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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Ruth Platner goes off the rails

Tries to stir outrage over imaginary threat

By Will Collette

In 2016-17, just about everyone in Charlestown (including me) opposed a proposal by AMTRAK to build a new rail bed between Old Saybrook, CT and Kenyon for high-speed trains across the top of Charlestown. The new route would have wreaked havoc on farms, historic and tribal sites, nature preserves and homes.

Resistance actually started in Connecticut. Charlestown joined in late because the ruling Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) ignored prior notices – as then Council President Tom Gentz put it “Who has time to wade through that?”

However much we hated that plan, from the start, it had almost zero chance of actually being carried out since (a) Donald Trump had not approved it and (b) was unlikely to support any project that helped northeastern Blue states that voted against him in 2016, plus (c) the Republican-controlled Congress didn’t fund the plan.

AMTRAK beat a retreat claiming they needed to re-think the project and the so-called “Old Saybrook-Kenyon Bypass,” the one that would have run through us, was taken off the table in a BINDING Record of Decision.

But now it’s 2021. Trump is gone. Democrats control the Congress. President Joe Biden LOVES trains and a major infrastructure project like upgrading rail service along the Northeast Corridor makes more sense than ever for jobs and for its very positive carbon footprint.

So naturally, Charlestown’s Planning Commissar Ruth Platner is sounding the alarm: “THEY’RE BACK?” as she put it as if AMTRAK bulldozers were about to break ground for the decisively defeated Old Saybrook-Kenyon Bypass. You can read her rants HERE and HERE.

However, there is NO EVIDENCE that AMTRAK plans to resurrect the Old Saybrook-Kenyon Bypass. According to Ruth’s only source, the on-line Connecticut Examiner, AMTRAK wants to connect Providence to Hartford with high-speed rail.

That's true, but not the way Ruth thinks it is. In fact, AMTRAK already has a route to make the high-speed rail connection between Hartford and Providence that doesn’t come anywhere near Charlestown, called North Atlantic Rail. Here’s the map:


Read more about this plan in EcoRI’s February 5, 2021 article HERE noting explicitly that this plan doesn't come anywhere close to Charlestown.

But Ruth is shook up over another map (BELOW) that ran with the Connecticut Examiner article. That map shows the general location of the gap between New Haven and Providence but DOES NOT indicate any threat to Charlestown.

I read that same article even before Ruth started ranting about it and had entirely different takeaways.

CT Examiner graphic

For example, the article accurately notes that AMTRAK eventually dropped the Kenyon to Old Saybrook Bypass, and the widening of the rail corridor near Guilford from a binding record of decision released on July 12, 2017.” Note the term binding.

Nothing in the article says or implies that AMTRAK intends to set aside that BINDING decision, but that’s not what Ruth Platner would have you believe.

In fact, the article largely focuses on AMTRAK’s announced plans to upgrade the other sections of the Northeast Corridor especially in Hartford.  

The article quotes a 2017 Connecticut Mirror article that said:

“At the time, Rebecca Reyes-Alicia, who managed the federal project for FRA, told Ana Radelat, a reporter for CT Mirror, “there was no consensus” for the proposed bypass through southeastern Connecticut. Reyes-Alicea said there would be instead a later “healthy” process for finalizing a route between New Haven and Providence. That process would still require any solution to meet the overall goals for service and time savings between Providence and New Haven and would consider on-corridor and off-corridor solutions.”

But apparently Ruth missed the date of the article and thought this was AMTRAK’s current plan so she sounded the alarm thinking there is an imminent threat – which there is not.

The article only mentions one new action that may have some bearing on us and that’s “two studies: a ‘New Haven to Providence Capacity Planning Study,’ and a ‘New Haven to New Rochelle NEC Capacity and Trip Time Planning Study’ at some unspecified time. A "capacity planning study" does not mean we need to grab the pitchforks and picket signs.

Note that the North Atlantic Rail plan (map above) covers high-speed rail service between New Haven, Hartford and Providence coming nowhere near us.

Why is Ruth trying to start a panic?

One theory is that Ruth is using the CCA Party’s tried-and-true technique of creating boogeymen to scare Charlestown voters into believing that only the CCA can save Charlestown from Armageddon.

