City Councillor Giovanni Recupero was all set to try to help several constituents in his district on Monday night by putting in an order that would put an end to them having to pay parking meters in front of their homes.
That was, until the City Charter got in his way.
Recupero told the Record that residents contacted him and said they couldn’t get any satisfaction from the Traffic Commission for a situation that has existed for years on Congress Street and a handful of other streets. That situation is that they live close to the Central Business District and have to pay parking meters to park in front of their homes.
Unlike some other streets, they apparently don’t qualify for a restricted pass.
Recupero wanted to change that, but had to withdraw his order because it violated a section of the 2004 City Charter. Now he said he wants to look into making some changes that would allow the Council to have more power in deciding such issues.
“I think maybe the Council should look to reverse that decision from 2004 so that we can have more power to help people when they ask us to help,” he said. “I am elected to help people and they call me for these kinds of things and I can’t do anything. That doesn’t make sense to me and I think I’d like to look into changing that.”
City Solicitor Cheryl Watson said the Charter doesn’t allow Recupero to order the Traffic Commission to do anything. She said that, as a resident, he can petition the Commission as anyone can. She said that it is possible for him to discuss the matter in subcommittee or to put in a request through the Council.
She said some streets do allow residents to have a placard that gives them amnesty from paying the meters 100 feet on either side of their home. The areas in question, though, may not qualify because of being too close to the business district.
Council President Matt Frank said there are ways to work around the Charter, and he might not be so keen on absorbing responsibilities of the Traffic Commission.
“The intent of the order I sympathize with because it makes sense,” he said. “It’s just a matter of protocol…I find that boards and commissions do listen to city councillors and have a respect for city councillors and our input when we give it. If the Traffic Commission hasn’t heard of the situation, obviously Councillor Recupero has and he gets the calls asking for help. I’ve had similar situations in my district. That said, I think it’s working the way it should. We’re not experts on traffic movements and I’m not sure I’d like to get into the minutiae of dealing with that. I’m pretty confident something could come of this if Councillor Recupero goes through other channels.”
But Recupero and some other councillors are tired of being restricted by a Charter that has its roots in receivership and severely limits the power of elected officials.
There was once a reason for that, naturally, in Chelsea’s recent history.
Newer councillors like Recupero feel that maybe it’s time to revisit some of those restrictions.
“I’m elected to help the people and time and time again I am told that I don’t have the authority under the Charter to help them,” he said. “I think maybe it’s time to look at those things. We’re the ones who are elected to do these kinds of things.”
Frank said that while he did not agree with absorbing Traffic Commission duties, he would like to absorb more power from boards like the License Commission.
“Actually, I would prefer to get a little more power back from the License Commission whereas their decisions have much more impact on the residents and the neighborhoods,” he said. “When a bar goes into a neighborhood, that can change things very quickly and we should have some say in that as elected officials.”