East Providence Council candidates make stance on Charter changes known
EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence Post and eastbayri.com concludes Q-and-As with those candidates in contested city races on the Nov. 6 ballot with one last query on the virtue of the Charter changes presented to the voters on Nov. 6.
It should be noted, the East Providence Budget Commission suggested the change to the fiscal year dates and the implementation of the “Rainy Day” fund. The Commission did broach the subject of the changes to residential requirements, though did not endorse it being put on the ballot. The fourth proposal, changing the terms of the Councilors and School Committee office-holders from two to four years, was generated by the City Council and City Manager.
In addition, for the purposes of this article, some of the candidates referred to the changes as Questions 1, 2, 3 and 4. On the YELLOW ballot voters will receive on Nov. 6, the questions are numbered 8, 9, 10 and 11.
The Post: Which of the four charter proposals on the Nov. 6 ballot do you support or not support?
JAMES BRIDEN: “Q1. I support being able to change the fiscal year by ordinance. By making the fiscal year consistent with the tax collection schedule, we can ultimately save in excess of $325K annually on Tax Anticipation Notes (TANS); Q2. I support the amendment to allow for a budget reserve fund. This fund will help to improve our credit rating, lower our costs of borrowing and is an important part of the multi-year budget plan. We also need a long-term strategy to address our capital improvement and infrastructure needs in a way that is proactive and ultimately saves money. Collectively, these steps will enable our city to become more attractive to future homeowners, investors and the business community. It is important that we now prepare for the opportunities that will exist for East Providence as our economy improves; Q3. I support being able to reorganize the finance department, however, I am not in favor of the subsequent parts which involve eliminating the residency requirements for the Probate Judge, City Clerk, City Solicitor and City Manager. I believe that the connection that one has to the City as a resident is valuable and results in a higher level of dedication to the position. For this reason, I do not support this amendment; Q4. I do not support four year terms for the City Council or School Committee. If individuals serving in these capacities are ineffective, then the voters can react and vote them out after two years. This benefit outweighs all other considerations.”
EDWARD LYNCH: “Question 1: Change in the fiscal year calendar (Yes) - I will be supporting this Charter amendment to better facilitate a tax collection process that operates in concert with our fiscal year calendar. The State and most Rhode Island municipalities operate on July 1 (start) - June 30 (end) clock to have quarterly tax collections (revenues) operate in a parallel manner to the fiscal year calendar. I believe this amendment along with the establishment of a reserve (rainy-day) fund will enhance our financial plan for our City’s future. Additionally, our tax revenues (collections) can be aligned with our financial obligations to better forecast and reduce the need for our persistent financial need to issue Tax-Anticipated-Notes (TANS) to balance our books, which is a costly process. Unfortunately, we have been running the City on a credit card philosophy, while waiting for our tax revenue to catch up. We now have the opportunity to re-align our financials and reduce our expenses in an effort to continually identify cost saving measures that will build upon our financial position. I will be supporting this amendment.
“Question 2: Establishment of Budget reserve fund (Yes) - I will be supporting a charter change on this year’s ballot that establishes a “Stabilization Fund” commonly referred to as a “Rainy Day Fund” to establish a cash reserve for our financial future. The Rainy Day Fund is a savings fund that allows communities to set aside excess revenue for use in times of unexpected revenue shortfalls in the most terrible of financial circumstances. This concept is seen in just about every State and the vast majority of Municipal governments as a necessary financial tenet. This provision will allow the City to enhance our bond rating with the goal of re-financing short and long term bonds at a lower interest rate. Many bond rating reporting authorities like to see that local communities maintain a cash reserve of up to 15% of its operating costs. I have previously reported to the POST my full support of this amendment. It is simply a good financial tool in our goal of establishing a long range financial plan for our City’s future. I will be supporting this amendment. If this provision is passed, I will call for the development of a formal policy to provide the taxpayers with an explanation of why financial resources have been set aside and the conditions under which such resources will be expended. This will safeguard future generations from unauthorized expenditures.
“Question 3: Departmental reorganization (Yes) - I fully support the thought of streamlining government to provide City services at a reduced cost. As technology develops, the need for outdated services can be eliminated and cost savings can be realized. To identify these programs we must have a process to evaluate the programs and services that the City provides. I would like the City Manager to implement Performance Measures a budgetary tool that can evaluate the performance of City services and the costs associated to the task(s). If a program is not meeting its target, it can be improved, eliminated or reorganized. Many jurisdictions have implemented this budgetary tool together with lean management mechanisms to improve government services and streamline efficiency in an effort to reduce the cost of government. We must continue to evaluate programs and services and garner cost savings. I will be supporting this amendment. Residency requirement (No) - I do not support any residency waivers for qualified candidates and see merit in preference to city residents for key positions in City government. I truly believe that these key positions should maintain the residency requirement. I believe that you need to be a permanent resident of the community to fully understand the dynamics of any City. I will not be supporting this amendment.