Or perhaps she’s trying to skew people’s answers to the survey currently in the hands of every Charlestown household. For the most part, that survey tests how much residents approve of the status quo and how much they hate a long, long list of threats. REMINDER: please fill your survey and send it in.

Whether Ruth is playing the long con or just going for a cheap thrill, it does seem like we will be hearing a lot more about some of threats the CCA wants us all to fear.

For example, the CCA is currently featuring a talk on the 1973 attempt to turn the decommissioned Ninigret Naval air field into a nuclear power plant at the Quonnie Grange.

That battle was before my 2002 arrival as a Charlestown resident, but I’ve talked to veterans of that fight who still remember the town’s unity of purpose. Instead of a power plant, the Navy base became Ninigret Park and the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge.

It's always something
It’s good to remember history – this 50 year old campaign was one for the ages. The CCA concedes that Nuclear power seems highly unlikely to be proposed again for coastal Charlestown” but History is more likely to be repeated if it is allowed to be forgotten.”

Next up, I expect Ruth to resurrect the mythic threat of a Narraganset tribal casino in Charlestown now that the US Department of Interior is run by Deb Haaland, a Native American of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico.

For more than a decade, Charlestown politics have been fueled by fear and bullshit. If it’s not a stampeding herd of developers, it’s AMTRAK. If not AMTRAK, it’s nukes or the Indians or chain stores or wind turbines or shiny lights or improperly trimmed shrubbery.

Or it’s getting dates wrong and mistaking 2017 for 2021.

The birds and the bees

By Peter Kuper

 

The heroes of January 6

 


Mothra comes to Rhode Island?

North America’s largest butterfly expands into RI

By TODD McLEISH/ecoRI News contributor

The wing span of a giant swallowtail butterfly is 4 to 6.25 inches. (istock)

The largest butterfly in North America has been expanding its range from the South and Midwest in the past 20 years and is now showing up in Rhode Island in increasing numbers. The giant swallowtail, which features wide, yellow stripes across its brown wings and a slow wingbeat, has made it as far north as northern Vermont, but it isn’t expected to go much further.

“When it comes flying at you, you swear it’s a bat because it’s so big,” said Kent McFarland, a conservation biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, who has studied the swallowtail’s range expansion. “It’s huge and unmistakable.”

Mothra, one of Godzilla's least impressive enemies
Until recently, the giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) was considered a “historic” species in Rhode Island, meaning it had been recorded in the state many years ago but is no longer found here. 
It was likely a resident species in the late 1800s through the 1920s, but then it disappeared, according to Harry Pavulaan, a butterfly expert in Virginia who lived in Rhode Island in the 1980s and has become the Ocean State’s unofficial recordkeeper of butterfly observations.

He said one wayward giant swallowtail was reported from Charlestown in the 1960s, and a small colony was observed in the Arcadia Management Area in Exeter from 1983-85. Many have been observed throughout Rhode Island in the last four or five years, however, including in Tiverton, Little Compton, Bristol, Warwick, Westerly and South Kingstown.

Air quality is bad

Don't throw away your face masks

By Will Collette


The air we breath is currently in the "UNHEALTHY" range for pm2 particulates coming to us from the forest fires in the Canadian northwest. The air quality is expected to improve as wet weather rolls in but as long as those fires are burning, we can expect more unhealthy air.

The fires send fine particulates of ash for thousands of miles. We can inhale them and they can end up lodged deep in our lungs.

According to DEM:

Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including: 
• premature death in people with heart or lung disease 
• nonfatal heart attacks 
• irregular heartbeat • aggravated asthma 
• decreased lung function 
• increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing.
People with heart or lung diseases, children, and older adults are the most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure.

If you use your face masks, you can cut down on the intake of that bad air. 

We're also on the verge of having masking orders reinstated, particularly indoors, as Rhode Island's COVID infection rate climbs.

This morning, WPRI reported that RI's community transmission rate has become "substantial." For several weeks, we were seeing less than 10 cases per 100,000 but we have risen to 57 per 100,000.  and that's alarming.

The Delta variant is driving the surge in new cases. It is much more infectious and dangerous than the COVID we experienced last summer.

It's also only part of the story, however. Since our system to test extensively has largely collapsed, we don't really know how bad things have gotten. As Donald Trump used to say "No testing, no cases." He was right on this one thing - if we don't test, we don't really know what's happening.

