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Friday, September 30, 2011

America's Government Contracting Bonanza Bilks Taxpayers

On average, Uncle Sam spends nearly twice as much when the government outsources a job as it would if it just hired another "expensive" federal worker.

I live nine blocks from the U.S. Capitol, so many of my neighbors depend on the government for their livelihoods. A few — a scientist, an editor, a Secret Service agent — belong to that often mocked and rapidly shrinking category known as "civil servants." The government writes their paychecks, lets them buy into a decent health insurance plan, and runs a respectable pension system for them. Some belong to — and are protected by — powerful unions. Their generous benefit packages and job security are the stuff of legend.

Mageau joins the CCA and assumes leadership

Or so it seems
By Will Collette

There was a remarkable 842-word tome (“Charlestown Democrats shouldn’t be critical of CCA tactics”) in the Westerly Sun on Tuesday from former Charlestown Town Council President Jim Mageau. I wish I could give you the whole letter but it’s tucked behind the Sun’s pay wall.

Working class hero

Don't just stand there, JUMP!
By Tim Eagan

Click here for the whole cartoon

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How intimidating are intimidation lawsuits (redux)?

For every SLAPP, there must be a SLAPP-back
By Will Collette

Political life in Charlestown will almost certainly tense up as we go into an election year. I predict we will see a lot more threats of public figures wanting to sue people who say things they don’t like, especially now that Jim Mageau has emerged from his cave in preparation to mounting his rumored take-over of town government.

Since Roman times, politicians have tried to bully citizens into silence with the threat of lawsuits. Usually, these threats are simply that – threats. Politicians know the chances of actually winning such suits is slim (especially if what is being said is true, well documented and absence of malice).

Narragansetts sue to block casino vote

No thanks to Injun Joe Larisa
By Will Collette

Yesterday, the Narragansett Indian nation filed suit in state Superior Court to block the November 2012 referendum which will ask voters to approve an upgrade of the Twin River slot parlor into a full-scale casino.

The Tribe argued that the referendum does not meet the criteria the state Supreme Court set in two prior decisions that thwarted the Narragansetts’ effort to create a tribe-owned and operated casino.

Implicit in the Tribe’s argument is that it is pretty blatant discrimination for the state to promote full casino gambling for Twin River’s out-of-state owner while denying the tribe the chance for a lucrative enterprise that could make the tribe economically independent.

Things To Do in Charlestown - September 29 through October 12

Take your dog for a walk and a bahk in the pahk!

Learn more about Carolina, RI.

Attend a digital photography class.

Visit Clark Family Farms Fall Festival.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Class war in the pool

Stop picking on the rich - they create JOBS!
By Matt Bors

Enough with the class warfare already!!!

Click here for the full cartoon

Global CO2 Emissions Reach All-Time High

Global Warming is Real, Rising More Than 5% in 2010 to Close Out Past 20 Years

From: Andrew Burger,

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reached an all-time high in 2010, rising 45% in the past 20 years. Rising rapidly between 1990 and 2010, global atmospheric CO2 levels totaled 33 billion metric tons last year, according to a report published by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. 

Clean is as clean does

Killer Kleen 
by Jen Sorenson

How far do you want to go for clean.

Click here for the full cartoon.

South Kingstown Officials To Review Wind Energy Ordinance

After controversy surrounding two 427-foot wind turbines swept North Kingstown earlier this year, South Kingstown officials will review the town's safeguards to protect residents while promoting responsible sustainable energy growth.

By Erin Tiernan - South Kingston

Playing Monopoly at the Beach, Part 3

The continuing series on the business dealings of Council member Lisa DiBello
By Will Collette

In part one of this series, I examined how differently Charlestown has awarded its contracts for beach concessions at the two town beaches. At Blue Shutters Beach, there has been healthy competitive bidding resulting in almost $60,000 revenues to the town. By contrast, only one vendor, The Dog Pound, has held a monopoly at Charlestown Town Beach and, in contrast to Blue Shutters Beach, had only paid the town $17,002.

In part two of this series, we established that the direct overseer of beach concessions, Parks and Recreation Director Lisa DiBello, shared a household and a business with the owner of the Dog Pound, Deborah Dellolio. DiBello not only supervised the beach concessions, but also made the recommendations – and even the direct arguments before the Council – that her friend and associate be awarded the beach contracts.

In this segment, we’ll look at some questionable business practices at the beach.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Colin Foote's parents on red light cameras

Robin and Maryanne Foote write thank-you letter to the Town Council

We're passing along a letter Robin and Maryanne Foote sent to the Charlestown Town council today thanking them for their unanimous vote last month authorizing the next steps toward installing red light cameras at Charlestown's US Route 1 intersections.

This would, of course, include the intersection at Route One and West Beach Road where a red-light runner, Laura Reale, struck and killed their son Colin just a little over a year ago.

Their entire letter appears after the jump. For more information, go to their website.

"Local" is not the same as "sustainable"

Is Local Seafood Sustainable?

