What are all these ballot questions?
And who is the Charter Review Commission?
North Kingstown has a Charter Review Commission, a group of individuals appointed by the Town Council whose task is to review the Town's charter — the constitution of North Kingstown as it were — to see if it is meeting the needs and legal requirements of the town.
The CRC has several recommendations to make, and these are on the ballot. Here are some brief explanations of each question, as presented by the CRC to the Town Council.
Question 4: Do you want to allow retail marijuana establishments in North Kingstown? (This one isn't the Charter Review Commission, but it's a local question that doesn't need a lot of explanation.)
Question 5: Adds the word "lease" to the charter section regulating property transactions. Currently it only refers to purchases and sales, but leases are important kinds of property transactions, too.
Question 6: Currently leases that last more than 10 years require a public vote. But many businesses (like cell phone towers) ask for longer leases than this. This question would require that only leases for terms of more than 25 years would require a public vote.
Question 7: Right now, if the town foreclosed on a property for unpaid taxes (and therefore now owns the property) and wanted to sell, it would need voter approval. This question will allow the town to sell properties with values up to $300,000 without specific voter approval. Similar charter amendments have been adopted by several communities in RI. Having to put items like this on a ballot hinders the town's ability to negotiate a timely agreement when an opportunity arises.
Question 8: This question would delete this section, as it conflicts with another section of the charter — 507(c) — that grants the town manager the authority to hire and dismiss staff without prior approval of the council.
Question 9: The three named positions do not currently attend Planning Commission meetings. However, they participate and provide input and recommendations before projects go before the Planning Commission. The intent is to clean up charter language and not suggest a requirement that does not, in fact, exist.
Question 10: Any section of the charter can be reviewed at the request of the Town Council at any time. The charter currently requires a full review every six years. The Charter Review Commission believes a full formal review does not need to be mandated that frequently and recommended that a full review be done every ten (10) years.
Question 11: There are at times, terminology and text organization changes that would make the charter easier to read and understand. As it stands now, every edit, whether substantive or not, requires a ballot question. This amendment would allow non-substantive edits to be made with the unanimous approval of the Council and no ballot approval. If you look at Article VII, for example, the numbering for the sections and subsections makes no logical sense. Approval of this question would allow this section to be renumbered, grammatical corrections to be made, and amendments be made so that the charter is in compliance with state and federal laws without voter approval.
There are also three state questions.
Question 1: This is to allow URI to invest more at the Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) at the Narragansett Bay Campus. The campus is very much a part of the "Blue Economy" of marine businesses and investments powering important components of the state's economy. The goal of this investment is to expand GSO's role and make it even more of a player in expanding opportunity for Rhode Islanders. Read more about it at the URI web site.
Question 2: The School Building fund is part of General Treasurer Seth Magaziner's program to offer inexpensive support to cities and towns that want to renovate schools. The state borrows at lower cost than most school districts can, and passes along the savings to the cities and towns. This bond authorizes $250 million in borrowing, most of which will eventually be repaid by the school departments, through property tax, along with some state support.
Question 3: This bond will support a wide variety of environmental programs, ranging from open space purchases to habitat restoration and from cleaning up industrial sites to municipal climate resilience projects. There's even some support for the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Read the DEM fact sheet for more information.