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Proposed Providence charter changes formally introduced Thursday


THE PROVIDENCE CITY COUNCIL held a special meeting Thursday to formally accept for consideration a series of proposed changes to the city charter. / PBN FILE PHOTO/CHRIS BERGENHEIM

PROVIDENCE – A hybrid school board with half its members elected by city residents and the other half appointed by the mayor was one of a series of proposed charter changes that were formally introduced to the Providence City Council on Thursday.

The changes have been recommended by the Charter Review Commission, a nine-member panel of city lawmakers and community representatives who have spent the last six months discussing and gathering public feedback on how best to update the city’s primary governing document, as happens every 10 years. 

The recommended changes were presented to the council Thursday night for a first introduction, with no discussion or votes taken. The council instead plans to hold public hearings later this month before it votes on the recommendations, according to Council President John Igliozzi. Any charter changes that pass muster with the council will then go before voters on the November ballot.

The recommendations, outlined in a 22-page report submitted to the council, range from minor language tweaks and clarifications of existing policies to sweeping reforms. Among the most significant changes, if approved, would be a switch from the existing, nine-member city school board composed entirely of mayoral appointees to a 10-member, hybrid model in which five members are appointed and five are elected by city residents to represent five equal sections of the city.

The commission originally considered switching to an entirely elected school board, as is becoming the trend nationwide, but later agreed to a hybrid model intended to balance public representation with the need for experts selected by the mayor, according to the report.

The commission also recommended changing the charter to allow the council to remove council-appointed employees by a simple majority vote rather than one with support of two-thirds of the group. The proposal comes after the council sought to remove its chief clerk, Shawn Selleck, last year amid allegations of workplace harassment and bullying. Selleck resigned before the council vote on his removal took place.

Other recommendations supported by the commission include:

  • Increasing the $5,000 threshold for city purchases that must first be reviewed by the Board of Contract Supply to $15,000 for general purchases, with a $35,000 minimum for review of construction contracts.
  • Requiring the council to approve the reappointment of existing city department directors every four years in conjunction with the election cycle.
  • Adopting gender-neutral language that eliminates terms “chairman” and “chairwoman” throughout the charter.

(UPDATES to the story throughout to reflect the proposed changes to the city charter were introduced to the City Council and its decision to hold public hearings before it votes on the changes.)

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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