Commentary: Satisfied with legal officials engaging in East Providence election matter

By Joe Botelho
Posted 4/25/18

It was satisfying to learn that the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office has sent to the Rhode Island Supreme Court the matter relating to term lengths in East Providence. Due to the …

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Commentary: Satisfied with legal officials engaging in East Providence election matter

Posted

It was satisfying to learn that the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office has sent to the Rhode Island Supreme Court the matter relating to term lengths in East Providence. Due to the unprecedented circumstances revolving around this matter, along with its wide-ranging statewide implications they have correctly requested that the appropriate authority rule on the matter.

Though many local politicos wish to simplify this issue to suit their own political ambitions, the issue at stake is much larger than they portray. At the heart of the issue is whether or not municipal home rule in RI is on its death bed or alive and well.

It is widely known by now that the people of East Providence passed a charter amendment in 2012 extending city council and school committee terms from two to four years. Since Rhode Island Constitution, Article 13, affirms the right of home rule municipalities jurisdiction over there own form of government, and since this was a matter solely of local concern, it did not need General Assembly approval. This matter was none the less directed there anyhow by the council at that time, where it was surreptitiously killed there in the final days of the session with no explanation.

As a strong advocate for municipal home rule, I would expect the court to affirm the decision of the voters in 2012 under Article 13 of our constitution. If the Court for some reason does not, it strikes at the heart of the Home Rule Amendment and paves the way for the disintegration of home rule in Rhode Island , reducing municipalities currently governed by it as shadow governments of the General Assembly.

If the court affirms the vote in 2012 without conditions, it then needs to sort out the proper application of law as provided by our state constitution regarding the current status of elections in East Providence. This becomes a complicated legal matter since there were subsequent elections that indicated a two year term which ran contrary to the charter amendment vote in 2012. This, I believe only the Rhode Island Supreme Court has the appropriate authority to decide. So again, I commend the Attorney General’s office efforts in this matter.

I would also like to commend those members of the East Providence City Council for standing their ground by raising the issue of the vote taken in 2012 by the voters to amend our charter while facing withering criticism and blistering misinformation campaigns. For those of us on the city council who believe in municipal home rule, the current action by the AG’s office, to seek an opinion from the Supreme Court offers evidence that the cover-up of a stolen vote in 2012 will receive the appropriate review and was well beyond the current city council’s authority to correct.

Gandhi said, “You have to do the right thing... You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” In this case, truer words were never spoken.

— Joe Botelho is the City Councilor from Ward 3.

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