Officials consider having town manager vote coincide with presidential primary

Officials consider having town manager vote coincide with presidential primary

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Town officials this week looked at the option of placing the vote for a potential change to an appointed town manager form of government on the ballot during the presidential primary in April.

The issue was scheduled to go before the state Board of Elections on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

The move, which would eliminate elections for the town’s top office, would require a voter-authorized change to the town charter.

And while many in town seem to support the idea of placing the issue on a ballot, they have not seen eye to eye on timing.

Done concurrently with a municipal election, the question could land the town with a “lame duck” administrator for two years.

But special mid-year elections in town have had a decidedly low voter turnout in the past.

Timing the vote with the primary, meanwhile, could potentially allow a new leader to be appointed by the end of 2016.

Residents testified both for and against the idea at a public hearing this week, with several suggesting the vote should wait until the full election in November.

“Very few people come out for primaries,” said George Dys. “I’d like to see the vote for this at a regular election. I think the town deserves it.”

Resident Daniel Halloran pointed out that when a similar change was proposed in 2010, only 34 percent of voters were in favor of it.

“I think what we’re doing is wrong,” Halloran said of the proposal. “I don’t think you can do it. We’re chasing our tail here.”

But former Town Council President John Flaherty said that in 2010, the language placed before voters on the ballot was defective.

“I was one of the people who didn’t vote for it,” Flaherty said. “I thought it was an open door to cronyism.”

Now, Flaherty is among proponents who believe the complexity of town management makes the idea of an outside, professional hire ideal. Language in the current proposal, they say, has been added to create checks and balances, and ensure that only qualified candidates are considered.

“I’m not saying if we move to a town manager form of government that all of our problems will go away,” Flaherty said.

School Committee member Michael Clifford said that as a taxpayer, he’s tired of paying for mistakes made by elected town leaders.

“There have been mistakes made by town administrators that had the best intentions at heart,” Clifford said. “I think all of those things can be prevented if you have someone who has professional experience.”

Resident Mark LaBossiere, suggested that the town look for an alternative approach, such as adding qualifications to the elected town administrator position.

“As a voter, I like the ability to vote on my leaders and I don’t like the idea of losing control,” said LaBossiere. “There are other avenues that you might be able to take.”

Clifford, who served on the Charter Review Commission in 2010, said he believes the board looked into the option, and was told it could not be done.

Elizabeth Faricy, who served as North Smithfield’s town administrator for two years starting in 1989 said she has a unique perspective on the topic. Faricy went on to serve as an appointed town manager in West Bridgewater, Mass. for 21 years.

“Did I have the experience to run the town? I don’t think I did at that time,” Faricy said of the 1989 election.” I happened to be the person who won.”

Faricy said she believes she was elected because she went door to door to speak with residents. Two years later, Faricy said she considered running the town more important than campaigning and lost in the resulting vote in 1991.

She said she considers the two year learning experience in North Smithfield the equivalent of getting a master’s degree in public administration. But having leadership change every two years, she said, is not what’s best for the town.

“I think with a town manager you would have continuity,” Faricy said. Plus, “with an appointed town manager, there will be a proper vetting process.”

Under the current proposal, the town would hire a manager for a three year term with the potential to extend employment for a second term of up to three years.

Council members also seemed somewhat split on the issue.

“I personally as a resident would support a move to manager, but I don’t know that a special election is the best thing “ said Councilor Anthony Soly.

Soly pointed out that when he was chosen to replace the late Ernest Alter at a special election in July, only 828 people voted. He suggested the town should look at the turnout at past presidential primaries.

“I wouldn’t have a problem running this concurrent if we’re getting the numbers out there,” Soly said.

Councilor Paul Zwolenski said he still supports residents’ right to elect their top official.

“I’m a firm believer that the people in this town will make an intellectual decision as to who they want to lead,” he said. “I still believe this decision belongs to the voters of North Smithfield.”

Still, he said, he’ll support putting the issue back on the ballot.

“Let’s put this to rest once and for all,” Zwolenski said.

