Letter: Barrington ballot was frustrating

Posted 10/29/20

To the editor:

In filling out my mail-in-ballot today I was struck by the lack of clear information provided in the local questions pertaining to the town charter, and really to all the questions. …

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Letter: Barrington ballot was frustrating

Posted

To the editor:

In filling out my mail-in-ballot today I was struck by the lack of clear information provided in the local questions pertaining to the town charter, and really to all the questions. I went online and researched–as best I could— the relevant background on each question. I contacted numerous neighbors, most long time residents, for insight and realized that they too felt uninformed and unprepared to complete the questions. For question 5, regarding an amendment to the budgeting reports compiled by, but not reviewed by, the town manager I was unable to find any useful clarifying information. In fact, when I read the current town charter I discovered the language was almost identical to that in the question, leaving me even more perplexed.

To correct this information vacuum, I called the Town Clerk’s Office and —to my absolute shock— was told they were unable to answer my question. They referred me to Kathy Raposa, the Business and Finance Director for Barrington. Kathy was outstanding (above and beyond in her patience and unwavering commitment to helping!) and worked with me to uncover what the ballot question was asking. However, this was neither an easy nor a quick task. After tracking down a ballot to review, consulting the current town charter and comparing the text to the question posed on the ballot she was left as confused as I was. It wasn’t until she reviewed the notes from the town council meeting pertaining to the proposed amendment that we found the draft of the charter text post amendment that we were able to parse together what the change was.

This entire process took roughly an hour, excluding the time I spent on my own researching the questions. Online information was completely lacking. That the questions on the Barrington Ballots are so unclear, and actually arcane, and that this much effort is required to simply understand what is being asked is both unacceptable and alarming! If the Town Clerk’s Office and the Business and Finance Director of Barrington are unable to immediately answer the question on the ballot, how can we as the electorate be expected to? The fact that the Town Clerk was unable or unwilling to assist me and that it was even challenging for our Business and Finance director to understand the question pertaining to the budgets is a travesty.

So, for everyone in Barrington looking to fill in their ballots, here is the relevant background for Question 5 (see below): the question itself as written on the ballot, the current language in the town charter, and the proposed language the amendment would implement.

In this complicated political environment, it is more important than ever not just to vote, but to vote as a fully informed and thoughtful citizen. We as a town should do better to ensure that everyone is given access to all the information they need to cast a clear and educated vote. I have never been more frustrated or disappointed by a political ballot.

Jenna Medeiros

Barrington

CHARTER AMENDMENT RE:

FINANCIAL PROVISIONS – PROPOSED BUDGET (Amends §6-4-2) Approved by the Town Council June 8, 2020.

Ballot Question: Shall the Town Manager submit to the Town Council and the Committee on Appropriations a summary of the balances of each municipal capital reserve account and include the include the School Committee budget; however such budget shall not be subject to the Manager’s review.

o Approve

o Reject

Charter Language: The Manager shall submit to the Town Council, and the Committee on Appropriations, not later than the second Monday in March, a proposed budget of receipts and operating and capital expenditures and an explanatory budget message together with a summary of the balances of each capital reserve account and a summary of the actual and anticipated additions to and expenditures from each such account for the current fiscal year. For such purpose, the Manager shall obtain from the head of each office, department and agency estimates of its revenues and expenditures and such supporting data as the Manager may request. In preparing the proposed budget, the Manager shall review the estimates and may revise them as the Manager may deem advisable. The proposed budget as prepared by the Manager shall show all anticipated revenue and all proposed expenditures including capital expenditures, and the total of proposed expenditures shall not be greater than the total of anticipated revenues. The Manager's proposed budget shall include the School Committee Budget as set forth in Section 6-4-4 gross school revenues and expenditures, as submitted by the School Committee; however, such figures budget shall not be subject to the Manager's review.

Explanation: New language clarifies that the Town Manager’s proposed budget will include the School Committee Budget to be submitted to the Town Council and the Committee on Appropriations, however, such budget shall not be subject to the Manager’s review.

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