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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sorry - we almost forgot...

March 31st is Bunsen Burner Day
By Will Collette

At Progressive Charlestown, we pride ourselves on bringing our readers the truly important news in a fresh and timely fashion.

So imagine my embarrassment when I realized that today is Bunsen Burner Day and we had done nothing to inform our readers about the event and offer advice on how to celebrate. You should blame Tom Ferrio because he's the one who manages the Progressive Charlestown Important Events listing.

Well, belatedly, here are some basics. First, Bunsen Burner Day is always on March 31, so mark your calendars for next year.


Down and Out on Wall Street

We should all be as broke as they are.

Have you heard about the earthquake that has shaken Wall Street to its very core? Well, brace yourself, for this really is a shocker: bonus payments are down.
Yes, the exorbitant bonus checks pocketed each year by the Goldman Sachers, Citigroupers, and other financial tinkerers have been cut by about 25 percent this year, and — oh! — you should hear the Wall Streeters moaning the hard-times, down-and-out banker blues. "It's a disaster," sobbed one. "The entire construct of compensation has changed."
Cynics, of course, will say, "Good — about time." It's difficult in these times of middle-class collapse and rising poverty to get teary-eyed over a few financial swells getting a trim. But, come on, open your hearts to their pain.

Can tax-exempt nonprofit organizations lobby?

Is it legal for the Frosty Drew Observatory, Charlestown Land Trust and Westerly YMCA to lobby the town?
By Will Collette

All three of these organizations are organized under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. Their 501(c)(3) tax status is the most prized of all the various tax-exempt categories because not only are they exempt from federal income and corporate taxes, but they can also offer donors the opportunity to write off their gifts as charitable deductions.

The price such organizations pay for this prized tax status is their agreement to sharply curtail their political activities. For example, 501(c)(3) organizations may not endorse, give donations to or make public statements in support of any political candidates. 

Tax-exempt charities may also engage in some limited amount of lobbying. Recent political action by the Observatory for the passage of the dark-sky lighting ordinance is definitely lobbying.


Moon, Jupiter and Venus over Paris

Astronomy Picture of the Day: Paris by Night


Do you recognize the city lights of Paris in this picture? 

Taken on March 25 from the top of the 210 meter tall Montparnasse skyscraper, many will spot the looming Eiffel Tower, or the large domed structure of Les Invalides (right), or the colorfully lit elevated Metro train line gently curving toward picture center. 

You can even pick out the Arc de Triomphe close to the horizon on the right. 

But regardless of your location, the celestial lights near the western horizon should look very familiar. The lovely triple conjuntion of brilliant Venus (top), Jupiter, and a young crescent Moon was visible in evening skies around planet Earth.

When restaurants throw a tea party

Easy Choice: Meals Tax or Inspection Dereliction

I found myself in my favorite local diner the other day, enjoying, well, a heart-unhealthy breakfast, and look what was on my table: a plea to customers to help the Rhode Island Hospitality Association combat the scourge of a 2% increase in the tax on meals. 
Proposed by Governor Chafee in his 2013 budget, the tax is expected to raise more than $35 million, to be devoted mostly to bolstering local school departments.
Had this new law been in place, my meal that morning would have cost 19 cents more than it did.
This, of course, is reason enough for the Hospitality Association to oppose it violently, to spend lots of money designing and printing up little cards and spreading them throughout diners across the state. 

Ryan's Medicare Hot Air

It's simply not time to hit the panic button.

There's a scary graph in Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's new budget blueprint that shows the federal government's "unfunded promises" rising from $76.4 trillion in 2010 to $99.6 trillion in 2011.
That's $23.2 trillion in just one year.
The entire U.S. economy produces about $15 trillion in gross domestic product each year. So if it seems preposterous that the government's "unfunded promises" grew by that much in just one year, that's because it is.

Deputy Dan Slattery and the case of the secret records

“No openness and transparency for you,” says Deputy Dan
By Will Collette

On March 7, at the Town Council’s monthly agenda-planning meeting, CCA Town Council Vice-President Deputy Dan Slattery pointedly demanded that he be allowed to place a series of motions on the agenda for the March 12 Regular Town Council meeting.

These motions all dealt with Charlestown’s use of Ninigret Park. In those motions, Deputy Dan implied that the town, and the Town Administrator in particular, was guilty of shirking its “legal, ethical and moral obligations.” He asserted that Charlestown was violating the terms of the transaction that created Ninigret Park out of the old, decommissioned Navy airfield that once occupied all of what we now know as Ninigret Park and the federal Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. 

