In reversal, Claremont City Council sends charter amendment to ballot

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 04-11-2024 5:08 PM

CLAREMONT — In a reversal of its decision last month, the City Council voted 8-0 to put a proposed amendment to the city charter on the November 2025 ballot.

The amendment seeks to institute a citizen referendum process that would give residents the ability to propose an ordinance and collect signatures on a petition so it could be presented to the City Council. If the council were to reject it, the ordinance would automatically go to voters for a citywide vote.

The November 2025 vote on the charter amendment will need a simple majority to pass. If approved, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2026.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, Mike Tetu, one of the residents who proposed the amendment, told the council it could hold the vote on election day this November as a special election and not violate state law, which requires the vote to be held at the next municipal election or at a special election.

Tetu said it would be a “prime opportunity” for the electorate and would not cost the city more money, except to print the ballots, because the polls will be open that day. He also said voter turnout would be 70% or more, which is typical for national and state elections. And were it to pass, the change would take effect Jan. 1, 2025.

“On behalf of the Claremont electorate, I respectfully request that the date of the amendment be amended to November 2024,” Tetu said.

Councilors Jonathan Hayden and Nick Koloski both said they would like to move the vote up a year because of the higher turnout, but did not hear support for that from other councilors.

“We would get a clear consensus. Does the city want this?” Hayden said about the higher turnout.

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Municipal elections, which will next take place in November 2025, usually draw less than 15% of registered voters. Neither Hayden nor Koloski proposed an amendment to the motion and the other councilors did not comment before they voted unanimously to schedule to vote for November 2025.

Wednesday’s decision reverses the council’s March 27 defeat, 6-3, of an identical motion to put the charter amendment on the ballot. That vote was made in opposition to state law, which requires the council to place the measure on the ballot.

At the time, several councilors said they were opposed to the amendment, fearing it could bring ordinance proposals with no funding, which could prove costly to the city. Others wanted the city’s attorney present to answer questions on the amendment’s potential ramifications and whether it would go to a ballot vote regardless of how the council voted.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, Sam Killay, who worked with Tetu to write the charter amendment and collect signatures, admonished the council for ignoring statements from the city clerk and the city’s attorney at the March 27 meeting telling them they had no choice but to schedule the vote.

“You had a job to do and you did not do it,” Killay said, referring to the March 27 vote. “I hope you will do it tonight.” He also wanted the vote scheduled for this November.

Also Wednesday night, the council accepted the resignation of Councilor Spencer Batchelder and will proceed with the process to appointment a new member.

Per the city charter, the council has to make the appointment at the second meeting after accepting the resignation, which will be May 8.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.