Carol Anne Costa: Exeter’s Recall- Why the People Won
Thursday, December 19, 2013
No matter where you are on the gun debate this process put democracy and citizenship in full view and that is a good thing. The roles of local canvassers, the special election process combined to exhibit the scope and responsibility of delivering a fair election through the town’s workers in charge of those duties. It displayed what activism looks and sounds like, and it provided a spectacular vision of what Saturday voting can do for the process. I believe whole heartily it is time to expand access to voting, streamline elections and give local canvassers more tools to make the process less cumbersome in RI. Did you hear that General Assembly? I am hoping that you are prepared to act forcefully on this in the upcoming session. And, look no further than Exeter to reference what Saturday voting can do for the election process.
The issue that polarized the Town of Exeter was a gun permitting conundrum which commenced a groundswell of participation and old fashioned grass roots campaigning and ultimately a rare event in Rhode Island; a recall election. At odds was the practice of allowing carry and conceal permits to be doled out by the Town Clerk assisted by the 84 year old Town Sergeant, who holds an elected position which remains rooted in tradition and is largely ceremonial. Exeter’s Town Clerk is the only Town Clerk in Rhode Island with this power and responsibility. These legitimate concerns moved the Town Council to act and thereby pitted them against a passionate gun advocates lobby.
The special Exeter Town Council meeting of March 11, 2013 with over 300 citizens in attendance was ground zero for what was to come. Upon a motion made by Mr. Monahan to approve Resolution Urging Passage of Legislation Relating to Gun Permitting in the Town of Exeter; seconded by Mr. Ellis; and voted as follows: Arlene Hicks- yea, William Monahan-yea, Raymond Morrissey- nay , Robert Johnson- yea and Calvin Ellis -yea. With that vote, the many folks got fired up and ready to go.
The sitting Town Council voted to move the practice of permitting to the RI Attorney General’s Office which has the resources for more in depth reviews which the Town Clerk and Town Sergeant simply do not. The vote to support the resolution had gun rights advocates and the tea party faithful recoil in horror, and thereby challenge the actions of the 4 council members who voted affirmatively. And, the wheels of democracy hit the ground spinning feverishly fueled by passion, positions and old fashioned, bare knuckles politics; providing a lesson in the “process”. Lines were drawn, alliances formed and the political version of Survivor took shape.
Tribal Council - Battle Lines
On team “We the People” we find a spirited tribe of gun rights and good government advocates whose mission, according to their website, was clear: Re-Establish a Government: for the people, of the people, by the people. Defend your rights as an Exeter citizen and the rights of your fellow citizens. This is a non-partisan issue and concerns the Constitutional rights of all Exeter citizens. Elect officials who will represent the people and faithfully execute the duties of their office in accordance with the Exeter Town Charter and the law. Elect officials who will honor their commitment to the United States of America, respect the rights of its citizens and who will defend the US and Rhode Island Constitutions.
On team “Exeter 4” is a feisty tribe of defenders who assembled to support the embattled 4 Councilors; Calvin Ellis, Bill Monahan, Arlene Hicks and Bob Johnson. The tribe was fueled by the desire to keep moneyed and special interest groups from outside the town from usurping town government, according to their website.
Really don’t you just love a good political fight fraught with words and phrases like; we the people and usurping local government? It gets the people thinking and acting as they are supposed to in a participatory government. It is good for the political soul. Exeter’s people and process certainly came through with a tutorial in civics. Make no mistake, RI and the country was watching.
The special election surrounding the recall of the “Exeter 4” issue was about the process, enthusiasm and exercising the right to campaign, lobby and ultimately vote. While I personally believe the people of Exeter reached the best decision by rejecting the recall, I don't live there and I respect the full throated, passionate example of the process exhibited by this small, engaged and rural Rhode Island town. Rare is the recall election, but the tribe has spoken, turn in your torch We the People, as the Exeter 4 survive to govern another day.
Related Slideshow: New England Communities With the Most Political Clout 2013
The Sunlight Foundation, in conjunction with Azavea, released data maps this week showing political contribution dollars to federal elections dating back to 1990 -- by county.
GoLocal takes a look at the counties in New England that had the highest per-capita contributions in the 2012 election cycle -- and talked with experts about what that meant for those areas in New Engand, as well as the candidates.
25. Merrimack County, NH
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $9.86
Total contributions: $1,447,713
Merrimack County is named after the Merrimack River and is home to the states capital, Concord. Merrimack County has a total area of 956 square miles and a population of 146,761.
24. Cheshire County, NH
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $9.88
Total contributions: $759,209
Cheshire is one of the five original counties in New Hampshire and was founded in 1771. The highest point in Cheshire County is located at the top of Mount Monadnock, which was made famous by the poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
23. Rockingham County, NH
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $9.96
Total contributions: $2,965,530
Rockingham has 37 communities and has a population of 297,820. Rockingham County also was home to the famous poet, Robert Frost
22. Belknap County, NH
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.02
Total contributions: $604,512
Belknap County is one of the ten counties in New Hampshire and has a population of 60,327. It is located in the center of New Hampshire and the largest city is Laconia.
