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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Understanding the CCA, Part 1

Part of an American tradition of “Rich People’s Movements”
By Will Collette

It’s an election year and time for an updated review of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party), Charlestown’ rulers since 2008 which will be published here in at least two parts.  Click here and here for the 2012 versions.

They are running candidates for Town Council, Planning Commission, Chariho School Committee and Town Moderator – a total of 13 – and, if they all get elected in November, it will extend the CCA Party’s hegemony over Charlestown for at least another two years, if not longer.

With that in mind, it’s a pretty good idea for voters to take a long, hard look at the Charlestown Citizens Alliance – its history, what it stands for and what it has done to Charlestown.

Before we get into the details, here’s a warm-up exercise that will get your mind in the right place to understand the CCA Party. Click on the “Find the Invisible Cow” game and play it for a few rounds. It will make the rest of this article a lot easier to understand.

Like the Invisible Cow, the CCA Party is rarely seen until you come close to the interests of its wealthy backers. Then it becomes very loud and makes its presence felt. Click here for a prime example.



The CCA is an unaffiliated political party that grew out of the old Charlestown-based Rhode Island Shoreline Coalition (formerly the RI Statewide Coalition and now called Rhode Island Taxpayers). It was formed in 2006 to oppose then Town Council President Jim Mageau. Because they attempted to force a recall election against Mageau, the CCA was required by the state Board of Elections to register as a political action committee.

As the spawn of RISC, the CCA Party also took on the RISC policies of unrelenting opposition to anything the Narragansett Indian Tribe wants to do and unabashed advocacy for the interests of non-resident property owners who provide the bulk of the CCA Party’s financial support.

The late Harry Staley - the CCA Party's
"uncle" and godfather
Like RISC, the CCA Party is part of the recent rise of what some social scientists refer to as “Rich People’s Movements.” The Tea Party, to which RISC and by extension the CCA, is closely related, is probably the most well-known Rich People’s Movements in the US today. Non-rich Tea Party protestors seen on TV are simply dupes who have been sucked into the rhetoric of policies designed to benefit the rich.

In addition to attacking the Narragansetts and protecting rich non-residents, the CCA Party also has a strong position on the environment which can be summed up as “more open space, fewer people and less of everything else.” It does not include addressing the town’s problems with quarries, minimal recycling and waste reduction, green energy, climate change or dealing with hazardous waste buried at several unmonitored sites around town.

The CCA Party does oppose bright outdoor lights, except at new CCA Party Steering Committee member Joe Quadrato’s house, Town Hall and the town DPW garage.

The CCA Party hates lights at night, except when
they're owned by one of their main fund-raisers
The CCA Party has no fixed address, though legend has it that their secret club house is deep in the reeds off Foster Cove. They are rumored to have another meeting spot, a drum circle in the woods behind Sachem Passage.

If it weren’t for the legal requirement to file regular campaign finance disclosure reports with the state, we’d have very little official information about how the CCA Party actually works, because as it is, the CCA operates like a secret club. Indeed, the CCA Party says on its own website that it adopted its form of organization, structure and system of officers because it was required under Rhode Island law.

So on occasion, the CCA Party does make note of the members of its governing body, its Steering Committee. You have to drill down in their website to find it. They do not make public announcements about changes in its composition.

They recently made one of their unannounced roster changes, their first in more than two years, and stuck it deep in their website.

According to their website:
“The Steering Committee members as of May 2014 are Joseph Quadrato, Dr. Milton Krantz, Leo Mainelli, Tom Gentz, Faith LaBossiere, Virginia Wootten, Bernice Krantz, Cliff Vanover, and Kate Waterman.”
Virginia Wootten remains CCA Party President though she is almost never seen nor heard from. Leo Mainelli remains their Treasurer. He is frequently seen standing in opposition to such things as oyster farming that he thinks spoils his water view. He is running for Town Moderator because politics.

Rev. Jan Knost, who is not running for re-election to the Planning Commission was added to the CCA Party “brain trust” to work with Planning Commissar Ruth Platner and John Goodman in providing the CCA Party “with input on many issues.”

