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Northampton voters to weigh in on charter change

The proposed charter includes many substantive provisions, including an expansion of the mayor’s term from two to four years. The mayor would no longer preside over the meetings of the City Council, a job that would go to the council president.

City Council President William H. Dwight has said the charter question is arguably the most important local item on the ballot this fall.

The legislature and governor last month approved the city’s request to place a charter question on a special municipal ballot to coincide with the Nov. 6 general election. The City Council also approved a measure last week that will place the charter change question before voters, who will give an up or down vote at the ballot box in six weeks.

Because of a mix-up about the deadline to get on the state’s general election ballot, the charter question will be by itself on a municipal ballot.

If ratified by voters, the proposed charter would replace the city’s existing 129-year-old document that defines the structure of city government.

The first election under the new charter would be the Nov. 5, 2013, city election, according to a summary of the question that will appear on the ballot this fall.

In addition to changes in the mayor’s term, other new provisions include concurrent, two-year terms for all School Committee members instead of four-year terms for ward members and two-year terms for at-large members.

Additionally, the minimum number of voter signatures needed for candidate nominations would go up from 50 for all candidates to 150 for mayor; 100 for at-large positions on the City Council and School Committee and the city clerk; and 50 for all other candidates.

To read a summary of the charter changes as they will appear on the ballot, or to read the full text of the revised charter, visit the city’s website at northamptonma.gov.

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