Daily Tiverton Truth Flash

Charter Change #11 Would Undermine the FTR’s Key Feature: Elector Petitions

Yesterday’s Daily Tiverton Truth Flash explained how ballot question #11, if it passes, would grab power away from the Budget Committee and electors and give it to the Town Council.  That isn’t all it would do.

The biggest restraint on the Town Council’s power has been residents’ ability to propose alternate budgets directly to voters.  This is the feature that has kept Tiverton’s tax rates so low in the last five years, so of course a council that wants control would have to cut the legs out from under it.

First, the charter change would block residents who are on the Town Council, School Committee, or Budget Committee from submitting budget petitions.  Not only would this potentially violate the Constitutional rights of those electors, but it would deliberately forbid the people who are most familiar with the town’s budget from offering voters multiple options.

Second, the Town Solicitor would be able to block any budget petitions simply by claiming that they would be “inconsistent” with state law or the town charter, with no standard of proof.  Residents whose petitions have been blocked would have no ability to appeal under the charter.  This is especially concerning because the Town Solicitor took extraordinary steps earlier in the year to block residents from putting petitions on the ballot by scaring the Board of Canvassers, and another charter change would give the solicitor total power over charter complaints.

Third, every change an elector wants to make would have to be printed on the ballot itself.  No other budget would have this level of detail, and it would make the ballot a confusing mess pointing voters away from their alternatives.

Fourth, even if an elector could evade these obstacles, he or she would have to get four times as many signatures to provide voters with an option.

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Justin Katz

Justin Katz is a writer and researcher focusing on Rhode Island policy and politics. For more about Justin, see our About page. justin@justinkatz.com (401) 835-7156.

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