I normally try to ignore Justin Katz’s writings as they are usually filled with opinions not supported by data and fail to persuade. However, the statements made by Mr. Katz in his recent Letter to the Editor (“Council to Divide Tiverton Over Budget Committee Appointment, EastBayRI.com, November 18, 2014) are too egregious to ignore.
Rather than accept that the political action committee he formed, Clean Up Tiverton, failed to resonate with the voters, he resorts to the same tactics of labeling and attacking others with no facts to support his statements. One would hope that this would have ended after the people of Tiverton made their choices in the election. Unfortunately, this is not the case so I wish to provide some fact checking to correct the statements that Mr. Katz so haphazardly presents.
Mr. Katz suggests that the new Town Council members who were supported by the Tiverton Democratic Town Committee (TDTC) will be “dividing the town” if they fill a now vacant budget committee position in a manner other than the one which he deems fair. Since they have yet to be sworn in, he bases this not on any votes they have taken or discussion they have held in public meetings, but only on statements attributed to them in the Sakonnet Times.
Mr. Katz insists that “past practice” be followed in appointing the next top vote getter from the election. This individual, John Martin, is affiliated with Clean Up Tiverton and failed to garner enough votes to be elected to one of the five open positions on the ballot. Mr. Katz recognizes that the voters changed the Charter to grant the Town Council the authority to fill such vacancies yet warns that it will set a divisive precedent if his identified “past practice” is not followed.
However, his facts are incorrect and this is not past practice. A simple review of Town Council minutes will show past Councils have taken varying approaches to appointing vacant positions, including those members with which Mr. Katz aligns himself. Katz-aligned Council members Coulter, Nelson and Chabot in 2011 twice passed over the next-highest voter getter for budget committee. In fact, the April 2011 minutes will show that they specifically voted against a motion to appoint the next-top vote getter and instead appointed a resident who voters had rejected in that election for a Town Council seat.
Just months later, to fill a second unanticipated vacancy, these same Councilors again ignored the next-highest vote getter and instead put in place a process to ask for people to apply and then be interviewed. In November 2011, they ultimately appointed another resident aligned with their past positions. As elected officials, that was their right and prerogative to choose an appointee who they felt would support their values and beliefs in regard to town governance.
Mr. Katz also suggests that not appointing the next highest vote getter thwarts the will of the voters. It seems to me that the voters clearly chose five individuals to fill the five vacant Budget positions – they did not vote on a potential sixth candidate should a vacancy happen to occur in the future. In fact, I would argue that the voters knowingly changed the Charter to allow the Council to appoint to vacant positions in recognition that those candidates who voters reject in an election should not automatically be appointed to fill vacancies.
Mr. Katz ends by saying “Watch what they do, not what they say.” I suggest you do both and you will realize that you need to always question Mr. Katz’s data and his logic. He has been very clear that he does not believe that government should play a role in the lives of its citizens and simply twists data to support his beliefs, regardless of whether what he presents is factual. He relies heavily on hoping that voters will not question his logic and his “facts” and will simply take his statements at face value. Please question him at every step and you will find that the emperor has no clothes.
Chairman, Tiverton Democratic Town Committee