By Josh Resnek
Councilor Wayne Matewsky said the way Everett elects its ward councilors under the present City Charter is undemocratic, a statement that drew the positive interest of many of his colleagues Monday night at city hall.
Matewsky’s plea for the city council to change how ward councilors are presently elected with a citywide vote to how it was done in the past, with only at-large candidates standing for election by a citywide vote, is considered sensible by most of the council and by voters in general.
The nuance is a wide divide, according to discussions among the councilors and for the city solicitor, who said she was awaiting comments and legal guidance from outside counsel as well as the Attorney General’s office about whether or not the city can return to voting for ward councilors with a ward only vote.
How to do it, if legal and right, is the rub, according to the city solicitor.
Because of the city solicitor’s caution, Matewsky’s motion was put off for a month for the city solicitor to receive the guidance she needs to make a legal and just rendering to the council on the matter.
“If you live in the ward and run for the seat, you should live in the ward and be elected by the voters in the ward,” Matewsky argued.
“To do otherwise just isn’t right,” he added. “We’ve really got to fix this.”
There are apparently three ways to make the possible change if it is the wisdom of the council to do so.
A home rule petition sent to the State House for legislative approval and the mayor’s signature can accomplish the task.
Putting the measure to change back on the presidential year ballot is another method of approving or rejecting the measure.
Using Charter Review and the Charter Commission to opt for the change is the third method which might conceivably be used.
Councilor Fred Capone said he was for leaving it the way it is, although he acknowledged there was merit to Matewsky’s motion.
He left open the possibility for any of the above three methods to be used to measure the public’s willingness to revert to the former method of electing ward councilors with exclusive ward councilor races and voting.
Capone believes the matter must be put back in front of the people rather than asking for a legislative remedy.
Councilor Anthony DiPierro said he entirely agreed with Matewsky’s reasoning.
Councilor Gerly Adrien believes it is a Charter Commission question.
Councilor Mike McLaughlin believes a home rule petition would suffice.
Councilor Peter Napolitano said he did not know what the proper course of action is.
Napolitano, who worked for longer than a decade with the Charter Commission, said he was not interested in digging back into this issue.
“I think I’ve done enough on this,” he added.