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In the Need of Serious Reform?

A NoBo Perspectives Editorial

In November, voters will head to the polls to answer three very important questions. Who do we want as the leader of the city? Who do we want to serve as our local, elected officials? And finally, are we in favor of major changes to the city’s century-old charter?

Here at NoBo, we believe in Mayor Carlo DeMaria, and expect a return to the corner office. We also believe most of our current officials possess good merits, some better than others, and hope to see many in council chambers come 2012.

When it comes to enacting changes to the charter, however, we’ve found ourselves at odds.

The Everett Charter Commission has dutifully performed their perspective jobs, and the heart of the issue really comes down to whether or not people care about their local government.

Back at the turn of the twentieth century, the bicameral system worked in Everett, as it did in many other communities across the Commonwealth and the nation. For decades, we had folks who lived, worked, dined and entertained within the limits our city.

Life wasn’t simpler, but it was a simpler time.  I wouldn’t trade my access to the world via Internet or airplane.  I wouldn’t trade my laptop for a typewriter, or my car for horse and buggy.  And I certainly wouldn’t trade lathroscopic surgery for two weeks in the hospital.

I would trade my city council, though, for a more effective form of local government.  There is a surprising move inward – toward being more local, and Everett’s government should learn to keep up.

While there has been a discussion of the value of having a mayor versus city manager, I’m looking at the group of changes as a whole, as it should be since either all or none of the Commission’s suggestions will be enacted following the citywide vote. There’s chatter about “fixing something that’s not broken”, but the simple fact is that the system is.

While all of our current Everett officials are persons of good character – not one is a criminal, not one doesn’t give back to their community either by coaching, mentoring, or helping solve problems. All of the councilors and aldermen are good at that – however – they are not all good at legislating.

In today’s political climate, many of our local legislators rely on political posturing to try and make their mark. They often try to manage the administration rather than focus on enacting policies that are smart and innovative.

There’s legislating to make a difference… and then there’s legislating to capitalize on a headline by simply grabbing words and ideas, mingling them into ordinances.

Legislation should be more about ensuring safety, improving the lives of residents, increasing revenue, reviewing and developing – and less about how good you look on television or to best posture oneself for the perpetual campaigns around the corner.

If we downsized the number of elected officials, chances are we’re going to elect the best, most qualified person for the job.  Voters will think about who they want, and make candidates work harder to get our vote. Voters will remind those elected that they ultimately bear more responsibility for their work than may have been previously expected in such an expansive city government.

From a governing perspective, things can and will get done faster under the revised plan. When it takes one month to pass simple legislation, often due to bickering and political posturing, its hard not to wonder if our representatives are even governing or are they simply wasting our time?

Although it’s nice having the earmark of being the only city in the nation to have a bicameral legislature, its also hard not to wonder if that doesn’t come with a snicker? Do we ever get anything done easily?

It’s been clear for decades that our charter is in need of a serious review. Legislating has been made near impossible at times due to restraints in the language of our charter. The recommendations outlined by the Commission, elected by the people, provide residents with a streamlined government that will undoubtedly work for them, not against. Simply continuing with what we have now would be a continuation of an unending series of roadblocks, detours, and dead-ends during future legislation.

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