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FAQs

Why change what we have now?

Frequently Asked Questions

Not seeing your question answered? Do you have concerns about any of the answers to these questions? Send us a note! Email to:  info@natickcharter.org 

What is a Charter?

What is a Charter Commission?

Will Natick have a Charter Commission?

Is a Charter Commission open, transparent and accountable? 

Can I serve on the Charter Commission?

How do I get elected to the Charter Commission?

Have other cities and towns had Charter Commissions?

Can Natick have a new Charter without a Charter Commission?

What if Natick votes "no" on creating a Charter Commission? 

What if Natick votes "no" on approving a new Charter? 

How is the Charter different from Town Bylaws?

What is an Ordinance?

What is the Natick Charter Commission Signature Committee?

Why should I sign the petition?

Does signing it commit me to anything?

Who is endorsing the Ballot Question?

Will this change the status of the Town Administrator? 

How would the Charter Commission or a new Charter affect the Natick Public Schools?

How would the Charter Commission or a new Charter affect Town departments and services?

What will this cost?

What is the Charter and Bylaw Review Committee (CBRC)?

What is the Town Governance Study Committee (TGSC)?

Why change what we have now?

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What is a Charter?

In Massachusetts, a charter is a city or town’s constitution, approved by its voters. A charter sets forth how a local government is organized. Natick’s current Town Charter was approved in 1980 by the voters. Read more about Home Rule at this link.

 

What is a Charter Commission?

A Charter Commission is created by a majority vote of the voters in a city or town. The commission has nine elected members, and if it makes a recommendation for a change of the charter, that proposed charter must first be reviewed for legality by the Attorney General, and it is then subject to voter approval within two years of the date the commission was created. The Commission must also hold a public hearing and all meetings of the Commission must be open to the public. A charter commission can only recommend a new charter, not make it law. Once the Charter recommended by the Commission is approved or rejected at a Town election, the Charter Commission is discharged. The responsibilities and role of a Charter Commission are set forth under Chapter 43B of the Massachusetts General Laws; see this link.

 

Will Natick have a Charter Commission?

If this committee submits a petition with valid signatures of at least 15% of registered Natick voters, the question of whether to create a Charter Commission will be on the ballot for the March 26, 2024 Natick Town Election. 

Is a Charter Commission open, transparent and accountable? 

The Charter Commission and its members are subject to the Open Meeting Law, the Public Records Law, and the State Ethics Law. All meetings must be publicly posted and open to the public, and all of its records are public records. All members must complete State Ethics training to guard against any conflicts of interest. As elected officials, all members are accountable to the public.

 

Can I serve on the Charter Commission?

Any Natick voter may seek election to the Charter Commission at the March 26, 2024 Town Election. The nine candidates with the most votes serve on the commission.

 

How do I get elected to the Charter Commission?

The Town Clerk will make nomination forms available to potential candidates on or around December 4, 2023.  Forms must be returned to the Town Clerk with the signatures of at least 26 voters no later than January 9, 2024. As a service to voters and potential commissioners, This committee will provide more information about the process of seeking election to the Charter Commission. Send us an email to be notified when this information is available.

 

Have other cities and towns had Charter Commissions?

It is common for cities and towns to have charter commissions. In recent years, these communities have created charter commissions:

  • Amherst

  • Brookfield

  • Chicopee

  • Framingham

  • North Attleborough

  • Plymouth

  • Watertown

 

Can Natick have a new Charter without a Charter Commission?

Yes. For example, the Select Board can appoint a committee tasked with bringing a new Charter to Town Meeting, and if that Charter is approved by Town Meeting, it must be then approved by the legislature, and finally by Natick voters. However, Natick voters would not have the opportunity to say whether they want to have a Charter Commission, nor elect people to serve on the Charter Commission.

 

What if Natick votes "no" on creating a Charter Commission? 

If a majority of voters at the March 26, 2024 Town Election vote "no" on the ballot question, then our current charter will remain in effect indefinitely, subject to minor changes approved first by Town Meeting and then by the voters.  

 

What if Natick votes "no" on approving a new Charter? 

If a majority of voters at a future Town Election vote "no" when the Charter is on the ballot, then the current Natick Charter will remain in effect indefinitely, subject to minor changes approved first by Town Meeting and then by the voters.  

 

How is the Charter different from Town Bylaws?

The Town Bylaws are secondary to the Charter. The bylaws are more detailed rules about what is allowed, or not allowed, in Town government and all bylaws must be consistent with the Charter. Town Meeting can change our bylaws without voter approval, but only after a public process in which every resident and taxpayer is allowed to participate. Bylaws must be approved by the Attorney General to ensure they are consistent with state and federal laws.

 

This is a link to our Town Charter;

This is a link to our Town Bylaws; and, 

This is a link to our Zoning Bylaws, which are specific to land use.


 

What is an Ordinance?

An ordinance is similar to a bylaw, but for a city form of government. A city may pass an ordinance without Attorney General approval.

 

What is the Natick Charter Commission Signature Committee?

The Natick Charter Commission Signature Committee is a registered political committee that has been established to advocate for creation of the Charter Commission at the March 26, 2024 Natick Town Election. We are collecting signatures on official petition forms, educating voters, and conducting other activities to encourage a Yes vote on the ballot question. The Natick Charter Commission Signature Committee is not recommending or endorsing individual candidates for the Charter Commission, nor taking positions on Town matters that are not directly related to the formation of a Charter Commission. The Natick Charter Commission Signature Committee is not taking a position on the possible recommendations of a future Charter Commission.

 

Why should I sign the petition?

