I am beyond disappointed to learn that the Charter Commission reversed its decision – again – on residency requirements for the four district council seats. Chris Steele changed his vote.

I think this will be a deal breaker for a lot of people, and I can’t imagine why Steele, Howard Haywood, Rhanna Kidwell, Anne Larner and Karen Manning are willing to risk that all the work they’ve done for the past 1 ½ years will be for naught. The Newton Citizens for Local Representation group must be rejoicing. Their job to defeat the new charter just got a lot easier.

Here’s the email I sent to the Charter Commission today stating why I thought residency requirements were essential:

“The recent decision to require residency within districts turned me into a definite yes vote for the proposed charter. Should the Commission revert back to the proposal that four at-large seats would have no residency requirement, I will most likely vote — and possibly campaign — against a new charter.

I am comfortable with giving up the ward councilor seats because I don’t think there’s a way to reduce the council size and retain those seats without restructuring the balance of power (between ward and at-large councilors). Yet, eliminating residency requirements for four seats could also restructure the balance of power. In the current council composition, the maximum number of councilors who could live in the same neighborhood is three. Without districts, the maximum number of councilors who could live in the same neighborhood is five. I am not comfortable with trading 3 of 24 (13 percent) for 5 of 12 (42 percent). Even two years is a long time to allow such a warped distribution of councilors to exist.

In addition, I am disheartened by the argument that no residency requirement would allow the “best people” to be elected. The Charter Commission’s goals do not – and should not – include improving the quality of candidates. Charter Commissioners’ opinions of elected officials or candidates (past or future) are irrelevant and they should not enter into the discussion.”