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a comprehensive review of the Charter, something that hadn’t been done since it was adopted in the 1980’s. The majority of the recommended changes are minor – cleaning up and clarifying language and making minor adjustments. Some, however, are substantive. The following summarizes the changes and why the Committee recommended them. QUESTION ONE – CITY COUNCIL This would clarify that the Council President can make appointments when acting as Mayor during a temporary absence or disability of the Mayor lasting for more than 45 days. Right now, it’s not clear if the Council President can do this. It would allow him to fill vacancies on such Boards as Planning, Board of Appeals, etc. so that normal city business can continue. It would allow the Council to appoint a temporary presiding officer if both the Mayor and Council President are absent. The Council can probably do this anyway, but this makes it clear. To call a special meeting, notices have to be delivered to each Councilor in person at least 6 hours in advance. This change would allow the Council to establish an alternative procedure, hopefully one that is easier and less demanding on the City Clerk and her staff. Finally, the Council would be specifically authorized to act by motion in addition to order, resolve, and ordinance. This will make it easier for the Council to act on minor items and recognizes that the Council has at times acted simply by motion. QUESTION TWO – ORDINANCES This would eliminate the current $1,000 limit on fines for violating City ordinances since separate limits already exist under state law. Having a fixed number in the Charter is not necessary and could be a problem in the future as inflation erodes a set amount. It would simplify the process for repealing or amending ordinances. Right now, the full ordinance text has to be set out with all the changes highlighted. Reproducing some lengthy ordinances, such as building codes and our zoning ordinance, is expensive and cumbersome. There is a current requirement that if an ordinance is “substantively” amended at first or second reading (it takes two separate readings to adopt an ordinance), the entire process has to begin over. This can be expensive since a notice must be published in the newspaper. It’s also not clear when an amendment is a “substantive” change. This eliminates the requirement to start the process over if there is a change while the item is under consideration. QUESTION THREE – CITY ADMINISTRATOR The Charter requires that the Council to confirm the City Administrator’s appointment of individuals to certain positions, primarily those involving City finances. Over the years, the City
has consolidated staffing so that some of these positions no longer report to the Administrator but rather to the Finance Director. This would eliminate Council confirmation of any appointments other than the Finance Director where confirmation remains an appropriate safeguard. It would allow the Administrator to designate someone to act for him or her during temporary absences such as a vacation or City business trip. Any absence of 30 days or more would still require the Council to appoint an Acting Administrator. QUESTION FOUR – TERM LIMITATIONS Planning Board and Board of Appeals members are limited to one consecutive five year term within a ten year period. This change would allow for two consecutive five year terms. The Committee felt this would give the Mayor a broader pool to choose from including individuals with experience on these Boards. QUESTION FIVE – SCHOOL COMMITTEE Most of the changes simply modernize this section of the Charter. Two provisions (Council approval of School labor contracts and the requirement that the School Department comply with Council Ordinances and Policies involving city employees) have been struck down by Maine Courts and should be eliminated since they cannot be enforced. Another change requires the School Superintendent to be selected only on the basis of his or her executive and administrative qualifications and to be a resident of Lewiston unless otherwise approved by the School Committee. Similar language already applies to the City Administrator. The Committee felt that a competency standard was appropriate and that the Superintendent should live in Lewiston unless the School Committee approves otherwise. The rest of the changes are procedural and require the School Committee to adopt certain practices such as providing advance notice of meetings, encouraging public participation, setting a majority of its members as a quorum, allowing any member to request a roll call vote, and requiring five affirmative votes (a majority of all members) to take action. QUESTION 6 – FISCAL PROCEDURES These are also largely clean-up amendments that should have no major impact on how the City operates. For example, this amendment eliminates the language setting the City’s fiscal year as the calendar year. The Council changed this years ago and it doesn’t need to be in the Charter. It clarifies that the City can issue Bond Anticipation Notes. These are short term notes that can be issued prior to selling long-term bonds. They might be used to cover immediate cash flow needs or to allow the City to better structure its longer term debt service payments. Overall, such notes provide the City with greater financial flexibility. Increasing the time the City can contract with an outside firm to audit our books from three to five years matches the standard contract length for such work. A longer contract may allow for greater competition since a new firm will have more time to recover the additional first year costs associated with getting up to speed on the City’s finances and procedures.
