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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Musings on "Jodi LaCroix tells all"

Part of what makes living here so special.
I was not yet a reader of Progressive Charlestown when the "tell-all" interview with Jodi LaCroix was published, but coming across it has given me a fascinating new perspective on life here in town and some recurring themes that have come up here on the blog.

First off, Jodi's reminiscences about the shenanigans people will try to pull to get beach stickers made me chuckle. You'd think they were tickets to see the Rolling Stones. I remember going into Town Hall for the first time to get ours and my husband getting a bit impatient with the verification procedures. I told him, I'm glad they're thorough and make sure we are entitled to get stickers. I wouldn't want Town Hall staffers selling stickers to people who don't deserve them, and then we can't even get into the lot on busy days because people who don't belong there are taking up spaces.

But what struck me most was when Jodi spoke of how some people move here from out of state or from urban areas and then complain about the "lack" of services here in town, such as not offering evening or weekend hours to purchase beach stickers or not having sidewalks or trash collection. As a fairly recent transplant (to Charlestown; I'm a native Rhode Islander) who moved here from a large urban area, I'll admit that at first I wasn't quite sure how well I was going to cope with the no trash collection thing. It was something I'd always had and just took for granted.

Then I realized that simply by composting, I wasn't generating as much trash in the first place and that occasionally hauling stuff to the dump was not a huge chore. In a densely populated area, where rodents can be a major issue, sure, curbside trash collection makes sense. In sparsely populated (at least 10 months out of the year) Charlestown, however, town trash collection would not be economically feasible. But those who want it can certainly arrange for it privately, and for less than what I was paying in solid waste charges on my tax bill in Montgomery County, Maryland.
What we would have paid in taxes if we hadn't closed sale
on our old house 2 days before the taxes came due.

I also started comparing my Charlestown tax bill with what I'd been paying previously and realized that even after subtracting the solid waste charge from my taxes, I was paying less here—for 25 times as much land.

As for sidewalks, in addition to the cost, installing them would result in multiple violations of our tree ordinance. Though when it comes to urban amenities that I miss around here, streetlights rank higher. But once the lighting ordinance passes, they'll of course be banned.

I think what it comes down to is, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. It's hypocritical at best for part-time residents to demand low taxes because they don't want to pay for services they don't take advantage of (schools, etc.) while simultaneously demanding that year-round residents pay for extra services that only part-time residents need (extended hours at Town Hall to sell beach stickers). Not to mention making our hardworking Town Hall staffers work during hours that I'm sure they'd rather be spending with their families.

For that matter, Chief Shippee often has to remind folks who want him stationing patrol cars on individual residential streets to monitor speed limits that he simply doesn't have the personnel to be a private police force for beachhouse owners.

So to those who perhaps got an unpleasant surprise when they received their tax bill last week, think of all you get in return. Read that Travel & Leisure piece on the RI coastline that was written up on Progressive Charlestown the other day. Take a deep cleansing breath of our salt air and think how you could instead be choking on diesel fumes from city buses (at least the ones whose service hasn't been eliminated due to budget cuts). Go to The Weather Channel and look at temps in Providence or Boston versus temps here. Better yet, go to the beach and consider how quickly you arrive there compared to the folks who are stuck in what passes for traffic coming down from the city. (Though frankly, I laugh anytime anyone talks about "traffic" or "crowds" around here. Next time you see beach "traffic" on Route 1, think to yourself, "If I were driving on the Capital Beltway in Washington, D.C., this would be considered smooth sailing.")

Then think about how our property taxes are still among the lowest in the state. Where would you rather live?

Author: Linda Felaco