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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Slattery lives in a different world

Slattery recreates facts concerning Ninigret Park motions
By Deborah Carney

Dan Slattery seems to live in a world different from the rest of us.  In his world he gets to spin reality to recreate the facts.

I am responding to Charlestown Town Council member Dan Slattery’s April 25th letter to the editor in the Westerly Sun which singles me out for not getting my facts straight. Yes, it’s definitely time for some fact checking and setting reality straight.

Mr. Slattery’s recreated reality states, “The second (Ninigret Park) MOU would apply to allowing stakeholders such as the citizens who are abutters to Ninigret Park and the Frosty Drew Observatory to be invited to participate in the planning process.”  That sounds really nice.  However, that is not what his original MOU says.  Mr. Slattery’s original “MOU,” which means “memorandum of understanding” and is a legally binding agreement is posted on Charlestown’s Clerkbase website for the world to see. 

The real second agreement (“MOU”), the one that Mr. Slattery has spun to sound very pleasant and lovely really says, “The MOU will require all town staff or commissions to coordinate any proposed changes to Ninigret Park with these stakeholders (Frosty Drew Observatory and all abutters to Ninigret Park) before the Town Council makes any votes on any Park related matter.”

Deputy Dan's REAL motion, not the one he made up
Inviting someone to participate in a planning process is completely different than requiring through an MOU “all town staff or commissions to coordinate any proposed changes” no matter how Mr. Slattery tries to spin it.  One could be accomplished with a Hallmark card; the other involves lawyers and a legally binding document.

If you take a closer look at the exact language of Mr. Slattery’s “non-spun”motion, he would tie the hands of our town staff and all our commissions by requiring them to “coordinate” any proposed changes with these stakeholders.  No changes could be made to the Park without their approval.  The trees that were recently planted at the entry way to the Park could not have been planted without first “coordinating” with abutters and Frosty Drew.  

Does it make any sense that the town would be required to get permission from the abutters before beautifying an entry way? Or from a non-profit organization that has been allowed by the town to occupy town property rent-free?

Bottom line, the version Mr. Slattery recreated for his letter, does not match the version that has been posted on Charlestown’s official website.

Mr. Slattery’s recreated reality regarding his motion to rewrite the Ninigret Park Master Plan is even more distorted.  In his Letter to the Editor he states, “My proposed plan for accomplishing the goal of updated financial data has two parts.  The first part would require the Parks and Recreation Commission to revisit the 2008 plan and consider the improvement priorities that they consider the most important …The budget contains $15,000…to assist with this effort.  The second part of my proposal would be to have the parks and recreation recommendations be reviewed by a stakeholders group before the final plan is forwarded to the town council for a public hearing and vote.” 

Again, this all sounds very pleasant and lovely, but let’s review what his original motion really says. This motion, along with Mr. Slattery’s original commentary is available on Charlestown’s Clerkbase.  The “non-spun” motion says, “I recommend that the Town Council consider appointing a Stakeholder Commission to work with a vendor to redesign the Ninigret Park Master Plan.  I recommend that one volunteer from each of the following committees and organizations be added to this Stakeholder Commission.”

Mr. Slattery then goes on to list 12 different volunteers to serve on this Stakeholder Commission.  Only one, yes, one of these individuals is a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, which is the group actually designated with authority over Ninigret Park.

[Here is the complete Slattery motion as he submitted it for the Town Council record]:

In Mr. Slattery’s Letter to the Editor he recreates the real words of the motion.  “redesigning the Master Plan” and “revisiting the plan” are two different things.  The “Parks and Recreation Commission” is a completely different entity from Mr. Slattery’s “Stakeholder Commission”. 

Ninigret Park belongs to all the people of Charlestown.  The Parks and Recreation Commission is the body responsible for making recommendations regarding the development of the Park, not this new group created by Mr. Slattery.

Mr.Slattery’s letter to the Sun tells a story that simply does not match the original, official version available on Clerkbase.  The story he told in his letter to the Sun sounds very nice, but it’s not anything like what he actually proposed.

Mr.Slattery further states in his letter that he has “met with and spoken to representatives from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US National Park Service.  They have voiced on several occasions their disappointment on how they were treated by Charlestown over the past two years.  I have shared this information for the record at Town Council meetings.” 

Mr. Slattery fails to mention that his colleague, Town Council member Marge Frank, has also stated publically that what she was told by National Parks differs from Mr. Slattery’s version.

Mr. Slattery also fails to mention the flaw in his package of proposals is the fact that the 55 acres the Town uses for events and active recreation, is owned by the Town of Charlestown.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service have acknowledged they have no jurisdiction over those 55 acres.  Yet, Mr. Slattery’s original resolutions, not his imagined ones, would grant the federal agencies authority they have no right to have over the use of our town property.

 The Town and these federal agencies have enjoyed an amicable relationship in the past.  If Mr. Slattery believes there is now a problem, then wouldn’t it be better handled through open communication with the entire Council at a public meeting? 

I understand Mr. Slattery’s need to recreate reality, now that more facts and history have come to light that do not match his original narrative. I can understand why he wants to portray his motions to make radical changes in who decides what happens at Ninigret Park as simple, feel-good gestures at reconciliation. While he can rewrite reality in his own mind and try to convince others to believe it, the documented facts remain just that, documented facts.