One-time top vote-getter sets sights on council presidency

Jacob Brier hopes to replace Michael Carroll as Barrington council president

Posted 12/4/20

Barrington Town Council member Jacob Brier announced Thursday that he would like to serve as the next council president, a position currently filled by Michael Carroll.

In a mass email, Mr. Brier …

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One-time top vote-getter sets sights on council presidency

Jacob Brier hopes to replace Michael Carroll as Barrington council president

Posted

Barrington Town Council member Jacob Brier announced Thursday that he would like to serve as the next council president, a position currently filled by Michael Carroll.

In a mass email, Mr. Brier alleges a list of problems with previous council leadership, including an "obfuscating management style" and a move toward "unmanageable, unproductive marathons" for meetings.

Mr. Brier also said that he has made it his priority to learn what the public wants so he can address it as a council member.

"I make it a priority to increase public engagement and improve access," he wrote. "I address questions and criticisms of our work head on, with transparency, welcoming dissent and debate with a collaborative spirit. My approach has been successful in my individual efforts to engage residents."

Barrington Town Council leadership will be determined at its meeting on Monday night, Dec. 7. The virtual meeting is open to the public and will also feature the swearing-in of the new recently-elected members: Rob Humm, Carl Kustell and Annelise Conway.

Mr. Brier was elected to the Barrington Town Council in 2018 as a first-time candidate, and garnered more votes than the two sitting council members he faced in the election: Mr. Carroll and Stephen Primiano. Mr. Brier and Mr. Carroll both won seats.

When asked if he wished to continue serving as council president, Mr. Carroll said "It’s been my great honor to serve on the town council for six years and to serve as president for the last four. I would be happy to continue in that role if my new colleagues ask that I do so."

In his recent announcement, Mr. Brier wrote that he believes this community is capable of greater engagement.

"My goal is to foster just that: to actively engage and empower a broader group of Barrington residents," he wrote. "I already create engagement in my own interactions with the public and there are several hundred of you who receive my emails or follow my blog. I have a plan to integrate my open style of leadership into the town council’s operations."

The town council has faced criticism at times. For example, dozens of residents and many of the real estate agents in Barrington appeared frustrated with the council, calling for a public discussion about a change in tax assessment policy a little more than a year ago.

Mr. Brier said the previous town council leadership's practices limited residents' ability to participate in the process.

"Some of these tactics included releasing the agenda as late as allowed by state regulations, taking no public action to promote meetings or encourage participation, and providing only minimal communication," he wrote.

"My experience representing your needs has informed my open approach and style:

I operate on the basis of 'nothing about us without us.'"

Mr. Brier also addressed the length of some recent of council meetings and the style of current leadership.

"We have all seen the devolution of recent council meetings into unmanageable, unproductive marathons," he wrote. "The previous leadership’s obfuscating management style meant that the council was unable to resolve conflicts before they became controversies. The council has left too many people feeling as though they aren’t part of our decision-making processes, and believing we do not have their interests in mind."

Council 'highlights'

Mr. Brier, in his email, listed some of his own council "highlights." They included hosting bi-weekly conversations at local coffee shops; promoting public engagement at council meetings through social media; and mass distribution of his own council meeting recaps.

"Directly as a result of my public engagement, over the last two years, I have corresponded with hundreds of constituents and solved dozens of issues. This engagement has resulted in residents obtaining tax abatements thanks to transparent guidance, receiving assistance from public works, obtaining interventions from the State of Rhode Island on properties contiguous to residents, improving road signs to enhance neighborhood safety, hiring a diversity consultant to assist the town (this was highlighted by Channel 12) as well as other services and initiatives," he wrote.

"I answer every resident, business or other individual who contacts me regarding town business. In fact, constituents often remark that I am the only member of the Town Council from whom they have received a response to their inquiry, that was originally sent to the entire council.

"Only with transparency, information and greater engagement can we hope to change the atmosphere so that we can agree and disagree as informed, conscientious neighbors, and hope to reclaim our town’s harmony during this difficult time."

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