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Four Year Terms Followup: "There was a conspiracy to kill this at the outset!"

The four year terms were a fiery subject of for March 6th City Council meeting. Again the issue was raised in Communications by former Councilwoman and now candidate for Mayor, Chrissy Rossi.

Rossi brought the question up but got few words in. Mr. Botelho, himself a passionate advocate on this issue, dominated the discussion.

Botelho first turned the matter of the School Committee terms over to Solicitor Gregory Dias. Dias explained that while Title 16 of the Rhode Island General Laws do call for four year staggered terms, in 1998 a charter amendment was passed for two year school committee terms and that charter amendment was affirmed by a joint resolution of the General Assembly. Essentially creating an exception for East Providence.

After that explanation, however, Botelho made clear that the City Council terms were not subject to the same situation. Botelho said he researched the tracking of the original bills in the House and Senate. The House Bill was passed by the House, transmitted to the Senate and died in committee in the Senate. Then on June 25th with just a couple of days left in the session, Senator Daponte sponsored an identical bill in the Senate which passed but was never transmitted to the House for concurrence. “The Senate gave the big middle finger to the people of the city” Botelho stated.

“This is how you kill a bill that allows everyone to say they voted for it.”

Tom Riley, a member of the Canvassing Authority was called up in that capacity and seemed to waffle on his stance. He clarified that he could not speak for the full board, only as a single member. Riley asked what could stop a ten year term, before digging into legislative maneuvering recommending to go back the the General Assembly. He stated he agreed with Botelho but was simply playing devil's advocate stating “You folks should not be placed on the ballot.” However the exchange did become testy at points with Riley challenging Botelho's knowledge of Title 17, the state's election laws. Mayor Briden supported looking into some of the aspects that Riley raised.

Botelho found agreement with Councilman Faria “We can’t pick and choose when to listen to the people” Faria stated. Councilwoman Sousa was also in support asking “Is it a personal agenda people have?” Botelho answered that special interests like two year terms because they can keep officials needing their support. Faria went a step further revealing that the same interests had lobbied against the mayoral four year terms "the same power brokers wanted to kill [Mayor] 4 year terms” with Botelho in audible agreement “they were messaging us during the special meeting.” Faria concluded.

Botelho made clear what he wanted done “I am hopeful that the clerk performs her ministerial duty to update the charter.” however Mayor Briden wanted to get a legal opinion. "That's how all this started" Rossi replied. Botelho added “You can get as many opinions as you want" reiterating his expectation. 

Rossi pressed the body to put the topic for a vote and despite Briden's objections, Faria ensured it would be.