State officials to review proposed Claremont charter changes
CLAREMONT — Proposed changes to the city charter have gone to state officials for review after the charter commission had a divided vote (6-3) on whether to move the draft charter forward.
At the heart of the divided commission is a major change to the form of city government. The proposed charter would shift from a city manager and city council system to a mayor and alderman system.
Cities like Manchester and Nashua have a city government structure that includes a mayor and aldermen.
The proposed Claremont city charter would shift more power to the aldermen so that the mayor would have to consult and be advised by the aldermen more than in cities like Manchester and Nashua.
In March, commission members Joe Osgood, Rusty Fowler, Ron Gilbert, Cynthia Howard and Paul LaCasse voted for the motion to convert to a mayor/aldermen form of city government while members Robert Porter, Raymond Gagnon and Nick Koloski voted against it. Chairman George Caccavaro Jr. said at the time he would only vote to break a tie.
On June 27, though, Caccavaro expressed his opposition to the proposed change by voting with Gagnon and Koloski against moving the proposed charter forward, sending it to the state for review.
Osgood, Porter, Fowler, Gilbert, Howard and LaCasse voted in favor of sending the proposed draft charter to the state for review.
Currently, no elected Claremont city official is compensated for their work, said Caccavaro. However, under the proposed charter the mayor would be paid $90,000 a year plus a single person insurance plan and each aldermen would be paid $3,000 a year.
Caccavaro said the proposed charter would give too much power to an elected official who may or may not be qualified to run a city.
“I don’t think it’s going to work. I think it’s going to give us less control than we have now,” he said. “The problem isn’t the form of government, it’s the people we put in. So why is that going to change if it’s a mayor and aldermen? You are going to have the same cast of characters.”
Commission member Osgood, who is also a state representative, said the charter commission was established by voters who want residents to have more control over their city government.
Switching to a mayor/aldermen system would have that effect, he said.
“The effect that I find it to have is that it brings the control of the governing body under the people way more than we have now,” Osgood said. “Right now, once you have a manager, the manager is absolute, has no obligations to residents if he chooses not to listen to the people. Under this charter, the mayor can choose to not listen to the people, but he’s not going to be able to do it for very long.”
The mayor would be up for election every two years. the city manager is hired by the city council, which also has the authority to fire the city manager.
On July 1, the proposed draft was sent to the Secretary of State’s office, the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Revenue Administration for review.
Commission members expect the review to be complete in 30 days.
The proposed charter would go before voters at several public hearings.