Charter Review History

The City of Northampton has made several incremental changes to its Charter over the last decade through a series of special acts of the state legislature. These changes, which were first approved by a two-thirds majority of City Council before being sent to the state legislature for its approval, include restructuring the Department of Public Works, making the city treasurer position appointed rather than elected, moving the city out of the Civil Service System, and creating new positions and bodies like the executive secretary to the City Council and the Community Preservation Committee.

More comprehensive charter changes involving the overall structure of city government are typically addressed through a formal Charter Commission whose election itself must first be brought before the voters. The following are summaries of the two past comprehensive Northampton charter reviews.

1995 Charter Study Commission

In January of 1995, Mayor Mary Ford appointed a seven member Charter Study Committee to review the City's Charter and recommend whether or not the the city should overhaul its charter or keep the current structure. The committee met for several months, held a public hearing, and unanimously recommended that the election of a formal Charter Commission be placed on the November 7, 1995 ballot. A subsequent petition drive failed to collect the required number of signatures (15% of registered voters) to get the question on the ballot.

1973 Charter Commission

In November 1971, a nine-member Charter Commission was elected by the voters of Northampton and spent the next 18 months reviewing the charter with the assistance of a paid consultant. The Charter Commission drafted a proposed "City Charter of the City of Northampton" and the question of whether or not to adopt the new charter was placed on the November 6, 1973 municipal election ballot. The voters of Northampton narrowly rejected adoption of a new charter by a 152-vote margin (Yes: 3,452 - No: 3604).