In this week’s Newton Tab, Trevor Jones reported that the aldermen took a vote this past Monday to change the city charter.  The new language would give the aldermen flexibility on whether or not to call a special election when there is a vacancy on the board.

The previous language said the board “shall forthwith call” an election to fill vacancies.  The new language says the aldermen “may call ” a special election.

I was surprised that this change to the city’s charter was voted on a week ago and I haven’t heard any discussion about it.  In order to take effect, this amendment to the City Charter will have to also be approved by a vote of the state Legislature.

Two things about this caught my eye.

* It seems strange to me that any change to the City Charter would ever be voted on by the Board of Aldermen without a very public and deliberative process first.

* The new language – “the aldermen ‘may call’ a special election” seems worryingly vague and open to all sorts of possible future issues.

All of this apparently stemmed from concerns over the cost of the special election held this past June to fill the vacant seat after Alderman Carleton Merrill’s death.

Personally, I think whatever the rules are for calling a special election, they should be clearly spelled out in the charter.  Leaving it to the aldermen “may call” an election sounds like an invitation to trouble.