Haverhill Councilors Want All Hands on Deck Next Week to Begin Voter-Approved Charter Changes

The Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. Council Chambers in Haverhill City Hall during the era of COVID-19. (WHAV News photograph.)

Haverhill voters made it clear on election day they want to elect the majority of the City Council and School Committee by districts, and the current City Council wants to get started with a meeting of all elected officials next week.

Councilor William J. Macek said, although the questions were non-binding, the nearly 2 to 1 vote makes it imperative that the Council acts.

“It was a large win for ward councilors for both the City Council and the School Committee and that can be done by just coming up with the details, with some effort of the Council and the School Committee and the mayor,” he said.

Macek proposed sending a letter to Mayor James J. Fiorentini asking him to set up a meeting with all parties, as well as the public, to develop a home rule petition to be sent to the state legislature for approval. Citing the need to move expeditiously on the matter, councilors asked the mayor to respond by their next Tuesday’s meeting. Fiorentini told WHAV this week he similarly wants to proceed before the end of the year.

Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan pointed out the need for Haverhill to move ahead on its own terms, referencing a letter this week from Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights, calling for fewer—or no—at-large councilors or School Committee members.

“I do think we need to move fairly quickly on figuring out what our wards and districts are going to look like. We all know we got a letter from the Lawyers for Civil Rights. It felt like it was almost a demand that we do it the way they want us to do it and if we don’t, there will be consequences. So, we need to figure out quickly whether we agree with that and, hopefully, at the end of this process, it will lead to better representation for the citizens of Haverhill,” Sullivan said.

Councilors voted to send a letter to the mayor requesting a meeting. Councilor Michael S. McGonagle was absent.

The Council also agreed to a proposal by Macek and Council Vice President Colin F. LePage to send a separate letter to the mayor requesting creation sometime early next year of a Charter Review Commission to review other aspects of city government. Several councilors have previously proposed limiting the powers of the mayor.

The current city charter has been in place for the past 50 years.

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