June 22, 2018
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Bangor voters to decide on 10 charter changes

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Voters in Bangor are likely to vote in November on as many as 10 proposed changes to the municipal charter, a document that had not been looked at thoroughly in more than 20 years.

Another 10 changes are expected to be voted on the next November.

“It made sense to split them up. No one wants to vote on 20 things on one ballot,” said City Council Chairman Richard Stone.

Most of the proposed recommendations — the result of six months of study by a citizen review committee — are housekeeping in nature, but a few would make big changes to the political process.

Several suggestions deal with the process for recalling an elected official, which is a rare occurrence but actually happened last year. Members of the charter review committee felt the recall process was too easy. They proposed strengthening it by increasing the number of signatures required to initiate a recall petition from 10 to 100 and reducing the amount of time residents have to collect signatures from 60 days to 30 days.

Last December, resident Jim Elmore took out a petition to recall five city councilors — David Nealley, Gerry Palmer, Susan Hawes, Pat Blanchette and Rick Bronson — each of whom voted to uphold an earlier council decision to part ways with City Manager Ed Barrett. That recall effort failed but helped to shed light on the process.

Perhaps the most heavily discussed charter change involves widening the amount of time between when elected officials are termed out and when they can run for office again. Right now, city councilors and school committee members can serve three three-year terms and then must take one year off before running again. The charter review committee has proposed keeping the term limits the same but increasing to three the number of years a termed-out official must wait before seeking office again. The idea was to encourage new faces to run for office.

City councilors compromised and settled on two years.

Other proposed changes include adding a Code of Ethics statement to the city’s charter and providing the council and school committee with the authority to remove a member under certain circumstances.

The seven-member charter review committee included Chairwoman Sheila Pechinski, Charles Birkel, Mel Braverman, William Sullivan, Nelson Durgin, Rick Bruns and Robert Dore.

One final change was not a recommendation of the charter review committee but came at the request of Councilor Bronson. The proposal would bar any family member of a sitting councilor from sitting on any municipal committee.

All proposed charter changes still need final council approval at its next meeting Sept. 13. Changes that are approved will be drafted into ballot questions by the city clerk’s office.

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