The new charter extends the term for mayor from two years to four years. A longer term would allow the Mayor to focus more on the long-term challenges of governing and avoid the distractions of perpetual campaigning and fundraising. A longer term would also provide the Mayor more time to implement changes and demonstrate results before the voters render judgment. Arguments against making this change include the concern that a longer term would decrease accountability to the voters. But voters would retain the opportunity in the biennial Council and School Committee elections to send a clear message to a Mayor by voting in or out Councilors or School Committee members that have supported or opposed the Mayor’s initiatives.
The new charter also establishes special election procedures for electing a mayor when there is a permanent vacancy in the middle of a term. Currently, a permanent vacancy leads to an awkward situation in which the City Council President acts as Mayor but continues serving on the Council. This puts one person atop two branches of government at once, upsetting the separation of powers and raising questions — unanswered by the current charter — about proper compensation. Furthermore, the current charter does not provide for a special election in the event of a permanent mayoral vacancy.
A summary of the revisions to the Northampton City Charter as explained by members of the Charter Review Committee.
The new charter would create a special election to be held 90 days after a permanent vacancy occurs; unless the vacancy occurs during the last eight months of the term. In that case, the current City Council President would become Mayor until the end of the term, vacating his or her Council seat. If the City Council President refused the office, the Council would elect another member to serve out the mayoral term.
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