MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Monday night, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen allowed recommended charter changes to go before voters this fall, which if passed, would give the Manchester School District more autonomy in the future.
The proposed charter amendment approved by the board for voter review in November was two paragraphs long and allows for the Manchester School District, through the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC), to directly propose future city charter amendments relating to the school district to go to the voters without the approval of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
A more extensive set of amendments to the city charter was originally recommended by the Manchester School Charter Commission, but were considered by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office to be outside the scope of the legislation that mandated the School Charter Commission process.
Manchester School Charter Commission Chairman Michael Lopez wrote a letter to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Manchester City Clerk Matt Normand expressing his disappointment at the Attorney General’s decision as well as the opinion that there was no need to spend taxpayer money fighting that decision in court.
Instead, during Monday night’s meeting, the now streamlined charter amendment was described as an enabling measure that if passed in 2020 would allow the amendments proposed by the Manchester School Charter Commission to go before the voters in November 2021 without permission from the state legislature.
Supporters of the amendment honed in on that key point, that this does nothing other than transfer authority over school-related city charter changes from the state legislature to the BOSC.
Meanwhile, opponents of the amendment expressed their concern over the lack of clarity over the “local procedures” required for future charter changes mentioned in the language of the amendment, a lack of clarity that stymied the School Charter Commission earlier this year.
Ultimately, the board had little choice to approve something, as the legislation that kicked off the process mandated that Manchester voters be given some proposal on ballots this fall.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig added that the School Charter Commission had spent several months working on the amendment, making further delays proposed by the opponents of the amendment wasteful in addition to contrary to state law.
Aldermen in favor of sending the amendment as written to voters included Kevin Cavanaugh (Ward 1), Will Stewart (Ward 2), Pat Long (Ward 3), Anthony Sapienza (Ward 5), Barbara Shaw (Ward 9), Bill Barry (Ward 10), Normand Gamache (Ward 11) and Dan O’Neil (At-Large), although Sapienza and Shaw did express initial concern over the process.
The opposition included James Roy (Ward 4), Elizabeth Moreau (Ward 6), Ross Terrio (Ward 7), Mike Porter (Ward 8), Keith Hirschman (Ward 12), and Joseph Kelly Levasseur (At-Large).