Charter Commission’s Process Lacks Transparency
On Thursday, March 2, I attended the first meeting of the Charter Commission to set the framework for the dramatic shift from a city manager to a mayor form of government in East Providence as mandated by the electorate in November.
During this first meeting, I became concerned about their discussion on the commission's processes. While the commission's meetings will be open to the public, the draft charter revisions will not be open to the public process. Several appointed members were motivated to close this vital aspect of the process due to some of the appointees’ use of social media and blogs. I agree that this medium of communication is not how this commission should conduct the public’s business, nor is it within the confines of the Open Meetings Law. If this was such a concern, Mayor Briden and the members of the City Council should have more carefully examined and vetted these appointees prior to establishing this body for the purposes of such an important step toward the next chapter in our city’s history. Rather, social media was used as an excuse to limit public input during this stage of the commission’s process during their weekly public meetings. In fact, no public comment was allowed during this first meeting either, setting the stage for limited public engagement to come.
It would behoove the Charter Commission to be transparent and open to public comments at each meeting. In addition, there should be an open period for public comments to be submitted in writing with at least one public hearing to receive comments before submitting the final proposal for review by the City Council. I am deeply concerned that this proposal to change the framework of our municipal government will be steamrolled to the City Council with a foregone conclusion to move forward without adequate public review and comment first.