Review Commission to present charter proposal next Thursday

Review Commission to present charter proposal next Thursday

NORTH SMITHFIELD – The group appointed to review the town charter has completed their work and is slated to make a presentation on its recommendation to the Town Council on Thursday, Nov. 16.

According to Paul Vadenais, chairman of the Charter Review Commission, the council will have to either accept or reject the proposal in its entirety for inclusion on a ballot in 2018.

Vadenais also said town residents have already had a chance to weigh in on the subject, and that no more public comment will be accepted on the process.

On Monday, Vadenais said his full commission will make a presentation on their conclusions on Thursday, Nov. 16, and the council must accept or reject their proposal.

“My understanding is once we present it, it’s a whole document,” said Vadenais.

Town Solicitor David Igliozzi questioned the assessment.

“They don’t have to put every proposition on the ballot,” the solicitor said.

Vadenais responded, “You and I differ on opinion on that. Based on what the charter says and what the state constitution says.”

Councilor Paul Zwolenski asked when town residents would get a chance to weigh in.

“You’ve already had it,” Vadenais said of a public hearing, referencing the start of the process. “It’s open to the public, but we’re not going to take public input on it. We’re past that.”

“The state constitution says you hire a charter commission and based on their work you put it before voters to either accept or reject,” he added.

The presentation by the commission is expected to begin around 7 p.m. on Nov. 16 and will likely be held at North Smithfield Middle School, but the agenda had not yet been published as of The Breeze’s print deadline.

Editor's note: The original version of this article stated that it was the Municipal Buildings Review Task Force, not the Charter Review Commission, that would be making a presentation on Nov. 16. Both commissions are chaired by Paul Vadenais, but it is the charter group that will be making a presentation.

Comments

Of course it's an all or nothing. This is so a few folks can get changes to the charter that promotes more spending and taxes. The uninformed town council will surely vote for this.

The Charter Review Commission has only held public hearings to allow the public the opportunity to suggest changes they feel are needed. That does not equate to, or negate, the need for the Town Council to hold public hearings on the actual proposals submitted to the Town Council by the Charter Review Commission. No one has had the chance to “weigh in” on the proposals being recommended by the Charter Review Commission. Personally, I find the suggestion that no further public comment is needed to be offensive. Why would anyone attempt to discourage public input on proposed charter changes? That isn’t just offensive, it’s frightening.
Mike Clifford

The Rhode Island Constitution provides a role for a charter commission when a municipality first enacts a home rule charter. However, Section 8 of Article XIII (see below) of the Constitution provides that amendments to a charter are proposed by the “legislative body” of the town - in North Smithfield, that is the Council. A charter review commission may be formed by the Council to assist the Council, but that does not mean that the commission has the power to require the Council to accept or reject its recommendations in total. Rather, as Mr. Igliozzi correctly notes, the Council has the power accept some of the commission’s recommendations, reject others, and then put whatever it wants (including amendments not even discussed by the commission) on the ballot. I have included the relevant sections of the Constitution below.

In addition, the Council is absolutely within its rights to hold public hearings on the proposed amendments. Prior Councils have done so, and it is an important part of the process in order to fully vet the recommendations made by the charter review commission.

Richard Nadeau
Town Solicitor 2008-2012
Assistant Solicitor 2006-2008

Section 6. Charter commissions.
Every city and town shall have the power to adopt a charter in the following manner: Whenever a petition for the adoption of a charter signed by fifteen percent of the qualified electors of a city, or in a town by fifteen percent, but not less than one hundred in number, of those persons qualified to vote on any proposition to impose a tax or for the expenditure of money shall be filed with the legislative body of any city or town the same shall be referred forthwith to the canvassing authority which shall within ten days after its receipt determine the sufficiency thereof and certify the results to the legislative body of said city or town. Within sixty days thereafter the legislative body of a city shall submit to its qualified electors and the legislative body of a town shall submit to the electors of said town qualified to vote upon a proposition to impose a tax or for the expenditure of money the following question: ‘‘Shall a commission be appointed to frame a charter?’’ and the legislative body of any city or town shall provide by ordinance or resolution a method for the nomination and election of a charter commission to frame a charter consisting in a city of nine qualified electors and in a town of nine electors of said town qualified to vote upon a proposition to impose a tax or for the expenditure of money who shall be elected at large without party or political designation and who shall be listed alphabetically on the ballot used for said election. Such ordinance or resolution shall provide for the submission of the question and the election of the charter commission at the same time. Upon approval of the question submitted the nine candidates who individually receive the greater number of votes shall be declared elected and shall constitute the charter commission.

Section 7. Adoption of charters.

Within one year from the date of the election of the charter commission the charter framed by the commission shall be submitted to the legislative body of the city or town which body shall provide for publication of said charter and shall provide for the submission of said charter to the electors of a city or town qualified to vote for general state officers at the general election next succeeding thirty days from the date of the submission of the charter by the charter commission. If said charter is approved by a majority of said electors voting thereon, it shall become effective upon the date fixed therein.

Section 8. Amendments to charters.
The legislative body of any city or town may propose amendments to a charter which amendments shall be submitted for approval in the same manner as provided in this article for the adoption of a charter except that the same may be submitted at a special election, and provided further that in the case of a town, amendments concerning a proposition to impose a tax or for the expenditure of money, shall be submitted at a special or regular financial town meeting.