Boss Gentz (L) asserts more control. Deputy Dan Slattery (R) has clashed
with him a lot more in recent months. He's leaving the Council - what's next
for him?
Three former members are out. One is Tom DePatie who recently died. Also out are Richard and Marjorie Newton. They still live in Charlestown and used to play leadership roles in the CCA Party. Of course, no explanation is given for their departure.

Former CCA Party President and current Town Councilor Dan Slattery also seems to be dropping out of the picture. He was never featured as a CCA Party leader after he was elected to the Town Council. Plus, in recent months, he has often publicly parted company on many issues and key votes with his CCA Party comrade Boss Gentz. But now that he has decided not to run for re-election, how will Slattery slake his thirst for creating chaos in town?

Grand Swami Ron Areglado seems to be increasing his influence within
the CCA Party. Will he challenge Boss Gentz for dominance? 
Joe Quadrato is the only new CCA Party Steering Committee member. Quadrato is one of His Holiness Ron Areglado’s disciples in the Church of the Morainiacs who got Charlestown to spend $2.1 million to buy the proposed site for the Whalerock wind farm. 

Areglado’s group has become such an integral part of the CCA Party that it makes sense that their prime fund-raiser would be added to the Steering Committee.

Quadrato was also on CRAC (Charter Revision Advisory Committee) and was the sponsor of one charter revision that was enacted that inserts an astounding detailed town purchasing policy into the Town Charter, where it doesn’t belong. Quadrato is also first in line on the waiting list for appointment to the Zoning Board of Review when the next vacancy occurs. Quadrato also operates a 24/365 homing beacon for UFOs.

With three former members out and one new member in, the CCA Party Steering Committee has shrunk to nine members. They say they meet monthly, but those must be small meetings, as three of the nine members are quite elderly and do not live in Charlestown anymore (Kate Waterman, Dr. Milton and Bernice Krantz).

The CCA Party says it’s all about open and transparent government, morality and civility, maintaining a lush, bucolic rural setting, low taxes, efficient government and absolutely no casino.

The CCA Party wants everyone to believe that only they
stand in the way of a Narragansett Casino in Charlestown
For those of you who are new in town, the “no casino” thing is a standard pledge anyone running for office in Charlestown must take. It hasn’t had any particular meaning in years since there hasn’t been a proposal by the Narragansett Indians to build one for years.

Plus, the chances of one ever happening are close to nil. Click here for more detail on why the Narragansett Casino in Charlestown is never going to happen.

The pledge, at least insofar as it applies to the CCA Party, is an affirmation of their unshakable belief that the Narragansett Indians are up to no good and must be watched constantly by the town’s Special Counsel for Indian Affairs Joe Larisa who is paid a minimum retainer of just under $25,000 a year for that purpose. I am not making this up.

The other parts of the CCA credo are positions they believe others must adhere to. We’ve learned over the nearly eight years the CCA Party has been around that its principles do not apply to itself.

One of the reputed sites for the secret CCA Party headquarters
When the CCA Party first started, it was a relatively open and transparent group. It had regular public meetings and anyone could join. That only lasted a couple of years. The CCA Party no longer holds any public meetings. You are expressly told you cannot join.

Since the CCA Party took over all the major levers of power in Charlestown – Town Council, Planning Commission, Budget Commission, School Committee – and began micromanaging town staff, we have had a chance to see what the CCA Party really stands for. 

Nothing happens in Charlestown town government without the direct approval of the CCA Party. 


No one gets appointed to any position without being vetted by the CCA Party. 

No staff person dares to make a move that might somehow annoy the CCA Party. 

And over the past six years, the CCA Party has asserted itself into what would normally be private matters, such as who you can sell your land to or what you can do in your home or on your land. 

What we see the CCA Party majority officials do in public meetings is the product of decisions that are made in secret.

In this series, we’ll look not only at the CCA Party’s deep roots and history, but also at the CCA Party’s record as Charlestown’s rulers over the past six years. You can see for yourself how clsoe they adhered to their own stated principles. Then, you can make intelligent decisions in November about whether you want them to stay in office.