Haverhill Council Sends Charter Change Petition to State Legislature for Passage; Seeks Ward Elections

Dr. Noemi-Custodia-Lora, vice president at Northern Essex Community College and a member of the Leadership Team of the Haverhill Latino Coalition. (Courtesy photograph.)

After more than two years of discussion by the City Council, mayor and the public, the Haverhill City Council spent less than a minute last night approving a proposal to amend the city charter providing for the election of city councilors and School Committee members primarily by wards rather than the current system where all are elected on an at-large basis.

By a vote of 8-0, with Councilor Shaun Toohey absent, the Council agreed to send the proposal, known as a home-rule petition, to the state legislature for approval. Dr. Noemi Custodia-Lora, representing the Haverhill Latino Coalition, expressed thanks to the City Council for its vote.

“I want to thank the city council for the vote that you provided today. This is historic for us. With your vote, we’re changing in the way that Haverhill is going to be represented.”

Haverhill residents voted by a 2-1 margin in favor of ward representation in a non-binding referendum on last November’s ballot.

Recent momentum for changing the charter started in January 2020 by the Latino Coalition and Greater Haverhill Indivisible as a means of ensuring more diverse representation in both bodies.

Under the plan, the City Council and the School Committee will expand to 11 members with seven city councilors elected by ward with four others elected at-large. The school Committee will have seven ward members, three citywide representatives and the mayor as tiebreaker.

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