By now you have received your sample ballot in the mail for this year’s election. Please take a careful look at it, as one section may be confusing. Public question #3 asks whether the Town wants to elect a “Charter Commission.” You will also notice that no interpretive statement has been included. We’d like to shed some light on this important question and its ramifications.
Earlier this year the Republican majority on the Township Committee passed by a 3 to 2 vote an ordinance that placed this question on the ballot. A Charter Commission is a group of five elected people whose job it will be to study our current form of government and, within state law, recommend changes to our form of government. This commission can recommend anything from not changing a thing to completely reorganizing our government. Any changes recommended by the commission would be put to a general vote on next November’s ballot.
Based on the public comments from our current Mayor, his goal for this commission is to change our form of government to a directly elected mayor. Presumably, to give him the chance to have a full-time job with commensurate salary, benefits and executive powers. This act is yet another attempt to consolidate power with a small group of individuals rather than allowing the broad resident participation Springfield has had since 1794.
It is our position that a change is neither necessary nor even desirable and that the appropriate vote on the question is NO. A study of this sort is complex, time consuming and expensive. It requires the hiring of legal counsel, consultants and will create a burden on township employees. In fact, Springfield has done a study of this kind in the 1950’s and then again in 1997. Both times, the commission DID NOT recommend a change to our governmental form. Additionally, based on the cost of those prior studies, we estimate the task this year will cost the town in excess of $60,000.
Finally, a change to a directly appointed, salaried mayor would be a permanent ongoing added expense to the township, not to mention the cost of implementing such a change. Neighboring towns, which have gone down this road, now regret making the switch as it has lead to a more contentious local government where the mayor is constantly battling councilmen. We feel the push for this option is coming from selfish political ambition, arrogance, and over-reach. It has absolutely nothing to do with a true concern for the well-being of the Township of Springfield. It is a waste of time and a waste of money.
We urge you to vote NO on question #3, however either way you should vote for the candidates along the bottom row of the ballot. When voting for these Charter Study Commissioners we recommend and endorse:
- Denise Devone
- Hugh Keffer
- Mark Cunningham
- David Mitchell
We are confident that they are coming into the process without any allegiance to the Mayor and will help ensure that any decision made by the Commission, should the public question pass, will be in the best interests of Springfield and not to further the Mayor's political goals.