Editorial: Charter Commission is needed in East Providence

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The recent intensified discussion about whether or not elected officials in East Providence are to serve either two- or four-year terms after the results of the 2014 cycle brings up a larger, more important point in regard to the city’s governmental structure going forward.

We here at The Post noted our opposition to Question 11 when it was placed on the 2012 ballot, which asked whether voters supported or opposed amending the City Charter to establish four-year terms for City Council and School Committee members. Of the four amendments up for a determination that year, Question 11 passed by the slimmest margin, 55-45 (9,337 votes to 7,692), though pass it did.

The lingering concern by many, whether they voted for or against the measure, is that neither the General Assembly nor the governor formally validated the result, leaving City Solicitor Tim Chapman’s legal opinion maintaining the two-year status quo as the current and only verdict on the matter. As it stands, we agree.

In contrast, The Post has supported a long-standing push to amend the Charter creating a strong mayor-council form of government. It has been our belief a city the size and breathe of East Providence deserves to elect its chief officer.

However, the recent rush to put the measure on the ballot is a troubling reminder of how the four-year term initiative was hastily brought to the fore. As in the previous instance, it seems incomplete and lacking detail. Those who are backing the strong mayor form most vociferously can also make one suspicious of their motives.

As has been the case during his now near two-year stay atop the Council, Mayor Jim Briden’s pragmatic and practical approach to this and any proposed change has proven correct. He said a Charter Commission should be set up, and considering precedent we agree.

Whether we have a mayor, city manager, five member council, seven member council or whatever, it’s too important for a certain few to dictate the direction for the whole. It happened last time with a questionable result.

No room for doubt should be left about such serious matters going forward.

The preceding editorial appeared in the July 24 edition of The Post.

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