By ALEX MALM
Warwick voters are a step closer to enacting terms limits for the City Council and Mayor, after a resolution passed Monday night requesting the General Assembly to put the question on …
By ALEX MALM
Warwick voters are a step closer to enacting terms limits for the City Council and Mayor, after a resolution passed Monday night requesting the General Assembly to put the question on the ballot in November.
The original proposal introduced by Ward 4 Councilman Jim McElroy would’ve made term limits for mayor two consecutive four-year terms and five consecutive terms two-year terms for the council. After extensive discussion, the council agreed to limit the mayor to two consecutive 4-year terms and six consecutive 2-year council terms.
Lots of options were debated.
During the April 4 meeting, an amendment was introduced by Ward 8 Councilman Anthony Sinapi for three consecutive four-year terms for Council and two 4-year terms for mayor. On a 4-4 vote that amendment failed. McElroy wasn’t present for the meeting.
On Monday, McElroy favored five two-year terms for the Council as he originally introduced.
Ward 2 Councilman Jeremy Rix was the lone vote, arguing the legislative body should have term limits.
One of the arguments that Rix made is that the state has a “revolving door” policy which prevents any lawmakers from getting a job within the state government for one year after leaving office. He argued that while a Council member couldn’t work for the city for one year after leaving the Council, he said that the mayor would still be in office for an extra year.
Rix argued that by having the mayor’s term being longer than members of the council, member could vote in favor of what a mayor wants in exchange for a position after they leave office. He noted that he didn’t think that was happening or has happened but could in the future.
“That change may be a recipe for increasing that risk of corruption. To be clear, I do not thinking that anyone in office now has that intent. But, this is where we have to think about what might happen between future City Councils and future Mayors if someone were to exploit the system,” Rix wrote on Facebook ahead of the meeting. “Hypothetically, a future member of the Council were term-limited and had a 2-year term, then, knowing that a future Mayor has a 4-year term, the two could make a deal involving the future Mayor agreeing to appoint that future Council member to a 6-figure job in exchange for support during that last 2-year term.”
Rix also thinks term limits would negatively affect the Council’s institutional knowledge.
“We are up for reelection every two years and the people decide if they want us to continue to represent us,” said Rix.
Rix said that he didn’t have a “heavy preference” on either but thought they should be the same.
“I feel strongly that the terms of the mayor and the council should match up,” said Rix.
Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur proposed an amendment to change the term limits for the Council to six consecutive two-year terms. During the previous meeting he said he was most in favor of three consecutive four terms saying that he would rather be working to help his constituents instead of campaigning every two years.
McElroy, who originally wanted to stay with five two year terms, made the amendment to extend it to six consecutive terms.
Warwick Watchdog Rob Cote said he didn’t think enacting term limits helped the public.
“This legislation helps you people not us,” said Cote.
Cote argued that it takes away some of the voice that the public has because they wouldn’t be able to vote for a new mayor every two years and at some point wouldn’t be allowed to vote for a particular council member or mayor if that individual is term limited.
“Why do you want to fix something that is not broken,” said Cote.
Rix introduced two amendments, one that would make both the Council and Mayor’s terms the same and another that would make the Mayor’s term four consecutive two-year terms.
Both amendments failed to get a second for discussion.
Mayor Frank Picozzi on Tuesday morning said that he would’ve favored having the Council and Mayor have the same term limits.
“I would’ve preferred to have the term limits the same as the mayor,” said Picozzi. “I don’t understand why it needs to be longer.”
School Committee term limits, expanded committee docketed
Also, on Monday Ladouceur docketed a resolution asking the General Assembly for permission to put the question of three consecutive four-year terms on the ballot for School Committee members on the ballot in November.
In a separate resolution he asked that the question of expanding the School Committee from five to nine members be put on the ballot.
A resolution to put the expanded School Committee was supposed to be on the agenda during Monday’s meeting however, it was pulled by the then sponsor Ward 8 Councilman Anthony Sinapi.
I started receiving calls from residents as word spread of the proposal. They raised a litany of “concerns with the proposal as currently drafted, and such warrants further consideration before proceeding forward given that this ultimately requires changing the City Charter,” Sinapi told the Beacon last week. “If we are going to alter the composition of the School Committee, I want to make sure it's done right and in a manner that offers the greatest likelihood of success. Thankfully, the introduction of this proposal has started the conversation.”
Ladouceur said that his proposed resolution would be similar to the one that was going to be proposed by Sinapi, but instead of having term limits as part of the ballot question, it would be entirely separate. He said that he is doing so because some people may be for expanding the School Committee to nine members but are opposed to term limits.
“Five is ridiculous,” said Ladouceur. “Three people controlling 53 percent of the taxpayers' dollars is ridiculous.”
Ladouceur said that one of the arguments that he has heard is that not many people run as it is. He thinks that more people would run under a nine person School Committee because it would be less ground for each candidate to cover.
“It's a lot easier to campaign in a Ward than it is to campaign citywide,” said Ladouceur.
Ladouceur said that the Council isn’t the final say on any of the resolutions introduced and docketed during the meeting. If they make it to the ballot the voters will get to decide.
“We are not the final say,” said Ladouceur.
Council, mayor pensions
Rix on Monday also docketed an ordinance that would end pensions for newly elected Council members and mayors.
Currently elected officials elected before 2013 are eligible for a pension after serving six years in office and reaching 60 years old. Those elected after 2013 are eligible for a pension after serving for 10 years.
“It is actually a very small benefit for most but creates some perverse incentives for some who might be tempted to make a deal for a future job,” Rix wrote on his Facebook page ahead of the meeting.
According to the current ordinance, the amount an elected official receives for their pension is $1,500 and $200 multiplied by his or her years of creditable service as an elected official or a nonelected official. The maximum amount is no more than $5,500 per year.
Rix argued a member of the Council could serve for a few years and then get a job with the city in order to increase their pension.
“Multiplying a pension by about 10-fold is a temptation for some to make a corrupt deal,” Rix posted on social media. “This is not about stopping anything that is happening right now, and, I truly do not think that anyone in office right now would do this. Instead, this is about recognizing a potential problem so that it isn't exploited in the future.”
A date for when the ordinance would be heard wasn’t set during the meeting.
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