The Charter requires the Council to vote on approving a bond issue within seven to fifteen days of publishing a notice of public hearing on the bonds. If the Council decides to postpone a vote to get more information or hear further from the public, the whole process has to start over, including the cost of publishing a new hearing notice. This will allow some delay in the process while still requiring the Council to act within sixty days of the public hearing. QUESTION 7: NOMINATIONS, ELECTIONS, AND VACANCIES This question recommends a number of substantive changes. Right now, a special election is required if there is a School Committee vacancy for more than one year. Such elections are expensive and often result in low turnout. This amendment would allow the Mayor to nominate and the Council to confirm an eligible individual to fill any vacancy on the Committee. Now, a special election is required if a City Council position is not filled at a regular election. The amendment would authorize the remaining Councilors to either appoint someone or call a special election. The Charter Committee originally recommended that the vacancy be filled by appointment. The Council added the option of calling a special election to allow flexibility to respond to situations where that might be more appropriate. Write-in candidates would be required to register with the City Clerk at least 30 days in advance of an election in order for their votes to be counted. This is intended to let everyone know in advance who is running for office and avoid “surprise” candidates. Finally, a write-in candidate would be required to receive at least the same number of votes as are required for nomination to be officially on the ballot (50 for School Committee and City Council, 100 for Mayor). The Charter Committee was concerned about the lack of candidates for some offices, particularly the School Committee, and the potential that someone could be elected with less than the required number of votes to be nominated. The Committee felt that a candidate should show some reasonable level of support to actually be elected to office. QUESTION 8: GENERAL PROVISIONS This amendment clarifies when newly elected officials take office. If the first Monday in January (the normal date to take office) is either a holiday or the day after a holiday, they would take office on Tuesday, making it easier to schedule the inauguration and the Council’s first meeting. A new provision would require the Mayor to appoint a Charter Review Committee every ten years to make recommendations on any changes and updates. The Committee felt it was a good idea to periodically have a group of citizens review the charter. QUESTION 9: COMPENSATION AND FORFEITURE OF OFFICE Specific compensation levels for elected officials and those appointed to certain Boards and Committees appear throughout the Charter, but the Council is also authorized and in some cases has increased those levels by Ordinance. This change simply eliminates the specific dollar amounts. It also allows the Council to set a daily rate of compensation for Councilors appointed to represent the City on governing bodies of various organizations, most of which are joint agencies between Lewiston and Auburn.
A new provision would also require the Mayor, Council, and School Committee members and certain members of City Boards and Commissions to forfeit their positions if they fail to attend three consecutive regular meetings without being excused. This is intended to remove inactive members. In addition, it clarifies those crimes for which such officials would forfeit their office. Specifically, that would be for crimes punishable by imprisonment for one year or more, of a sexual nature, or of dishonesty or false statement regardless of the punishment. QUESTION 10: OFFICE OF THE MAYOR The Mayor is now limited to two consecutive two year terms. The Charter Committee felt this is too short a time for a Mayor to implement his or her priorities. The recommendation is to increase the limit from two to three terms, or from four to six years. The Mayor can only vote when the Council vote is tied, something that happens infrequently. This change would allow the Mayor to also vote whenever a Councilor is absent or cannot vote due to a conflict of interest. This will generally ensure that seven votes will be cast, something which the Committee felt was fairer especially in those few circumstances when five affirmative votes are required, such as to over-ride a Planning Board recommendation against a rezoning. When the Mayor’s position is vacant, a special election is now required if that vacancy will be for at least nine months. This would extend that time to twelve months, matching the requirement for Council vacancies. If a Mayor resigns within the first year of his/her term, there would be a special election; if during the second year, the Council President would serve as Mayor until the next regular City election. QUESTION 11: TECHNICAL HOUSEKEEPING The Charter has language that explains how the City should transition from the old charter to the current one. That transition ended many years ago, but the no longer needed transitional language remains. This would repeal what is no longer needed. It would also authorize cleaning up the Charter by eliminating gender specific language such as “he” or “she”. This Amendment makes no substantive changes to the Charter.
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