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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Charlestown Tapas

Congratulations, Sgt. Phillip Gingerella!...and lots more news bites
By Will Collette
Screen shot from CPD's Facebook page

Charlestown Police Sergeant Phillip Gingerella deserves high praise for his rescue of a vacationing New Yorker who decided to ignore warning signs of rip currents and went out into the rough 8 to 12 feet high surf at Blue Shutters Beach. Sure enough, 55-year old Michael Novak of South Salem, NY was overwhelmed and stuck 400 feet offshore clinging to a boogie board. His wife called 911.

Sgt. Gingerella, a former lifeguard, was first on the scene, followed shortly by Parks & Recreation Director Jay Primiano. Gingerella stripped down, grabbed a life vest and dove in. Jay Primiano grabbed a life guard torpedo float plus rope and a reel. 

By the time Gingerella reached him, Novak was too exhausted to swim out to a rescue boat so the sergeant brought him in instead, aided by additional rescuers from Charlestown Ambulance & Rescue and Dunn’s Corner Fire District.

Sgt. Gingerella told the Providence Journal the surf was “pretty wicked.”

Novak, a suburban NY liquor store owner vacationing in Charlestown, declined further treatment or hospital transport after his rescue. Though this brave rescue got well-deserved local and even national coverage, what you don’t see in any of the coverage is Novak or any of his family members saying “thank you,” or any mention of consequences for Novak, whose stupidity put others’ lives at risk. But I guess being a New Yorker on vacation means never having to say “I’m sorry.”

Charlestown unemployment climbs again

One month ago in Progressive Charlestown, I celebrated the dramatic drop in Charlestown’s unemployment rate for June to only 5.7%, a rate we had not seen since before the Great Recession. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.

Even though Rhode Island’s overall unemployment rate continues to drop, our town unemployment rate went back up to 7.2% for July, a one month increase of almost 30%. The jump in Charlestown’s unemployment was driven by a large increase in the number of local workers who are now collecting unemployment benefits – 67 new claims.

Well, the one-month respite from relentlessly high unemployment was welcome, but fleeting. This underscores the need for Charlestown to do something it has not done during the reign of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance over town government. And that is to think proactively about practical steps Charlestown can take to improve our local economy and job prospects.

I listed a number of such practical suggestions you can read by clicking here.

“Exploring the Many Shades of Black”

If you’ve lived in Charlestown for any amount of time, you’re bound to have run into someone in town with an axe to grind against the Narragansett Tribe. 

Indeed, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance holds as one of its founding and operating principles a persistent distrust of the Tribe. Sometimes you will hear, as I have heard, haters of the Tribe call members “those n*****s from Providence.” That’s when I ball up my fists and picture that individual with a mouthful of bloody Chiclets.

In a recent on-line edition of Indian Country Today, anthropologist Julianne Jennings, a member of the Nottoway tribe in Eastern Connecticut, published an interesting essay “Exploring the Many Shades of Black” which is well worth reading in its entirety. This essay goes a long way to provide a historical context and an answer to those racist remarks about the Narragansetts and other tribes.

Ms. Jennings delves into the way “race” has been defined over the centuries and in particular the “one drop” rule that led many whites to call Native Americans “Negroes.” She quotes the late Richard Wilcox of the Narragansetts:
“If one drop of ‘black’ blood can define us as Negroes, it’s apparent then that the strength of the African people can be determined in that one drop. Once the Europeans figured that out, they tried to whip that out of us too”
Ms. Jennings also notes that among many tribes, the one-drop rule also applies, but in reverse. She quotes Black Elk, a famous wičháša wakȟáŋ (medicine man and holy man) of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux):
“I am an Indian. If you have one drop of Indian blood in your veins, then you are Indian.”
Though Black Elk saw this not as a rule, but an option for voluntary self-affirmation, Ms. Jennings notes that when the one-drop rule was applied as law, it was problematic:
"The persistence of slavery in some areas and a tendency to see Indian people as black also caused difficulties: during the 1840s, the Narragansett people issued membership certificates lest tribal members be mistaken for escaped slaves. The late Dr. Ella Sekatau, Narragansett Tribal Historian explains, ‘The one-drop rule was used to deny our existence and allowed Europeans to claim what they had stolen.’”
As we get full swing into the 2014 election season, you may wonder why the CCA Party makes such a big deal about a non-existent Narragansett Indian Casino and supports spending almost $25,000 per year on Special Counsel Joe Larisa to wage an endless war against the Narragansetts.

