Charter Effort: New year will bring effort by Edwards to deliver Charter Change to voters

Facing some critics – including Mayor Martin Walsh – Councilor Lydia Edwards said she has overcome the rumors and misinformation for her hopeful campaign to change the City Charter, and will begin the year with an effort to sell it to the voters – who will likely vote on the matter in the November 2021 City Election.
Edwards reported that after many meetings and clarifications throughout the summer and fall, this month the proposal passed the City Council by a 10-3 vote. Those voting against it were Councilors Frank Baker, Ed Flynn and Michael Flaherty.
“This was the first step to get the matter out of the Council,” she said. “The Council had to take this historic vote and that’s what we did. We agreed the people of Boston should be presented with this particular question. That question is whether we should amend out budget process so it’s open for everyone to see and we could file amendments for what we’d like to propose, that the Mayor starts the process and in the open we can amend it back and forth. That isn’t done publicly now.”
The proposal skips the usual steps of changing the City Charter, and takes the matter directly to the people for a vote – rather than sending it to the Mayor’s Office and then to the State Legislature, where many such changes haven’t historically been supported. The idea came out of this year’s frustrating City Budget process when residents from all over the city called on the Council to make new and different funding priorities in the Budget. However, what became hard to explain, was that the Council really didn’t have the legal authority to amend the Budget. In Boston, the Mayor assembles the Budget and its funding mechanisms, and the Council can either vote ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but cannot make changes.
The Charter Change is a response to those frustrations, and would allow the City Budget process to become more collaborative between the Mayor and the Council, yet it also would potentially include the residents of the city in a Participatory Budgeting plan.
Edwards said Participatory Budgeting is a huge new development for Boston, and would allow residents to choose at the ballot box how they would like a portion of the Budget spent.
“It’s kind of like CPA money except allocations proposed for that year would be put on a ballot and people would decide where they want that money to go,” she said. “It’s exciting because people feel more connected to the government after they decide where the money goes.”
It is not, however, a “socialist agenda,” which is what some of her fellow councilors seemed to imply. She said none of that money delves into contractual agreements or gives the ability to “defund” any department.
“So, it’s cannot defund the police,” she stated.
Even bigger, however, would be the change to allow the Budget to be amended by the Council, and create a new collaborative approach in Boston to budgeting. That hasn’t existed since the turn of the 20th Century, when such powers were removed from the Council’s authority. Edwards said she believes the people want to see that kind of system revived, but she said it will be up to the people in a vote on the ballot.
“It seems very infantile to have an up or down vote on $3 billion,” she said. “I believe in it and I believe in the people of Boston and didn’t want to try to change this without them. It will be the decision of the people…Some did not want that and did not vote for that on the Council. Ten of us had no problem with this. It’s odd we have no problem with the people deciding who should be on the Council and who should be the mayor, but voters should have no voice in where the money is spent.”
She said there are a few more logistics to clear at the Attorney General’s Office, but she does expect the matter to appear on the 2021 City Election ballot alongside the Mayoral and Council Races.
Edwards said she wanted to than the Town for respecting her privacy and also sending her condolences this past fall when she suddenly lost her boyfriend, Greg Bertolino, who passed away tragically on Oct. 25. She said they are still waiting to find out the cause of death, and she is left to mourn – and it hasn’t been easy.
“I do want to thank Charlestown,” she said. “When this community loves you, it loves deeply. I want to say thank you to everyone for the calls and the cards. People in Charlestown heard and respected my privacy, but they also lifted me up in prayer.”

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