Why no vote rather than voting “no”? The recall provision of our Home Rule Charter is flawed. For the recall to count, a certain number of people have to vote, but both sides count toward that total. For example, if the necessary total is 808, it would only take 405 people voting to recall if another 403 vote not to. Those who want the recall should have to come up with the whole 808. Not voting also sends the message that this election abuses the recall power.
For the recent recall of Fall River’s mayor, 10 people had to appear together to start the petition, and they had only 20 days to collect signatures from 5% of all registered voters in the city. In Fall River, that meant a little more than 2,500 signatures. The petitioners were able to collect so many signatures so quickly because the reason for their recall was that the mayor was facing a criminal indictment from the federal government.
In Tiverton, it took the petitioner 116 days to collect enough signatures for the recall, and even that was well below the 5% needed in Fall River. The reason the process took so much longer in Tiverton is that the recall is a political stunt. In fact, the petitioner, William McLaughlin, first picked up sheets for the petition on January 15, when the new council had been in office for less than two months.
McLaughlin waited until April 4 before officially filing the petition because he was waiting for some excuse. This is what he came up with, exactly as it appears on the petition to recall Justin:
We the undersigned registered voters in the Town of Tiverton RI do hereby call for the removal of Justin D. Katz from the Town Council by recall vote pursuant to Article XII Section 1209 of the Home Rule Charter of the Town of Tiverton. Councilor Katz has knowingly and willfully failed to follow the will of the people of Tiverton in making decisions, has lied to and mislead the voters on issues before the Council and is violating the first amendment amendment right of every citizen in Tiverton by preventing them from free speech to redress grievances with the Town Government.
McLaughlin posted this old picture of himself on the popular Tiverton Happenings page and used it as his Facebook profile picture.
As soon as we were elected, the Town Solicitor submitted a letter of resignation and asked that we find a replacement quickly. We did just that, hiring a trustworthy attorney from a large firm who has done an excellent job. Claims that Justin had an inappropriate professional relationship with the candidate were not true, and several frivolous complaints filed with the state were all dismissed.
After a seat on the library Board of Trustees sat empty for a year, a resident promising to bring a different point of view applied. By the time of the appointment, the council had three applications, including one request to be reappointed. To bring diversity of opinion, we chose to give a voice to the many residents who felt they were not previously represented. The appointee began his position in March and has worked to help the library to succeed.
The petition claims our change prevented free speech, but it did exactly the opposite. We opened up the meeting for anybody to speak on any issue while we’re talking about it or to put other topics on the agenda. The one small adjustment in the other direction was to stop having an open forum if we had an extended, closed-door session after the meeting, but we promised to reduce how often that happened… and we have.