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Western Mass Politics & Insight Political Guide

Know Thy Government

Welcome to WMassP&I’s political guide, Know Thy Government, a one-stop shop for brief details on elected officials, political players and others in Springfield and the across Massachusetts.  Our focus is and remains for the time being Springfield itself, but as time goes by we hope to include profiles of other elected officials, including the mayors of major Western Mass cities, key Beacon Hill Legislators and others who make the politics of the 413 tick.

The information on the links below includes past elections, key votes, biographical details and a brief assessment of the politicians themselves.

Springfield Municipal Government

Springfield Area State Legislators

Massachusetts Statewide Elected Officials

Massachusetts Federal Elected Officials

A Note on Municipal Government in Massachusetts.

As is common for New England, Massachusetts has two primary forms of government for municipalities.  The first is town meeting/selectman.  Under this form of government a town meeting constituting all register voters in the town (or an assembly representing such voters by precinct) form the legislative branch.  The selectman, usually a three person body, represent the executive branch and make executive decisions for the town, particularly appointment to boards that run departments within a town.  Many towns, however, have independently elected commissions or boards that make decisions, a option that can, in theory, exist in any community.

Cities, by contrast, not only have significantly different operational structures, but have some form of elected legislature.  Prior to Massachusetts’ adoption of its home rule charter, cities could only choose one of six setups for a municipal government.  Before those were crafted early in the 20th century, becoming a city required a charter from the legislature.  However, with the adoption of Home Rule procedures, often referring to municipalities’ right to charter commissions, the actual structure of local government can vary greatly from the outlines prescribed in either a charter or the “plans” described under Massachusetts law.  Complicating matters further, is the right of municipalities to request a home rule petition that grants them powers not allowed under the general laws or making changes to local government outside of the charter/home rule or plan system.

For some perspective, Holyoke operates under a nineteenth century charter, albeit one modified by home rule petitions.  Springfield operates under a Plan A model system again modified by home rule petitions.  Agawam, by contrast has a home charter, like Worcester, but both greatly mirror the Plan system, which is as much as practicality as anything else.  Much of both charters appears to contemplate things like the structure of government, which in Springfield is handled through ordinance, like the hierarchy of city agencies.

Despite the “home rule” offered by the charter process, many municipalities have opted to petition Beacon Hill for changes rather than go through rather limiting and restrictive home rule chartering process, although minor changes to any charter, whether a state grant, a plan or a home rule charter (one written entirely in-house under the Home Rule Amendment).

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