The councilor questioned if voters would have to affiliate with a party in the primary in order to vote on the charter change, but Solicitor David Igliozzi suggested the question could be placed on a separate ballot.

Robert Kando, executive director of the state board, said he is unaware of a municipality ever attempting such a move in the past, and said it was unclear how the board would act.

“I’m not aware of it ever having been done before,” Kando said.

The issue was the first item on the agenda for the Wednesday night meeting.

Update: On Wednesday, Dec. 9, the Board of Elections granted the town approval to place this item on the Presidential Primary ballot. For the full story, pick up next week's edition of The Breeze.

Comments

There is a reason most Cities and Towns are now going with Managers,it's called the Hamilton.

“Let’s put this to rest once and for all,” Zwolenski said.

Apparently, it will never be put to rest as long as there is that contingent of people intent upon getting their power and their puppet in place. Our town is a great town and we have it good, but the Hamilton haters are on the war path constantly and will never ever get my vote. I'm beginning to think that these haters are male chauvinists who just can't stand a woman in a position of power. Hmmm...maybe that's it. Crotchety old men who can't stand being led by a woman.

I am a Woman.

Putting it on the ballot for the Presidential primary ?

That's about a 9% turnout....

What's the Damn Hurry ?

"I am a woman"

Not sure if you are being truthful, but 99% of the haters are men. Just an observation and a theory. This issue has been settled already...2 TIMES! Believe me, the council people who vote for this will lose the next election. Nothing but a waste of town resources.

No matter your politics it makes sense.

It drives me crazy to see arguments about voter turnout. It should be considered a privilege to vote. In fact, it used to be. My Dad fought for our right to vote in WWII and raised me with the belief that it is our duty to vote.

So much of our lives today are easier than our predecessors had it yet we continue to complain. Off cycle voting / special election? First World Problem. I’ll be there to cast my vote.

I do feel that an outside professional may be the best person to deal with the disruptive schools union leaders.

I do feel Ms. Hamilton has done a good job for North Smithfield, considering the union recall tactical attacks.

It's not the charter schools in woonsocket or the contaminated wells and power lines running threw your back yard or to watch the Circus at dowling village.

Just a thought here...

Permalink Submitted by mydrivec on Thu, 2015-12-10 10:31

It drives me crazy to see arguments about voter turnout. It should be considered a privilege to vote. In fact, it used to be. My Dad fought for our right to vote in WWII and raised me with the belief that it is our duty to vote.

So much of our lives today are easier than our predecessors had it yet we continue to complain. Off cycle voting / special election? First World Problem. I’ll be there to cast my vote.

I served also. I don't understand what that has do to with an off year ballot question. Yes it is a privilege to vote but the question and problem the town is having is when.

It would seem to me that you as an elected School Committeeman would want the highest voter turnout possible, No ?

That's troublesome in so many ways that it drives you crazy this voter turnout issue.

Your last sentence turns your post and the issue into a joke. This is no laughing matter !

Glad you are going to show up to vote ....

Like a said before, I don't know what the hurry is but some elected officials in the town of North Smithfield seem to have some inside information. I will raise my issue and give my testimony with the State Board of Elections when they hold their meeting and vote on putting it on the ballot.

Let's see:
Contaminated wells - There are 13 Superfund sites in RI and 3 are in NS, are cleaned up and monitored and were closed back in the 1970s and 1980s...hardly anything to do with the current people in town government.

Dowling Village - so I take it that all the Dowling Village detractors don't EVER shop at ANY of those stores, right? Can you say hypocrisy?

Charter schools - a subject that seems to be split amongst the populace, so the jury is still out on that one.

Admit it...the Hamilton hate knows no boundaries when it comes to doom and gloom and trying to find anything wrong. Sorry, I love this town. It is a great place to live...and...we have ANOTHER budget surplus this year!

You had a budget surplus but you increased the budget, where are the savings. Go ask woonsocket why they are going belly up,i think its called spending. This is a Tiny Town and not a big city, most people never heard of North Smithfield.