This is especially true for the fully vaccinated who may be experiencing "breakthrough infections" without knowing they have COVID. The vaccines are doing their job in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death for nearly all fully vaccinated people, but that doesn't mean you can't pass the disease on to the unvaccinated.

As bad as it is to see our COVID transmission rate go up 500%, imagine how bad it REALLY is when you take into account people carrying the virus but are untested.

Our accidental Governor Dan McGee is waffling on whether to use the emergency powers he has retained over the strenuous objections of our anti-vaxxer Charlestown state rep Blake "Flip" Filippi to instate mask mandates. 

I've noticed that far more people have made that decision for themselves by masking up in grocery stores. 

Bottom line: the prudent choice is to put your masks back on. And if you haven't gotten vaccinated yet, get it done before you land in the hospital (or the morgue).

Happy Birthday, insulin!

Insulin was discovered 100 years ago – but it took a lot more than one scientific breakthrough to get a diabetes treatment to patients

James P. BrodyUniversity of California, Irvine

A single brilliant insight is only part of the story of how diabetes became
 a manageable disease. Douglas Grundy/Three Lions via Getty Images
Diabetes was a fatal disease before insulin was discovered on July 27, 1921. A century ago, people diagnosed with this metabolic disorder usually survived only a few years

Physicians had no way to treat their diabetic patients’ dangerously high blood sugar levels, which were due to a lack of the hormone insulin. 

Today, though, nearly 1.6 million Americans are living normal lives with Type 1 diabetes thanks to the discovery of insulin.

This medical breakthrough is usually attributed to one person, Frederick Banting, who was searching for a cure for diabetes. But getting a reliable diabetes treatment depended on the research of two other scientists, Oskar Minkowski and Søren Sørensen, who had done earlier research on seemingly unrelated topics.

I’m a biomedical engineer, and I teach a course on the history of the treatment of diabetes. With my students, I emphasize the importance of unrelated basic research in the development of medical treatments. The story of insulin illustrates the point that medical innovations build on a foundation of basic science and then require skilled engineers to get a treatment out of the lab and to the people who need it.

Monday, July 26, 2021

The 2022 Governor's race, so far

How the Democratic Primary for RI Governor Might Be Going

By Samuel Gifford Howard

The accidental leader? (WPRI photo)
The conventional wisdom in RI politics is that Dan McKee is the frontrunner to be the Democratic nominee for governor in 2022. Ted Nesi sums it up in Nesi’s Notes:

…a new poll pegs McKee’s approval rating on coronavirus at 60%. His fundraising has picked up now that he’s the incumbent, with his campaign expected to report about $310,000 raised during the second quarter. He’s got a durable geographic base in the Blackstone Valley. 

He holds orthodox Democratic Party positions, but is temperamentally a moderate. And a man who saw organized labor defect to his Republican opponent eight years ago is now in the good graces of union leaders from the Laborers’ Armand Sabitoni to NEARI’s Bob Walsh… 

Apart from all that, the anti-McKee vote could be split five ways if Matt Brown joins Nellie Gorbea, Seth Magaziner, Jorge Elorza and Luis Daniel Muñoz in seeking the Democratic nomination.

And, you know, the conventional wisdom is probably not wrong. But it may be overstating its case. McKee is getting much of the attention right now large because he’s the person with the most agency to act; most of his potential opponents simply don’t have the benefits of the office of the governor. 

Too late for many


 

Charlestown, be sure to fill out your survey

 

 

 

Fellow Residents of Charlestown, 

All registered voters and property owners have received the town survey in the mail. 

With this email we are sending a gentle reminder: Charlestown Residents United encourages all town residents to respond to the survey. You can fill out the survey and return it by mail or complete the survey online. 

Participation is the way you can get the town government you want, whether through your vote in November or giving feedback, such as this survey, to town government. 

Let town government know how to direct your tax dollars and if you support affordable housing for future generations, more jobs and a better small business climate in town, and upgrades at Ninigret Park to bring it in line with facilities in neighboring communities. 

