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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Can’t handle the truth

Can’t take a joke
By Will Collette

In my writings on Progressive Charlestown, I investigate and report on the truth behind Charlestown’s byzantine politics and politicians. I also poke fun at those same politicians.

Neither of those pursuits is very popular with those politicians, especially the ones flying the banner of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance.

It’s pretty funny coming from them, all this talk of “hate” and “lack of civility,” since the CCA has built its power through some of the most vicious and personal acts of character assassination you’ll see anywhere in the country. Except Quartzsite, Arizona.

If you look back over the CCA’s six-year track record, you’ll see that in nearly every instance where they have gone on the attack after an opponent – whether it’s Jim Mageau or Bill DiLibero – they rarely provide anything like the level of detail and documentation that I consider to be fundamental to basic fair play in politics.

It’s just that they really don’t like it when the tables get turned on them, especially when they are confronted with documents and facts that blow holes in their positions.

But it’s hardly unusual to find hypocrisy in politics. Indeed, that’s kinda par for the course. Pretty much to be expected.

It’s the second part of the CCA’s bill of particulars that I find most curious. They really don’t like it when I poke fun at them.

Let me explain that, first, I think they deserve it. But second, and more importantly, one of the worst things about the last six years of CCA domination is how they have sucked the joy out of this town – and, yes, believe it or not, there was a time when, despite the never-ending fussing and fighting, there was a sense of joy.

How these gray, humorless, fundamentally boring people have cast a pall over the life and spirit of this community!

Maybe the CCA leaders prefer to have a funeral home-style atmosphere cover the town. Maybe their idea of a civil, professional, dignified, blah-blah manner is modeled on the demeanor of attendees as some WASP funeral collation - that's the little gathering after a funeral for tea and cucumber sandwiches.

I think the people of this great town deserve to be able to smile and laugh. To appreciate our beautiful town with the joy it deserves, despite its craziness or maybe even because of it. And to poke fun at blowhards and hypocrites.

We have quite a cast of characters in this town – we have jocular Tom “Uncle Fluffy” Gentz and his evil twin Boss Gentz[1]. We have Deputy Dan Slattery and his endless posses to ferret out imaginary varmints[2]. We have Lisa “Because I Care” DiBello[3]. We have Planning Commissar Ruth Platner[4]. We have the Chambers,the Areglados and the CRACers howling at the wind[5], George Tremblay and his blacklist[6], the Greater Sonquipaugians and their Mayor Joanne D’Alcomo[7]. We have Russ “50 cents on the dollar” Ricci[8]. See the footnotes for the origins of the nicknames.

Yes, I know, I know. I’m not supposed to name names or crack jokes or make up nicknames or do caricatures.

That’s not civil.

But if civil means not telling the truth and not calling people out and not trying to make people laugh, then I’m just not civil. Instead of reading this, you should go read the CCA blog to get your giggles. Or go to Mrs. Snidely-Blythe III's wake.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with my point of view, accept my analysis of events or facts or laugh at my jokes. Maybe for the gray people, I am an acquired taste they will never acquire.

These gray people don’t know it, but they really are, probably unintentionally, very funny. My favorite surreal experience of the past year was being stalked by one of them in a supermarket. He followed me around saying, “Hello, Mr. Hate, Hello, Mr. Hate, Hello, Mr. Hate” until he decided to get about three inches from my nose in an effort to provoke a fight.

Now that’s the kind of funny even I can’t make up.

And getting denounced by name by two Council members – Tom Gentz and Lisa DiBello - speaking from the Council dais for writing hard-nosed analyses wherein I named names, is also pretty funny. It certainly is ironic.

But arguing over who is civil and who is not is a lot more to the CCA’s liking than talking about their attacks on working families, children, affordable housing, tax relief, small businesses, the Chariho school system, decent toilets at the beach and recreation at Ninigret Park.

Or their passion for open space at any cost, even when it’s not open space.

Or their strident advocacy for wealthy non-resident vacationers.

Reminds me of a joke: a map-maker, a retired federal bureaucrat and a guy with a basket of greased up goose eggs walk into a bar….

[1] “Uncle Fluffy” is borrowed from a line a character in the popular TV drama, The West Wing, used when describing his concern that President Jeb Bartlett might show up in his rather frothy, jocular, vague and non-committal posture, rather than as a resolute leader. It seemed a fitting description of the kind of bumbling, yuk-yuk guy Tom Gentz usually presented himself as – at least until the March 2012 Council meeting where he turned into the autocratic “Boss Gentz” he now shows to the public.

[2] Time and again, Slattery has go off on snipe hunts where – without the benefit of Town Council approval – he has chased after phantom open space properties, alleged wrong-doing at Ninigret Park, budget issues in the Chariho School system, evil-doing by our former Town Administrator and, most recently, “moral, ethical and legal violations” by the town.  Slattery, who claims to have been an investigator at the US Justice Department, usually comes up empty, embarrasses himself and the Town Council and stonewalls open records requests for the results of his various posse hunts. The long out of print Deputy Dan reading books for children provide perfect art work for the articles I have written on Deputy Dan.

[3] After DiBello was fired as town Parks and Recreation Director in May 2010, she rode into office on a sympathy vote and her campaign slogan “Because I Care,” and her promises that if elected, she would not seek revenge. Within weeks of her election, in March 2011, DiBello launched legal action against Charlestown and against nine present and former town officials alleging a five-year conspiracy against her ending in her allegedly wrongful discharge. “Because She Cares.” 

[4] Platner is a firm believer in central control over every minute detail of the lives of Charlestown homeowners and businesses. She has dramatically expanded the power of her Planning Commission far beyond the bounds set in the Town Charter. She uses that power to block anything that doesn‘t meet her approval. She held up the new Cross Mills Fire Station because she doesn’t like brick – she wanted them to use flammable clapboard. Then there’s the Platner Principle. For all these reasons, I have nicknamed her “Commissar.” If the jackboot fits, wear it.

[5] Leaders of the anti-wind energy Ill Wind group, the Chambers and Areglados took over the Charter Revision Advisory Committee and proceeded to try to make Charter changes to punish those they felt were responsible for the Whalerock industrial wind farm. And then they whine when I call them on it.

[6] George Tremblay, a CCA candidate for Town Council and current Planning Commission member, methodically black listed a qualified candidate – in fact, the only qualified candidate – for a research project Tremblay cooked up.

[7] Sonquipaug is a neighborhood of vacation homes owned primarily by non-residents. Through their leader, Boston lawyer Joann D’Alcomo, they sought to have Charlestown taxpayers pay for the YMCA campground on their northern border so they could have vastly expanded, taxpayer-funded back yards.

[8] Russ Ricci is Treasurer of the Charlestown  Land Trust. His frequent misrepresentations of the facts behind the Y-Gate Scandal probably contributed to the plan’s ultimate failure. His “fifty cents on the dollar” remark refers to his repeated claim that Charlestown taxpayers were getting a deal because the Land Trust had hustled other suckers to pay the remaining half of the Westerly YMCA’s purchase price.