Background: The Charter Commission is starting the process of drafting a charter. Charters are generally designed in similar ways, with the main features split up into parts called Articles. Article II begins to define the shape and function of the Legislative Branch, and this is the Commission’s focus area for June and July.
To help the public and the commission, we have compiled information about how other communities have answered some of these questions. Here are links to several documents that might be helpful.
The National Civic League recommends an odd number of councilors.
The Councils in the 20 largest cities in Massachusetts range from 7- 15. Newton currently is the exception with 24 members, but their Charter Commission is trying to reduce that to 13 total members.
Council members are typically chosen either by a community-wide election (called “at large” elections) or by district elections where council members represent a section of a community. According to Collins Center research, the most common approach is for councils to have a mixture of district elected and at-large elected members, but with the majority of councilors elected by district. More than 50% of councils in MA are organized this way. According to Collins Center research, about 20% of Massachusetts cities have all their members elected via at-large elections, and another 20% have most of their members elected from at-large elections.
According to Collins Center research, most councils use 2- year terms, with elections in the fall, some communities have 4 year terms and some use 3 year terms, with not all members running at the same time. This means there are elections for some board members each year.
Communities with term limits typically limit the number of consecutive terms someone can serve. So, if a community limited a councilor to 4 terms, a councilor who served 4 terms would have to leave for at least one term before deciding whether to run again.
Different communities handle the hiring of jobs like clerks and others in a variety of ways, with most appointed, but some elected.
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