And, he claimed, he had the records to prove it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hunger Games, 2012 version

Play or die
By Ruben Bolling




Click here to see the whole cartoon.

Bunny Delay

With a chance of rain, and even snow, for Saturday morning, the Easter Bunny has asked for a one-day delay for the breakfast and Easter egg hunt at Ninigret Park.

The festivities will now start at 10 am on Sunday, April 1.

Full information on the Parks and Recreation website here.

Hate Radio

Be careful, little Mindy and Pickles the Kitten
By Tim Eagan




For the whole cartoon, click here.

Let's Keep Science in our Schools

Nothing but the best for the little urchins
By Fake Science

Charging volunteers to volunteer

R.I. Charges Volunteers to Pick Up After Litterbugs

Rose Marques, ecoRI.org

Getting people to “do the right thing” often is a matter of dollars rather than sense. It’s especially true with the environment. Yes, a small percentage of people will do the right thing and pay more for the privilege of doing so, such as buying locally grown food or buying a hybrid car that costs more than a gas-guzzler.
But many people will be more likely to discover their environmental conscience if there is a financial incentive to do so — or, at least, if it doesn’t cost them.

Planning Commission punts

Planning Commission kicks the lighting ordinance down the road
By Will Collette


At its March 28 meeting, the Planning Commission tried to figure out what to do with its “Dark Sky” lighting ordinance. The ordinance sparked lots of fireworks and passionate argument at the March 12 Town Council meeting

This ordinance, which would push the town toward use of lighting that protects Charlestown’s superb night-time views, drew dissent from the town business community and some homeowners, support from the Frosty Drew Observatory and other homeowners, and a general concern that the ordinance on the table was just not ready for prime time.

The lighting ordinance was also tied to a battle over the uses by the town of Ninigret Park, at which point, the discussion about protecting the dark sky turned surreal – (latest Ninigret Park article).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Appointment of a life time

He's no Judge Mathis!
By Brian McFadden




For the whole cartoon, click here.

Tough education math

Department of Education Posts Funny Numbers

What do you think about our state’s shiny new education funding formula? Neither Woonsocket nor Pawtucket are big fans and they are headed to a court date next month with the RI Department of Education (RIDE) over it.

Using measures that used to be part of the funding formula, these two cities are taxed more heavily than any other city or town in the state, save only Providence and Central Falls.  But RIDE only suggests they raise taxes more instead of counting on state aid.

News Briefs

Another state legislator busted…foreclosures are down…so is religion…are you on welfare?..Another way Charlestown could get sued
By Will Collette
State Senate Majority Leader busted for DUI. Sen. Dominick Ruggerio (D-Prov) is the latest in a string of state legislators to get busted.


Ruggerio was arrested Wednesday morning by Barrington Police, who responded to a call reporting an erratic driver. According to the police report, Ruggerio was stopped after the police officer saw enough.
According to the report, Ruggerio smelled strongly of liquor and had red eyes, a flushed face and slurred speech. He also responded to the police siren by stopping in the middle of the road, not by pulling off to the side. Ruggerio said he was coming from a benefit in Providence and was following a friend to “a woman’s house.”
The friend was Sen. Frank Ciccone, who emerged from a second car. Ruggerio failed field sobriety tests, but refused to take any additional tests or sign anything because he didn’t have his lawyer present. That refusal led to an additional charge. Ruggerio will appear in District Court on April 4 and later in Traffic Tribunal. Ruggerio has stated he "accepts full responsibility for his actions" and apologized for his behavior.

Take a bite out of crime

Fashion tips for safety
By Matt Bors




For the whole cartoon, click here.

Ten days left to enter the first - and perhaps last - Progressive Charlestown Peeps Contest

Peeps® contest deadline is April 7
Sgt Peepers Lonely Hearts Club Band
By Will Collette

Last year, I’m sure I made quite a spectacle of myself when I revealed my love of marshmallow Peeps®. They’re especially good when they get stale and hard. My special joy is the Easter Peeps® diorama contests that a number of newspapers around the country run at Easter time.

For years, when Cathy and I lived in the DC area, I looked forward to the Washington Post’s annual Peeps® Contest, which is, in my opinion, one of the best, if not THE best. But lots of other papers do a pretty good job, too. Locally, the New London Day runs a respectable annual Easter Peeps® Contest.

So, despite the well known fact that very, very few people in Charlestown have a sense of humor, I figured it’s worth giving it a try. Thus, I present you with the golden opportunity to show that you are the funniest, coolest person in Charlestown by creating your own Progressive Charlestown Peeps® diorama.

