Charter study group hears pros and consof its list of ‘pros and cons’

Residents review commission’s work so far

By:John Patten
   Residents took to the microphone at the April 25 Charter Study Commission meeting to present their views on the commission’s progress, forms of government and other towns.
   The meeting was planned as one of three meetings open for public comment, as the commission wraps up its consideration of the township committee form of government and prepares to interview officials and experts on the mayor-council form.
   The commission was empanelled in December after voters approved the study to consider whether Hillsborough should change from the current township committee form of government to one of the forms allowed by state law. The ballot issue followed a petition drive to change to a mayor-council form of government on the November 2005 ballot.
   While many at last week’s meeting, including former Mayor Steven Sireci, focused remarks on the experiences of other towns, some were more interested in the commission’s methods and reporting.
   Baird Drive resident Frank Herbert suggested the commission expand its table listing the positive and negative features of the current form of government. Mr. Herbert felt the lists should reflect the positive and negative aspect of each feature.
   "Have three columns," Mr. Herbert suggested. "First column state a fact; in the second column have here’s why it’s good; third column have why it’s bad."
   Mr. Herbert’s comment points out the challenges to defining features of the governments facing the commissioners. Several other residents reviewed the list with their own perspectives on the pros and cons of township committees.
   "What I always tell people is that whenever you vote a committee member, you’re voting for a potential mayor," Township Committeeman Carl Suraci said, regarding the list’s inclusion of not directly electing the mayor as a negative feature.
   Mr. Suraci said the commission shouldn’t rely too heavily on charter studies undertaken in other towns, since "Hillsborough is very unique."
   "Every town is not unique," Commission Chairman Chris Jensen said. "They all deal with taxes, they all deal with schools and garbage and snowplowing."
   Garretson Lane resident Valerie Chaucer-Levine noted the current form of government assures the mayor will always be of the majority party, which she viewed as a negative.
   "We have established to everybody that we do not elect the mayor," she said. "The mayor will always be a member of the majority party — they can never be a minority member."
   Conover Drive resident Greg Gillette noted that he’s not heard anything to indicate one form of government would be nay better than another at addressing problems in a community.
   "I want residents to understand no government is going to be a panacea," he said. He added people should know they can’t pick and choose features of government to adopt, that it’s not "a la carte."
   "You have to get the complete dinner," he said. "It’s not just a matter of saying ‘we want a directly elected mayor but we don’t want a council.’"
   The commission will meet again Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the municipal courtroom to continue discussion of the mayor-council forms of government.