Selectmen weigh changing Wareham’s election date, town meeting guidelines

Jan 22, 2019

A proposal that would push Wareham’s annual election back one month and make significant changes to Town Meeting deadlines appears to be headed before voters this April.

Originally proposed by Town Moderator Claire Smith, the idea is designed to streamline how agenda items are prepared for Town Meeting. Moving the election date after Town Meeting, instead of a few weeks prior, is a common sense move, said Selectmen.

“We’ve been scratching our heads about that one,” said Selectman Peter Teitelbaum. “You end up with new board members who have only been serving for three weeks making decisions on issues that have been worked on for months.”

The move would require changing the Town Charter, which is Wareham’s governing document, and a vote at this upcoming Town Meeting, set for April 22.

Selectmen Chair Alan Slavin said in addition to moving the election, board members are considering revamping how Town Meeting’s warrant is shaped.

Currently, deadlines require the warrant be closed two months before the meeting. That leads to a “rushed process” according to Teitelbaum, who said sometimes the wording of the articles changes, leading to confusion.

“We will decide if we think that would make town meeting a lot simpler for a lot of people,” said Teitelbaum. “You wont have multiple iterations of the same article.”

Slavin acknowledged that the proposal is a departure from how the town has done business.

“This would be a major change from how we’ve done things since 1977,” said Slavin. “But we think it’s important.”

Slavin noted that several people heavily involved in Town Meeting – himself as the chair of Selectmen, the chair of Finance Committee, Smith, the Town Administrator and Teitelbaum – are all on board with exploring the changes.

The group met Tuesday morning to begin drafting the proposal, which if approved in April would take effect next year.

Slavin said the proposal, if it passes in Wareham would also require approval from state lawmakers. He noted that’s because it’s a charter change.