As bad as it may get, it could always be worse


There really are some places that might be crazier than Charlestown
By Will Collette

Small-town politics can get pretty insane. It seems the smaller the town, the more intense – and the more personal – political issues become. It figures because in a small town, we tend to run into each other, whether it’s at the post office, Ocean Pharmacy, the Cove, Gentleman Farmer, Hungry Haven or even Town Council meetings.

Small-town living is wonderful for fostering great friendships, but it is not so nice when people get on each other’s nerves and this leads to festering blood feuds.

We sometimes think our little patch is unbelievably out of control, and sometimes it is. But we’re not alone.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Budgeting for Disaster VIII

Medicaid in the Budget

  1. Budgeting for Disaster – Part I
  2. Budgeting for Disaster – Part II
  3. Budgeting for Disaster – Part III
  4. Budgeting for Disaster Part IV: Lack of Education
  5. Budgeting for Disaster Part V: Granting a Problem
  6. Budgeting for Disaster VI: DMV Manages for Success
  7. Budgeting for Disaster Part VII: Quasi-appropriate?
Collectively these departments spend over $3 billion, about 40% of the overall budget. In the Governor’s budget, only about 40% of that is actual tax dollars, and the rest is either federal money or restricted receipts, such as fees for service.

Water Quality Monitors Needed

by Tom Ferrio

Volunteers from the Watershed Watch program URI have monitored water quality in local ponds, rivers and streams for 25 years, giving us tremendous insight into how climate and man affect the health of these water bodies.

The program needs additional volunteers to collect water and measure parameters in Charlestown and around the state. This will be my fifth year of volunteering for Watershed Watch and I have found it extremely interesting and rewarding.

Fox News on President Obama

No offense intended
By Rob Tornoe


For the whole cartoon, click here.

Great place to take your Saturday night date

Just leave room for the Holy Ghost

Grand Old Pedagogy

We're a diverse nation of many religions and each has the same rights as any other group, including the right to be left alone.

It seems as though the 2012 Republican presidential primaries began the day before forever. But oh the lessons we've learned.
We've been treated to startlingly original theories about the economy, international affairs, history, biology, theology, and climatology, as well as an -ology or two we didn't know existed before.
The only downside — and I'm not carping about it — is that the lessons have been utterly, totally, and in every respect wrong. Let me count the ways:

Tax dollars down the drain?

Thirsty Lawmakers Chug $110K in Bottled Water

By DAVE FISHER/ecoRI.org News staff
PROVIDENCE — Bottled water is big business in the United States. How big? Well, according to a report by the Beverage Marketing Corporation, U.S. consumers chugged 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water in 2008, representing nearly 29 percent of the liquid beverage market and exceeding sales of all other beverages except carbonated soft drinks.
In the past few years, sales of bottled water have declined slightly, but bottled water still remains the second largest selling pre-packaged beverage in the country. This recent dip in sales can be partially attributed to the decline of the economy and partially to increased awareness of the environmental costs of bottling this important resource. Nielsen Scantrack data, as of December 2011, estimated the average cost of a gallon of bottled water at $1.47. The same volume of water from the tap, at current U.S. average rates, costs 0.0015 cents.
You might expect ecoRI News to report on the outrageous environmental costs of depleted aquifers and plastic waste associated with the bottled water industry, or even the ridiculous retail markup on a product that most consider a human right, but this story is centered on the indubitable waste of taxpayer dollars on bottled water in Rhode Island.

Lighting Ordinance – What’s next?

Will the Planning Commission punt, pass or kick?
Town Hall parking lot - a fine example to us all - NOT
By Will Collette

The March 12 Town Council discussion about how to protect Charlestown’s dark sky from excess lighting was pretty gut-wrenching. Most speakers paid homage to the beauty of our night-time sky, but voiced far-ranging views about what we need to do to protect it. It was clear that this issue struck a nerve in Charlestown public opinion.

That discussion took place as part of a public hearing on Ordinance 347, a draft that had been crafted by the Planning Commission despite strong objections from the business community and reservations from other town officials and town commissions.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Just like James Bond

"License to Kill"
By Tom Tomorrow




To see the rest of the cartoon, click here.

RI Single Stream Recycling Delayed


Photo by Tim Faulkner/ecoRI news
New Launch Date for Single-Stream Recycling
By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
JOHNSTON — The new statewide recycling program will have a new name and a new start date to ensure that it runs smoothly, according to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC), which operates the Central Landfill.

Better Public Schools Require a Stronger Safety Net

School segregation by class is the norm in the United States.