It isn't a laughing matter but it IS laughable when compared to many of the injustices in the world today. I'm guessing folks in places like Syria have more important worries. Hence my First World Problem comment. Be thankful we have the option to vote or not because literally people have fought and died for that right.

Would I like to see a higher turnout? Of course but I haven't seen a good argument as to why there isn't a better turnout on off cycle elections. Again, it is a privilege to vote. If you see it that way, you will make every effort to be heard. Within reason, I don't see why you change an effort to appeal to the lowest common denomination of voter...the ones who only show for Presidential elections for example.

We would be better off getting a first year graduate from Bryant University with a MBA to run our town than what we have.

Quote;

" Lowest common denomination of voter..." ???

WOW !!! I didn't know there was such a thing.

Shame on you.

I'm sure this statement will be brought up many times in the future.

Bring it up all you want. If you think all voters are created equal, then you are delusional. Are you telling me you do not know anyone that can't be bothered to vote unless it is a full ballot?

You can vote without leaving your house for goodness sake. There is no excuse not to do it.

I'm sure no matter what I say, you will find fault...so have at it my friend. Honestly, half the comments in here simply prove the Scorpion and the Turtle parable.

I noticed you began to post awhile back when Mrs. Hamilton was being criticized for her role in the Mayoral Academy. Your posts faithfully defend her like a paid PR person. You always attribute criticism of her to just chatter from “Hamilton Haters”. Now you suggest that the move toward an appointed Town Manager is being driven by Hamilton Haters and male chauvinists.
You must have seen evidence of leadership over the last seven years that some of us have missed. Would you please describe one initiative for each year Mrs. Hamilton has served as Administrator. What initiatives has Mrs. Hamilton thought of, spearheaded, promoted and successfully brought to fruition which have benefited the Town?
Please take this opportunity to tell us what her creative initiatives have been.

Now I'm delusional ? Nice talk... I thought better of you than that.

Your the one that keeps putting your foot in your mouth.
This is in print and probably will be used against you by someone.

your quote " Lowest common denomination of voter..."

This should be posted on the Towns unofficial Facebook website and I'm sure it will be by morning.

You are such a Jackwagon.... Hater......

Sorry to disappoint you, but I am just someone who has lived in this town for close to 20 years now and although there have been some problems...like the supplemental school tax of 1999 that really ticked me off...the town is a great place to live. I am not going to sit here and start listing the initiatives that Ms. Hamilton has or has not supported. I don't have the time to play this back and forth game. You people are crying over nothing and other towns envy us. It all seems petty and ridiculous when you step back and compare us to other towns and the problems they have...like Smithfield for instance. There is an agenda afoot and obviously you are a part of it. Have a good night. I have a family to take care of and am done for the day.

Low voter turnout is no reason to postpone the opportunity for progress

You see, we in the silent majority are often silent because... well because we don’t always take the time to know the issues. Some of us are overextended running our families, a business or just trying to make ends meet. Others of us are busy with hobbies, fantasy sports clubs or social media. The point is that very few of us are as engaged as we know we should be in the decision making for the places we live. We know we’re better than this, but we take some comfort knowing we’re not much different than most others. Besides, do you have any idea how much time it would take staying on top of all the important issues facing our planet, our country, our state and our town! Sometimes we do show up and sound off if something important to us is at risk because of a budget crisis – real or perceived. And many of us do talk with our neighbors comparing notes about why we think we’re paying more in taxes than we should. In the end we know there are others out there doing the homework and fighting the good fight for us. They don’t call it a “representative” form of government for nothing.

This time of year some of us even make a new year’s resolution that we’re going to pay more attention, take the time to be better informed or actually get involved. Something always seems gets in the way and it becomes like the gym membership that’s wasted by February.

Still, even most of US see no reason to coddle us … waiting until our civic apathy is so overcome by the relentless cacophony of political signs and ads, guilting us into our civic duty. I mean heaven forbid we go to work or Brigido’s after a general election without a sticker saying “I Voted Today”. Who needs that grief?

