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Could Petition System Drive More Citizen Participation in Newport?

Newport City Manager Tom Fromme is proposing a petitioning system that would allow citizens to be more engaged with the issues they care about.

During Monday's city commission caucus meeting, Fromme said that when the city polls residents, it typically receives responses from about 2-percent of recipients. Instead, he is more often stopped on the street by citizens interested in particular laws.

Fromme suggested to the city commission the creation of a petition system that would require the commission to review topics that garner enough public support through signatures.

He said more discussion on the issue would be needed before something is presented for a vote to create the petition system.

“From time to time, we have people come to the city council meeting and have suggestions for legislation," Fromme said. "This is fine except we don’t have the staff to research all of these ideas. We need a consistent way to address these concerns that citizens are bringing forward.”

Fromme's suggestion did not include how many signatures would be needed for citizens to get an issue before the commission, but he said that 10 percent (approximately 500 signatures) of the registered voters that voted in the last mayoral election is a pretty standard number. Moreover, this model was copied from the state level and Fromme had confirmed that the city had the authority to do this.

“This is a uniform thing that we can hand individuals that have a desire to have an ordinance looked at," Fromme said. "Everyone is treated the same and everyone has an equal chance.”

Written by Connor Wall, RCN contributor