If our schools
Are in the tank;
We just have
Ourselves to thank.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

M82: Galaxy with a Supergalactic Wind 
From NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day

What's lighting up the Cigar Galaxy? M82, as this irregular galaxy is also known, was stirred up by a recent pass near large spiral galaxy M81


This doesn't fully explain the source of the red-glowing outwardly expanding gas, however. Recent evidence indicates that this gas is being driven out by the combined emerging particle winds of many stars, together creating a galactic superwind.. 


The photographic mosaic below highlights a specific color of red light strongly emitted by ionized hydrogen gas, showing detailed filaments of this gas. 


The filaments extend for over 10,000 light years. The 12-million light-year distant Cigar Galaxy is the brightest galaxy in the sky in infrared light, and can be seen in visible light with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major).



Planning Commission plan more fun for Wednesday

Can’t get enough
For more P.S. Mueller, go to PSMueller.com
By Will Collette

On Wednesday, Charlestown’s monthly exercise in futility will take place at Town Hall at 7 PM. I’m talking about the monthly regular meeting of those crafty commissioners of the Charlestown Planning Commission.

The meeting will also be shown live on Clerkbase so you can watch it at home in your PJs with a good, stiff drink in your hand. Or watch it later, similarly attired and equipped.



Special Town Council meeting - not so special

Showdown postponed, though the "Kill Bill Campaign" continues
By Will Collette

It was Town Administrator Bill DiLibero who was trying to press the action against his now arch-nemesis, Town Council VP Deputy Dan Slattery (CCA). DiLibero wanted the Council to take a hard look at the extent to which they want to micro-manage town management by asking them to set guidelines for who, how, and when town staff and volunteers can seek donations to support town activities, such as the community garden at Ninigret, the summer concerts or the upcoming Easter Egg Hunt.

But wily Deputy Dan pushed DiLibero's request to the back of the agenda, knowing that the main business of the Special Meeting, the seemingly endless review of the draft of a new town personnel manual, would chew up the clock.

And it did.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Slow going for environmental bills

Contentious Environmental Bills Stall at Statehouse 

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI.org News staff
PROVIDENCE — Only one of a handful of environmental bills made it out of a March 21 hearing of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Agriculture. Two bills aimed at easing building restrictions for developers were the most strongly opposed by environmental advocates.
A bill (pdf) intending to set limits on minimum lot sizes for development raised concerns from environmental groups over the potential for pollution and groundwater contamination. The bill also would benefit home builders by allowing certain sloped areas to be included when calculating buildable lot sizes.

Short take round-up

Good news for the CCA…We’re so blue…and sexy…the campaign against straw holes…Doreen Costa is a hypocrite…men get stupid around women
By Will Collette
Charlestown: NOT the best place for kids. You could hear the champagne corks popping in the secret clubhouse of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance when Business Week released its annual rankings of the best places to raise kids. In Rhode Island, according to Business Week, Bristol is the best place to raise kids. If Charlestown had won that distinction, it would have set back the CCA’s anti-family, anti-kid campaign immeasurably.
Imagine how hard Planning Commissar Ruth Platner would have to work to block any new housing that can accommodate families with children. Town Council Boss Tom Gentz and Council VP Deputy Dan Slattery would have to work harder to cut and slash the Chariho School budget. But relax, guys, we dodged the family-friendly honors again.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300  
From NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day

Big, beautiful, barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300 lies some 70 million light-years away on the banks of the constellation Eridanus


This Hubble Space Telescope composite view of the gorgeous island universe is one of the largest Hubble images ever made of a complete galaxy. 

NGC 1300 spans over 100,000 light-years and the Hubble image reveals striking details of the galaxy's dominant central bar and majestic spiral arms. 


In fact, on close inspection the nucleus of this classic barred spiral itself shows a remarkable region of spiral structure about 3,000 light-years across. 


Unlike other spiral galaxies, including our own Milky Way, NGC 1300 is not presently known to have a massive central black hole.


Bizarro Charlestown


By Linda Felaco

Visitors at the website of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance may have noticed some head-scratching posts in the past month or two in the comments section that have nothing to do with anything on the CCA site and instead directly address (some more circuitously than others) issues we’ve been writing about here at Progressive Charlestown. Michael Chambers has been on a one-man crusade to rebut some of our content—despite having declared, both here on the blog in his “Jerry” persona and before the Town Council at the January 23 Citizens Forum, that he wasn’t going to read us anymore. We’ve dubbed the CCA comments page “The Michael Chambers Regressive Charlestown Blog.” It’s what Progressive Charlestown would look like in Bizarro World.

What’s the Bizarro blog like? Read on after the fold.

