CLAREMONT — Acting on the orders of a divided Claremont Charter Commission, chairman George Caccavaro Jr. consulted the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office Monday only to learn the city may only propose one revised city charter to voters in November.
“That would have been a nice way to solve this,” Caccavaro said. “There can be only one proposed revision and the voters vote it up or vote it down.”
A petition signed by more than 300 residents that called for the Charter Commission to reverse its current course was accepted and considered, but ultimately not acted upon by commission members Friday night.
Commission members and residents are divided on whether to keep the current city manager/city council-type government or reject that long-held form in favor of a ‘strong’ mayor/alderman-style of government.
The petition presented Friday asked the commission members to reverse a March 5-3 vote to propose a drastic change to Claremont’s city government by proposing the elimination of the city manager position.
Currently, the city is run by a city manager and city council. The proposed change would replace that form with a mayor and alderman run system that is currently in place in cities like Manchester and Nashua.
The commission voted to accept the petition and considered it, but in order to change its course the commission had to vote to suspend the Roberts Rules of Order, the rules it voted to run under earlier this year, in order to reconsider its March decision. In a 5-4 vote that motion failed, so the petition could not be voted on, Caccavaro said.
Caccavaro said commission members then asked him to look into whether the city could put two proposed revisions of the city charter up for a vote in November.
Voters feel so strongly on both sides about the possible change, it could be rejected by voters and other positive changes proposed in the revision could get thrown out as well, such as the commission’s proposal to bring back committees that would guide the city on matters of finance, public works and public safety, he said.
The current mayor acts as chairman of the city council. Under the proposed revision, the mayor would run the city as the city manager does now.
This proposed “strong” mayor form of government is being proposed by some residents who feel the city manager position has too much power and believe a strong mayor would give them back control because they can vote the mayor in or out every two years, Caccavaro said. Others feel having a strong-mayor form of government would make city management even more political than it is now, he said. The commission was established by voters in November.
In June, the commission is expected to submit a preliminary report to the state and city and then in November voters will have a chance to approve or vote down changes proposed to the charter by the commission.
November voters will have a chance to approve or vote down changes proposed to the charter by the commission.