After the selections for President and U.S. Senator and Representative, below the ballot slots for town council and school committee — on the third page, in fact, of the 2012 ballot for Johnston voters — are three referenda questions that could have a major effect on the town.
[Need info on this year's election? Check out the JohnstonPatch Election Guide.]
The first, Question 8, asks voters to decide whether the office of Mayor should be limited to two, four-year terms. Question 9 covers $4 million in bonds to fix local roads, and Question 10 seeks $1 million for open space preservation.
Here's a breakdown of each ballot item, and its potential effects:
Question 8: Term Limits for Mayor
Text: Should Section 2-4 of the Home Rule Charter for the Town of Johnston be amended to establish a four-year term for the office of Mayor and to establish a term limit of two four-year terms, to be effective as of the next general election?
Intent: This question would impose an eight-year limit for the mayor, beginning with the 2014 election.
Effect: Current Mayor Joseph Polisena, who is running for his fourth two-year term this year and supports passage of the question, would be eligible to run again in 2014, and would be bound by the eight-year limit, if the question were approved and he decided to run in 2018.
Question 9: Road Repair Bonds
Text: Shall the Town of Johnston finance various capital improvement projects including, without limitation, design, construction and improvement of roads and streets in and for this Town and issue not more than $4,000,000 bonds and notes therefor?
Intent: This question would allow the town to borrow $4 million to improve roads in Johnston, with the costs added to the fiscal 2014 budget.
Effect: Several roads in town that are now in poor shape — from larger arteries like Scituate Avenue to smaller back-roads like Railroad Avenue off George Waterman Road — would be repaired. A preliminary list, drawn up by the town's Department of Public Works, previously included Central Avenue — but the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation sewer project also includes plans to re-pave the road, which runs from Atwood Avenue to the Central Landfill. Local officials have said that the cost of construction will ultimately determine how many roads get repaired.
Question 10: Open Space Bonds
Text: Shall the Town of Johnston finance various capital improvement projects including, without limitation, acquisition of open space in and for this Town and issue not more than $1,000,000 bonds and notes therefor?
Intent: This question would allow the town to borrow $1 million to buy land to preserve as open space, with the costs added to the fiscal 2014 budget.
Effect: Approval of this bond item would provide the Johnston Land Trust with more funding to purchase additional properties, keeping them from future commercial development. Most recently, the Land Trust coordinated the establishment of the town's first dog park in Woodlake Park. Judy Kawa, chairwoman of the Land Trust, recently explained that the organization will use the money as matching funds for grants that it seeks from the state and federal governments.
What do you think?
Will you be voting on these questions this year? Will you vote 'yes' or 'no'?
Do you think the town should impose term limits for the Mayor, or not?
Should the town borrow money to fix the roads and preserve open space — or is it the wrong time?
Here's your chance to sound off — let us know what you think about these Johnston issues in the comments below.