Dee from the Desk: Recalling Exeter

For once the eyes of Rhode Island are on rural Exeter. With a population of just over 6,000 people, Exeter doesn't even have a police department, but one thing they do have is determined residents.

In a historic move, the people of Exeter have handed in four petitions calling for the recall of four of the five town councilors.

Why do they want the recall? Some argue it's about guns, but the people behind the petition say it's about more than that; its about the right to self-governance.

Recently the  town council supported a proposal that would ask the state legislators to propose legislation requiring residents to receive gun carry permits from the RI Attorney General's office instead of the Exeter town clerk.

The proposal brought hundreds to a town council meeting but despite the outcries of people against the proposal, the town council approved it. Now, those residents are angry, saying their voice is not being heard by the town council.

Although the legislation was never voted on in the General Assembly and therefore failed, the residents made it clear they wanted a voice. Over the past few weeks a group of individuals went door to door (no easy feat in a farm based community) and gathered over 600 signatures of Exeter voters calling for recall elections. (496 signatures were required to mandate the election.)

In what some are calling a victory for democracy, the petitioners have so far prevailed recalling one town councilor, Arlene Hicks. In the next few days the Board of Canvassers will work to certify the signatures on the other petitions. Then the town will have 60 days to set an election where the voters will get to chose if the town councilors should stay or go.

While a gun carry permit may be the face of the issue, the heart of the issue comes down to one simple line in the constitution, “a government by the people, for the people.”  Whether you agree with the recall or not, Exeter is making history and reminding us all what it means to be a citizen of the United States. These individuals felt they had lost their voice in their town and decided to take action.

More often than not voters quickly become disenfranchised with government when they feel like they are not being heard. Some swear off voting and others turn off the news, but, let the 600 signatures in Exeter be a reminder to everyone that the people can take a stand in government.

While today the issue may be carry permits, tomorrow in another city or town it could be something else. In the true spirit of United States, the people in Exeter have reinvigorated the civic process and reminded everyone that people can make a difference.

Even if the recall election fails and the people chose to keep the town council, the people behind the petition have sent a subtle reminder to Rhode Island politicians that they work for the people, and the people are paying attention. The success in collecting enough signatures for a recall should not be downplayed, it shows that Rhode Islanders will stand up to politicians.

Exeter has reminded us all that civic engagement is the foundation of our country and that it is okay for people to be engaged in political discourse.

Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master's degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.