New Bedford Councilor to Vote to Sustain Mayor’s Veto Amid Recall Provision Discussions
On April 27, the New Bedford City Council will vote whether or not to sustain Mayor Jon Mitchell’s vetoes of the council’s three proposed ballot questions for this November’s election.
The ballot questions ask residents if they wish for the City to enact rent stabilization, if voters wish to repeal the Community Preservation Act, and if they wish to see the mayoral term revert back to two years from its current four years.
Ward 5 Councilor Scott Lima issued a press release late Wednesday morning, one day ahead of the council vote, stating that he would be voting to sustain Mitchell’s veto on the mayoral term question.
Lima pointed out in his statement that the 2017 ballot question in which voters decided to extend the mayoral term was “relatively close,” with the measure passing 6,904-6,127.
“It’s important to consider why 6,127 citizens voted no on the ballot question and to consider measures designed to protect the City and its residents from a four-year mayoral term that could potentially include instances of impropriety, malfeasance, dereliction of duty, and illegal activities,” Lima said.
Lima said the residents of the city could instead be protected by a recall provision, which does not currently exist in New Bedford.
“Because Mayor Mitchell has agreed to work with the city council to establish a mayoral recall provision, it is my intention to sustain the mayor’s veto,” Lima said.
Mitchell also sent out his own response to Councilor Lima’s statement Wednesday afternoon. In it, he stated that “democracy rests on the willingness of the public to accept the results of a properly administered election.”
“Our system of government cannot reliably function if the results are allowed to be undone by those who merely disagree with the victor’s policies,” he said. “But I believe that under extraordinary circumstances, voters should have the authority to recall an elected official who has become so physically or mentally incapacitated as to be unable to perform the basic duties of office, or whose moral or legal transgressions are so serious that continued service would undermine the legitimacy of the office itself.”
In his Wednesday appearance on WBSM, Mitchell pointed to not only what happened recently in Fall River with the recalls of Mayors Will Flanagan and Jasiel Correia, but also the lack of a recall in Toronto when then-Mayor Rob Ford acted erratically and admitted to smoking crack cocaine.
“To avoid these worst-case scenarios, many, if not most, American cities have a recall provision in their city charter, and as I’ve said before, now that New Bedford has a four-year mayoral term, we should have one, too,” Mitchell said in his statement.
“I look forward to working with Councilor Scott Lima and the rest of the council to craft a recall provision that balances the need to honor the finality of elections with the need to preserve the legitimacy of municipal government,” he said.
In his WBSM appearance, Mitchell said the recall provision would not just be the office of mayor, but also for city councilors, assessors and school committee members – anyone who is an elected official in the city.
It also could be a process to get it done, as it requires a change to the city charter.
“We’ve taken at least a preliminary look at how something like this would be drafted,” he said. “It’s not something that needs to happen tomorrow, but I think we do need to have something like that.”