Central Falls Charter Panel Selected (Not Elected)

By way of an update (while tackling the stack of clippings on my desk), Zachary Malinowski reported on April 6 that the seats for the Charter Review Commission have been filled in Central Falls.  Given the apparent process, the passive voice is entirely appropriate:

State-appointed receiver Robert G. Flanders Jr. and Rosemary Booth Gallogly, state director of revenue, have approved the selections that were made last week by Leadership Rhode Island, a Providence-based think tank. The order, signed by Flanders, is on file in Central Falls City Hall.

So, an outside group (which calls itself a “community leadership development organization”) made the selections, and the governor’s appointed receiver for the city and an appointed department director signed off on the list. Diversity was a stated goal of the selection process (meaning that the commission would reflect the ethnic makeup of the town), but viewed by different criteria, it’s hard to believe that the group captures the character of the city:

  • A former city councilman and state weight and measures official covering Central Falls
  • A Central Falls police sergeant
  • A member of the Central Falls public library board of directors
  • A charter school “outreach coordinator” with an master’s degree
  • A long-time Central Falls school volunteer
  • A hospital research data coordinator
  • An engineering firm president
  • A computer specialist
  • A nondescript member of the public

Six of the nine members either work within government or for organizations that are deeply tied to government policies.  Two of the remaining three have white-collar jobs (and the occupation of the exception is not mentioned).  Whether a carpenter and a baker would have brought anything different to the table would be an interesting question, but of greater concern, to me, is the contrast with the process followed in Chelsea, MA.

There, the emphasis appears to have been on finding people in the community who were leaders in different ways.  Such an approach might bring in the president of a PTA, a business alliance chairman, a church pastor, the leader of a youth sports league, chairs of men’s and women’s guilds — basically, representatives of the various facets that make up a community.  In Central Falls, it looks like technocratic organizers and bureaucrats selected people mostly within the narrow band of “community” defined by government-related activity.

That doesn’t speak well for two of the critical goals that were present in Chelsea:  1) Drawing residents into participation with government, and 2) teaching them how civics works.  There may or may not be broad consensus among the people of Central Falls that these commissioners are good people, perhaps even to some extent public figures.  But they do little to illustrate and reinforce the relationship that government ought to have with the community it governs.