. When I served for decades on the Town Council only one couple would attend council meetings.
At the last subcommittee of the charter review — they discussed producing a flyer to educate the voters about just 2 forms of government… What about the town government being included?
Throughout their meetings – no one from a town government was allowed the only invited were mayors and elected from cities known as a town to make a presentation and have discussion.
NOW – Watertown Residents should demand a public meeting to be fully educated and informed of all 3 forms of governments. To listen and to be heard. The voters are asked by the Charter review to fill out a survey, their choice: a mayor city form or the present city form.
Why? – When there are three (3) Massachusetts local governments
I am asking you as a Watertown voter to support Watertown voter’s right to demand a public informative forum for Watertown voters of all three (3) forms of government – demanding to cancel the April 6th vote – to have an educational forum held outside for residents to listen and be heard. Then – Let the voters decide.
An informational flyer should be sent to all residents to invite them to this public forum. If you agree that the April 6th vote should be cancelled and a public meeting held — please contact me – firstname.lastname@example.org – by phone (617) 840-7689, or by letter to my home at 98 Westminster Ave., Watertown.
Please voice your opinion and call the committee zoom meeting Tuesday at 6 pm to cancel their vote and have a public meeting in June that the Voters deserve.