Charter Commission found consensus, now it goes to the people

Charter Commission found consensus, now it goes to the people

When I was appointed to the Scituate Charter Commission a year ago, I was thrilled. I had long believed that the town of Scituate should have a charter, and that the two-page legal document from 1915 that currently guides our town government is woefully out of date and long overdue for revision. I also knew that Scituate was the only town or city in the entire state that did not have its own charter.

Thus began a nine-month process of reading and studying the charters of various towns, researching municipal governments within Rhode Island, attending 23 meetings, and interviewing past town council presidents, town managers, town clerks, and our own town treasurer to find out best practices and alternative methods of governing. These meetings were open to the public, many were taped and available for view, and a few people came to discuss the procedure, make requests, and give their opinion, which was always heard. As a result, many suggestions from the public were incorporated in the document.

This bipartisan committee, consisting of Republicans, Democrats, and independents, spent many hours discussing the results of this research, and oftentimes compromising their own positions so that a consensus could be reached, and so that the best possible governing document could be written and ready to be voted on by all the voters of Scituate.

The draft charter has been presented to the town, and at a recent town meeting each person who spoke, including members of the Town Council and people who initiated the home rule charter petition, stated that they agreed with “80 percent” of the charter, and that the home rule committee that would be selected at the special election to be held on July 28 would base its work on this charter. Everyone in the audience agreed!

Now I and other members of that committee are running for the Home Rule Charter Commission because we believe that Scituate deserves to have the best possible government to help us to move forward into the 21st century. Our town is small, but within our borders we have a big responsibility to the citizens of Rhode Island as the home to the state’s largest reservoir. And it is imperative that we have a professional, well-run government to preserve all that we as a town value so highly, such as our beautiful environment, our wonderful libraries, our schools that were once famed for their success and will be once again. But most of all, we need to preserve our sense of community and democracy, encouraging the active participation of all our citizens.

The drafters of this charter, which everyone praises, are very proud of this document. Now, we are running for the Home Rule Charter Commission because we believe in the charter process, because we are prepared to work with the entire community to “tweak” the 20 percent that some believe needs revision, and because we are prepared to work hard to produce a final charter for the people of Scituate to read, to vote on, and, ultimately, to be ruled by. It is no less historic than the founding of our town, and no less important than democracy itself.

Sharon Johnson