City Council Appears to Discourage City Charter Change

A Haverhill resident proposes changing the city charter to bring ward representation to the city council for minorities and others.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, resident Dan McGraw, 11 Villa St., addressed councilors to propose a charter initiative to change the form of the city council from type “A” with nine at-large councilors, to type “B” with, in his words, “more of a representational democracy.” At issue is representation in wards 1 to 3, including the Acre section, where McGraw believes those constituents are not directly represented. McGraw said he has no problem with the council’s present form but it’s “a strict ethical problem.”

“We’ve had a large change in our demographic here in Haverhill since the 60s with a large migration of people from the Carribean, the islands in particular. And these people, that group of the Latino population, is about 14.5 percent of our city,” McGraw said.

Councilor William Macek said there is always room for discussion, but believes they have it right being “one for all and we’re all for one.”

“Whether you lived next door to me, on the same street and in the same area, or whether you lived as far away as you could get from where I live, I give the same amount of attention and care to those individuals. And I believe that I’m also speaking for the way I, at least, understand my colleagues to participate as an elected city officical. I think that my biggest fear would be that if we did go to ward councilors, is we start something that we don’t have and that’s backroom politics,” Macek said.

Council President John A. Michitson pointed out options requiring up to 15 percent of registered voters to support creation of a charter commission but he told McGraw with 41,000 registered voters in the city it would be a “tough road.”

“Well, it doesn’t sound like you’re ready to go out there. I actually tried it in 1999 and started late. We got a lot of signatures but not enough. And then we had a non-binding question and that failed,” Michitson said.

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