During my 12 years in the State House, I often wrote articles to inform the Kennebunk community. Term limits brought an end to that, and, also, I am now sleeping better, but momentous decisions are still on my plate as a member of the Kennebunk Charter Commission. Kennebunk residents should be aware that there is a municipal Constitutional Convention occurring every two weeks on the third floor of Town Hall.

A hard-working group of nine residents, six elected and three appointed, are rewriting the Town Charter. Who runs the town, and your means, degree, and method of participation as citizens, will be spelled out.

An important ingredient to a successful Charter process is individual expression of opinion from the community. An important date in that process is this Saturday, Sept. 16. The commission is asking for feedback from 10 a.m. to noon in Room 300/301 at Town Hall. What are YOUR answers to questions such as the following?

Regarding forfeiture of office, what behavior justifies a Select Board to vote by majority to remove a town officeholder? Is it the same whether the officeholder is appointed or elected?

Regarding recall, forcing a decision by voters, how do we retain the people’s democratic right to recall misbehaving elected officials without facilitating a path for abuse of the process to harass capable public officials? When determining thresholds for forfeiture and recall, do matters of fact versus matters of judgment factor in determining the process?

How easy should it be to initiate an action for recall, or for a change in town rules, by voters gathering signatures? Once a portion of voters have expressed their will through signed petitions, who should have the power to say “NO”… the town attorney? The elected Select Board? The town’s voters?

Finally, and importantly, we will have to answer this: “Is the town better served by a modified town meeting or by an elected town council? We will weigh the efficiency and effectiveness of representative government with the individual citizen’s right to decide by vote in direct democracy.

The collaboration we’ve done to date has not been without disagreement; but it has been a process of respect and shared vision for the town. You can access the all-important wording on the Charter Commission’s website at https://www.kennebunkmaine.us/1138/Charter-Commission. Halfway down the page look for Final Draft of Forfeiture of Office (PDF) and Final Draft of Recall (PDF), but don’t be put off with the designation “final.” We still have a way to go, and we’ll appreciate your attendance Saturday.

Chris Babbidge served six terms in the Maine Legislature, and has served on Kennebunk’s Charter Commission before, and after, that service.

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