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PORTSMOTH BALLOT QUESTIONS 2-13 EXPLAINED

The “Local Questions” on the Portsmouth ballot (Questions 2 – 13) propose changes to the current Portsmouth Town Charter that voters should “APPROVE.”  Positive effects are listed in italics below.

2. GRAMMATICAL REVISION AND COUNCIL NUMBER, TERM, SELECTION Shall Article II, Section 201 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to make a minor grammatical revision and to provide that all candidates for Town Council be listed on the ballot in an order to be determined by the Board of Canvassers by the drawing of lots?

Effect:  Eliminates old language that allowed listing candidates: a) in alphabetical order or b) in an order set forth by endorsement papers submitted by the local Democratic Town Committee.  Makes lottery drawing by the Board of Canvassers the only method to determine the order.  

3. TOWN COUNCIL, PRESIDING OFFICER Shall Article II, Section 204 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to clarify that in the absence of the Town Council President, the Vice President shall be the presiding officer?

Effect:  Adds language that states if the President is absent, the Vice President is the presiding Town Council officer.

4. TOWN COUNCIL POWERS Shall Article II, Section 207 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to clarify the process for Council appointment of individuals to committees, and to provide for Council approval of an Emergency Management Plan?

Effect:  Clarifies that the Town Council can only appoint individuals to Town Committees from a list of those who have submitted applications to the Clerk.  Also adds that the Town Council shall approve an Emergency Management Plan that includes a chain of command. 

5. BUDGET, PROVISIONAL Shall Article II, Section 208, paragraph 2 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to add language requiring the provisional budget to be published on the Town’s website, in addition to a newspaper of general circulation in the Town?

Effect:  Adds a requirement that the provisional budget be published on the Town’s website in addition to a newspaper.

6. TOWN DEPARTMENTS, FIRE Shall Article VI, Section 602 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to provide that the Fire Chief shall have at least ten (10) years’ experience in the fields of fire-fighting and fire prevention?

Effect:  Increases the requirement that the Fire Chief have at least 5 years of experience to 10 years.

7. SCHOOL DEPARTMENT, SCHOOL COMMITTEE COMPENSATION Shall Article VII, Section 704 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to change the words “salaries” and “salary” to “compensation”?

Effect: Clarifies that School Committee members are not salaried employees by changing what they receive from “salary” to “compensation.”

8. ORGANIZATION AND RULES, SELECTING CLERK OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE Shall Article VII, Section 706 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to use gender-neutral language and clarify the process for selection of a Clerk of the School Committee?

Effect:  Changes “Chairman” to gender neutral “Chair,” and clarifies that the Clerk is elected by the School Committee in the same way as the Chair and Vice Chair.

9.  APPOINTMENT OF A SUPERINTENDENT Shall Article VII, Section 708 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to clarify that the Superintendent of Schools shall be appointed by a vote of a majority of school committee members?

Effect:  Adds language that says the Superintendent must be appointed by a majority vote of the School Committee.  This is the current practice, but ensures that in the future, a Chair cannot unilaterally appoint a Superintendent.

10. APPOINTMENT AND REMOVAL OF OTHER SCHOOL EMPLOYEES Shall Article VII, Section 710 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to revise and clarify the process for Appointment and Removal of Other School Employees?

Effect:  To follow state law, eliminates language that gives the School Committee power to give “advice and consent” about school department employee appointments.

11. PUBLIC RECORDS (Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act, Rhode Island General Laws Section 38-2-1 et seq.) Shall Article IX, Section 902 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to provide for consistency with the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act?

Effect: Eliminates language that allowed the Town Council to refuse access to public documents because it held the “opinion” that disclosure would “tend to defeat the lawful purpose” of the documents.  Removing this language removes a restriction to accessing public documents in accordance with state law.

12. CONFLICT OF INTEREST (Rhode Island Code of Ethics, Rhode Island General Laws Section 36-14-1 et seq.) Shall Article IX, Section 903 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to provide for consistency with the Rhode Island Code of Ethics?

Effect: Adds “including but not limited to financial benefit,” to recognize that a conflict of interest could involve more than just financial benefits.  It also clarifies that notice of conflict of interest must be submitted in writing to the Town Clerk.

13. COLLECTIVE BARGAINING Shall Article IX, Section 913 of the Portsmouth Town Charter be amended to delete the words “including School Department employee unions” to provide for consistency with state law?

Effect:  Removing this language recognizes that, as required by state law, it is the role of the School Department to negotiate contracts with School Department employee unions and the role of the Town Council to vote on the bottom line of the School Department budget. 

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