On Friday, July 30, a group of North Kingstown citizens filed a recall petition against School Committee member Jen Lima. The petition does not allege wrongdoing or malfeasance of any kind, only that the petition signers do not agree with her.
A couple of important points:
NK has never before had a recall of an elected official, let alone the top vote-getter. Lima won her seat in 2020 with over 9000 votes, more than any other municipal official. Only Jim Langevin, Jack Reed, and Joe Biden got more votes in North Kingstown.
A special election will cost the Town $20-$30k of funds that were not in the budget.
A recall election will only be scheduled if 3100 more people sign a petition to have one. The results of that special election will only be valid if at least 6200 voters cast a ballot.
If the recall were to be successful, Hannah Zangari would replace Lima. Zangari and several family members signed the petition. Among the other signers were town council members Kerry McKay and Mary Brimer. Here's the entire petition that set the process in motion. Be sure to scroll through all 7 pages; some of the signatories' names may surprise you, given their stated opposition to wasting government money.
Also perplexing is the accusation of the official's having "publicly stated an opinion which is not representative of the views of her constituents." In a Democracy serving people of all different backgrounds, ages, income levels, and experiences, how can any elected official express only ideas that 100% of their constituents share?
Part of the petition appears to refer to a social media post last spring where Lima questioned the value of prom during a pandemic. Lima dismissed talk of her March post. “I met with the students at the time and we had a constructive discussion on how to balance our community’s needs and priorities. But this petition is not actually about my post.”
“I ran on challenging institutional racism, and since I was elected, I’m just doing what I promised,” said Lima. “I pushed for the creation of the district Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Subcommittee. This recall effort is the work of a small but vocal minority in town, organized to aggressively promote the idea that working to wipe out racism is actually harmful.”
One of the foundation stones of a functioning democracy is agreeing to be governed by people who disagree with you, if they have more votes. This is what "indivisible" means in the Pledge of Allegiance. This petition represents an absurd misuse of the recall provision in our town charter, which should be reserved for cases of corruption or abuse of power. There are a lot of important issues before our town: addressing the pandemic, climate change, rising inequality, economic uncertainty. We hope this petition never gains the traction to keep our voters from moving the town forward on these important issues.