We are in July of 2018 and the special committee that was supposed to bring the city ordinances into compliance with and fully implement the charter has yet to be established. That committee was supposed to be formed immediately following the adoption of the new city charter in November 2017.
Furthermore, on June 27, 2018, l sent a letter to the mayor, the city clerk's office and the City Council bringing to their collective attention that the City of Fall River was violating a very simple and understandable charter provision by not complying with Section 10-5 (l) of the charter, which specifically reads:
"(l) The public comment rules or policies as referenced in section 9-18 of this charter shall be posted on the city website by June 15, 2018, and such policies or rules must be in effect on or before July 1, 2018."
The public comment rules or policies, as required in section 9-18, have not been established nor have they been posted on the city's website. These rules or policies were supposed to go into effect on or before July 1, 2018. That language of the charter is not subject to interpretation.
Who in our government is responsible and accountable for following the provisions of the charter?
Section 3-2 of the city's charter states in part: "the mayor shall cause the charter ... to be enforced ... ." And, in Section 9-14, the charter requires: "It shall be the duty of the mayor to see that the charter is faithfully followed and that all agencies and city employees comply with its provisions. Whenever it appears to the mayor that a city agency or city employee is failing to follow this charter the mayor shall, in writing, cause notice to be given to such city agency or city employee directing compliance with the charter."
To date, public comment rules or policies which conform to the requirements of section 9-18 have not been established and, as such, are not posted on the city website; the special committee as found in section 10-5 (m) that was supposed to be formed immediately after the adoption of the charter has not been formed; and no public official has responded to my letter of June 27. In that letter I specifically asked the mayor: "When can the citizens of Fall River expect you to direct compliance with sections 9-18,10-5 (l) and fulfill your responsibilities as found in section 3-2 and 9-14 of the city charter?"
What is going on? When can the citizens of Fall River expect compliance with sections 10-5 (m), 9-18, 10-5 (l), 3-2, 9-14, and the rest of the city charter? Why does this lack of compliance continue to repeat itself even when the city officials, before any votes are taken, are informed their potential actions may violate the charter in expectation they will comply? The city cannot comply with or enforce the charter only when it is convenient for them to do so.
We simply want our elected officials to adhere to the law and follow the provisions of the charter. Each one of our elected city officials took a solemn oath to abide by the city's charter and ordinances. Over 7,800 citizens voted for the new charter, and the city's non-compliance has reduced that election to a nullity. The citizen's votes effectively have not counted, and their right to choose how their government should operate has been taken away. How would our elected city officials, including the mayor, feel if we told them we don't care that you won the election, this is who we are putting in office like it or not?
It is a really a sad commentary for this city, that citizen groups had to organize to protect the Quequechan River Rail Trail and needed to hold fundraisers to raise money to hire legal counsel to force our elected officials to do what they took a solemn oath to do.
The Committee for Real Change was formed to advocate for change to better our city. This change needs to start with how our local government operates. We really don't want to have to hire legal counsel to make our elected representatives do their jobs, but like the groups protecting the River Trail, we will also do what we feel is in the best interest of our city and its citizens.
Chair, Committee for Real Change