PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence City Council on Thursday approved 10 proposed changes to the city charter, all of which will now be placed on the ballot for voters to approve or reject in November.
The charter changes include a partly elected School Board and a change to the procedure for removing an appointed official, which was prompted by last year’s city clerk scandal.
The council opted to amend some of the proposed charter changes that came out of the Charter Review Commission earlier this month, and added two items to the bottom of the list before passage.
One of the amendments involved changing the dollar amount above which a city contract must be publicly vetted and approved by the Board of Contract and Supply. The current threshold is $5,000, but the charter commission recommended changing it to $15,000 for regular contracts and $35,000 for construction contracts.
The council brought that down to $10,000 and $20,000, respectively, before passing the ballot question.
The school governance proposal, if approved by voters, would create a new Providence School Board with 10 members, half of them elected by the voters in five newly created districts, and half appointed by the mayor. (Right now, there are nine members who are all appointed by the mayor.)
The council amended the proposal before passage, adding that the mayor’s five appointed members also must come from each of the five new districts.
Just nine of the 15 council members were present at the special meeting to approve the charter changes. The deadline to get ballot questions to the Secretary of State’s office is August 10.
Here is the language of the 10 ballot questions approved by the City Council for Providence voters to consider on Nov. 8:
- Shall Department Directors be required to appear before the City Council for reappointment every four years. [Amends Section 302 (b)]
- Shall the City Council be allowed to hire consultants by vote of a simple majority [Amends Section 401 (d)]
- Shall the removal procedure for appointed officers be defined by ordinance and allow the City Council to remove council appointees by a vote of a simple majority. [Amends Section 403]
- Shall the purchasing threshold be increased from five thousand ($5,000.00) dollars to ten thousand ($10,000.00) dollars for regular purchasing and twenty thousand ($20,000.00) dollars for construction contracting. [Amends Section 1007 (c)(1)]
- Shall the new position of General Manager of the Water Supply Board be established with oversight authority over all personnel matters of the Water Supply Board separate and apart from the position of Chief Engineer. [Amends Section 1101(a)(3)(4)(5)and(b)]
- Shall the Charter clarify that all department heads and appointed officers are subject to all applicable personnel regulations of the City. [Amends Section 1201]
- Shall the number and composition of school board members be increased from nine (9) to ten (10), to include five (5) members elected at the November 2024 general election, one from each of five (5) equal electoral regions representing the North, South, East, West, and Central areas of the City; and five (5) members appointed by the mayor with the approval of the city council, with one appointment from each of the five equal electoral regions. [Amends Section 701]
- Shall the terms “chairman” and “vice-chairman” be replaced with the terms “chair” and “vice-chair” wherever they appears in the charter.
- Shall the City Treasurer be provided direct access to records of all receipts, appropriations, and allotments of the City, and be required to ensure compliance with the City Charter and Code of Ordinances prior to issuing any payments. [Amends Section 602]
- Shall the Composition of the City Plan Commission be amended to add an additional representative from the general citizenry of the City of Providence. [Amends Section 1013]
Steph Machado (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.