Portsmouth voters face boatload of questions

PORTSMOUTH — Voters here have their work cut out for them when they head to the polls next Tuesday, Nov. 6.

In addition to choosing between Obama and Romney and among a host of state and local candidates, Portsmouth voters face seven statewide questions and eight specific to their home town.

The local questions are the product of work by the Portsmouth Charter Review Committee which studied the town charter for possible changes. The list that committee produced was then handed to the Town Council which edited that list to the following eight, summarized here:

• Question 8:  If this question is approved, the Town Council shall appoint a Charter Review Committee at eight year intervals beginning in 2019.

• Question 9: If this question is approved, it would eliminate the requirement that all votes be taken in public and it further clarifies that executive session meetings must be handled in accordance with the RI state law. In accordance with RI Open Meeting Laws all the votes to be taken during Town Council Executive Session will be reported in public. Current RIGL “42-46-4. Closed meetings” section (b) reads as follows: (b) All votes taken in closed sessions shall be disclosed once the session is reopened; provided, however, a vote taken in a closed session need not be disclosed for the period of time during which its disclosure would jeopardize any strategy, negotiation or investigation undertaken pursuant to discussions conducted under the state code.

• Question 10: If this question is approved, the town administrator shall publish an annual report available to the residents of Portsmouth.

• Question 11: If this question is approved, the position of ‘Town Engineer’ may be re-instated. This position had been repealed in 1983.

• Question 12: If this question is approved, the director of public works no longer will be required to be a resident of Portsmouth. This is in accordance with Rhode Island general Law which prohibits such residency requirements.

• Question 13: If this question is approved, the town council may establish a Department of Parks, Recreation, Arts and Activities.

• Question 14: If this question is approved, the town personnel system will apply to union as well as non-union employees unless an applicable collective bargaining agreement has a provision governing the same matter.

• Question 15: If this question is approved, all planning board vacancies shall be properly advertised as per RI state law.

• Question 16: If this question is approved, hiring and promotion of town employees would be done by the town administrator. The council would continue to set personnel rules and policies. Language is clarified to ensure that pay scales are set for each position, not for the person who happens to hold a position at a particular time. This language further clarifies and ensures conformance with Charter section 305 non-interference by the council.

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