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

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.

Lawyers Pleased with Approval of Haverhill Elections by District, But Call for Fewer At-Large Seats

The group demanding greater opportunities for electing minority representatives to Haverhill boards says the recently approved ballot questions still calls for too many citywide—or “at-large”—city councilors and School Committee members. Lawyers for Civil Rights said it is pleased Haverhill voters approved ballot questions in favor of electing officials by wards and districts, but it believes either all officials of the two bodies should be elected by district or, if necessary, with fewer at-large members. “While it is certainly not unusual for cities to have a mix of district and at-large seats, the split between the two is critical, since at-large seats tend to replicate the problem of an all at-large system. Courts have thus repeatedly cautioned that a ‘hybrid’ system must not include so many at-large seats as to dilute a minority population’s equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director, and Oren M. Sellstrom, litigation director, of Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights. They noted that while the group is “gratified” by Haverhill voters’ choices, it was “neither necessary nor appropriate” to have the majority vote on minority rights.

Podcast: Vargas Reveals Re-Election Plans During Live Broadcast Friday On 97.9 WHAV

Rep. Andy X. Vargas told WHAV listeners first he is abandoning his quest for a state Senate run and seeking re-election to his expanded Haverhill House district next year. The statement during a live broadcast Friday morning confirmed hints Vargas made two weeks ago when the Senate redistricting plan which split Haverhill into two districts. Vargas, who has been eyeing a run for state Senate, told WHAV the plan to create minority majority districts may actually take away his opportunity. The 3rd Essex District representative made it official on WHAV’s morning show. “Your listeners will be the first to hear it here.

Galvin Predicts Future Election Day ‘Chaos’ in Haverhill with Neighbors Having Different Ballots

Secretary of State William Galvin yesterday predicted chaos in Haverhill as Gov. Charlie Baker signed redistricting legislation, noting for example, “the House and Senate appear to have split the same precinct two different ways using different census blocks.”

Shortly before Baker’s office confirmed that he signed bills redrawing all 160 House districts and all 40 Senate districts, Galvin said he was “extremely disappointed” the governor approved the legislation. He noted it is possible neighbors in Haverhill will have up to three different ballots. “With local precincts divided multiple ways, it will inevitably lead to chaos at the polls and make it impossible for voters to understand who their elected representatives are,” he said. Haverhill leaders immediately criticized the Senate redistricting plan, which split Haverhill into two Senate districts, when it came out two weeks ago. Rep. Andy X. Vargas, who has been eyeing a run for state Senate, told WHAV the plan to create minority majority districts may actually take away his opportunity.

Haverhill and Methuen Voters Choose Candidates and Answer Ballot Questions Today

Voters in Haverhill and Methuen who didn’t vote by mail or participate in early voting, go to the polls today. In Haverhill, Mayor James J. Fiorentini and City Council Vice President Colin F. LePage are contenders for the corner office or City Hall, while there are 17 candidates for nine City Council seats and four for three School Committee seats. No matter what happens, there will be three new faces on the City Council in January because of vacancies. Incumbent councilors, as ranked by ballot position, are City Council President Melinda E. Barrett and Councilors Timothy J. Jordan, John A. Michitson, Thomas J. Sullivan, Michael S. McGonagle and Joseph J. Bevilacqua. Challengers are Melissa Lewandowski, William Taylor, Catherine Rogers, former School Committee member Shaun P. Toohey, Kenneth Stevenson, Tomas Michel, Dee Jacobs O’Neil, Fred Simmons, Josiah Morrow, Katrina Hobbs-Everett and former Councilor Kenneth E. Quimby.

Analysis: Face of Haverhill Politics to Change with Tuesday Election; Council Upheaval Coming

No matter the final counts, the face of Haverhill politics changes with tomorrow’s local election. Voters will replace at least a third of the City Council and consider changes to the corner office and school representation. Long-term change is also on the horizon as voters are asked to completely upend the Council and School Committee with a pair of ballot questions. Even if voters reject electing those bodies by wards or districts, the changes could still be imposed on the city. (See separate story.)

In the mayor’s race, City Council Vice President Colin F. LePage is working to prevent incumbent Mayor James J. Fiorentini from being elected to what would be the latter’s 10th term.

Analysis: Haverhill Voters to Consider Long-Term Changes to How Balloting Takes Place

(See related story.)

Haverhill voters are being offered a chance to voice their opinions on whether they should choose the City Council by ward or the School Committee by district. Whatever the majority chooses Tuesday, it amounts only to an opinion since the outcome isn’t binding. One question asks whether Haverhill should elect one city councilor from each of the city’s seven wards and four at large. The second asks voters whether they agree with electing a nine-member School Committee with five members elected from districts to be defined by the City Council and mayor and three more from across the city. Earlier this year, under threat of legal action to create potentially minority majority regions, councilors placed the questions on the ballot.