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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Charlestown Class War Comments

Since the start of the series on Class War in Charlestown, we've drawn quite a few comments. Most were thoughtful and interesting; a few not so much - ugly stuff like the kind posted by "Blog Warriors" (paid right-wing commenters who flood progressive blogs with nasty remarks).

I decided to write the series after January 16th remarks by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) Florida-based president Kallie Jurgens. In a letter to the Westerly Sun, Jurgens warned Deb Carney of the Democratic Town Committee not to start a "class war." But the class war has already begun, and Kallie played a large role in starting it as a long-time leader of the RI Statewide (nee Shoreline) Coalition.

Charlestown's class war is a struggle of North vs South (of Route 1), of rich vs. poor, of whites vs. Narragansetts, a struggle to keep outsiders outside, a fight against technology and above all else, a struggle for control.

Class war in Charlestown is often fought through symbols - brick, asphalt, school-age children, cat-loving senior citizens, the evils of wind energy - and through conspiracies, real or imagined. 

I appreciated Patricia Curry Almeida's comments in defense of the Planning Commission and its zealous enforcement of the Comprehensive Plan, those immutable rules that define exactly how life will be lived in Charlestown. Except when it doesn't.

As we reported in Tom's great series on the controversial plan to convert the old YMCA camp on Watchaug Pond into homes, sometimes camp grounds, as an example, are zoned recreational, sometimes open space and sometimes residential, without apparent rhyme or reason. 

Erin Diaz commented on our Facebook page that she wants to try going in a different direction - she is a realtor and was selling some land, presumably zoned residential, and had a buyer who wanted to turn it into a campground. Of course, the town's answer is faggedaboudit, so the buyer went elsewhere 

Let's be honest: plans are really good things to have, but they are not sacred documents. They can and should be changed when circumstances warrant.

A recent anonymous commenter wrote that she felt torn by the issue of affordable housing - that she understood its importance and value, but loved C-town's environment. She wondered whether new affordable housing could come with a major amount of the land set aside for green space.

Well, Anonymous, I agree with you 100% and, to my recollection, just about every AH project proposed in town has had just that - lots of open space set aside. But NO, there's always something else that makes Ruth Platner swing the veto hammer. The recent Shannock proposal is a case in point - most of the land for that development would have been left open space. But NO, the units would be open to families with children who might need schooling so NO, Ruth Platner found this project unacceptable.

I'll close this posting by saying thanks to Tina Shea for her comments in support of rescuing feral cats and her introduction of yet another aspect of Charlestown's class war. She and her husband are commercial shell fishers, duely licensed. Yet when they try to ply their trade, rich waterfront owners try to roust them and call DEM's environmental police. The enviro-cops check their licenses and let them continue, to the dismay of the rich people who hate having working people in their vicinity. Wonder if Kallie and John Jurgens, on the deck of their 2nd home in Shady Harbor are among the people who dimed the Sheas to DEM? 

Author: Will Collette