After meeting for more than a year, members of the city of Watertown’s Charter Commission released their conclusions last month.
They scheduled three public hearings to receive input on the changes they are proposing to the charter. The first hearing was held July 10 at City Hall.
But sadly, it attracted only a handful of residents. Of the few people who showed up, just two of them offered comments.
Mary M. Corriveau, a former city manager, told Charter Commission members that she did not support their plan to require department heads to live in the city. Maxwell I. French, president of the Watertown Civil Service Employees Association Local 7151, said the group would challenge any effort by the city to turn four staff union positions into confidential management positions.
Revising the city’s charter is a significant move that would affect every resident. Charter Commission members decided to put all their proposals on the ballot as a single issue rather than have residents vote on them separately. That means they’ll all pass together or fail together.
This is a huge gamble. Many voters could well choose to dump the whole lot of proposals just to reject the individual items they don’t like.
Making prudent decisions on the set of charter proposals will require people to be well informed about what the commission wants to change and why. We hope residents will take this route, but the response so far hasn’t been encouraging.
Commission members said virtually no one showed up for their twice-a-month meetings held over the past year. And few people attended the first public hearing last week — most of them students from Jefferson Community College who went to the event as part of a class assignment.
Needless to say, learning what’s important about the commission’s proposed changes will take much more commitment than this. People need to show up at the hearings and have questions prepared so that commission members can address their concerns.
The next hearing is at the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County, 518 Davidson St., at 7 p.m. Thursday. And the final hearing will be at the Italian American Civic Association, 192 Bellew Ave. at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Don’t be shy — grab a seat!