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NEW: Letter to ACLU Claims Pool Closing Violates City Charter

Monday, July 29, 2013

 

A letter sent to the ACLU of Rhode Island by Providence City Council candidate Anthony Sionni claims that the City of Providence violated its charter because "city residents have been denied the right to petition the Recreational Advisory Board as provided by the City Charter because that board is not presently in existence."

See Copy of Letter Below

The complaint is the latest move to address the decision by the Taveras Administration to close the Davey Lopes pool in South Providence earlier this summer.  Following the pool closing at the end of June -- and a community rally where several hundred residents turned out in protest -- a number of community and political leaders spoke out against the decision

State Representative Anastasia Williams sent a letter to the Mayor on July 1 in which she wrote, "The closing of the pool seems either arbitrary or politically motivated, neither of which is acceptable."  

On July 18th, following a rally at CIty Hall, the Providence City Council unanimously approved a measure introduced by Councilman Davian Sanchez "requesting his Honor the Mayor to re-open the Davey Lopes pool."

In his letter to the ACLU on July 26, Sionni wrote, "I believe the people have not been afforded the right under the City Charter to petition the board and the Davey Lopes pool should not have been closed in the manner in which it was. The Recreational Advisory Board should be reinstituted so the people have a voice. Also the Recreation Department should not have been merged with the Parks Department and it should remain an independent department" -- and asked the ACLU to take legal action.  

Letter from Sionni to ACLU

I would like to file a complaint for what I believe are violations of the Providence City Charter.

First, the Recreation Department and Parks Department were merged in violation of the City Charter.

Secondly, the Davey Lopes pool was recently closed in a manner not in compliance with the City Charter.

Thirdly, I believe that city residents have been denied the right to petition the Recreational Advisory Board as provided by the City Charter because that board is not presently in existence.

The City Charter states in Article 10 under City Departments,1004. Department of Recreation,

“There shall be a department of recreation, the head of which shall be the director of recreation, who shall be a person with at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university in health sciences, recreation, education or related fields and five (5) years' experience in a supervisory capacity or equivalent training or experience. The department of recreation shall be responsible for the planning and administration of recreation programs in the city for all age groups, and for such other programs and services as may from time to time be placed under its jurisdiction.”

The City Charter also states under Article 10, City Departments,1003. Board of Park Commissioners,

“There shall be a board of park commissioners which shall have jurisdiction over all green spaces of the city, all parks including Roger Williams Park Zoo and Roger Williams Park Museum, the North Burial Ground and other city-owned or controlled cemeteries, public recreational areas of all types including those on or adjacent to school property and all forestry functions including the setting out, care and removal of trees, shrubs and other plants on the streets of the city as well as on the properties for which it is responsible. “

Therefore in my opinion the parks department falls under the jurisdiction of the board of park commissioners as stated above in article 10,1003 Board of Park Commissioners. This means the recreation department should not be merged with the parks department. There is nothing in the charter that states there shall be a parks department. It only states there shall be a board of park commissioners, which have jurisdiction over the parks. However the City Charter clearly states there shall be a Recreation Department.

In the City Charter under Article 10,1005. Recreational Advisory Board. It states,

“There shall be a recreational advisory board consisting of five (5) members, three (3) appointed by the mayor and two (2) elected by the city council. Of the three (3) members first appointed by the mayor, one shall serve a term of one year, one shall serve a term of two (2) years, and one shall serve a term of three (3) years. All subsequent appointments by the mayor shall be for a term of three (3) years. The members elected by the city council shall serve a term of four (4) years which shall be concurrent with the term of the city council. The recreational advisory board at its first meeting shall select a chairperson and such other officers as it may deem necessary from among its members and adopt rules of procedure for the conduct of its business not inconsistent with the provisions of this Charter. The board shall meet at least quarterly and shall hold special meetings upon the request of any two (2) members.

(a)

Duties and responsibilities. The powers and duties of the recreational advisory board shall include, without limitation, the following:

(1)

To advise the mayor, the city council and the director of recreation on matters relating to the recreational facilities and activities to serve all the people of the city which fall under the jurisdiction of the department of recreation.

(2)

To hold public hearings on its own initiative on any matter relative to program and policy decisions within the department of recreation and shall be required to hold such hearings not less than ten (10) days nor more than twenty (20) days following receipt of a petition signed by at least fifty (50) registered voters of the city.

(3)

To make such budgetary recommendations to the director of recreation as it may think appropriate.

(4)

To be advised of all proposals for changes of policy by the director of recreation which would have the effect of discontinuing any existing programs or services; initiating any new programs or services; substantially altering any current program or service; effecting a transfer of funds of more than five hundred dollars ($500.00) from one account to another within the budget of the department.”

The City presently has no Recreational Advisory Board in place and the right of the people to file a petition to that board can't be exercised.

I wanted to file a petition to that board regarding the Mayor’s decision to close the Davey Lopes Swimming Pool. According to the charter, the people can file a petition if the signatures of 50 registered voters are collected. However there is no board in place.

The closing of the Davey Lopes pool should have first been brought to the Recreational Advisory Board and people given the right to petition the board for a public hearing on the matter, if they so choose.

The advisory board as stated in the charter shall also have the right to hold public hearings on changes to any recreational programs. It states under duties and responsibilities of the board, that ”To be advised of all proposals for changes of policy by the director of recreation which would have the effect of discontinuing any existing programs or services; initiating any new programs or services; substantially altering any current program or service; effecting a transfer of funds of more than five hundred dollars ($500.00) from one account to another within the budget of the department.”

Therefore, I believe the people have not been afforded the right under the City Charter to petition the board and the Davey Lopes pool should not have been closed in the manner in which it was. The Recreational Advisory Board should be reinstituted so the people have a voice. Also the Recreation Department should not have been merged with the Parks Department and it should remain an independent department .

I would like the ACLU to take legal action against the city to force them to comply with the City Charter as it relates to my complaint. 

Sincerely, 

Anthony Sionni

 

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