There’s a history to it: it goes back to the Great Swamp Massacre, the subsequent enslavement of many of the Narragansetts who survived, the 1880 “detribalization” of the Narragansett Tribe by the state legislature followed by the 1882 land grab of 15,000 acres by many of Charlestown’s leading families.

Then came the Narragansetts’ fight to regain federal recognition and their 1975 lawsuit to regain their stolen lands which led to a mutually agreed upon settlement. Many Charlestown residents, particularly within the CCA Party, still resent the Tribe for its efforts to restore what was lost and to build a life and a future for their families.

Where do you come from?

Here's another useful piece on the matter of origins and self-identification. For lovers of numbers, see the New York Times' great interactive info-graphic that shows, state-by-state, where residents of each state came from on a timeline that runs from 1900 to 2012. Of course, I went to the Rhode Island graphic and, as I expected, it shows that Rhode Island has almost always had a majority of native-born residents - that's the only way we can understand each other's accents.

There was one time in the timeline where this wasn't the case - 1910, the peak of immigration in Rhode Island where the number of foreign-born residents peaked at 33% and only 49% of Rhode Islanders were born in Rhode Island.

During the period extending from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s, Rhode Island had the highest concentration of home-grown residents, where an average of 68% of state residents could proudly say they were born in Ro-Dilun. The latest data is for 2012, which shows our population is made up of 57% Rhode Island-born, 15% immigrants and the rest from other US states.

Screen shot from the New York Times interactive graphic. To actually use this time-line, go to the source by clicking here.

The US Geological Survey confirms that on August 13, there was a 2.7-magnitude quake that occured near Deep River, CT, north of Old Lyme and approximately 40 miles from Charlestown. The USGS says small quakes are common in eastern Connecticut. A 2.1-magnitude quake was felt in Groton last December.

West Nile Virus found in mosquitos just north of Charlestown

Aedes Aegypti Animal animated GIFAs I noted in the August 12 Charlestown Tapas, mosquitos carrying diseases deadly to humans have been turning up in eastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts, so it was only a matter of time before RI had its first confirmed find. I didn’t think it was going to be so close.

Mosquitos carrying West Nile Virus were found in the Great Swamp in West Kingstown, just north of the home of Planning Commissar Ruth Platner and her husband Cliff Vanover, a newly promoted member of the Charlestown Zoning Board of Review. I wouldn’t be surprised if, between them, they come up with some new town law banning the existence of mosquitos.

The Health Department and DEM recommend these steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites:
  • Remove all standing water from around houses by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins to reduce mosquito breeding. Just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitos.
  • Be sure all open windows are properly screened to prevent mosquitos from entering the house.
  • Dress for protection by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shorts during outdoor evening activities.
  • Use bug spray with no more than 30-percent DEET during outdoor activities particularly at dusk and evening hours.
  • Time activities for maximum protection; mosquitos are most active during the dusk and evening hours. 
Job Opening

The Biomes Marine Biology Center in North Kingstown is looking for an Outreach Specialist to work with kids. Click here for more details. I pulled this listing from Brown University’s daily listserve e-mail that lists tons of non-profit jobs all over Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut. It’s the only such service I know of and you can sign up for the daily e-mails for free. Click here.

Sniff and sniffle

Rhode Island is the least polarized state…really?

Frank Caprio - not a "D" but a DINO
Josh Barro writes in the New York Times that, according to a mathematical analysis done by two political scientists, Rhode Island is the least politically polarized of all states. Clearly, neither the author nor the researchers have ever visited Charlestown.

But their conclusions do have some basis. Nominally, Rhode Island is overwhelmingly Democratic. Even those who identify as Republicans hold views that are usually considered far more like Democrats given how far to the right the national Republican has moved, characters like state legislators Doreen Costa and Joe Trillo notwithstanding.

Our home grown political scientists, such as Wendy Schiller at Brown, note that although an overwhelming number of our elected officials bear the Democratic label, they’re not really Democrats. For example, Schiller says of recently chosen House Speaker Nick Mattiello, "Basically, he's a Republican."

Governor Lincoln Chafee said there was a reason why Rhode Island scored so low on partisan political polarization: "Traditionally there has been more polarization among the factions of Democrats."

Republican House Minority Leader Brian Newberry identified why there is so much internal discord within the Democrats in the General Assembly: "Lots of Democrats here would be Republicans somewhere else, but they don't feel they can win without a 'D' next to their name."