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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Council meeting preview

Get the popcorn ready
By Will Collette
This Tuesday (Monday is Columbus Day), it's Town Council meeting time again. Seems like just yesterday that the Council was admonished for censorship, fought over the historical derivation of the insulting term "Frick and Frack," saw the return of Jim Mageau to combat, voted to ban wind energy, unleashed the Spanish Inquisition on a new Charlestown business and oh so much more.

The Council held its agenda meeting last night, and if you tried to figure out what they talked about by listening to Clerkbase, you'd be disappointed. As you may recall, at last month's agenda meeting, CCA Councilors Tom Gentz and Dan Slattery went on the record opposing the right of a representative of the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee to speak before the Council. Very bad indeed, especially when it's recorded. This month, the Council members spoke in code, referring to agenda items only by number and scarcely saying anything about the topics.

Despite their great care to say nothing of substance on the audio, there are going to be at least a couple of hot items (#8b and #11a). I'll get into those in more detail below, now that the Tuesday Council meeting agenda has been posted on Clerkbase.

Agenda items to watch:

8.a. Potential legislative revisions to affordable housing law. This item is listed at the request of Council President Tom Gentz, which means this is an item requested by the Planning Commission and Charlestown Citizens Alliance. Given their long history of opposition to affordable housing, expect this item to be yet another attempt to find ways to get around the existing law. Charlestown's record on affordable housing is appalling.

8.b. Report by Deputy Dan on "Citizen Allegations." This item is pretty bizarre. Though no names are mentioned, Slattery has submitted a report on an investigation he conducted after being approached in the Town Hall parking lot. He says the unnamed citizen (let's call him "Jim") talked to him for over 20 minutes about alleged financial improprieties regarding fund-raising at Ninigret Park events. It's funny, but I could have sworn I read allegations like that in a Jim Mageau op-ed published in the Westerly Sun. Anyway, Deputy Dan got on the case and investigated all the charges and concluded they were inaccurate. Read his report. Though I don't disagree with Slattery's finding that the charges were total crap, I found this approach to dealing with the allegations to be pretty weird. Watch Tuesday to see if the anonymous citizen ("Jim") shows up to dispute Deputy Dan's report.

11.a. Return of the Big Apple. The Big Apple Circus wants to return to Ninigret Park next summer and the Parks and Recreation Commission recommends Town Council approval. This item was going to be on the "consent agenda" (approved without discussion), but Councilor Lisa DiBello insisted it be taken off the consent agenda and placed on the regular agenda. We'll have to wait until Tuesday to see why.

16.a. Tolls on I-95. The Richmond Town Council asks that Charlestown sign on to their resolution opposing tolls on I-95. I don't know if this will be a hot button issue or not. There seem to be few alternatives to come up with the money to keep our roads and bridges from falling apart. Besides, I think everyone in Charlestown can figure out a way to get around the tolls, given that the likely location will be between Exits 1 and 2. If you can't figure it out, you're probably not from around here.

16.e. Chamber versus Chamber. The South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce recently renamed itself the Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. They didn't ask permission from anybody else in Southern Rhode Island. So naturally, the other Chambers (including our own) are pissed. They have loosely affiliated themselves under the banner of "United Chambers of Southern Rhode Island. They have sent our Town Council notice to that effect. So there.

As more information and documents get added to the agenda posted on Clerkbase - or if we hear any interesting rumors about this upcoming Council meeting, we'll let you know. And we'll what surprises are in store come Tuesday night.