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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nukes, numbers and nuts lead off this week's Tapas

Charlestown Tapas - tasty nuggets of news
By Will Collette
NRC finally steps up oversight of Millstone nuclear plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued yet another notice of violation to Virginia-based Dominion Energy, owner of Millstone, our local nuke. However, this time they are also putting Millstone’s Unit 3 reactor under added scrutiny.

The plant operator has had on-going problems with maintaining a steady, reliable flow of cooling water without which a disastrous accident could occur – as happened at the Fukushima plant in Japan after an earthquake knocked out that plant’s coolant system. Dangerous levels of radiation were released over a 50-mile radius. Note that Charlestown is only 20 miles downwind from Millstone.

Last summer, nearby residents of Millstone were given free potassium iodide pills to be taken if Millstone should have a radioactive release to prevent thyroid cancer. Charlestown didn’t get any, though you can buy it without a prescription.

There’s another report out that suggests you should also stock up on beer. One can of beer can cut your dosage to beta radiation from tritium by roughly half. The Environmental Protection Agency's guidelines for tritium safety recommend staying well hydrated if you are exposed to radiation so your body can flush some of it out of your system. With Millstone as a neighbor, that’s good to know.

When good news is bad news





Charlestown’s latest unemployment rate numbers showed a sharp drop in the percentage of Charlestown workers collecting unemployment. We’re back down to 5.9%. 

However, the drop was entirely due to fewer Charlestown residents in the workforce. In fact, despite the “good” unemployment numbers, the number of working Charlestown residents dropped by 2.

In addition to those two lost jobs,  another 65 residents dropped off of unemployment insurance and out of the workforce altogether.

Before the recession, Charlestown had an average of 4,825 residents working. But now, our monthly average is in the 4,400 range, down about 8%.

As we go to the polls on November 4, bear in mind that the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) which has controlled Charlestown government for the past years, has done nothing to help Charlestown’s working families – in fact, they have pushed small businesses to either leave town or go out of business causing job loss. 

As an example of their business-friendly attitude they have established a new law mandating a specific color and depth of mulch in shrubbery beds. They have also passed a law that outdoor electrical plugs on businesses are required to be the same color as the siding. I am not making this up!

They certainly haven’t even considered the several things that are within their power to do to boost our local economy – click here for details.

Things are better in Carolina

While Charlestown has posted overall negative job growth, the village of Carolina was among Rhode Island’s top economic growth centers, coming in at #3 in a report by NerdWallet. The village of Greene in Coventry came in first, followed by Foster.

Fall-out in Westerly from the Copar quarry battle

Two Westerly Sun news articles caught my eye as directly related to the sad way that Westerly failed to protect its citizens from the predations of the Connecticut-based Copar/Armetta quarry on the Charlestown-Westerly line in Bradford.

One was an action by the Westerly Town Council to buy 41 acres at the Cherenzia quarry on White Rock Road for $2.8 million on a lease-purchase option deal. The move takes that land out of play for any industrial use, including quarrying, to protect water resources in the area. Westerly is hoping to get money from the state Water Resources Board (which has become so controversial with the CCA in Charlestown) since protecting water resources is the WRB’s main mission.

Bob Ritacco. Nothing to smile about (from
his website)
Some neighbors of Copar are understandably bitter that the town is buying the Cherenzia land while they continue to suffer. However, I see it as a positive sign for what may become a permanent solution for Copar – for the town to buy it. In the case of the Cherenzia quarry land, the town's motive is prevention. Now, there's the need for Westerly to buy Copar out for remediation.

The other news item of interest is Dale Faulkner’s investigative piece on controversial Westerly Zoning Board chair (and Westerly Town Committee leader) Bob Ritacco. Ritacco was under fire for putting off hearings on Copar’s appeal of the town’s closure order which allowed Copar to continue business as usual while their case was under appeal.

