The Cape Cod Regional Government Assembly of Delegates Charter Review Committee is asking for public comment on a proposal that would eliminate and replace the Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners.
The proposal would replace the board with an appointed strong county manager form of government at the executive branch level.
According to a statement, the Assembly of Delegates, which acts as the legislative branch, would assume the policy-making responsibilities previously handled by the commissioners.
Every five years, the Assembly of Delegates is charged with doing a charter review to look for ways to make the government more efficient.
Suzanne McAuliffe, speaker of the Assembly of Delegates, made the proposal at a recent meeting of the Charter Review Committee. She said the proposal is based on the structure of Dukes County government, where an administrator runs the county but the policies and decisions would fall to the Assembly of Delegates.
Ms. McAuliffe said that a larger body of 15 members would have more minds, more ideas and more direction in the towns, and that the change would make the county more accountable to the towns.
“I just thought it was worth considering,” Ms. McAuliffe said. “It’s a way of increasing accountability and engaging the towns more in regional government.”
Public comment on the charter review proposal is set for Wednesday, October 16, at 4:30 PM at the Eastwing Conference Center of the Old Jail House, Barnstable County Complex, 3195 Main Street, Barnstable.
The Assembly of Delegates, which is made up of 15 representatives (one from each town on the Cape), is made up of the same members as the Charter Review Committee; however the voting process is slightly different.
In the Charter Review Committee, each member has one vote and majority rules, but the Assembly of Delegates uses each town’s population to weigh a member’s vote.
Barnstable County Administrator John (Jack) Yunits Jr. said the process of revising county government would take a long time, and he does not think it would get done by the 2020 election. He added that the process would be quicker if they were not planning to modify compensation and duties.
“It has to go first to the Legislature and then to the voters, and that’s a process that’s going to take a considerable amount of time,” Mr. Yunits said.
Barnstable County has two branches of government—the Assembly of Delegates, which serves as a legislative branch, and the Board of County Commissioners, which heads the executive branch.
The Board of County Commissioners is made up of a body of three whose role is to prepare budgets for submission to the Assembly of Delegates, supervise revenue collection and fund disbursement, and to propose measures for the Assembly on which to act. The commissioners also can appoint or remove the county administrator and all county employees.
The Assembly of Delegates maintains a system of checks and balances over the Board of County Commissioners and is responsible for adopting new legislation.
Commissioner Ronald Beaty Jr. said that the Charter Review Committee proposal seems biased and unobjective. In a statement, he called it an “infantile proposal” that is a “misguided attempt at a regional power grab.”
Mr. Beaty said that trying to have just one person answer to a 15-member board is “crazy.”
“With three people, we usually have a consensus,” Mr. Beaty said. “It’s rare that we have a major disagreement.”
Mr. Yunits said that at the end of the day, the county needs to make sure its residents’ lives are better, easier and more economical.
“At the end of the day, my job is to do my job, which is to make sure the county is running efficiently, and we are. Our last four budgets have been flatlined,” Mr. Yunits said.
“The people who work here love the Cape,” he said, “and they go above and beyond to make sure they’re doing their job every day.”