Skip to main content

Rep. Amore Takes on Waterfront Commission Reform

Buoyed by a resolution of the East Providence City Council and resident feedback. Representative Gregg Amore (D-65) has introduced House Bill 7876. The bill would amend the general laws under the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, which the East Providence Waterfront District Commission is a de jure subsidiary, this would supersede the special enabling act which formed the commission passed back in 2003 which was sponsored by then Senator Damiani.

Currently, the City Council appoints four members to the body and the Governor appoints another four members. The chairperson is appointed by both the Mayor and the Governor. However in practice, there hasn't been a formal chairperson appointed in six years. Vice-chairman Bill Fazioli, former East Providence City Manager and Director at PFM Financial Advisors, LLC, has served as Acting Chairman for the duration of the vacancy.

Amore's bill would change the city appointments to allow the elected Mayor to appoint two members and the City Council to retain appointing two members. The Governor would retain four appointments and the East Providence Chamber of Commerce would select an appointee.

The legislation would also have the chairperson selected by the members of the commission from among its members and the Mayor and Council President would be added as ex-officio non-voting members.

The Waterfront District Commission became a heated topic of discussion last fall when the commission authorized the removal of low-income housing requirements at Kettle Point counter to the City Council's formal request to retain them.

Councilors, most notably Councilman Botelho, raised a lot of questions regarding communication between the city and the commission and the issues with the lack of a permanent chairperson. Botelho cited one-sided communication and stated that the City Council is kept in the dark.

The City Council passed two resolutions late last year, the first urging the Governor to concur with ceremonial Mayor Jim Briden's appointment of Mr. Fazioli as chair under the current system and the second was to request that the city's state delegation sponsor legislation to change the appointment structure, similar to what Representative Amore has now put forward. On the attempt to have Mr. Fazioli appointed chair, Mr. Fazioli told the Council "I've been found wanting by three Governors."

When we reached out to Fazioli for comment, he said that he hadn't discussed the legislation with the rest of the commission or with the bill's sponsor but noted "Under this proposal I do not see any consideration of the ex officio members which have made some valuable contributions to our work over the years." these sentiments were echoed by Senator William Conley, who stated he was reviewing the legislation and the resolution by the city council with the East Providence City Solicitor.

Councilman Brian Faria, the sponsor of the resolution that resulted in the legislation offered a statement as follows "It was never the intention of the resolution to replace the current ex-officio members of the commission but to simply add the incoming Mayor and the Council President as additional ex-officio members in order to give the local elected officials, who are responsible to the voters, a needed voice at the table."

Jason Desrosiers, a contributer to the Independent Townie and government advocate opining frequently on this issue added "I am very happy to see this legislation being taken up by Rep. Amore as I know he's an advocate for reform" when asked about the issue of the ex-officio members. Desrosiers added "the model legislation I discussed with Mr. Amore last fall included the current ex-officio members in addition to the Mayor and Council President. I shared the same model legislation with members of the City Council subsequent to that meeting."

There is yet to be a companion bill introduced in the Senate, nor did Senator Conley allude to sponsoring one. We also reached out to Senator Daponte but did not receive a response.

Note: Articles on The Independent Townie are often the work of several contributors. Mr. Desrosiers contributed research and portions of this article.