2011-05-12 / Letters to the Editor

Taxpayers should be on committee

In previous months, the Taxpayers’ Association of Jamestown has spent a great deal of time and energy addressing the concerns of many Jamestowners regarding the way in which last year’s Financial Town Meeting was conducted. As a follow up, we drafted a petition to initiate an amendment to the Town Charter to move away from the verbal and visual methods of approving the town budget and related items and to present voters with secret ballots to ensure privacy and accountability.

We are pleased to report that the association has collected over 500 signatures and we presented this to the Town Council on April 25. We would like to thank everyone who signed the petition and who shared their ideas and concerns about the Financial Town Meeting. We appreciate the encouragement and the trust that you placed in our association to spearhead this effort on your behalf. This petition drive is an excellent example of democracy in action.

Therefore, we would like to update you on the status of this effort and our next steps. We presented the petition and the signatures to the Town Council. We applaud the Town Council for their immediate attention to this petition. Now, we must collectively address how we move forward with effecting the change. On May 2, Town Council member Mr. Bob Bowen suggested we form a Charter Revision Committee to study this issue. The only formal action taken at the meeting was to place this issue on the agenda for the next Town Council meeting planned for Monday, May 16. Also on May 2, the Town Council discussed how best to proceed with this issue and options were discussed. Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero pointed out to affect the most permanent form of change, the Town Charter should be revised, rather than articulating an ordinance.

We support this approach as we are looking for a lasting and significant change from the current rules and procedures of the Financial Town Meeting. This would enable us to move away from the verbal and visual voting and, institute instead, a more democratic process to vote on the town budget.

We support the Town Council’s decision to move forward with the charter revision process to supply rules and regulations which will enable voters to vote their conscience without fear of intimidation, while ensuring accuracy and privacy.

We respectfully request that members of our association be appointed to the Charter Revision Committee. This will ensure that the will of the 503 petitioners is represented in the process.

While Jamestown is not the small island community of the past, it’s important to retain as much of this identity as possible, and at the same time, keep the traditions of the New England democracy alive and well in Jamestown. The best way to maintain the quality of life in Jamestown we all treasure is to form the Charter Revision Committee and thoughtfully and thoroughly evaluate how future budgets of Jamestown are drafted, discussed in the community and voted upon.

Blake Dickinson
Taxpayers’ Association of
Jamestown

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