COVENTRY — Among his goals for Coventry, Bradford Mayer, if elected to a four-year term on the town council, would like to ensure more opportunities for residents to be involved in the decisions made by their local government.
“We need to increase transparency all around,” said Mayer, a political newcomer who’s vying for the District 2 seat being vacated by current council vice president Greg Laboissonniere. “I just want to help get Coventry moving forward in a better direction.”
Mayer tries to attend as many council meetings as he can, he said, and has found since he began paying close attention in 2016 that there’s a lot of mystery surrounding many of the council’s actions.
If elected, Mayer said he’ll strive to get the public more involved. He’d like to remove some of the restrictions placed on the public comment periods during council meetings, for example.
“A couple members of the council have a very narrow-minded view of the Open Meetings Act (OMA),” he said, noting that the law doesn’t prohibit public bodies from responding to residents’ comments.
“[The OMA] just says members of the council cannot bring up new business or talk about anything not on the agenda,” he continued.
He said he’d like the council to add a public comment portion to the beginning of each meeting, as well, so that residents can bring up their concerns on agenda items before potential votes are taken.
Mayer would also like to come up with a more clear definition of the town council president’s role.
“There’s a lot of gray area there, which I’d like to take from gray to black and white,” he said. “And I’d like to see more decisions fall on the entire council, as opposed to one person… I just think if more issues can be voted upon by the entire council, not an arbitrary decision made by one person, it would be a more democratic way of doing things.”
Mayer said he’d also like residents to have more of a say in how the town builds its budget. A few years ago, he said, there had been talk of creating a citizen advisory board that would meet regularly to discuss local budget issues. That board never came to fruition, however.
“I want to get back to that, create that board, and have budget talks year round, not just during budget season,” he said, “so that everyone can get on the same page and we don’t have this never-ending battle of town versus school.”
A performance audit should be conducted, Mayer added, so taxpayers “can be shown their tax dollars are being used properly and efficiently.”
There should be a strong focus, as well, on the problems that have plagued the town’s sewer program.
“I believe [the program] has been mismanaged from the start,” he said.
Mayer said it’s crucial that the inter-municipal agreement between Coventry and West Warwick for the use of West Warwick’s wastewater treatment plant be renegotiated.
“That whole contract needs to be reworked,” he said. “I know it’s a contract, and both parties signed it, but there are ways to reopen it.”
Built into the agreement is a capacity amount, and currently Coventry is using far less than it’s paying for. And if West Warwick ever upgrades the treatment plant, Mayer said, then Coventry will be on the hook to cover a larger share of the cost than it should have to.
“I’m just afraid that if they performed an upgrade, it’s money Coventry doesn’t have,” he said. “I think it would be good to be proactive to save Coventry money.”
Mayer moved to Coventry in 2013. He currently drives school buses, and before that was part of the operations team of a Massachusetts-based doctors group. Having been tasked with ensuring that the group stayed on-budget, Mayer said he’s sure that experience would help to make him a valuable part of the council.
“When it comes time for budget season, I think it would help me,” he said. “I understand that every town department, the school department, everyone has their own budgetary needs.”
Mayer is running for the District 2 council seat against Jennifer Ludwig in the Nov. 3 election. Voters who don’t wish to wait can cast ballots early at the Coventry Town Hall between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, through Nov. 2.