After months of delay, Faulkner found out that Ritacco was being offered the job of town Housing Authority director by George Comolli, one of the principals in the Copar case as well as counsel to the Housing Authority. For months, people have been calling for Ritacco’s resignation.

Now Faulkner has uncovered embarrassing details about Ritacco’s main business (in addition to working for Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence). Faulkner discovered that though Ritacco holds himself out to be an accountant and offers accounting services, he does not have an accounting license. His only credential is an IRS certificate that he can work as a tax return preparer.

Faulkner ties other past Ritacco breaches of trust into the article, such as losing his job as a tax auditor for the RI Division of Taxation after he was arrested and charged for falsely reporting that his state-issued laptop was stolen, when in fact, it was found in the trunk of his car.

The smell of secession in the air

Or maybe it’s in the drinking water. If you’ve been reading our coverage of one of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance’s bogus issues for 2014 – the violation of Charlestown’s imagined sovereign rights by the state Water Resources Board (they’re one of the good guys in the Westerly Copar item, immediately above). 

According to the CCA Party, the Water Resources Board has outrageously sought to purchase some undeveloped land to be set aside as open space to preserve the water below the land for when we need it.

Yeah, Blake, let's do it again.
The CCA Party has apparently hooked up with extremist candidate Blake Filippi who is running for state representative asserting that towns have the right to ignore state laws they don’t like. 

Filippi hates being called a “secessionist” even though his belief that states can nullify federal laws they don’t like – and now towns can nullify state laws they don’t like – led us directly into the Civil War.

For those of you who don’t know much about history, the Civil War ended the ambitions of radicals like Filippi eager to turn the United States into a land of 300 million sovereign citizens.

Secession is in the air, though, and is a popular idea among the groups Filippi has aligned with. One of the latest secession calls came from former aide to President G.W. Bush Douglas McKinnon. McKinnon calls on the southern states (perhaps joined by Charlestown) to secede from the Union and to form a new nation called “Reagan.”

I’m not making this up. McKinnon thinks the last straw is same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court’s apparent willingness to allow laws and lower court rulings affirming the right of gay marriage.

McKinnon assures us that another move toward secession doesn’t necessarily mean a second Civil War:
"You have to remember that all 11 states from the South, including ultimately Texas, seceded legally. They left the union peacefully, they left the union legally, and then President Lincoln … part of the problem there was that the North realized very quickly that it could not survive economically without the power of the South."
I'd been fine with all the CCA people moving down to Alabama - I'd even donate to that cause. Take Blake Filippi with you.

Speaking of wing-nuts

Tetzner hard at work at daddy's mortgage bank.
(From the Homestar Mortgage website)
One of my favorite state Representatives, Teresa Tanzi (D-District 34), faces a tough fight from Stephen Tetzner (R), a mortgage banker who is portraying himself as a man of the people. 

During these hard economic times, while so many families in our area struggled to hang on to their homes, and had to scramble and beg for credit to re-finance their homes, shore up a business or send their children to college, Tetzner drew loan after loan after loan from his family’s mortgage bank to finance his expanding real estate holdings.

Often, he was able to borrow even though his collateral was less than 50% of the value of the loan and, taken as a whole, he seemed over-extended, provided you ignore the fact that his family owns a mortgage bank.

He was also loaned his own campaign $84,500. A lot of people in the 34th District would like the ability to borrow money like that for more mundane purposes. Like paying their household bills or student loans.

Teresa was looking forward to debating Tetzner on these issues and others that sharply separate them at a planned forum at South Kingstown High School, but as this week’s Independent reports, that’s not going to happen.

In his usual style, Tetzner scuttled the forum at the High School by insulting the students and the school, making false statements about the way the forum was going to be set up and letting fly with some pretty outrageous accusations against Teresa. Read the details here.

