If Haverhill decides to make changes to how local government operates, it will likely be an exhaustive review rather than a single item such as electing city councilors by district.
That was the consensus of the City Council’s Administration and Finance Committee Tuesday night. While a hot topic in Haverhill two years ago, Councilor William J. Macek said the issue has cooled somewhat since the onslaught of COVID-19.
“If and when there was ever going to be any suggested changes looked into, I think that it should be done as a charter commission and not as a single section of our current charter, but look at the whole charter,” he suggested.
The subcommittee met mostly to clear away old issues that remain under study. Macek said larger topics sent to committee, such as a charter commission that he originally recommended, are more difficult to dissect with online forums such as “Haverhill Speaks.”
“Either they don’t feel comfortable or they’re just are not going to start writing out in paragraphs how they feel about a project or one of the topics we’re dealing with,” he said.
Councilor Mary Ellen Daly-O’Brien, also a member of the subcommittee, added the Council requires the assistance of the mayor’s office on certain complex issues. She argued such items should not be “just on us.”
Macek’s proposal to remove the charter commission from current study won a second from Councilor John A. Michitson and support from O’Brien and Committee Chairman Colin F. LePage. Michitson also agreed to table the same topic before his Citizen Outreach Committee.
Fiorentini began lobbying two years ago to have the Council approve a ballot question with the single question of ward council representation on it. However, a public forum, “Exploring the Possibility of Neighborhood Representation,” raised the possibility of also electing School Committee members by ward and limiting the mayor’s powers.
On a related topic, the Committee also considered having projects under study reviewed monthly by the full City Council. O’Brien said doing so would let the public know slow-moving items are not simply being ignored.
“Once a month, when we get to the end of the agenda, that we give an update of what’s going on in our particular committees. I think everybody in government, on every level, is trying to bring more and more transparency and transparency is really all about communication.”
O’Brien and Macek agreed to develop the monthly status concept and bring it before the full City Council for approval.
In other action, the Committee agreed to move two items to the council’s long-term study list. These are the allocation of tax money received by the city from the sale of marijuana and regulations regarding billboard advertising for the product.