We encourage every Natick voter to sign this petition so that the voters of Natick have a choice about how our government is organized. The current charter was approved in 1980, and has been slightly revised many times. 45 years after the first Charter Commission was established, it is time for Natick to reconsider how our government should be organized.

 

Does signing it commit me to anything?

No. Signing the petition does not commit you to anything, including voting to approve a future charter, or even voting in the March 2024 election (but we hope you will vote to create a commission).

 

Who is endorsing the Ballot Question?

You will, we hope! Many members of the community are recommending that Natick voters sign the Charter Commision petition and vote Yes to create a Charter Commission on March 26, 2024. A list of endorsers will be published at this link.

 

Will this change the status of the Town Administrator? 

No. Putting the Charter Commission question on the ballot and creating a Charter Commission will not change the status of the Town Administrator. If a Charter Commission is established, the Town Administrator will be welcome to participate. It is possible that the Charter Commission recommends a change in Natick's governance structure which might affect the Town Administrator in the future; however, nothing would change without the voters of Natick supporting such changes.

 

How would the Charter Commission or a new Charter affect the Natick Public Schools?

The Commission would not have direct jurisdiction over the Public Schools, and its recommendations are just that - recommendations. As a very important part of local government, public schools, students, families, faculty and staff have a big stake in how our government is organized. The Natick Charter Commission Signature Committee believes that this is also an important opportunity for civics education, and we hope that all who value public education play an active role in the Charter Commission process. 

 

If a Charter Commission is elected, the work of the Commission may have implications for the public schools. Different forms of government have different levels of oversight in public education, and the voices of the school community should be heard.

 

How would the Charter Commission or a new Charter affect Town departments and services?

The reasons to create a Charter Commission are closely tied to how well Natick serves its residents. Government - like any organization - should always look at its structure as part of a commitment to continuous improvement. Because Natick residents highly value the quality of public services, and because we generally strive for efficiency in our operations, a Charter Commission is an opportunity to consider how the structure of local government can contribute to improvements in the services, investments and operations that government delivers. 

 

What will this cost?

Charter Commissioners are volunteers and serve without compensation. In accordance with state law, a Commission in a Town the size of Natick will have appropriated or transferred $5,000 to an account for its expenses. Additional funds may be appropriated by the Town through its budget, subject to a Town Meeting vote, and with some limitations private funds may also be received. The Town is required to provide office space and clerical support. The relevant section of state law is at this link.

 

What is the Charter and Bylaw Review Committee (CBRC)?

The Natick Charter requires that the Charter and Bylaw Review Committee (CBRC) be established every five years to review our governance documents.

 

“The town meeting shall establish the committee at least within five years of the time the previous committee was dissolved and, at any time, may vote to extend the term of the committee or the time by which the committee is required to submit a report.” Natick Charter § 7-6 (a) 

 

CBRC members are not elected by the public, but appointed by the Town Moderator. Historically, the CBRC’s charge has been to review, and propose changes to these documents, but not alter the fundamental structure of local government. The current Charter and Bylaw Review Committee was established by Town Meeting in Fall 2022. Its website is available at this link

 

The Charter and Bylaw Review Committee is anticipated to bring recommendations to Fall 2023 Town Meeting.

 

What is the Town Governance Study Committee (TGSC)?

The Town Governance Study Committee (TGSC) was established by the Select Board in 2022 as an advisory committee with a charge to consider our form of governance and report back to the Select Board with recommendations. The TGSC presented its report and recommendations to the Board in June, 2023. Among its recommendations was for Natick to pursue a Charter Commission.

 

“...the process by which a Charter Commission is established, and its recommendations considered, is inherently more representative, inclusive, and open to public participation than any other method available to the community, including a Special Act or changes through the Charter and Bylaw Review Committee.”

 

The TGSC web site includes the committee’s report, recommendations, presentations and resources including various surveys. The Select Board voted unanimously to accept the committee’s report.

 

Why change what we have now?

Many participants in local government see both benefits and drawbacks to our current form of government, which is an elected Town Meeting, elected Select Board, and a professional Town Administrator. The Town Governance Study Committee spent over a year considering these issues, and recommended unanimously to the Select Board that we continue to pursue incremental improvements, but that we also ask the voters to explore more fundamental changes through a Charter Commission, a process in which the public has its say. The Study Committee’s report and recommendations are available at this link. The Select Board accepted the committee’s recommendations, and the Ballot Question Committee invites the public to read the Study Committee’s report.

 

I have a question that’s not answered here!

Please email us at info@natickcharter.org

 

I don’t agree with your answer to a question!

Please email us at info@natickcharter.org

 

what is a charter?
Wha​t is a Charter Commission?
W​ill Natick have a Charter Commission?
Is a Charter Commission open, transparent and accountable? 
Can I serve on the Charter Commission?
How do I get elected to the Charter Commission?
Have other cities and towns had Charter Commissions?
Can Natick have a new Charter without a Charter Commission?
What if Natick votes "no" on creating a Charter Commission? 
What if Natick votes "no" on approving a new Charter? 
How is the Charter different from Town Bylaws?
What is an Ordinance?
What is the Natick Charter Commission Signature Committee?
Why should I sign the petition?
Does signing it commit me to anything?
Who is endorsing the Ballot Question?
Will this change the status of the Town Administrator? 
How would the Charter Commission or a new Charter affect the Natick Public Schools?
How would the Charter Commission or a new Charter affect Town departments and services?
What will this cost?
What is the Charter and Bylaw Review Committee (CBRC)?
What is the Town Governance Study Committee (TGSC)?
Why change what we have now?
What if Natick votes "no" on creating a Charter Commission? 
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