Trying Out a Public Hearing

With continuing interest in a visible rift in Tiverton politics, I’m at the public hearing at the high school at which the town council will decide which suggested change to the town financial meeting will appear on the next ballot. The current discussion is whether the town council has the authority to take the charter review commission’s suggestions (months in the making) as little more than a suggestion.
Not surprisingly the council’s lawyer says “yes,” so Council President Louise Durfee has moved on without discussion to discuss the process of the meeting.
ADDENDUM (7:21 p.m.):
Pretty tame so far. The con arguments have most notably highlighted the degree to which the charter commission’s proposal creates opportunities for litigation.
As for the temper, I imagine it will have much to do with the way in which tonight’s process is manipulated. The stages strike me as inappropriate: public comment, official discussion, vote. To my experience, the audience doesn’t really know what to say until the officials start to state their opinions.
ADDENDUM (7:41 p.m.)
Huh. The charter review commission president just submitted my live blogging of the financial town meeting into the record. No “Anchor Rising” plug, though.
ADDENDUM (7:56 p.m.):
Interesting proposal: hold a vote on the tax increase (or decrease) before the budget is even formulated.
ADDENDUM (8:33 p.m.)
I hate to speak at these things. For some reason, I get much more anxious than I ever did with musical or theatrical performances or even offering extemporaneous political opinion to much larger audiences than the 60 or so people here.
Basically, I pointed out that concerns about the divisive rift encouraged by the financial town meeting would only be exacerbated were the process to move further from direct democracy, toward a legislature-only process.
I also noted the talk, in this process, that the voting booth and the budget meetings are the people’s opportunities to affect the budget process. Well, the review committee held meetings for months, and that was the opportunity for town officials to express their concerns and make suggestions with respect to its proposal.
ADDENDUM (8:51 p.m.):
Moving toward “official” conversation, VP Don Bollin suggested that the commission’s proposal should be included, by virtue of the effort and the process. Presumptive state representative (because of a lack of competition) Jay Edwards said that the proposal is so flawed that he can’t let voters decide. Councilmember Medeiros agreed. Mrs. Arruda, too.
Hannibal Costa noted that, following the last financial town meeting sparked 16 bids for town council (as opposed to the usual 8). He suggested that the commission’s proposal be used as a template for future changes, but that Medeiros’s council-only method (with a referrendal undo) as well as Arruda’s date-chainging proposal go on the ballot.
President Louise Durfee noted the legal flaws of the commission’s proposal and suggested that allowing the people such power to affect the budget would shirk the town’s obligation to keep its services going.
But isn’t that the point? Can’t we force the town to pick from among its services and benefits?

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Monique
12 years ago

“hold a vote on the tax increase (or decrease) before the budget is even formulated.”
You mean, figure out in advance, “what can we afford?”. Well, that would be the prudent and responsible thing to do.
That we have not done so until now has made us the fourth highest taxed state in the country and created quite an entitlement mentality in several expenditure categories.

Monique
12 years ago

“the town’s obligation to keep its services going”
Red herring. The issue is not whether services should continue. The question is, at what cost should those services be delivered? And how much larger will our elected officials permit the gulf between cost and value received to grow?

George Elbow
George Elbow
12 years ago

Build a budget / cost structure based on “what can we afford?”.
BINGO! That’s exactly right and that is exactly how we must conduct our personal lives …unless you are one of the misguided fools that end up losing their homes to foreclosure due to buying what they can’t afford.
Unfortunately, RI suffers from an an infestation of Entitlement-minded Union hacks like Providence FD Union Pwesident, Lazy-Ass Pauly “No Show” Doughty, who truly believes they should be paid based on what other “big Northeastern Cities” pay, as opposed to what the Taxpayer’s of Providence can ACTUALLY afford.
And when they are told “no”, they jump up and down like babies and whine to us about how they “give selflessly” and that we need to “Do it For the Children”.

