The League of Women Voters (http://www.lwvri.org) believes that a democratic government depends upon informed and active participation of its citizens and that government should be responsive to the will of the people.
The Newport City Council followed these principles when it appointed the Charter Review Commission, made up of representative group of citizens, to review the city’s charter. The charge to the committee — according to Mayor Harry Winthrop, who was quoted in The Newport Daily News — was to not be afraid of “hot button” issues. The commission went to work and made every effort to engage the community. League members attended commission meetings and later hearings about the proposed changes. The commission worked hard, listened, reflected, and responded to the concerns of city employees, elected officials, committee and commission members, and citizens. The commission did its duty.
At its July 9 meeting, the City Council reacted to the commission’s efforts by voting against including on the November ballot any of the substantive recommendations presented by the commission, in particular proposed changes in Newport’s system of electing council and school board members, an issue that came up often at the Charter Review Commission meetings and hearings. The league did not expect that all of the recommendations would be accepted, but we did expect that the council would be responsive to the will of the people on this issue — an issue that was obviously of concern to them.
The league does not support or oppose the changes presented, but we urge the council to reconsider its earlier vote at its July 23 meeting and give constituents the opportunity to decide on the commission’s proposals on the November ballot.
We believe that Newport citizens have the right to be heard on this issue. We hope they will join us in asking the council to reconsider.
Susan Wells, Newport, president of the League of Women Voters of Newport County
Newport Daily News OPINION JULY 19-20, 2014 ◆ PAGE A6