Charter study hearings poorly attended
If interest in the work of the Dukes County Charter Study Commission (DCCSC) can be measured by attendance at the three public hearings held this month, the drive to revise county government is being overwhelmed by a tidal wave of public apathy.
A meeting on April 23 at the Chilmark Community Center was attended by 12 members of the DCCSC, but by only four members of the public. The next day at 5 pm, a cluster of people stood on the porch and sidewalk outside the Oak Bluffs senior center. The doors were locked. Roger Wey, director of the senior center and a member of the DCCSC, had forgotten about the hearing. However, only eight members of the DCCSC were there, and the only members of the public were the cameraman from MVTV and reporters from The Times and the Gazette. Tristan Israel of Tisbury, member of the DCCSC and a county commissioner, drove up in his pickup and seeing the small turnout, decided to go home. The meeting was cancelled for lack of a quorum and lack of public interest.
The previous week, a third public hearing in Edgartown had been rescheduled to coincide with an Edgartown selectmen's meeting.
On Thursday, DCCSC member Richard Knabel brought a stationer's box to Oak Bluffs, which contained a handsomely printed 12-page document containing the DCCSC subcommittees' reports on abolishing county government, county finances, and the statutory, legal and political issues associated with charter change - and including pie charts and other appendices. The box went home nearly as full as it arrived.
Mr. Knabel also brought a two-page list of the draft recommendations the DCCSC plans to make to the county commissioners. These concern the commissioners' appointment processes, the County Advisory Board, the county's relationship with town governments, accountability of Dukes County commissioners, recruiting new commissioners, county revenues, residency requirements for county administrators, and a charter study commission every eight years. Persons wishing to review the recommendations in detail should click here. These recommendations, however, will not appear on the ballot in November.
Voters in November will be asked to approve the DCCSC's plan for a new county charter. As of now, the study group has tentatively decided to recommend a change from the present county manager form of county government to a "board chairman" form, in which the commissioners every year elect one of their own to serve as chief executive officer. This plan may save the taxpayers some money, as the expensive county manager would be replaced by a part-time administrator. The DCCSC so far plans no other changes in the structure of Dukes County government.
If the voters in November reject the DCCSC proposal, the present form of county government will remain in place and unchanged.