AUGUSTA — City councilors tabled on Thursday a proposal to elect a charter commission to review the charter, a document that determines how city government should function.

Councilors, instead of voting to elect a charter review commission, plan to look into other, less costly and less time-consuming methods of reviewing and making changes to the charter, despite being urged by residents to stick with the citizen review process.

They voted 6-1 to table the proposal until their next business meeting. They plan to discuss, next week, other ways to review the charter, including appointing a committee.

The charter now includes a requirement, added by a previous charter commission in 1988, to elect a charter commission to review the document every 10 years.

With nine years having passed since the recommendations of the last charter commission were adopted, this year the clock is ticking on meeting that 10-year review requirement.

However, city officials are considering ways to speed up the charter review process, including potentially removing that review requirement.


Two residents and Ward 2 City Councilor Darek Grant, the lone vote against tabling the proposal, said the city should follow the existing charter.

Chris Clarke, a school board member from Ward 2, who noted he was speaking as a resident, said Thursday the charter is in place for a reason, and the 10-year review requirement was put into it in 1998 for a reason. He said the charter review commission functions as a review board to make sure the city is functioning in the best interest of its citizens. And he said the commission put the 10-year review requirement in because it was looking out for future generations. He also said the commission could make changes to the charter more quickly than councilors.

Stephen Langsdorf, the city’s attorney, suggested recently that councilors consider asking whether voters would agree to remove the requirement that the charter be reviewed by a commission every 10 years, making that optional instead of mandatory. He and some councilors said the charter has been refined over the years and doesn’t need major revisions or an in-depth, potentially expensive and time-consuming review process.

They noted there probably isn’t enough time to elect a charter commission and have the charter review complete before the end of the year. Minor changes might be made to the charter by a quicker, cheaper, amendment process.

City Manager William Bridgeo said if residents have concerns about something in the charter, they still could use the petition process to seek to change the charter.

Resident Kevin Lamoreau said Thursday he believes the city should find a way to elect a charter review commission, and that process shouldn’t have to be forced by a petition by citizens.


“I think we should have a charter commission,” said Lamoreau, who often speaks out on issues affecting city elections. “I know I could, if I wanted (a commission to be formed), collect petitions; but I don’t think I should have to. The charter is the local equivalent of a constitution, so it’s not something you want to take lightly.”

Mayor David Rollins responded that regardless of what process the city uses, the charter will be reviewed and the public will be allowed to participate in that process.

“We will have a robust process. This isn’t a way to cut the citizens out, not a way for the council to take control of the charter,” Rollins said. “The city will make sure citizens are totally involved, whatever way we go forward.”

The last charter commission formed in 2007, and voters approved charter revisions the group recommended in November 2008.

Langsdorf said the city wouldn’t be in violation of the charter’s 10-year commission review requirement if voters remove that requirement before the end of this year. If a majority of voters reject that change, then the city still could form a charter review commission, though the commission probably wouldn’t have time to complete its work this year.

The process is complicated by state law, which makes any changes to a municipality’s charter subject to approval by voters in a referendum in which at least 30 percent of the number of voters in the last gubernatorial election turn out to vote.


Langsdorf and City Clerk Roberta Fogg said a turnout that high isn’t likely to occur in an election year without a gubernatorial or presidential election drawing people out to vote, but it would be this year, for a Maine gubernatorial election, or in 2020, for the next presidential election.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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