Frequently Asked Questions About the Charter Commission

Q. What is a Charter Commission?

A. It's a group of nine citizens who are examining the current town government structure and will make recommendations for possible changes. It must follow procedures set forth in state law.

Q. How was Amherst's Charter Commission created?

A. From August to December 2015, a group or residents collected 3,500 signatures on petitions asking that the creation of a commission be put on the ballot. In the March 29, 2016 election, the vote was 2,039-1,340 in favor of creating a commission.

Q. How were the members chosen?

A. On that same March 29 ballot, there were 19 candidates for Charter Commission, and the top nine vote-getters were elected.

Q. How long will the process take?

A. The state sets a maximum of 18 months.

Q. Who gets the final say?

A. The commission's recommendations must be approved by voters to take effect.

Q. When will that vote be?

A. It isn't clear yet. The commission must submit a preliminary report by July 31, 2017 and a final report by Sept. 29, 2017. The vote must be at least two months after the final report is submitted.

Q. What is Amherst's current form of government?

A. There is a town manager, a five-person Select Board and a 240-member representative Town Meeting. See the current Town Charter here.

Q. Have there been previous charter commissions?

A. Two. The most recent one was empaneled in 2001. Its recommendations were defeated in 2003 in a vote of 2,414-2,400 and again in 2005 by a vote of 2,953-2,701. The first charter commission was empaneled in 1994, and its recommendations were also defeated. See the 1996 Charter Commission Final Report here.

Q. What did the 2001-03 charter commission propose?

A. An elected nine-member town council; an elected mayor who chairs the council, and an appointed manager for day-to-day administration. See the 2001 Charter Commission Final Report here.

Q. What are the opportunities for public comment?

A. There was a public hearing on May 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the middle school auditorium. There will also be a public hearing after the commission's preliminary report is filed, probably in the spring of 2017. There may be other hearings.

Q. How else can citizens comment on the commission's work?

A. All commission meetings are open and include time for public comment. Email comments can be sent to charter@amherstma.gov.