Minutes of the Meeting
Charter Review Commission
03 January 2002
The tenth meeting of the Charter Review Commission began at 7:10 pm in the Conference Room of the Police Station, on January 3, 2002. Absent from the meeting were alternate Rena Tyson, and Council liaison Norma Willis.
A motion was made, seconded and so voted that the minutes of the last meeting be accepted as written.
We held a general discussion of the Charters of other towns similar in size to ours. We discovered that some of these towns do not have town administrators; some have what is referred to as Business Managers. They list when the charter was adopted, effective, and when amended. Some list the amendments. Some donít.
A discussion was held regarding the fact that, upon reviewing records at the Town Hall, it was voted to set up a Charter commission study group in 1952. The enabling legislation was enacted in 1956 through the State. The first Charter commissioners were elected in 1973. Four of those members still live in Jamestown, and might be available for commentary. Robert Sutton, who was a research associate at the Bureau of Government at U.R.I., assisted the first commissioners in preparing the Charter. He was eventually our first Town Administrator. He, too, still lives on the Island and might be available to comment on the process.
We were presented with census figures reviewing statistics for 1990 and 2000, regarding gender, age, group quarters, household (type), housing occupancy, and housing tenure. These figures showed an increase in population of 12.5%, and the fact that we had lost 111 rental units. The 45-54 year old age range had increased by 103%.
The group considered the fact that the Town Council, as a group, has the right to change things in the Charter by submitting legislation to be voted on; however, they also have the right to appoint a commission to review the Charter. The commission then presents their ideas to the Council for approval, and then to be voted on by the local electorate.
We should consider listing in the Charter how often it should be reviewed. Some other community Charters suggest review every five (5) years.
Our Charter was originally voted on for acceptance on November 5, 1974 by a vote of 676 - yes - to 406 - no. It became effective in 1975. It was reviewed in 1984, and again in 1992. On average a standard of about every ten years, considering proposals and acceptance.
We then held a general discussion including items that appeared in other Charters we might want to consider:
- the electorate can recall an elected official by a petition presented by a stated number of the electorate in disciplinary action.
- membership terms on commissions in regard to alternate members being called auxiliary members that can be called on whenever the situation necessitates
- budget increases exceeding 5% have to be approved by the State
- possibility of a juvenile hearing board
- municipal court has to be established through the State legislature, now we must go through Newport. The municipal court could consider minimum housing concerns, harbor commission problems, and enforcement issues for the Harbormaster
- most Charters agree that two years is the best for Council membersí term of office
We must remember that we canít just look at the size of other communities for comparison, as far as population. We were the first community in RI to have a Charter. Other communities have used our Charter as a guide in developing theirs.
A mention was made that, before we had a Town Administrator, we had a Town Clerk, Rosamond Tefft, who served for twenty years or more in the capacity of "town manager". It was also mentioned that, in the 1960s, there were 16 members on the planning board!
We discussed plans to invite input by former Charter review members, either by letter, fax, e-mail, or in person. We need to be prepared to ask them about areas they would like to have tackled but didnít; what they feel were strong issues and why; and their concerns regarding a Water/Sewer Board, among other questions. Special mention was made regarding members of the first commission, as well as Robert Sutton, who helped with the original Charter.
A motion was made, seconded and so voted to invite all former Charter review Commissioners to attend a meeting or send comments. We also discussed having present Council members attend and give their comments, as well as former Council members. We would hope the current Council could come as a group.
Our next meeting will be at 7:00 pm on Thursday, January 24, 2002 at the Police Station Conference Room. Motion made, seconded and so voted to adjourn the meeting at 8:20 pm.
Nancy L. Mason
Nancy L. Mason
C.R.C. - Secretary