Special Election Tuesday Nov. 7th: Six Questions Before EP Voters
By Bob Rodericks
(Charter Commission Chairman Urges Support of all Ballot Questions by Voters)
75% of local Voters Approved of a "Strong Mayor" Government.
The East Providence City Council adopted proposed City Charter amendments August 9th, 2017 and August 24th, 2017. On Tuesday November 7, there will be a special election in East Providence. Voters will have an opportunity to approve or disapprove proposed amendments to the City Charter as passed by the East Providence Charter Review Commission and approved and/or amended by the City Council.
Recently the East Providence Charter Review Commission Chairman and former assistant city solicitor James Russo, commented on the issue.
"A city’s charter is to our city’s ordinances what the US Constitution is to the US Code or the RI Constitution is to the General Laws, namely a governing document and a framework within which ordinances and practices must comply with," writes Chairman Russo.
"The current charter was signed by the original charter commission on September 21, 1954 and ratified at an election in 1955. It has been amended through the years but remained in largely the same form as it was when it was adopted until 2016 when the voters approved an amendment which provides for a mayor-council form of government to replace the current council-manager form.
"The council-approved amendments were then grouped into six ballot questions by the law department and the council passed resolutions placing each of these on the ballot," explained Russo.
Russo backs approval of all 6 Questions: "Writing only for myself as chairman of the commission I strongly support each of these six amendments. The Commission worked extremely hard to craft our proposals and engaged in very productive discussions concerning them. In my opinion each of these amendments would go a long way in easing the transition from our current form of government to our new one and thus would urge passage of each one," added the Commission Chairman.
Six (6) questions are put before local voters.
Article III. Mayor. Shall the Mayor’s term of office be four (4) years? (instead of two) (Most of the commission felt a two-year term is simply too short for various reasons; ability to implement an agenda, ability to impact the budget and having to campaign again so soon after taking office among others, said Russo)
Recall. Shall the Mayor, Council members, and School Committee members be subject to recall? (This proposal takes the state standard and adds to it. Thus, a recall cannot take place just because someone didn’t agree with the outcome of an election, explains Russo).
Presently certain areas of the Charter are designed for the previous city manager form of government and conflict with the newly created strong Mayor form of government. Shall the Charter be amended to conform to the strong Mayor form of government, including:
Requiring the compensation for Mayor and Council to be set by ordinance;
Establishing that the Mayor, City Council, and School Committee each be inaugurated on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January following a general election;
Granting limited subpoena powers to the City Council and Mayor to investigate legitimate public concerns;
Transferring the power to manage city departments from the City Council to the Mayor;
Giving the Mayor the power to remove new department heads;
Clarifying veto procedure; and Clarifying the process to replace the Mayor or a city councilor when he or she cannot fulfill the duties of the office?
Appointments. Shall the Charter be amended as follows:
Shall members of the Planning Board, Zoning Board, Board of assessment review, and Personnel Hearing Board be nominated by the Mayor and approved by the Council;
Shall members of the bipartisan Canvassing Authority be nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council in accordance with Rhode Island Election Law;
Shall the Planning Board, Zoning Board, Board of assessment review, and Personnel Hearing Board have at least one member from each city Ward;
Shall the Planning Board convert its two (2) alternate members to full members, creating a seven (7) member board without alternates;
Shall the Personnel Hearing Board and the Board of Assessment Review increase from three (3) members to five (5) members;
Shall members of the Board of Assessment review have staggered terms such that a maximum of one appointment shall occur each year;
Shall the Mayor, subject to council approval, appoint Municipal Court and Probate Court judges;
Updating the description and record keeping practice of the Probate Court and the Municipal Court?
QUESTION 5: Finance Department and Fund Balance.
Shall the Charter be amended to:
Require the Council to set purchasing policies by ordinance;
Require the Council to set public sale of bonds notice requirements by ordinance;
Require the Council to approve contracts over fifty thou- sand dollars ($50,000);
Remove the requirement that all notes issued may be sold at not less than par;
Correct ambiguous language regarding the Fund Balance calculation;
Increase the total fund balance requirement from ten per- cent (10%) to twelve percent (12%);
Decrease the restricted fund balance from ten percent (10%) to seven percent (7%);
Create a new five percent (5%) unrestricted fund balance?
Charter Update. Presently, certain areas of the Charter are outdated and now conflict with state law and or conflict with current practice. Shall the Charter be amended to update provisions and conform to state law as well as current practice, including:
Eliminates the requirement for the defunct Sinking Fund Board;
Eliminates the requirement for defunct finance department positions and practices;
Codify the requirement that the police chief must have five (5) years of experience above the rank of sergeant;
Codify the requirement that the fire chief must have five (5) years of experience at the rank of captain or above;
Codify state and federal requirements regarding harassment and discrimination;
Codify state law requirements regarding the process and procedure for the appointment or removal of all school employees;
Remove defunct descriptions of ward boundaries;
Update the definition of miscellaneous revenues;
Codify state law descriptions of the municipal tax cap?
Polling Places are Changed for the November 7, 2017 Election:
Ward One City View Manor 99 Goldsmith Ave.
Ward Two St. Francis Church 81 N. Carpenter St.
Ward Three St. Martha’s Church 2595 Pawtucket Ave.
Ward Four Crescent Park Manor 243 Crescent View Ave
For more specific voting information please contact the city canvassing office at City Hall, (401) 435-7500 x11110. The polls will be open from 7:00 am until 8:00 pm.