Not holding a special election because of expected low turnout though is downright un-American. No one is mysteriously chaining us to the recliner. In off-year elections, it's just easier to satisfy our apathy without as much social pressure or guilt.

Besides, where does all the coddling end anyway? What’s next? Delay sporting events or church until all of the stragglers arrive so they don’t miss anything?

If we truly cared that much, we’d be out there casting a vote. Even WE know the world should be run by those of us who show up.

Well said!

Sadly, apathy is the rule in most towns. Like Majority said, life does get in the way. I have no issues with that. Just don't use it as an excuse when you are all caught up on your favorite TV show but don't know what is happening in your town. That is a choice everyone is free to make for themselves.

I can't tell you much that went on in my first 8 years in North Smithfield (2001-2009) but I woke up and decided to get involved and have been since then. Both were choices I made. The first took no effort. The second, well...

And Craig...let the voters decide next time around. I stand by my comments above. Post it wherever you wish. I'm not a hater, just calling it as I see it. Always have and always will.

The people in this town that take the time to actually speak with me know I will do this because I take my position seriously. Like I have always said...I am in the book. Pick up the phone. You might be surprised.

I've only been in town since 1976 and have experienced TAs with backgrounds ranging from truck drivers to CPAs to corporate business retirees to our current marketing pro and other regular citizens. All have done well.

Face it folks. This is merely the continuination of a circular discussion more than 10 years old.and each time it was going to be the one to that finally resolved the issue.

So play it again Sam and watch people dance to the music

George Hemond

If the modern issues of the town are more complicated than in the past, then you need a professional to manage them. Therefore, a hired manager based on skill sets for the job makes more sense than an elected one based on personal popularity. If the Town Administrator was doing the job well there would be no negative discourse about town operations and no call for the need of a Town Manager position. Plus, the Board of Elections just made the cost factor a moot issue and turnout will be strong due to the tenor of this Presidential election. (oh, I feel anyone that does not vote in a Presidential or Primary election without a valid excuse, does not have the right to complain about whom to support). God bless the USA

Well said.

I agree with your comment on the Manager's position.

Concerning, the President primary, I do expect a large turnout. I will be voting for the fist time in my life in the Republican primary, for the Donald. God bless America and Merry Christmas.

Funny that the stores sells holiday trees and once it's in my car it becomes a Christmas tree.

I am a firm believer in religious freedom, but the extremists' rights ends where my rights begin. Sorry.

Does the error in the RFP in todays PROJO Legal Section cause a delay for the school facility bond. First there will be a deficit because of the RISE Mayoral Academy, now this error. Let's get our act together please !

Maybe not a good idea.Be alot of ass kissing, but i guess they like that.

Can you stick the point on Town Manger vs Town Admin? Your arguments lose value when you stray into the abyss of absurdity.

The First Amendment is pretty simple. Religious freedom is given to those we agree and disagree with. We can't pick and choose. With your logic we should bar all catholics because Timothy McVeigh was one, Trump is an idiot and you're a fool for wasting your valuable vote on him, And no, I'm not a union teacher - before you bring that one trick pony back.

Well that's it. The question will be on the ballot AGAIN for the April Presidential Primary.....

Sorry, I know what the First Amendment says. I am exercising it right now. Let me repeat what I said, "your religious rights end where my religious rights begin", check with the ACLU before you talk about the constitution. It's call reverse discrimination and the supreme court is addressing it right now.

Trump tell it like it is and people like you do not like that.

I see you do not support the fist amendment unless it's your view, right?????????

It's a Town Manager and Merry Christmas.

I've met Donald Trump and i have another friend who has worked with him.Good business man but poor people person, he should stick to business. Why? Here are things shouted as protestor dragged away at Trump rally at 10:55 PM - 14 Dec 2015 all captured on video by NBC:

"Kick his ass!"
"Shoot him!"
"Bitch!"
"Sieg Heil!"

That's telling it like it is.

Town Manager. Merry Christmas

I heard the same and much worst for Hillary. You got to get out more.