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Asking City Council to Form a Charter Review Study Group

Just a moment ago, I sent the following email to Newark City Council's Clerk, Autumn Klein, with a request that she forward it to all members of Council:

"It’s been a busy year, I understand. Honestly, I’ve been quite busy as well. Between my kids – which takes up more than half of my time home from work -, my now-full time job, and constant political/community organizing activities I hardly have time to think. Yet, here I am composing a letter to each of you in our Newark City Council. Earlier this year, I had the distinct pleasure – following an appointment by this body, of course - of serving briefly on our Charter Review Commission. While we collectively decided not to promote any changes to the November ballot, the most contentious issue which we debated – and, thus, the only one ultimately not receiving a unanimous vote one way or the other – was the debate over whether Newark should become a nonpartisan city.

Yes, I was the sole vote in favor of advancing this proposal to the people of Newark for their consideration, but we – all five members of the Charter Review Commission – came to agree that it would be best for the City to establish a Charter Review Study Group to examine this debate over an extended period of time to seriously ponder if this proposal should get a final vote by the people. This issue keeps coming up each time the Commission is formed every five years and it seems that the consistent pattern is that the Commission reaches a stalemate, concluding that the two or three month timeframe for our deliberations is not sufficient for the issue, and likewise concluding that a study group should be formed to explore it further without a short deadline.

Well, here we are yet again with another Charter Review Commission having finished their work and once more passing the buck to Council to create a study group with the sole purpose of considering and maybe even proposing a nonpartisan amendment to our Charter. Our support for such a study group was unanimous, and while I’m unsure whether that was ever the case in Commissions-past I am relatively certain that none of those previous Commissions featured a member or group of members determined as I am to see to it that this matter is not forgotten. The people of Newark deserve a chance to weigh this issue as other communities of similar size in our state have done before us.

As an activist for improving and enhancing democracy, I already have my mind made up as to the direction I would like Newark to take. To that end I am prepared to make my case to the people of Newark as to why a nonpartisan model is best for our elections (arguably at every level, but I digress). Still, my bias on this should prohibit me specifically from serving in such a study group. Some of our Charter Review Commission members from this year – Jill Goddard and Chase Ghiloni, specifically – would be good candidates given the fact that they remained undecided and open-minded on this debate through to the very end. To my mind, a study group organized to tackle an important debate such as this – and even to draft the best possible language for a proposal – would be at its best if it was comprised of servants such as Goddard and Ghiloni.

I implore you to find the time to weigh this request not only of yours truly but of each of my fellow servants on this year’s Charter Review Commission. I’d recommend a group of 7-10 open-minded citizens with a timeframe of up to a year or two to explore every aspect of this matter. Again, I know that you are busy with doing the business of our city. However, this is not irrelevant to such business. In fact, it pertains to the foundations of our local government. Thank you for reading."

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