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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Things you’d like to know about the Charlestown Citizens Alliance – but were afraid to ask

2012 Field Guide to Charlestown’s shadow government, Part 1
By Will Collette

Former CCA President and present Town Council
Vice-President Deputy Dan Slattery
It’s time to update our Field Guide to Observing the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA), last updated in October. It’s been almost four years since the CCA took control of Charlestown’s government, riding the crest of the wave of anti-Jim Mageau sentiment.

One of the main things the CCA has proven in its two terms in control of town government is that they are even more adept at stirring up dissension and dividing the community than Jim Mageau ever was.

Unconvinced? Think Whalerock, the Y-Gate Scandal, Ninigret Park and their willingness to give over control of town property to the federal government, Dark Sky Lighting, “Kill Bill,” the Planning Commission’s plutocracy, “the riot of the rich,” disdain for fair taxation, attacks against small business, their hostility to families with children, beach toilets, Deputy Dan Slattery’s jihads and Uncle Fluffy’s gaffes.

By the end of June, we’ll see what the CCA intends to do about extending its reign of mismanagement for another two years when it comes time to announce candidates. But in the meantime, for your campaign season convenience, here are the answers to the CCA questions you’ve been dying to ask.


What is the CCA? 

That’s the Charlestown Citizens Alliance. It is an unincorporated association started in 2006 now registered as a Political Action Committee (PAC) after the state Board of Elections ruled they were raising money to work on electoral issues. 

Since they had to register as a PAC, the CCA then began acting like a PAC. They recruited candidates to run under their banner and opposed other candidates they didn’t like.

According to their last campaign finance report (filed April 24, 2012), they had a cash balance of $1130.96.

Lisa DiBello - gave the CCA control of the Town Council
"because she cares"
Why should anyone care who or what they are? 

The CCA is Charlestown’s shadow government. They picked each and every member of the existing Planning Commission (one of them indirectly). Two of their long-time leaders head the Town Council. With Lisa DiBello’s vote, they hold the majority vote that controls the Town Council. They have held power since 2008 when they ousted Jim Mageau from the Council.

Through the Planning Commission, the CCA exercises the power to obstruct. Since the CCA believes that now that their members and supporters have the town pretty much the way they like it, it’s time to bar the doors to everyone else.

The CCA holds radical views against many things – they oppose tax breaks for permanent residents, decent sanitation at the town beaches, affordable housing, red light cameras, recreational activities at Ninigret Park, bricks, kids, cats, working families, small business, wind energy, recycling, biofuels, anything the Narragansett Indian tribe wants to do, anything new, anything that annoys millionaire or out-of-state property owners and anything they don’t control.

Their organizational anthem is “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”

The CCA likes open space. Can’t get enough of it. They like out-of-state residents. They’d even like to give out of state property owners the right to vote in local elections, if only the danged state law didn’t forbid it. They like civility and niceness – practiced toward them, though not by them toward others. They like openness and transparency – again by others, not by themselves.

Who runs the CCA? 

CCA's monthly drum circle
According to the CCA website, the CCA is run by its Steering Committee more or less as a collective.

In June 2011, the CCA sent out an e-bleat telling its readers that the CCA was “re-inventing” itself by essentially shuffling leadership roles among the same dozen or so people who have always run the CCA. 

Kallie Jurgens and John Jurgens were out as President and Treasurer. Bernice Krantz was named the new President and Leo Mainelli as the new Treasurer. Dr. Milton Krantz was to continue on as Vice-President and Town Council President Boss Tom Gentz was to stay on as Secretary. 

But without explanation, the CCA changed its officer roster. On July 7, 2011, they filed a report with the RI Board of Elections that only lists two officers: Bernice Krantz as President and Leo Mainelli as Treasurer. They dropped any mention of officer positions for Dr. Krantz and Tom Gentz, saying only that CCA has officers as required by state election law, but all voting members of the steering committee have an equal vote.

In 2012, the CCA has shuffled leadership without announcement – you have to drill down into their website to discover another leadership switch. As of June, according to their website, Bernice Krantz is out as President, replaced by Virginia Wooten. Mainelli stays on as Treasurer.

