Letter: Respect Charlestown voters in filling council vacancy

Letter: Respect Charlestown voters in filling council vacancy

The Westerly Sun

This Monday at 7 p.m., the Charlestown Town Council will decide if, or how they want to, fill the recent vacancy created by the unexpected emailed resignation of Town Councilor Steve Williams. 

Since this resignation came more than a year into his term, the Town Charter gives the council discretion. “Town Charter, Part 2 Town Council, Article VI: Organization and Election §C-24,” says the following:

Any vacancies in the membership of the Council may, at the discretion of the Council, be filled for the unexpired term, except that if the vacancy in the Council shall occur more than one (1) year prior to the time for holding an election, the Council shall, within thirty (30) days after the vacancy occurs, call a special election for the purpose of filling the vacancy. 

However, under Charlestown’s Town Charter, Part 2:  

Town Council, Article VI:  Organization and Election, § C-19:  Number; Elections, “The council shall consist of five members, elected at large… to serve for terms of two years and thereafter until their successors are elected and qualified.”

Since our election system is a democracy, something that every American should be proud of, logically, the vacancy should go to the next-highest vote-getter. The charter needs to be changed to spell out this instruction, as many other towns have done. However, until then, the council can use the “next-highest vote-getter rule” as their discretion in this case. This is certainly more democratic than any autocratic appointment process.

In this case, I was the next-highest vote-getter, but it’s not about me. It’s about good democracy — I received 1,986 votes in the last election and that fact should not be swept aside by executive privilege, or discretion, as it is called here. This would disenfranchise these voters. I maintain that democracy needs to be the default process as we live in a democracy. Discretion comes in after the elected options have been exhausted.

I also have had a good working relationship with the Town Council.

I worked with the Town Council to promote the SolarizeRI program, something I campaigned on; I did a livestream of an installation that got hundreds of views.

I alerted the public about the FRA high-speed rail proposal and broadcast on my public access show the state Senate hearing on the matter. I also lobbied Senator Reed and organized with the council locally.

I was called by Town Council President Virginia Lee and asked to help coordinate with activists organizing opposition to Invenergy’s water deal with the Narragansetts in Charlestown as a second source.

I brought Invenergy’s Fracked Gas Power Plant in Burrillville to the last Town Council’s attention. I provided a key document that was evidence of the discrepancy on the Charlestown water location.

I hope that the council uses its discretion to acknowledge the wishes of 1,986 voters from the last election and recognizes some of the contributions I have already made. I would like to serve my town.

Robert Malin



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