This second June meeting was made necessary because the Town Council grossly overloaded the regular June 11 meeting with so many controversial issues that it was simply impossible to finish that meeting at a reasonable. Even with CCA Town Council Boss
effort to bully fellow Council members into considering his two resolutions to
fork over $398,000 in town money to the Y-Gate Gang.
At this continuation meeting, Y-Gate will once again be taken up near the end of the agenda, meaning late in the evening, long after the time when our Town Councilors lose their ability to concentrate.
Business as usual, where Charlestown taxpayers, business owners and residents will get screwed with their pants on by the Town Council majority unless there people once again rally around to stop them.
|OBEY my authority|
The first substantive issue to be addressed is a continuation of the public hearing on proposed Ordinance #349. There are a lot of problems with this Ordinance, not the least of which is that it is a second attempt by the Charlestown Planning Commission to pass a dubious ordinance that was actually rejected by the previous Town Council in August 2010.
This ordinance consolidates an amazing amount of power under the Planning Commission, power to dictate and control minute details in the way
property owners use their property. Though the Ordinance language focuses
primarily on businesses – “non-residential activities” – it actually covers a
whole lot of residential properties because of exemptions in the existing law
that would be removed as part of this Ordinance.
Ordinance #349 will strengthen Planning Commissar Ruth Platner’s grip on the throats of
businesses and would give her and her plucky planners the right to dictate
minute details, even the color of switch plates on electrical outlets. And of
course, shingles. I’m certainly no libertarian, but this Ordinance is an
abominable violation of personal freedom and should be rejected out of hand.
This Ordinance is pretty much a re-hash of a 2010 coup attempt by Platner that was voted down by the Town Council. But memories are short and Platner is counting on being able to fool this Town Council into believing that this ordinance is simply a streamlining of existing regulations. It's not.
Read the Ordinance itself by clicking here. Then read our coverage by clicking here. Please be sure to read
detailed comments attached to this article If you read these items, you will have done more research on this important topic than the average Town Council member.
The Charter Revision Advisory Committee (CRAC) had its Powerpoint presentation all racked up and ready to go on June 11, but the clock ran out. So they will be up again on June 25 with seven proposed Charter revision questions they’d like to see presented to the voter on the November ballot. This controversial committee has had its problems. They couldn’t get their name straight, calling themselves CRABs until they finally figured out that they had an official name under the Town Charter they were supposed to have read They’ve been squabbling internally. They were trashed at their February public meeting. They violated the state Open Meetings Act.
Frankly, they did not do a very good job of serving the public interest, although, in the end, it could have been a lot worse. They got off to a bad start. Nearly all the members of the CRAC come out of the NIMBY battle against the Whalerock wind farm project and their early meetings seemed focused largely on how they could take their revenge on those they felt were responsible for Whalerock. Over time, they were talked down from their more radical ideas, such as targeting term limits on their enemies on the Zoning Board.
But of the seven final Charter proposals they are recommending, only one of them seems to me like it will improve Charlestown government and serve the public interest – Question 7, which calls for a review of Charlestown ordinances to determine which may need to be changed or repealed because they don’t work or aren’t needed. Disclosure: the idea for Question 7 came from me.
For all the articles on the CRAC’s activities, click here.
The Search for a New Town Administrator.
|Bring on the next victim|
The Town Council will consider who they will appoint from a list of 19 people who have applied for the Search Committee. The applicants represent a broad spectrum of
society and many have outstanding credential for this task.
I consider this process to be controversial because (a) Charlestown needs somebody good in the Town Administrator position – town staff are scared and demoralized after the CCA’s “Kill Bill” campaign and attacks on town staff; (b) Charlestown could use some stability in that position instead of it being a revolving door and (c) if the CCA Council Majority rushes the selection and pick someone who will toady up to them, that will just cause problems when the new Town Council takes office in November, just over 130 days away.
