Newburyport City Charter Review Process



After more than a decade of discourse on the matter, Newburyport is about to initiate a full review of its City Charter, which may include a change to its current plan of city government.

First incorporating as a city form of government on June 24, 1851, Newburyport reorganized in 1919 under City Charter Plan B, which is "a city government and legislative body composed of a mayor and City Council, the councillors being elected partly at large and partly from districts or wards of the city." And while there have been revisions to the city's ordinances, it has been three generations (of 30 years) since comprehensive review of the City Charter.

Coincidentally, this chapter in Newburyport's "history in the making" will be bookmarked by two milestones in the Waterside community's history: The formal process begins in the year 2009 (which marks the 245-year milestone of the Waterside Third Parish of Newbury's formation as the separate town of Newburyport in 1764) and ends in the year 2011 (which marks the 160-year milestone that Newburyport, annexing its present bounds, would be organized as a city form of government).

City Seal, adopted 1851

The process itself is dictated by Massachusetts General Law. Those interested are invited to SMILE (Seek More Information/insight Linked/logged Electronically) below.

Voters approved the ballot question on 11/3/09 (Election Day coinciding with the Full Beaver Moon); with the nine candidates receiving the most votes comprising the Charter Review Commission.
By statute the Charter Commission’s first public hearing must be held within 45 days of the election; taking place on 12/16/09 (coincidentally the New [Blue] Moon). Another public hearing has been scheduled for 9/24/10 (coinciding with the Full Harvest Moon). The statute requires that the Charter Commission complete its preliminary report which is to be published and submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General for an “advisory opinion” within 16 months from the election date, by early March, 2011(coinciding with the New Sap Moon): Within a two-month timeframe, the Charter Commission then completes its final report just 18 months from the election date, by early May, 2011 (coinciding with the Full Flower Moon); The Commission's recommendations (by majority opinion) are to be placed before the voters for acceptance or rejection via referendum on the 11/08/11 ballot. (TIMELINE: November 2011.)


Seek More Information/insight Logged/linked Electronically (SMILE)


Current Newburyport City Charter Review Commission Web site:

Commission's prior (inactive) Web sites and blogs offering more insight and hindsight:

Insight concerning Amendments and Revisions to City Charter, city form of government:

[NOTE: Massachusetts General Law also defines the process to expressly extend the length of the mayoral term to four years (from the current two year term) without necessity for a full charter review. The webpage which outlines the petition for such a ballot question can be found at this link without]

Supporting information from state and municipal agencies:

Experiences of other communities conducting charter review:

  • Somerville Journal article (published December 15, 2008) entitled "Fight brews over review of Somerville's City Charter" can be found this link without (archived at

Local media coverage about Newburyport's City Charter review process (updates to this record in progress):

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