Last Chance, Last Dance

March sky show is over tonight
By Will Collette

These past couple of weeks, you didn't need a telescope to see the amazing display of the planets Venus and Jupiter dancing together across the Western sky from sundown until well into the night. In recent evenings, they've been joined by the thin sliver of the moon.

But all that is about to end.

Tonight is the last night to see Jupiter, Venus and the Moon in close conjunction.


The New England Patriots will NOT be allowed to play at Ninigret Park

The Ninigret Park papers from the Department of Interior
Boss Gentz says he is NOT welcome at
Ninigret Park
By Will Collette

At the March 12 Town Council meeting, Town Council Boss Tom Gentz tossed aside his carefully crafted image as everybody’s jolly Uncle Fluffy to become Charlestown’s latest version of a political boss. Boss Gentz pronounced that based on communications he’s had with the Interior Department’s Boston Regional office, under no circumstances would there be any sports lighting at Ninigret Park.

Gentz further declared that there would be no debate or discussion – and that he would rule any attempt to speak on the subject of sports lighting at Ninigret out of order. There would be no dissent. There would be no vote. He had decided, and that’s that.

This sent some of us scrambling to see where in the Town Charter Boss Gentz found the authority to do that. No luck so far.

However, finally, the actual letter from the Interior Department has emerged.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Musical tribute to Boss Gentz and Deputy Dan Slattery

Toasting our fearless leaders with the classics
By Will Collette

Charlestown is so lucky to have Town Council Boss Tom Gentz and his trusty sidekick Council VP Deputy Dan Slattery.

Here are two guys who are used to having things done "My Way," in a way that would have made old Blue Eyes proud. Whether it's throwing out the Town Charter when it gets in the way of their agenda, launching secret investigations against their enemies - or simply commanding their silence, Boss Tom and Deputy Dan really know how to do it "My Way."

So as a weekend tribute to two fine examples of leadership, banana republic style, we bring you the following:


Special Town Council meeting called for Monday night

Is this related to CCA's "Kill Bill" campaign?
By Will Collette

Following on the heels of a Sunday Westerly Sun story on the CCA campaign to fire Town Administrator William DiLibero (the "Kill Bill Campaign" for short), the Town Council will meet in Special Session Monday night at 5:30 PM. The agenda, as posted, appears at the end of this article.

Today's Sun article details the Charlestown Citizen Alliance's list of crimes and misdemeanors allegedly committed by DiLibero, such as allowing one of his staff to seek a state grant for dark-sky friendly lights for Ninigret Park that would allow peewee football players six extra hours of playing time per week in the autumn.


Westerly Sun editorial chastises Charlestown Town Council for lack of openness and transparency

By Will Collette

The Sun followed up on its earlier coverage of Dr. John Donoghue’s lawsuit against the Town of Charlestown aimed at blocking the “gift” of $475,000 by the town to the Charlestown Land Trust for the purchase of the derelict YMCA Camp on Watchaug Pond. The Y-Gate Scandal and Dr. Donoghue’s lawsuit were first covered here on Progressive Charlestown (click here for analysis of the suit and click here for Dr. Donoghue’s explanation for his reasons for filing).


Be gone, Satan!

And other deep theological musings
By Tim Eagan




To see the whole cartoon, click here.

Raising a locavore toast at farmers’ markets?

Nunes, Tanzi look to tap into local beer, wine industry for expansion to farmers markets
From the Legislative Press Bureau

STATE HOUSE – Before long, customers roaming the stands of the state’s ever-popular farmers markets may be able to grab a brew or purchase a bottle of wine straight from the local vineyards.

Representatives Jared R. Nunes (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick) and Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) want to make room for local brewers and winegrowers to sell their products at farmers markets, something that has been at least partially implemented in other New England states like Massachusetts and Vermont. 

Charlestown real estate market continues to decline

Zillow.com shows a one month drop of almost 1%, down 5.8% over the past 12 months
By Will Collette

The only way you wouldn’t know that Charlestown homeowners aren’t having trouble is if you only pay attention to the Charlestown Citizens Alliance and its elected town officials. In their world – or maybe it’s just the circles they frequent – there are no struggling families, just tranquil well-to-do people.

They are more concerned about making sure to give half a million dollars of town tax money to the Charlestown Land Trust and the Westerly YMCA than they are about middle-class tax relief. They are more concerned about lights and about upsetting the US Department of Interior by having kids playing in Ninigret Park after dark than they are about the disappearance of people’s home values.

But in the real world where the rest of us live, money is tight, the economy is scary and our homeowner equity has been boiling away. According to Zillow.com, the average Charlestown home price has declined to $302,900, down almost 25% from our peak average of almost $400,000 in November 2007.

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