21. Hampshire County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.41
Total contributions: $1,664,077
Hampshire County has a total area of 545 square miles and is located in the middle of Massachusetts. Hampshire County is also the only county to be surrounded in all directions by other Massachusetts counties.
20. Barnstable County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.90
Total contributions: $2,348,541
Barnstable County was founded in 1685 and has three national protected areas. Cape Cod National Seashore is the most famous protected area within Barnstable County and brings in a high amount of tourists every year.
19. Berkshire County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $12.49
Total contributions: $1,624,400
Berkshire County is located on the western side of Massachusetts and borders three different neighboring states. Originally the Mahican Native American Tribe inhabited Berkshire County up until the English settlers arrived and bought the land in 1724.
18. Essex County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $13.22
Total contributions: $9,991,201
Essex is located in the northeastern part of Massachusetts and contains towns such as Salem, Lynn, and Andover. Essex was founded in 1643 and because of Essex historical background, the whole county has been designated as the Essex National Heritage Area.
17. Chittendon County, VT
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $13.86
Total contributions: $2,196,107
Chittenden has a population of 158,504, making it Vermont’s most populated county. Chittenden’s largest city is Burlington, which has about one third of Vermont’s total population.
16. Lamoille County, VT
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $14.82
Total contributions: $369,854
Lamoille County was founded in 1835 and has a population of 24,958. The county has 464 square miles, of which 461 of them are land.
15. Addison County, VT
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $15.49
Total contributions: $569,299
Located on the west side of Vermont, Addison County has a total area of 808 square miles. Addison's largest town is Middlebury, where the Community College of Vermont and Middlebury College are located.
14. Newport County, RI
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $16.02
Total contributions: $1,214,26
Newport County is one of the five Rhode Island Counties and was founded in 1703. Just like Connecticut, none of Rhode Island counties have an any governmental functions.
13. Cumberland County, ME
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $18.33
Total contributions: $5,205,507
Cumberland County has a population of 283,921 and is Maine’s most populated county. The county was named after the William, Duke of Cumberland, a son of King George II.
12. Windsor County, VT
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $20.57
Total contributions: $1,156,149
Windsor County is the largest county in Vermont and consists of 971 square miles of land and 5 square miles of water.
11. Bristol County, RI
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $20.91
Total contributions: $1,027,472
Bristol County has a population of 49,144 and is the third smallest county in the United States. Bristol County was originally apart of Massachusetts, but was transferred to Rhode Island in 1746.
10. Grafton County, NH
Contributions, per capita, 2012 :$20.95
Total contributions: $1,868,739
With a population of 89,181, Grafton County is the second largest county in New Hampshire. Home of New Hampshire’s only national forest, White Mountain National Forest takes up about half of Grafton’s total area
9. Carrol County, NH
Contributions, per capita, 2012: 2012: $22.81
Total contributions: $1,012,10
Created in 1840, Carroll County has a population of 47,567. Carroll County was also named after Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the United States Declaration of Independence.
8. LItchfield County, CT
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $22.86
Total contributions: $4,286,143
Although it is Connecticut’s largest county, Litchfield has the lowest population density in all of Connecticut. Since 1960 all Connecticut counties have no county government.
7. Middlesex County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $32.81
Total contributions: $50,432,154
Middlesex County has a population of 1,503,085 and has been ranked as the most populous county in New England. The county government was abolished in 1997, but the county boundaries still exists for court jurisdictions and other administrative purposes.
6. Nantucket County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $33.41
Total contributions: $344,021
Nantucket County consists of a couple of small islands and is a major tourist destination in Massachusetts. Normally Nantucket has a population of 10,298, but during the summer months the population can reach up to 50,000.
5. Norfolk County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $35.87
Total contributions: $24,459,854
Named after a county from England, Norfolk County is the wealthiest county in Massachusetts. As of 2011, Norfolk was ranked the 32nd highest income county in the United States.
4. Dukes County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $36.32
Total contributions: $618,960
Consisting of Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, Dukes County is one of Massachusetts’ top vacation spots. Originally Dukes County was apart New York, however it was transferred to Massachusetts on October 7, 1691.
3. Suffolk County, MA
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $40.73
Total contributions: $30,323,537
Suffolk County has a population of 744,426 and contains Massachusetts’s largest city, Boston. Although Suffolk’s county government was abolished in the late 1900’s, it still remains as a geographic area.
2. Knox County, ME
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $45.89
Total contributions: $1,820,410
Knox County was established on April 1st, 1860 and was named after American Revolutionary War General Henry Knox. The county has a population of 39,668 and is the home of the Union Fair.
1. Fairfield County, CT
Contributions, per capita, 2012: $55.65.
Total contributions: $51,970,701
In a population of 933,835, Fairfield County is the most densely populated county in Connecticut, and contains four of the state's largest cities -- Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk and Danbury.
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