Also, if you feel any issues may have been overlooked on the survey, please list them in the comments section provided in question 18 (paper copy) question 19 (online version). Please keep in mind that if you want to make additional comments, the best way to complete the survey is online using the PIN number provided on your survey; you’ll have more space than provided on the paper copy. 

Thank you, and please remember, the elected officials of Charlestown serve at the pleasure of the taxpayers and should be responsive to their needs.  

Respectfully,

Jodi Frank

Charlestown Residents United

 

 

 

 

 

Charlestown Residents United (CRU) is a Political Action Committee dedicated to providing a voice to all Charlestown residents.

 

 

 

 

 

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Charlestown, RI 02813

 

Race and ethnicity are factors in shoreline access

Ocean State Confronts Environmental Justice Along Its Coast

By CYNTHIA DRUMMOND/ecoRI News contributor

Recent research has found access to Rhode Island’s shoreline and the amenities it offers differs between demographic groups. (Joanna Detz/ecoRI News)

Rhode Island has hundreds of public shoreline access points, but for many people getting to them is a challenge.

“Shoreline Access for All: Environmental Justice along the Coast,” a June 30 webinar, the second in a series hosted by the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) and Rhode Island Sea Grant, focused on shoreline access as an environmental-justice issue.

The speakers were social scientist Kate Mulvaney of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Julia Twichell, geographic information system and watershed specialist at the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program; and CRMC policy analyst Leah Feldman.

Mulvaney presented findings from a study that focused on distributional justice, the sharing of environmental burdens and benefits. The EPA research focused on demographic groups and how access to shoreline amenities differed between them.

Rhode Island has more than 400 uncertified public shoreline access points — during the past seven years, CRMC has certified 222 rights of way — but water quality varies from the more urbanized upper Narragansett Bay to the beaches in South County.

The environmental toll of disposable masks

New MIT study calculates the waste generated by N95 usage and suggests ways to reduce it.

Anne Trafton | MIT News Office

British tabloids recently featured Jemima Hambro's wedding dress
made from 1500 recycled face masks.  (David Parry/PA)
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began last year, face masks and other personal protective equipment have become essential for health care workers. 

Disposable N95 masks have been in especially high demand to help prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

All of those masks carry both financial and environmental costs. The Covid-19 pandemic is estimated to generate up to 7,200 tons of medical waste every day, much of which is disposable masks. 

And even as the pandemic slows down in some parts of the world, health care workers are expected to continue wearing masks most of the time.

That toll could be dramatically cut by adopting reusable masks, according to a new study from MIT that has calculated the financial and environmental cost of several different mask usage scenarios. 

Decontaminating regular N95 masks so that health care workers can wear them for more than one day drops costs and environmental waste by at least 75 percent, compared to using a new mask for every encounter with a patient.

McKee's newest CRMC member’s appointment doesn’t jibe with state law

CRMC Chair Resigns; Gov. McKee Appoints His First Council Member

By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff

Jennifer Cervenka recently resigned from the board of the Coastal
Resources Management Council. (ecoRI News)
For more than two years Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) operated shorthanded, even as the agency’s website continued to list Lisette Gomes and Michelle Collie as board members.

The CRMC board is supposed to consist of 10 members, but Gomes resigned in 2019 after taking a municipal judge position, and Collie, the CEO of a chain of physical therapy centers who was appointed in 2017, noted at the beginning of 2020 that she would not be renewing her term.

A replacement for Collie was appointed in early May, as Gov. Dan McKee selected Lindsay P. McGovern to serve on the unpaid board that oversees waterfront development and coastal regulations.

Two vacancies, however, still remain on the powerful council, as Jennifer Cervenka, the board’s chair for the past four-plus years, submitted her letter of resignation to the governor July 21, writing, “Through our meaningful work over these years, I’ve presided over more than a hundred full Council and subcommittee meetings on matters of great importance to our State.”

The East Greenwich resident, the co-founder of a Providence law firm that specializes in environmental law, was appointed on June 15, 2017 and confirmed June 28, 2017. She was appointed by then-Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Pandemic brings cash to Charlestown

More than $10 million to local government and businesses

By Will Collette

Channel 12 graphic
The one bright spot that has emerged from the suffering of the COVID pandemic is an affirmation that Americans will help each other out. 

No thanks to Trump or his Trumplicans, Congressional Democrats and now President Biden have seen to it that at least some help has come to many of the hardest hit.