“Question 4: City Council and School Committee terms (No) - I do not support this amendment. I believe that the residents in the City need to have a voice in City Hall every two (2) years. It is the responsibility of the office holder to provide his/her constituents with core management competence and provide the taxpayers with candidate options. I support term limits and feel that the people should have the ability to make a change every two years. Additionally, two-year term limits will help prevent empire building on the council and requires the council to work diligently for the taxpayers. I will not be supporting this amendment.”
HELDER CUNHA: “Out the four proposed charter changes on this year’s ballot, I am only in support of two: the rainy day fund and fiscal year change proposals. Our city should have established a budget reserve fund already through an ordinance. Just like any household, we need to set money aside for the unexpected so that we to keep the burden on taxpayers as low as possible. I agree with changing the fiscal year in order to have better budget planning to coincide with the state. There are several ways to accomplish this and I’m open to working to find the most cost effective and least expensive way.
As far as the other proposed changes, My opponent and his political friends want you to think that the budget commission asked for all of these changes, but in reality, they have only supported the rainy fund and fiscal year changes, not proposals that would established 4 year terms and not requiring residency for appointees.Once again he’s having a difficult time telling the truth. He and his allies want 4 year terms for the council and not require city appointees to live here. I think that’s just wrong and he should be honest with the voters.”
BRUCE ROGERS: “8. Approve. I support question 8 as it creates a match between the fiscal and calendar year the way it already does in all but two communities around the state. This matches state law and makes it less necessary or decreases the amounts of TANS borrowing; 9. Approve. I feel very strong in my support for this ballot question. This allows the city to establish a “Rainy Day Fund” to repair and upgrade infrastructure items such as roads, sewer systems and buildings; both on the city and school side and because this is done by charter change, this can not be used for anything else, such as budget balancing. The money comes from revenue that is already collected and not from new taxes; 10. Approve. This question gives more flexibility in consolidation and regionalization to save tax payers money. It allows one person to do two jobs. It further allows the council to be able to choose a more qualified candidate for City Solicitor by striking the residency requirement; 11. Approve. Currently the city council and school committee have just about enough time to straighten out what they think went wrong in the past. When the two years are up, it’s time to run for office again and not enough can be accomplished toward changes that they support on behalf of the people.”
THOMAS ROSE: “I am voting to Approve questions 8-11 for the simple reason that I want the people of the city to be able to decide on each of these issues. I feel that voting to put these on the ballot is the best way for citizens of the city to voice their opinion on each issue.”
CANDACE SEEL: "The process behind these proposed amendments was deeply flawed. Presented as emanating from the budget commission, the commission in fact was interested only in the first two. They were hastily considered and strong-armed through the Council 3-2. A Charter Commission should have been formed, the amendments carefully drafted and thoroughly vetted before appearing on the ballot. That being said: Q1, With hesitancy to put this into the hands of an unknown future City Council: YES; Q2, If revenues come up short in any year, are we committed to make up that $1,000,000+ with increased taxes or further diminished services? Again with hesitancy: YES; Q3, Finance department reorganization: YES; but I am adamantly opposed to giving only preference to city electors for four key positions. I want these people to have “skin in the game,” not just regard our city as a source of income. So, NO; Q4, It was apparent, at least to me, two weeks into the current Council’s term that we had made a huge mistake. An emphatic NO, especially since neither the current Charter nor this proposed amendment includes a recall provision.”
TRACY CAPOBIANCO: “Although I do feel the fiscal year should be consistent with the tax collection schedule, I would not support Question 8 at this time. I feel without a detailed plan to residents of the city, it could potentially be a huge financial hardship. I would support Question 9. With regards to Question 10, there are six sections under one question and although some have merit, others do not so I am unable to support this question at this time. I understand the logic stated in that if elected for four years members of the Council and School Committee would gain experience when newly elected, get a better understanding for the budget process, put together legislative achievements and give voters a longer measure before the next election cycle. That said, my concern is that if the people of East Providence are not happy with the performance of an elected official, we would then be stuck for four years instead of two. I do not support Question 11.”
STEVEN SANTOS: “Question 1: I support this question which gives the city council the authority to change the fiscal year. Because our fiscal year does not coincide with that of the state (11/1 to 10/31 vs. 7/1 to 6/30) it continuously causes issues in trying to properly budget for what funds East Providence will receive from the state; Question 2: I support the establishment of a “rainy day” fund for our city. This is something we need to establish and maintain in order to provide for capital improvement projects and ongoing repairs; Question 3: I support the consolidation referendum question. It removes outdated language pertaining to hiring requirements and provides for restructuring to better define the duties & responsibilities of departments; Question 4: I do not support this question as it is presented. I don’t believe 4 year terms will give voters any better measure of performance than a two year term. In fact it limits your power as a voter to change a body by extending the term to 4 years. Bad idea. As for RI General Law 16-2-5 it does define a school committee term as 3 years for cities or towns with annual elections and 4 years for those with biennial elections. Then why were East Providence voters asked to change to 2 year terms by ward (like the city council) in 2002 (and they did) when it violates state law? I think voters deserve an answer before being asked to vote on this one again.”