It seems all eyes are on Natick’s form of government these days, and some in town are now seeking to create a Charter Commission to give it an even closer look.
The Town Governance Study Committee, appointed by the Select Board in March of 2022, earlier this summer delivered a final report that included several recommendations, including that a Charter Commission be formed to guide the future of Natick government.
Separately, the Natick Charter & By-Law Review Committee (CBRC) has had about a zillion (okay, 24) meetings this year as it has dived deep into the town’s 43-year-old charter (aka, constitution) and bylaws. Among other things, the CBRC looks to make sure town rules sync up with Massachusetts General Laws. Some charter changes can be approved by Town Meeting and the voters, while others, say rules for hiring and firing a town administrator, require state legislature and town voter approval. The CBRC this time around aims to bundle a bunch of proposed changes into a Special Act of Legislation, and has been readying a big article for Fall Annual Town Meeting toward that end. Some have expressed concerns that such an article could be too big, and confuse the Finance Committee and Town Meeting members.
CBRCs are formed every 5 years to do their review and issue a report, per the Natick Home Rule Charter, which itself was approved by the legislature and town voters. CBRC members are appointed by the town moderator. It could be argued that the CBRC’s recommendations, if approved, would do most of what a Charter Commission might accomplish anyway.
But the newly formed Natick Charter Commission Signature Committee (aka, Charter Campaign) would like to see just what a Charter Commission might accomplish. Select Board member Paul Joseph, in his capacity as a resident of the town, announced during public speak at the Aug. 9 Select Board meeting that paperwork to form the committee had been filed with the town clerk. The committee seeks up to 4,500 signatures—some 15% of registered voters—to place a question regarding creation of a charter commission on the 2024 spring town ballot.
At that time, Natick would also be able to vote for members of the 9-person commission if it is approved (nomination forms are expected to be available in December). Joseph has said he will not run to be on the commission, nor will he run for re-election on the Select Board when his term expires in the spring.
The Charter Commission could make recommendations as dramatic as getting rid of Town Meeting as Natick’s legislative branch in favor of something that might be more efficient. Any charter changes proposed by the Commission would need to be approved by voters before taking effect. Joseph says that those behind the campaign have different reasons for supporting Charter Commission creation, but share a desire for a broader coalition to have its say on possible improvements in town government.
Wednesday night’s Select Board meeting included agenda items on a proposed collaboration/working group with the CBRC and a deliberation of the Board’s position on establishment of a Charter Commission.