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December 05. 2012 10:30PM

Few turn out for Charter Commission meeting

MANCHESTER - Only a few people came out to speak at the second meeting of the Charter Commission, which was held to give the public a chance to weigh in on how city government should be changed.

Three members of the public spoke at the meeting, held Wednesday evening at City Hall.

Jerome Duval, commission chairman said he anticipated there would be other opportunities for the panel to hear from the public.

"I want to assure you that this panel respects your point of view. This commission will be holding other sessions. We certainly want to hear from the people of Manchester along the way," Duval said.

Wednesday's meeting was mandated under the state charter commission law, which requires that within 14 days of the panel's first meeting, it hold a public forum "for the purpose of receiving information, views, comments and other pertinent material relative to its functions required under state law to give the public a chance to express its views to the commission."

It's anticipated that the commissioners, who were sworn in at the first meeting Nov. 21, will all have their own priorities, from changing the governance of the school system to holding partisan municipal elections.

The first speaker at Wednesday's meeting, Howard McCarthy, had a more modest request: Allow members of the public to speak for at least five minutes, rather than the three minutes they're allotted before aldermanic and school board meetings.

"Three minutes is too short," said McCarthy, a frequent speaker at public meetings. "This is like talking while wearing a muzzle. The mayor and aldermen can talk for hours on end on any mundane subject."

School board member Kathy Staub proposed examining how ward lines are affected by redistricting and having the city run by a manager rather than a mayor with substantial powers, as is now the case.

Staub also recommended the panel take a close look at the school board's responsiblity to provide a budget in line with state law and whether this conflicts with the city's tax cap. In addition to the speakers at the meeting, three letters addressed to the commission were submitted Wednesday to the city clerk. Copies of the letters were not available.

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Ted Siefer may be reached at tsiefer@unionleader.com.

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