From petition to fruition

From petition to fruition

Home Rule Charter closing in on June 28 completion date

SCITUATE – For Ruth Strach, drafting a Home Rule Charter, along with nine other members of the Home Rule Charter Commission, is a labor of love and democracy.

As the June 28 deadline to finalize a draft for the charter draws closer, the commission is holding weekly meetings on Wednesday evenings, encouraging members of the public to attend and learn more about the document.

Strach said the charter, approved last June following a town-wide petition, is nearly complete after almost a year of work. She expects a draft to be posted online in the first weeks of June.

“I see this as a framework as to how our town government should function, but doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of it. It’s a foundation,” she said.

The drafted Home Rule Charter has three significant changes to Scituate government structure that the commission feel will save the town money and improve operations.

First, the charter proposes hiring a full-time town manager to oversee day-to-day operations under the command of the elected Town Council. Under the town manager’s leadership, the treasurer and town clerk will change to hired positions rather than elected ones.

Strach said it was important for the positions to be hired to create longevity and organizational structure in the town’s government. She said a full-time person will follow up with council motions and resolutions, creating a working record of the town that can more easily be transferred should council members change.

“The town manager can show it is worth the expense. We see the town manager role as the need to spend money to make money,” she said.

Town Treasurer Ted Przybyla, who is elected and also on the commission, backs the shift to hired positions.

“My hope is that an unexpected result of all of this might just be that we can attract a different demographic of people to run for Town Council,” Strach said.

As the last town in Rhode Island without a charter, Strach said the commission had plenty of examples to work from when framing the document.

Strach said the commission also reviewed the draft of the legislative charter commissioned by the former council, completed just weeks before the vote for the Home Rule Charter. She said the home rule agreed with the legislative charter on many issues.

Strach said that she is grateful for the advice of former Councilor John Mahoney, who assisted Town Solicitor Wyatt Brochu in drafting the charter.

Article XIII of the Rhode Island Constitution grants each town the right to create a self-governing document for the residents to vote to approve, but communities are given only a year to complete it.

For Strach, a Home Rule Charter was the superior choice to a legislative charter, which is governed by the state rather than the town. She said it puts the power in the people’s hands.

“It still a democracy,” she said.

Despite the upcoming deadline, the charter will not appear on the ballot for approval until the November 2020 general election.

If residents are interested in attending a public session on the charter, Strach recommends checking with the Town Clerk or online at www. sos.ri.gov for meeting dates. She also has a dedicated phone line for the Home Rule Charter, 401-474-3845, for any questions related to it.