2011-04-28 / Front Page

Two seats up for grabs on 2011 ballot

By Tim Riel

The terms of Jamestown School Committee members B.J. Whitehouse and Julie Kallfelz will expire in November, which will mark the last time an offyear election will be held on the island under the current Town Charter. The proposed date for the special election will take place Nov. 8.

Despite some disagreement, there will only be two seats open for this year’s election, even with the recent resignation of School Committee member Dana Long.

Town Council member Bob Bowen said Monday afternoon that, “If someone steps down, then they’re only appointed until the next election.” Bowen said although Long’s term would not expire until November 2012, the election this year would vacate the seat and that the Town Charter was clear on the procedure.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero disagreed and at the Town Council meeting on Monday night it was determined that whoever filled Long’s vacated seat would finish out the term.

“The town solicitor interpreted it a different way,” Bowen said.

Article V, Section 503 of the Town Charter states that the closest non-elected finisher is the first to be offered the seat: “Any vacancy in the membership of the school committee shall be filled by the town council by the next highest vote getter from the most recent election and so on until someone fills the vacancy until the next regular town election, when the office shall be filled for the unexpired term thereof.”

Taking over for Long will be Sav Rebecchi, a former member of the Quonset Development Corporation Strategic Planning Committee and former chairman of the Jamestown Town Charter Review Committee, who was sworn in at the April 25 meeting.

Rebecchi is also the president of the Jamestown Daily Record, a Web site that provides recordings of town committee, council and commission meetings.

In 2009, Rebecchi, an independent, finished fourth behind Democrats Long, Julia Held and Cathy Kaiser for the three open School Committee seats. Rebecchi received 707 votes, behind Kaiser (1,150), Held (1,033) and Long (979).

Even with Rebecchi’s seat solidifi ed through November 2012, the town will still hold a special election for the two seats because of charter revisions made in 2009. During the 2009 election, a referendum was passed 885-594 to lengthen the terms for town councilors. The amendment enabled a one-time, one-year extension for Council members to serve a three-year term instead of two. When their three-year terms expire in November 2012 — as opposed to November 2011 — newly elected councilors will go back to serving two-year terms.

The reason for the amendment was to allow local elections to sync up with state and national elections. This would save the town $10,000 in election years and would possibly increase voter turnout, the Council said at the time.

Also affected in the realignment were the terms of School Committee members. Unlike town councilors, Committee members serve four-year terms, but with the revision, all five Committee members would serve a three-year term in order for all subsequent elections to fall on even-numbered years. The terms of the three Committee members voted into office in 2009 would run until 2012, and the terms of the two seats filled this year will expire in 2014.

Because the five-person Committee has a scattered election — every two years either two or three members are elected — the four-year terms from Whitehouse and Kallfelz weren’t up in the 2009 election, therefore their seats are the last remaining under the old format.

According to the Rhode Island Board of Elections, the primary date for this year’s election is Oct. 4, with the general election to be held on Nov. 8. Deadlines for declarations of candidacy is Aug. 25 and the deadline to register to vote for the general election is Oct. 8.

Barrington, Coventry and Woonsocket are the only other municipalities in Rhode Island that have a scheduled general election in 2011.

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