Commentary by Bob Rodericks: Are You About to Lose Your Voting Rights, EP?
It now appears that because of certain irregularities that occurred after the 2012 local election, candidates like myself and others are being told that we might not be placed on the 2018 ballot and can't run for office. The events that caused this example of poor government are cloudy but, yet, crystal clear to some. I am disheartened to think that the many voters and residents who have supported my candidacy for East Providence City Council-at-Large, may not get the chance to vote for me. Not to mention the money and effort our campaign has spent to date. More importantly, the theft of a clean election should rattle every single voter to the core. This is why myself and some others decided to seek office. Some of us think it is long overdue to bring professionalism and honesty to EP government.
What happened? Here are some facts, to the best of my knowledge:
- In 2012 a City Council resolution was passed by voters to change the term of a council person from two to four years. The resolution stated that it was effective upon passage and needed no further action.
- The then City Council did not have the city clerk codify the new charter change and amend the charter as voters approved.
- The city clerk said the council was listening to advice from then city solicitor who advised that General Assembly ratification was needed.
- After a while the EP State House delegation introduced matching bills in the House and Senate to ratify what voters approved.
- The final step would be for the General Assembly to submit the bills to the Governor's desk for a signature giving final approval.
- The bills passed but were never given to the Governor. Therefore the city government change of four year terms never took place. This in defiance of voter wishes.
- In April of 2014 former councilperson Chrissy Rossi asked City Clerk Casci if Solicitor Chapman knows "if this Charter Amendment requires General Assembly Ratification and if so what State Law references this."
- Also at this time, the approved local referendum also allowed for the city council approval of teacher contracts. This never passed through the State House but has been enacted locally. If the City didn't abide by four year terms for lack of State action then why are school contracts treated differently? Doesn't add up in my mind.
- In September of 2017, I asked now City Manager Timothy Chapman about this. He replied that "... election laws are a power reserved unto the General Assembly and it is necessary to seek validation and ratification by the General Assembly. Obviously, in order for the bill to become law it also needs to be transmitted to the Governor for signature or for the 10 days without her signature to elapse to become law."
- I think the difference here is that we are talking about city government and not election laws. State ratification was not needed. The city council could have and should have amended the charter as voters mandated.
I appreciate mayoral candidate Chrissy Rossi again bringing up the issue of City Councils ignoring voter results. But I disagree with saying that the solution is to revert the calendar back to seek a remedy. Mistakes were made by prior governmental officials, at the City or State or with both. The answer isn't to say that Bob Rodericks, Ricardo Mourato, Nathan Cahoon, Joshua Pereira, Michael Elias and any other announced candidates for City Council are prohibited from seeking office this year.
I agree with Councilman Joe Botelho who was very upset recently and said that this should have been enacted in 2012 "with no further action required." Joe made some poignant comments. But it took all this time for a public discussion to ensue. The matter is easily fixed this November with no harm or loss of rights to anyone.
Saying that the current council members now have two more years left to serve is assuring that all incumbents are automatically re-elected. This is unheard of and tramples all over democracy. I agree with the four year terms as it removes the annual political campaigning that happens with two year terms but this isn't the way to fix a wrong.
Furthermore the 2016 legal election ballot for each EP City Council candidate clearly stated: "WITHOUT PARTY MARKS OR DESIGNATION" COUNCIL-AT-LARGE TWO Year Term. Vote for 1." The language stating "two year term" was clearly stated for each candidate. When voters cast their ballots in 2012, 2014 and 2016 it was clearly said to be for a two year term. I repeat, the last legal election ballots for City Council in 2012, 2014 and 2016 all stated "Two Year Term" for each council seat. That's what people voted for! Black and white. It isn't the voter's fault that political games took place.
This is not the first time that voter preference has been ignored by some in our government. Even though EP voters have twice approved the construction of a new recreation center to replace the ancient Riverside Junior High building on Bullocks Point Avenue in Riverside, it never happened. Some will say the bond issue wasn't prepared but that is because city officials refused to do so after voter approval. Again, democracy trampled on.
The answer here is simple to anyone supporting responsible government. Find out what caused this mess and fix it this year. Current council members stated at this past meeting that they have been pressured by text during some meetings to vote a certain way. If elected, my phone will stay shut off during meetings. The November 2018 ballot should say four year terms for City Council. If I ever get the chance to serve on this City Council, I can assure all voters that your voice will never again be ignored.
(This commentary is solely the opinion of Bob Rodericks. Shared items do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication. It is not our intent to take sides on any issues, but to present content that is interesting to all individuals. We reserve the right to alter / remove any and all content.) - The Reporter.