Higher FTM petition requirement will go before Lincoln voters

Higher FTM petition requirement will go before Lincoln voters

LINCOLN - A lengthy debate was held during the June 17 Lincoln Town Council meeting about whether or not to increase from 100 to 500 the number of signatures needed for a budget petition.

Ultimately, the Town Council voted 3-2, with councilmen James Jahnz and John Flynn voting against, to put a resolution question on the ballot for voters to decide in the November election.

Ordinance Committee Chairman Arthur Russo Jr. explained that the resolution would amend the town's charter two-fold.

"First, it would change the qualified voter requirements for the submission of the petition for the Financial Town Meeting from 100 to 500 and secondly, it would add language that should the FTM not have a quorum, the budget as recommended by the Budget Board, would pass automatically," he said.

The charter was previously amended to give voters the opportunity to change a line item in the budget in excess of 10 percent or $80,000. That petition must exhibit 100 signatures and be filed 15 days prior to the FTM with the Town Clerk.

"One of the goals of this requirement was to give notice to the voters that a large appropriation was going to be proposed. I was anxious to see how this new process would work this year and I am proud to say that the goal was successful," Russo said. "The proposed resolution was given plenty of press and I believe the number of voters in attendance was a bit more than what it's been in the past."

Following the FTM, he said, he analyzed the signatures on the petition to see which areas of town the residents were from.

Once he researched the data however, he said he noticed that 56 of the 117 signers were school employees and an additional 42 signers were relatives of the employees.

"The school department has every right to organize such petition," he said. "What was concerning to me was the relative ease it took to gather 100 signatures."

Russo said he is apprehensive about the low threshold of signatures because "any group that's denied by the Budget Board can quickly gather enough signatures to bypass the very deliberate process that the Budget Board goes through."

Raising the number of signatures required would safeguard the system, he said.

Jahnz said signatures were gathered, the FTM was held and a vote was taken, ultimately proving that the process worked.

"While the 100 signatures were not difficult to get, I feel the 500 is far exceeding the threshold of what would be reasonable," he said.

Councilman Flynn said he understood why the resolution was put forth but did not believe it was a good idea to ask voters to change the charter based on one circumstance.

Councilman Kenneth Pichette told Flynn that the council is not making the decision but offering the voters an opportunity to choose whether or not to change it.

Town Council President Keith Macksoud said there are 16,000 registered voters in town with approximately 10,000 actually voting in the general election.

"I think a majority of those voters should be able to make a decision about how the FTM should run and what's required to increase and decrease their taxes," he said. Jahnz asked if the threshold could be lowered from 500 to 300.

The council made a motion to amend the resolution but Pichette, Flynn and Macksoud voted no and the 300 signature amendment failed.

"I think if your going to do something that's going to affect 16,000 voters it should be onerous," Macksoud said. "You have a Budget Board that works from February to April to develop a sound budget."

Jahnz said his biggest concern was the fact that the council could not separate the issue from the school department.

"I feel the council has not been able to do so," he said. "Every discussion leads to the school department, school committee and parents."

The questions are listed, with proposed changes in italics:

*"Shall Article III Section 12(1) of the Lincoln Town Charter be amended as follows: No motion for the expenditure of money, other than the budget proposed by the Budget Board, or alternative proposals by the Town Council, shall be in order at a Financial Town Meeting, unless it shall have been filed in writing with the Town Clerk and signed by at least 500 electors qualified to vote in Financial Town Meeting not less than 15 calendar days previous to the date of such meeting at which such motion is to be considered; the Town Clerk shall include in the call for such meeting a notice that said motion shall be considered at said Financial Town Meeting."

*"Shall Article III Section 7 of the Lincoln Town Charter be amended as follows: One hundred qualified electors shall be necessary to constitute a quorum at any Financial Town Meeting. Should the Meeting fail to achieve a Quorum, the budget recommended by the Budget Board shall be automatically adopted."

Comments

This act taken by Councilman Russo, Macksoud and Pichette is awful!!
What happen to the public hearing on this issue that is to be posted to the public for review and comment??? All charter changes proposed are to have a public hearing, you can`t just propose a simple ordinance for the election just to push an agenda like this. Is this council incompetent or conducting themselves like bullies?
So the Town Administrator administrative assistant son, Councilman Russo put forward a bully ordinance that does nothing more than to smack down Lincoln residents from challenging Lincoln officials.
I question the sincerity of Councilman Russo, just before the FTM, he was on record saying this charter provision was a law from the old days and should be done away with.
So rather do that, he decides to even make it harder for Lincoln residents to challenge their elected officials. Is this action because Councilman Russo, pays his mother’s boss, Administrator Almond a second pension plan illegally? Is it because this new pension for Almond is nowhere to be found in the budget but is paid by Russo every month on time!!!
So the last thing Almond and Russo want is for people to challenge this issue???
Bottom line, they are acting like punks, nothing more, and nothing less.