June 25, 2018
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Charter amendments on Bangor ballot

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — City voters will be asked to weigh in next month on eight referendum questions that call for changes to the municipal charter.

Many of the proposed recommendations, which were the result of six months of study by a citizen review committee, are housekeeping in nature, but others call for big changes to the political process.

The city had not conducted a comprehensive review of the charter in more than 20 years, although last November voters approved a pair of charter amendments.

The first reduced from 150 to 100 the number of signatures needed for a City Council candidate to get his or her name on the ballot. The second amendment changed the way candidates’ names appear on a ballot. Instead of being listed alphabetically, the candidates’ names now appear on the ballot in the order drawn by lot by the city clerk.

Because of the large number of questions this year and the complexity of the issues, City Clerk Patti Dubois has urged Bangor voters to allow for plenty of time on Election Day or to take advantage of early voting. The city will offer in-person absentee voting 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, Oct. 25-29, and 8 a.m.-noon Saturday, Oct. 30, at Bangor Civic Center.

One referendum question calls for changing several provisions of the process for recalling an elected official, which is a rare occurrence but actually happened last year. Among the changes would be to increase the number of signatures required to initiate a recall petition from 10 to 100, and to reduce the amount of time residents have to collect signatures from 60 days to 30 days.

Another referendum question would add a Code of Ethics statement to the city’s charter and provide the council and school committee with the authority to remove a member under certain circumstances. Another question seeks to make a series of changes to the charter to make it gender-neutral.

Question 6 on the ballot was not a recommendation of the charter review committee but was added in by councilors during their discussions. The proposal would bar any family member of a sitting councilor from sitting on any municipal committee and appeared to be directed specifically at Councilor Geoff Gratwick, whose wife, Lucy Quimby, serves on citizen committees. Gratwick has spoken out against that charter amendment, but other councilors have supported the idea.

Perhaps the most heavily discussed charter change involved widening the amount of time between when elected officials are termed out and when they can run for office again. The charter review committee had suggested three years was appropriate, but councilors did not approve that suggestion, meaning they were comfortable with the current one-year layoff.

To see all referendum questions, go to www.bangormaine.gov

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