Good evening, I am Julia Perry, the Chair of the Charter Review Ad Hoc Committee.
The 1966 Home Rule Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution allowed a Town to adopt or revise a local charter, provided that it was not inconsistent with the Massachusetts Constitution or Massachusetts General Laws. Provincetown adopted its first Charter in 1973. In 1990, the current Charter was significantly revised and updated. But no extensive review has been conducted since then.
The Charter Enforcement Commission – an elected Board of the Town – recommended to the Board of Selectmen that a review be conducted, and the Board of Selectmen approved the formation of this Ad Hoc Committee and named eleven members and an alternate.
The Ad Hoc Committee first met on September 10th of this year; met weekly through the beginning of October; and is now meeting on a biweekly basis, Tuesdays at 5 pm in the Town Hall. These meetings are open to the Public, and our Minutes and Agendas are posted on the Town website.
The Ad Hoc Committee has sent a letter to the Committees and Boards named in the Charter informing them of our role and asking for their initial input regarding their inclusion in the Charter – specifically whether the Charter accurately reflects their current operations. We will be meeting with them to discuss this and other issues in the future. We plan to send a similar letter to all Committees, Commissions, Boards and Councils in existence – including those not listed in the Charter. We are also planning to meet with the Board of Selectmen, the Moderator, the Town Manager, and the Assistant Town Manager to discuss how their roles are reflected in the current Charter.
At some time in the future, the Ad Hoc Committee will host public forums to allow the public to comment on the Charter. Members of the Public are also allowed to comment at our Meetings and to submit comments in writing to the Ad Hoc Committee at any time. All comments – oral or in writing – will be made a part of the public record.
In addition to updating the information in the Charter, the Ad Hoc Committee has taken on as its role an effort to make the Charter more readable by the general Public. For example, we are working on making references in the Charter to the Massachusetts General Law consistent and clear. Currently, reading the Charter requires constant cross-referencing to the Massachusetts General Laws on-line. We are hoping to eliminate or reduce that effort. We are also looking at organization of the Charter, the need for a glossary of Town political process terminology, and other indexes or appendices that would allow the Public a better understanding of the Charter and its role.
The Ad Hoc Committee has no authority to make changes to the Charter on its own. Its role is to propose a revised Charter to the Board of Selectmen for approval for inclusion in the warrant of a Town Meeting. As I have noted above, in addition any revisions must receive approval from the State Attorney General as not being inconsistent with Massachusetts law. And, finally, a revised Charter must be approved by vote of the Town at the Annual Meeting. This will be a long, detailed process – it is anticipated that we will have a revised Charter for approval at the Annual Meeting in 2015. It is the responsibility of the Ad Hoc Committee to keep the Town informed and involved during this process. That is the reason for my statement today, and you will be seeing other outreach in various forms in the future. The Charter is the foundation for your Town’s political processes. I encourage you to be involved in its review.