Richard
Richard
12 years ago

I am not interested enough (or tech- minded enough) to blog from a public meeting (listening takes all my concentration), but I can stay up late afterward slaving over a hot keyboard writing to the press… here’s a peek: This Monday evening, the Tiverton Town Council held its final public hearing on the Charter amendments. As usual, the Council did an admirable job of fielding ideas, asking good questions, and making some reasonable changes. In the case of the last amendment they accepted, they made a mistake. They passed, by a 4 to 2 vote, an amendment to the Charter put forward by Jeff Caron. This is what I call the “Sour Grapes” amendment. It stems entirely from the last round of Financial Town Meetings. The “sour grapes” are those of our beleaguered wealthy in town, who object to being taxed to run a public school system. The amendment attempts to prohibit the use of town equipment or other resources “to influence the result of an election”. It sounds like a no-brainer. It will probably pass overwhelmingly in November. Ms. Durfee and Mr. Medeiros wisely opposed this amendment. It is too broad in its language. It raises serious constitutional issues. It will be challenged now, by one side or another, in court. More legal bills for Tiverton. For this reason alone I was surprised that four Councilors voted to send it to the November ballot. Ms. Durfee warned all concerned about the possibility of a court challenge on civil liberties grounds. Sadly, no one seemed to care that she had solicited advice from an ACLU attorney. [No smart-aleck comments, JK] The amendment purports to “save the voters” from misuse of taxpayers money by town officials (here read: the School Board) in using town property (phones, email and leaflets) to tell… Read more »

Monique
12 years ago

“The “sour grapes” are those of our beleaguered wealthy in town, who object to being taxed to run a public school system.”
You must be new to the discussion of Rhode Island’s education system, Richard.
You’ll find that most people who object to the current status of our education system are not wealthy not do we object to funding a good education for our children. (“Our” in the community sense.)
You would also find, if you did a modicum of research, that Rhode Island’s education system is upside down: teacher compensation is in the top fifth of the country while student performance is in the bottom fifth. If you choose to respond to my comment, please specifically address this point because it is the crux of the matter.
That is what we object to. We object to our elected officials putting our children a distant second to … something else. What is that else? Ask your elected officials who have for decades agreed to raises (double raises in many cases) and acceded to contracts without regard to student performance and who, remarkably, use the industrial age relict of “last hired first fired” when a teaching force must be reduced.

Beth
Beth
12 years ago

After reading the post by Richard I have to address the clumping of Democrats on one side & Republicans on the other. I have always voted Democrat. I probably always will in national elections. As far as Tiverton is concerned, this is not a (D) (R) issue, or a rich/ middle class issue. This is a survival issue. The tax increase here bothers democrats too. How can it not. It’s ridiculous! My children go to school here, & my family, along with pretty much everyone I know who attended voted against the tax increase. Yes, some of parents did not want to vote in a public forum to face their children’s teachers the next day in school. Nor do they feel comfortable having the police force & firemen watching them vote. Come on, this is not right. It’s like crossing some union picket line. Voting on something of this magnitude, should be done in private, with the whole town being solicited to get out & vote. I actually don’t know one person I talked to who is happy with this outrageous increase. Again, most of the town did not show & did not know it was even happening. Anyone who has the ability to think would know most of the people do not want this financial burden at such a hard time for most Americans. I actually think the only people who did want the increase showed up to the meeting. Which should shift your perception about the school parents. We all got the calls, but the vast majority didn’t go to the meeting to “support the school system.” I support the school with my taxes each year. Along with my multitude of fundraisers & my volunteer work. I don’t think taking such a large amount of property tax is… Read more »

beth
beth
12 years ago

Also if Ms. Nebergall and Mr. Caron, would like to set something up so their could be some sort of mass emailing system to inform residents of the proposed changes set forth by the town counsil, I’m in. I bet I could get a few neighbors, & parents on board too. Somewhere post how to join & I’m in! Thanks for that suggestion Richard, I thought would be a good idea when the school called me last time!

WillP
WillP
12 years ago

“Well, the review committee held meetings for months, and that was the opportunity for town officials to express their concerns and make suggestions with respect to its proposal.”
I would agree Justin except that it was pointed out, by the Charter members themselves, at the June 23rd Council meeting that I attended that the proposal was still being drafted and would not be available until June 30th. In fact, the Council had to schedule a special meeting just to hear it on that date. Even after the June 30th meetings, I noted several other major (in my opinion) changes/additions to the proposal that was published on the Town’s website. So it is very difficult to comment earlier on something that simply doesn’t exist or is a moving target, or at least I found it so…

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Will,
I was mainly making a parallel to the claims that voting for representatives and attending budget meetings are adequate means of citizen participation in the budget process. Both are also “moving targets.” In essence, the town council’s last-minute response to the mandate to come up with an alternative to the financial town meeting is subject to the same complaints that some are making about the financial town meeting and/or an all-day referendum.

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