Haverhill City Council: COVID-19 Pandemic Not the Time to Change the City Charter

Haverhill City Councilors in session at the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers. (WHAV News file photograph.)

The Haverhill City Council last night agreed that, as a result of the coronavirus, now is not the time to be making changes to the city charter.

The Council has spent several months discussing two plans for updating the 50-year-old charter. The first would create a Charter Commission to study the current plan and come up with suggested changes. The second would convert the City Council and School Committee from at-large representation to a body mostly made up of representatives from each city ward.

City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. prepared two ballot questions for the upcoming November election. However, Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan explained why he believed, under the present circumstances, those questions should be put on hold.

“If we do anything on this ballot this November, it will have to be a separate ballot with an additional expense and there’s concerns about the additional costs and there’s concerns about having the personnel to be able to monitor all of this voting going on in the fall. If we do this in 2021, whatever we do, there’s a lot of questions that need to be resolved and I’m pretty sure that the people that were the most interested in participating in this process all agreed that they don’t want to rush this due to a pandemic,” Sullivan said.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini disagreed saying that this topic has been on the table for a long while.

“This isn’t being rushed. We’ve talked about this for many years. We had two public hearings about this. The public were overwhelmingly in favor of having ward councilors. What is the purpose of having public hearings, if at the end of the public hearings, we are going to completely ignore what the public said and do our own thing?” The mayor asked.

In the end, the councilors voted unanimously to keep those questions off the ballot until at least the 2021 election.

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