Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Framingham Town or City government ... a look at Greenfield MA

By Enzo Rotatori

Greenfield is the most recent community in Massachusetts to change its Charter to become a city. On July 1, 2003, its form of government was revised to provide for the election of a mayor along with City Council members.

     As with a number of other towns in Massachusetts, it was determined that Greenfield's form of government was unable to adequately govern its community.

     It was planned that the mayor would serve as the chief executive officer and be answerable to the residents. A “strong” Mayor would be expected to make numerous beneficial changes to the existing structure of the City. The term for this office is three years and elected on a non-partisan basis.

     I contacted the current mayor of Greenfield, William Martin, who offered to provide insight to changes that occurred after becoming a city. He also recommended that I call Attorney David Singer, Greenfield Town Council President, for details.
Mr. Singer provided information via email and in a 30-minute telephone interview.

     The following is a quote from Attorney Singer:

     “From my point of view, Greenfield needed to have a leader who was full time, powerful, elected and accountable in order for our community to compete for new resources. The select board and Town Administrator were slow, and needed consensus to do anything. Since we changed, our community has moved forward with economic development in a way not seen before. There are downsides, of course, and that would be the powerful nature of the executive. Therefore, you need to elect someone you trust. We also do not have party politics. Instead, anyone can run by getting signatures.”

     Mr. Singer said that there were eleven candidates for the mayoral position. Eventually, two finalists were on the ballot. The first mayor turned out to be ineffective, he said, and acted more like an administrator with no desire to make changes. The current elected mayor, William Martin, is a dynamic, take- charge person who understood that Greenfield needed to make changes in order to survive.

     I was told that his first year in office was traumatic because of implemented changes. He fulfilled expectations as the leader of Greenfield, but many employees were impacted accordingly,.
Since he was reelected to another term, the fruits of his efforts must have been evident and acceptable to Greenfield residents. Currently, the Town Council consists of four at-large members and nine other members elected by precinct.

     The other Town boards are appointed with the exception of the seven members of the School Committee, which currently consists of the Mayor plus six elected at large.
Attorney Singer also mentioned that the magnitude of power given to the Mayor needs to be guided by the City’s charter language regarding ethics and honesty.

     Recently published articles regarding Braintree and Weymouth, where both cities have a strong Mayoral-style government, resulted in improved bond ratings, municipal services and less government waste.
Mr. Rotatori, former Town Meeting Member and Chair of the Framingham Taxpayers Association, opens the debate on Town versus City on Xtra Xtra. If you wish to join in, your opinions are welcome. Email your comments to the editor, Larry Schmeidler, at You must, however, provide your full, verifiable name.