The CCA’s crack political analyst and blogmeister Mike Chambers thinks it’s appalling that I should suggest waiting to hire until we know who the Town Administrator will be working for. With all due respect to Chambers, his logic doesn’t track. He says the Town Administrator should be “apolitical” (right), should “remain loyal to the Town Council” (OK, though I think loyalty to the town and to upholding the law outranks loyalty to the Council) and should not take orders from any political group (and right again). He says that a good selection committee will do a good job at picking qualified candidates, and again, I don’t disagree.
So why put off the hiring until November, Chambers asks, if not for some nefarious political purpose? Well, Mike, your “whereas” points lead to the wrong “therefore” conclusion.
It’s not the Selection Committee that actually hires. They will vet the applications and interview candidates, but it’s the current highly politicized, sharply divided and CCA-dominated Town Council that would be making the decision.
Mike, do you really think that decision won’t be made based on the CCA majority’s political interests? As you said yourself, the Town Administrator should “remain loyal to the Town Council.” Why not wait the 130 days it will take to find out who that Town Council will be?
could really use is, to borrow a
favorite Uncle Fluffy expression, “a good conversation” about how we hire – and
fire – Town Administrators. Is “loyalty to the Council?” the right first
consideration? Until we change the system where the Town Administrator is a
political appointee of the Council, we will continue to see that position be a
revolving door. It would be better to hire on a multi-year contract extending
beyond a single Council term where the Administrator can only be discharged for
specified cause and not just by a simple majority. Charlestown
’s current “spoils” system, if an
Administrator gets hired before November, he or she will have to pass political
muster with the new Council. And yes, Mike, whether or not it is a Democratic
majority, CCA majority, Rastafarian majority or split membership, there will
be, by definition, a “new” Council in November. Charlestown
|Although Boss Gentz is driving this, Avedisian|
holds the swing vote
This is near the bottom of the agenda to be heard at a time when Y-Gate’s lead proponent, Boss
is usually operating at diminished capacity but maximum testiness. Y-Gate is a
fraud, a tax-payer rip-off, a bad deal for Charlestown but a gift for the Westerly YMCA,
the Charlestown Land Trust and the non-resident vacationers in the Sonquipaug
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably also read all the documents and evidence against this deal. If not, click here.
The CCA loves this deal since no price is too high to pay for more open space, even when the land isn’t actually open space. Everybody else hates this deal.
The swing vote is Councilor
Avedisian. We’ll see how he votes.
There are a few items on the agenda that will not be controversial, such as the Pledge of Allegiance and the Roll Call.
There is a resolution up for consideration to require
Charlestown voters to
present government-issued IDs for strictly local elections and referenda, such
as our Town Budget vote earlier this month.
I oppose Voter ID on principle because it is being used by the Republican Party nationwide to disenfranchise the poor, the elderly and minorities, because the voter fraud it claims to address is largely non-existent and because it is an expensive and cumbersome solution in search of a problem.
the rest of coastal Rhode Island,
it may catch some of our out-of-state landed gentry who think that property ownership entitles them to a vote in local elections. The RI Statewide
Coalition has long espoused that idea, as did the CCA in 2008. Boss Tom Gentz and Deputy Dan Slattery still refer to the
injustice that these non-resident tax payers can’t vote despite Rhode Island’s rich
history of resistance to basing franchise on property ownership.
Watch to see what rhetorical flourishes these Council members put on this resolution.
The Council will also look at and hopefully approve the rental lease for the Ninigret Park Gatehouse to part-time town worker Bill Clarkin. Clarkin has been left hanging on this matter for months, for no stated reason, but perhaps as a slap by the Council majority against Parks and Recreation who have approved and proposed this measure to the Council. In addition to his work for the town, Clarkin has also been fixing up the Gatehouse while keeping it secure from vandals.
|No tax on Boss Gentz's Bunnymobile|
Finally, the Council will enact a series of financial resolutions that flow from voter approval of the Town’s 2013 budget earlier this month. The resolutions will, among other things, raise property taxes from $9.06 to $9.30, an increase of 2.76%. The tax rate for motor vehicles will be $13.08 per $1000 of value.
The tax assessments for antique cars is very favorable which is good news for Boss Gentz. The 2011 tax levy on him for his lovingly restored 1966 Porsche (right) was zero and on his 1988 Porsche, it was only $128.31