In addition to a total of $2.3 million in direct aid to the town of Charlestown, Charlestown businesses put in for forgivable loans for small business relief totaling $4,947,023.

Five Charlestown restaurants also received another $3,320,432 in COVID relief under the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a part of Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

The Nordic is, of course, the Nordic Lodge. Birdmar Enterprises is the Cove. MGMR is the Meadowbrook Inn.

That’s more than $10.5 million in pandemic aid to Charlestown’s local government and businesses. It does not include unemployment benefits paid to the self-employed and gig workers nor the enhanced unemployment payments to most of those put out of their jobs by the pandemic.

Charlestown's largest recipient of federal pandemic aid is the Nordic Lodge at $3,010,251. Their $2.6 million grant from the restaurant fund is the second highest in the state, second only to renowned chicken joint Wright's Farm in Burrillville.

The second largest Charlestown recipient is Arrowhead Dental which has given all comers free dental work on its "Dentistry with a Heart" days that earned them Charlestown's first "Local Hero" award.

I’m not going to venture an opinion on whether all of these businesses were, as former CCA leader Dan Slattery used to put it “truly deserving.” Some of these businesses’ owners hold some pretty hard-core conservative political views, the kind that condemn the very programs that granted them this money. 

The money they asked for and received came almost entirely through the good graces of Democrats – with virtually NO support from Republicans- a fact I hope they ponder.

However, keeping businesses alive and preserving jobs was and is a national priority, at least for Democrats, even if their owners are jerks.

Still no word on how the Town of Charlestown will spend its $2.3 million windfall, but I am pretty sure Charlestown Citizens Alliance leader and the town’s Planning Commissar Ruth Platner has a long shopping list of properties she wants to buy starting with this one.

Personally, I think that, at minimum, we use a small piece of that $2.3 million to establish a $1000 annual tax credit for Charlestown volunteer firefighters, especially since our fire companies are having a hard time finding recruits.

Finally, let's look at the tally of Charlestown businesses who received small business pandemic relief. 

Check here for a full, searchable database.

ARROWHEAD DENTAL ASSOCIATES INCORPORATED

  • Charlestown, RI, 02813
  • Approval amount: $732,342
  • Jobs reported: 63

ARROWHEAD DENTAL ASSOCIATES INCORPORATED

  • Charlestown, RI, 02813
  • Approval amount: $732,300
  • Jobs reported: 71
  • Forgiveness amount: $739,887

SHELTER HARBOR GOLF CLUB

  • Charlestown, RI, 02813
  • Approval amount: $544,680
  • Jobs reported: 60
  • Forgiveness amount: $547,600

THE CHARLESTOWN RATHSKELLER TAVERN INC

  • Charlestown, RI, 02813
  • Approval amount: $476,311
  • Jobs reported: 65

THE NORDIC INC. – The Nordic Inn

  • Charlestown, RI, 02813
  • Approval amount: $429,062
  • Jobs reported: 65

OCEAN HOUSE MARINA INC.

  • Charlestown, RI, 02813
  • Approval amount: $330,500
  • Jobs reported: 25
  • Forgiveness amount: $332,336

THE NORDIC INC. the Nordic Lodge

  • Charlestown, RI, 02813
  • Approval amount: $306,472
  • Jobs reported: 54
  • Forgiveness amount: $301,277

H.D. RANDALL REALTORS INC.

  • Charlestown, RI, 02813
  • Approval amount: $291,900
  • Jobs reported: 23
  • Forgiveness amount: $295,078

CHARLESTOWN RATHSKELLER TAVERN, INC.

  • Charlestown, RI, 02813
  • Approval amount: $262,200
  • Jobs reported: 65

RMJC LLC -  a.k.a. Mott & Chace Sotheby's International Realty

  • Charlestown, RI, 02813
  • Approval amount: $227,893
  • Jobs reported: 17
  • Forgiveness amount: $0

And also

LARLHAM LANDSCAPE CONSTRUCTION CO. INC, $190,585, 18 jobs

C & C INVESTMENTS, INC, a.k.a. Carl Johnson Design Build, $195.595, 14 jobs

STEDMAN & KAZOUNIS PLUMBING & HEATING CO INC, $227,183, 23 jobs