SKHS Student Council President Glenn Yu was the lead in organizing the forum. He wrote to the Independent to give his point of view on what happened. He summed up Stephen Tetzner’s machinations during the negotiations over the forum as this:
“The fact is that he tricked and used me, my friends and my teachers so he could send a low blow to Tanzi. The fact is that this embarrassing experience has been a learning experience for me, a firsthand experience about how politicians will do anything to get elected.
In this week’s Independent, Tetzner fired back, calling Glenn Yu “Young Yu” and branding him as a tool of Teresa Tanzi’s campaign. It’s a long letter that’s long on vicious slurs against Teresa Tanzi and degrading, borderline racist remarks about Glenn Yu. Tetzner does everything but threaten to beat the kid up. Don’t believe me? Read it yourself here.

Preston CT honors dead Charlestown airmen

On October 19, veterans in Norwich CT did a touching memorial service to honor the memory of two Navy aviators who flew out of Charlestown’s Naval Auxiliary Air Field (now Ninigret Park and the National Wildlife Refuge) but didn’t come back.

Seventy years ago, Ensigns George Kraus and Merle Longnecker took off from Charlestown NAAF flying Navy Hellcats. They collided in mid-air over Norwich while practicing maneuvers, crashed and died. They were both 22 years old.

Such was the fate of many young men who came to Charlestown during World War II to learn how to fly. Some of them failed their training in the worst way possible.

One young flyer who survived his Charlestown training and later went to achieve some fame is GW’s father, President George Herbert Walker Bush.

For the past several Memorial Day weekends, Progressive Charlestown has been running a great series of articles on the history of the Charlestown air base – click here to read all of our articles mentioning the air field.

So, how popular is Progressive Charlestown?

In the global scheme of things – literally – we are ranked #2,377,370 most popular among the world’s active websites, according to Alexa.com.

Is that a good or bad ranking? Given that there are currently 1.09 billion websites in the world, that puts us solidly in the Top 1%. We recently passed the 1.5 million mark in page reads and we currently get around 2,000 page reads per day.

How did the Charlestown Citizens Alliance website do? Mmmmm, not so good. According to Alexa.com, they don’t get enough readership to even get ranked. However, Alexa was able to identify the top five topics that drew people to the CCA Party’s website:

Keyword
Percent of Search Traffic
  1.  the charlestown press
39.76%
  2.  imortance of casino traffic
12.97%
  3.  charlestown land trust
12.07%
  4.  quonnie history
11.05%
  5.  partially definition
5.29%

There’s a subtle message in the fact that the second most popular search term that sends people to the CCA website is a typo.

Here’s another chance, Mike

I keep my eyes open for opportunities for Mike Chambers, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance “author” and pundit, to win recognition for his unquestioned brilliance as a political analyst. Here’s one that was just announced – the Rhode Island Foundation is now accepting applications for its 2015 “Genius” grants.

Officially called “Innovation Fellowships, you can win up to $300,000 for three years to come up with smart ways to solve the state’s problems. For such a sober guy like Mike who is capable of such brilliant analysis such as this, the money should be his for the asking.


Area company gets state technology grant

One of the reasons to vote YES to Question #4 on the November 4 ballot is to boost the URI Engineering program. One of the examples for how that translates into jobs is the decision by Hawaii-based Navatek to choose Peace Dale as the site for its first mainland office.

They are now employing 30 recent URI engineering grads (including my nephew Chris) at good paying jobs with the potential for more jobs ahead.

Navatek is a technology design company with an emphasis on energy efficiency and green energy production. The RI Commerce Corporation just announced that Navatek will be one of six Rhode Island companies to get grants from the Innovate Rhode Island Fund.

The award to Navatek is $44,992 for a new project to develop a “galley-scullery water conservation system” to cut the amount of wastewater they generate and to allow combat ships to stay out on patrol longer.
Events

The South Kingstown Town Democratic Committee will host a Joint Fund Raiser on Thursday October 30, from 6-9 pm at the Two Ten Oyster Bar at Marina Park in Wakefield. Tickets are $25 per person.