AUBURN — The Auburn City Council on Monday continued its review of the city charter, a process that takes place every 15 years.

While an earlier session focused on the possibility of initiating staggered terms and term limits for elected officials, a follow-up session Monday resulted in proposals regarding local referendum questions and an annual State of the City address by the mayor.

Prior to starting the review, the council opted to conduct a simpler committee review process rather than forming an official charter commission, but the decision means the council must avoid proposing “substantial” changes to the charter.

A legal review will decide the legality of the changes, but any proposed changes must be approved by Auburn voters, most likely next year.

During Monday’s session, councilors discussed the process for initiating referendums, with a proposal made to clarify the timeline for such measures.

Mayor Jason Levesque made a motion to add language stating a referendum that fails or passes by a majority vote may not be subject to another referendum within six months, and that no language can be included in a referendum question that mandates a minimum or maximum time the ordinance, if passed, has to remain law in the city.


Levesque said he made the motion after seeing “what happened in Portland” on Election Day, when voters approved a series of referendums, including rent control and a minimum wage increase.

In Portland, the City Council cannot repeal or amend any of the newly passed ordinances for at least five years, unless done through another citywide referendum.

Levesque also proposed adding language that stipulates the mayor’s responsibility to conduct a State of the City address annually (except on inauguration years), which he called an important update for the public.

Levesque issued such an address last year, and plans to make another this January, but he said adding language to the charter would ensure the tradition is carried on.

“I want to do it because I think it’s important but I think it’s important for future mayors to do it as well,” he said.

Councilor Tim MacLeod questioned what would happen if a mayor did not want to conduct the annual speech.


“They’d have to by charter,” Levesque said.

Councilor Katie Boss said that since the primary role of the mayor is to communicate with the public, the proposal “feels pretty granular” in only specifying in the charter one piece of the mayor’s important role of communication.

The council also looked briefly at what other cities in Maine have done to stagger terms and create term limits, with City Manager Phil Crowell stating most municipalities switching over to staggered terms have used three-year terms.

Auburn also has no term limits, while some cities have them for either councilors, the mayor or both.

In Lewiston, the mayor has a term limit of three consecutive terms, or six years.

Crowell said the city attorney will review some of the council’s proposals ahead of the next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 30, and will render an opinion on whether the proposals are deemed “substantial” changes.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.