Minutes of the Meeting
Charter Review Commission
21 February 2002
The thirteenth meeting of the Charter Review Commission began at 7:00 P.M. in the Police Station Conference Room on Thursday, February 21. All members were present.
Guests in attendance during the meeting were former Council members Ellicott Wright, Craig Amerigian, Nick Robertson, and Rep. William Murphy. Each was asked about concerns that were in the present Charter, or those items that might have been put into it.
Mr. Wright spoke of considering putting in a date and time for the financial Town Meeting, possibly even a Saturday, and maybe even later in the year.
He expressed concern in regard to the process to follow in removing a Council member, and in the accepted policy of selecting the sixth highest vote getter to fill the vacancy. He thought there was some merit to the two party system in Town elections. Parties do serve some useful function in the process of becoming elected to the Council: for example, determining eligibility of candidates, and getting candidates known through newspapers and other literature. There is some merit to a nonpartisan system. It usually works out that, once elected, the Council serves the community in a nonpartisan manner in most situations, even with a party system. He discussed the possibility of longer terms, and the possibility of staggered terms. In regard to continuity of Council concerns with newly elected members, he felt that former members, the Town Clerk, Town Administrator, and Department heads had been most helpful.
It was pointed out by Mr. Amerigian that the president of the Town Council does not have any more power than any other Council member. He has the responsibility of conducting the meeting properly.
Both men spoke to the issue of committees and commissions and boards. Some are too large, some donít have enough members to make critical decisions and suggestions. There need to be guides as to quorums and associate members.
Mention was made of the Harbor Management Commission. It has itís own budget, which is reviewed by the Town Council. It has ten members and is rather politically charged. The Water Study Commission once had seven members, which has dwindled to only three at present.
There was a discussion of the Town Council size. Mr. Robertson and the others felt the size was sufficient at five. Most felt four year terms were too long. Two year terms are the best. Most R.I. cities and towns have Council members serve two years.
In regard to Town elections, it was generally accepted that Town elections should be kept separate from larger elections where local issues and personalities get lost.
Mr. Robertson suggested that, if at all possible, in the case of a vacancy in the position of Town Administrator, a member of the Town Council should act in that position until a permanent replacement can be installed.
Rep. Murphy spoke in regard to a separate Water board. Both he and Mr. Amerigian felt that this responsibility held by the Council at present was not burdensome to Council members. Mr. Murphy cautioned against a hybrid committee of a water board working as advisors to the Council. He said it would be best to leave it with the Council, or make a clean break and set up a separate water board. Mr. Murphy was against eliminating the financial Town Meeting. He felt it gives the people a voice. He did, however, think it could be moved to a date in May. In regard to changing the fiscal year, he was definitely in favor of changing to a July 1st through June 30th fiscal year to coincide with all other cities and towns in the state. The change would have to be clearly explained to the public in regard to one "long year" and floating a loan to cover expenses.
When our guests left, we continued with general concerns of the meeting. A motion was made, seconded, and so voted to accept the minutes of the February 7th meeting as written.
The chairman presented us with a packet containing documents such as the Charter with the "start up" language removed, candidates for changes, Charter committee regulations of other Towns, Mr. Suttonís Charter consultant notes, Charter Review Commission minutes of the 1984 study Commission and a copy of the proposed revisions printed March 15, 1985. We should review these for the next meetings.
Our next meetings will be at the Police Station on the following dates:
Thursdays - 7 P.M. - March 14th and 28th
Tuesdays - 7 P.M. - April 9th and 23rd
Tuesdays - 7 P.M. - April 30th and May 7th
A motion was made, seconded, and so voted to adjourn at 9P.M..
Nancy L. Mason
Nancy L. Mason