Mrs. Krantz and Dr. Milton Krantz remain on the CCA Steering Committee even though they sold their long-time home on King Tom Road for $1.6 million and moved to Florida. Kate Waterman also remains on the Steering Committee even though she has moved to Connecticut. The Jurgens have just disappeared, as if they never existed.

The Steering Committee has shrunk to eleven people, three of whom live out of state. Rounding out the roster: Ruth Platner’s husband Cliff Vanover, Richard and Marge Newton, Faith Labossiere and Tom DePatie.

How does the CCA make decisions? 

Ouija board? Random sample? Mayan calendar? Anonymous vox populi? Who knows?

The CCA used to hold Annual Meetings, but stopped after 2008. Click here for their report on their second and last annual meeting:

Their website says they “meet at least monthly.” But where and when is a mystery. I believe CCA headquarters is a small mud and wattle hut in the marsh grass somewhere along the shores of Ninigret Pond. Alternative location: a cave dug into the side of Mount Cliffy, Charlestown’s highest point at 250 feet above sea level, conveniently located on Ruth Platner and Cliff Vanover’s farm near Biscuit City Road.

They used to do surveys a lot, but haven’t done one since September 2010. They kinda had an accident with one of their last surveys. In December 2009, the CCA conducted a survey on wind energy and an overwhelming number of respondents favored commercial wind energy development.

They even sent Tom Gentz as their representative to read the survey results into the record of the Town Council. But of course, surveys be damned, since we all saw how the CCA did a warp-speed flip-flop turn to come down in opposition to ALL wind energy development, So, yeah, no more surveys.

Then there are their anonymous comment e-mails. The CCA takes a town issue and then runs collections of anonymous comments that stake out the CCA position. Most seem to be written by the same three or four writers.

These are now supplemented by comments on their website. Some of these are signed. When they are signed, it’s usually by Mike Chambers who is bucking for the job of CCA opinion maker. I hope they haven't lost his application.

In 2011, they used their faceless, nameless commenters to kill a conservation development at the derelict YMCA camp on Watchaug Pond. Then they tried and failed to convince voters to reject funding for decent sanitary facilities at the town beaches. Recently, they tried to block red light cameras.

This year, they have used their anonymous commenters - and some public ones, like Maureen Areglado and Donna Chambers - to attack town hall staff. This peaked in their shameful character assassination of recently resigned Town Administrator Bill DiLibero, their infamous “Kill Bill” campaign.

But seriously, how do they make decisions? 

To get an answer to that, you’d have to have a set of the CCA bylaws, if such a document exists. And you’d need to actually go to a CCA meeting, but they’re not publicized or open (although before the CCA's 2009-10 civil war and schism, they used to hold open forums).

The CCA endorses candidates and spends money on those candidates. But how they make those decisions, I don’t know. (If anyone does, please post a comment or send us an e-mail to progressivecharlestown@gmail.com).

I do have an opinion. I believe the CCA is run primarily by two people who are not on the Steering Committee – Planning Commissar Ruth Platner and former CCA President and current Town Council Vice-President Deputy Dan Slattery. Both have strong opinions and forceful personalities and the CCA’s priorities seem to reflect theirs more than anyone else.

The most telling evidence that Platner and Slattery – with no official leadership duties within the CCA – actually run the CCA was the recent “Kill Bill” campaign directed at ousting Town Administrator Bill DiLibero. 

Spokesperson and in-coming CCA President Virginia Wooten was telling the Westerly Sun the CCA played no role in DiLibero’s ouster.  “If there’s any orchestration done, it’s done by the individuals, not by the organization,” she said. “[Gentz’s] actions are probably truer to his beliefs than anything. If his actions are close to CCA, that’s maybe where the perception lies.”

As for the "Kill Bill" campaign, led by Slattery within the Council and Platner through the CCA’s e-bleats and website, Wooten told the Sun “I like CCA because they do raise questions,” she said. “I think CCA serves an excellent function if they can give sources and background info for any of these issues coming up. Are they perfect? No, but then, no one is.” 

CCA’s current President Bernice Krantz refused the Sun’s requests for comment on the “Kill Bill” campaign. She was also in the process of packing up her household goods to move to Florida.

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