The Newport Daily News says; “Let charter proposals go to voters!”

Sign the petition here!

Published in The Newport Daily News, Tuesday, July 22, 2014 newportri

Since last November, a Charter Review Commission has been meeting regularly, including holding a number of public hearings, to discuss potential changes to Newport’s charter.

 But earlier this month, the City Council by a 5-2 vote rejected the commission’s major recommendations, including changing the number of voting wards in the city and how School Committee members would be elected.

“There is not much left of our recommendations,” Isabel Griffith, commission chairwoman, said after the July 10 vote. “Obviously, the City Council members feel they know better than ourselves what is best for us.”

The council will get a chance to change its mind this week, when the recommendations will come up for reconsideration during its meeting Wednesday night. We hope it will reverse course and send all 20 recommendations to voters on Nov. 4.

Any personal objections council members may have with the recommendations should not interfere with the decision to send the proposed amendments to voters. Earlier this year, for example, council members speedily approved asking voters to approve table games for Newport Grand, regardless of their individual stances on gambling, citing the “people’s right to decide.”

Why shouldn’t the people of Newport decide whether to fundamentally change the way their council and school leaders are elected?

During public forums held by the Charter Review Commission, Griffith said speakers overwhelmingly spoke in favor of wards, or voting districts.

“They wanted more wards,” she said. “Some wanted seven wards. We decided to compromise and increase the wards by one and have them for the School Committee as well.”

Before 2004, there were four wards in the city, with a council member representing each ward, and three at-large council members, elected by all the city’s voters. The current seven-member City Council has three members who are elected from three wards and four at-large council members.

Under the commission’s recommendation, four School Committee members also would be elected from the redrawn wards in the city, and three members would be elected at-large. Currently, all seven School Committee members are elected at-large, and have been for decades.

Commission members said they wanted the structure of elections for the council and School Committee to be the same, and thought there would be more candidates for School Committee if some were elected by ward.

The City Council last had a Charter Review Commission in 2007, and the council at that time allowed all recommended changes to go to the voters.

While we are among those who were disappointed the current commission didn’t make recommendations on more weighty issues — such as whether the mayor should be elected by voters, rather than as council chairman by his peers — we recognize the work that went into crafting the recommendations it did present to the council, and hope the council will do the same.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social Widgets powered by