By MEREDITH HAAS/special to ecoRI News
The number of farmers’ markets has more than tripled in the past 15 years and there are now about 6,000 across the country, with Rhode Island leading the largest growth in the nation in small farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

It seems as though we’re really getting to know our farmers and have a better understanding of where our food is coming from — except for seafood. Who are our fishermen and where is our seafood coming from?

It's Class Warfare, All Right

The rich guys are winning--in a rout.

Republicans are accusing President Obama of waging class warfare, which is a little like the Japanese complaining about the time Pearl Harbor attacked them in 1941.
Still, that's the Republican Party's role in life. It's the defender of the rich and powerful and a friend to those who can afford them. It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it, and George Will can't be everywhere at once.
The Republican outburst on "class warfare" was prompted by Obama's new, improved economic plan in which he proposed cutting government spending, trimming entitlement programs, and…if you're a conservative with a weak heart you might want to stop reading right now…collecting more taxes from rich people.

DEM Breaks Ground on Wind Turbine in Narragansett

The state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has broken ground on the construction of a wind turbine project at Fishermen’s Memorial State Park and Campground. The 117-foot-high, Northwind 100-kW wind turbine being installed at the campground will supply about half of the facility’s electrical needs. When completed this fall, the turbine will power all the campsites at the park, providing renewable energy to about 17,000 campers a year.

Red light cameras - Don't Stop!

Calling your attention to a well-documented history of a red light camera implementation.

by Tom Ferrio

I usually prefer to avoid mention of my time living in Texas. It brings memories of things like our neighborhood sprouting dozens of George Bush for President signs one Sunday morning after church.

But we were there while our town implemented red light cameras and I think the history is informative.

Middleman challenges Captain Orange again

Middleman changes approach?
By Tom Tomorrow

In his never-end battle with Captain Orange and Mr. Turtle, Middleman thinks "Change" is needed.

See what happens by clicking here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Are Tom Gentz' Solar Panels Illegal?

Quick and decisive answer from Charlestown's Building Official
By Will Collette

After being told by Town Administrator Bill DiLibero that all forms of alternative energy installations are not a permitted use in Charlestown, I followed Mr. DiLibero's suggestion to get a more definitive answer from Charlestown's Housing Official Joe Warner.

I wanted to know generally about where alternative energy stands in the town's eyes and specifically whether the solar panels on Town Council President Tom Gentz's house were legal.

I received this reply:

Red Light Cameras are not a panacea. But then again, nothing is.

They don't have to be perfect to be useful

By Will Collette

My colleague Linda Felaco’s commentary against red-light cameras is well argued, even though I disagree with most of it.

Since the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) began its recent campaign against red light cameras, I’ve found myself angry and outraged about this issue. I’ve asked myself why this, among all the wrong-headed things the CCA has done, bothers me so much. I have not been injured by a red-light runner nor have any of my family or friends.

I think the difference is that their campaigns against decent toilet facilities at our town beaches, or against wind energy did not involve immediate life or death, while red-light running does. To blithely offer all sorts of inaccurate or inane comments against red light cameras without comment or correction struck me as their most irresponsible move yet.

Of course there are going to be different opinions on the merits of an issue like this. Part of what we do here at Progressive Charlestown is look critically at the arguments, examine the facts and then tell you what we think. We don't just put them all out there like each is of equal merit and weight. So it is with this point-counterpoint exchange between Linda and me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Prohibited unless Permitted, continued

Unless you are a town official
By Will Collette

Beth Richardson asked the Progressive Charlestown team of expert researchers to try to figure out the legal basis for Charlestown Planning Commissar Ruth Platner's "Platner Principle" that all uses you might have for your land or property are prohibited unless they are expressly permitted under our Code of Ordinances and Zoning Code.

I found one section in the Code of Ordinances that might, if read by someone with Napoleonic tendencies, be stretched that far (read here). But I kept looking.

I asked Town Moderator Henry Walsh to search his encyclopedic memory of things that have happened in this town for when and how this concept of town supremacy over all its people came to be. And I asked Town Administrator William DiLibero, who is also an attorney, for the legal basis.

Here’s what they told me.

Traffic cameras are no panacea

A red-light camera cannot be begged, bargained,
or pleaded with. It also cannot be interrogated in
a court of law.
Colin Foote's death was tragic and likely avoidable. But a red-light camera would not have changed the outcome.

By Linda Felaco

Week in Review, September 25

Bill DiLibero
Last week I featured a photo of the famous comedy ice skating pair - Frick and Frack.

This photo does not mean that I am continuing the Frick and Frack theme.

This was not a week of momentous town meetings but somehow Progressive Charlestown set a new weekly readership record.

Read on to find out how.

By Tom Ferrio

We Need an Armistice in the War on Drugs

For the moment at least, we're headed toward softening the penalties on marijuana and letting patients use it, while also reducing the obscene punishments for possessing crack cocaine.

Here's a war,
We'll never win;
Cops aren't good,
At ending sin.


By Matt Bors

That pretty much sums it up. Click here for the whole cartoon

With Poverty on the Rise, this is no Time to Slash the Safety Net

The tea party and its ilk offer us only cold cups of bitter tea while serving up fountains of champagne to the super-rich, Wall Street, and big corporations.

The increasingly extreme conservative ideology pervading Congress and the tea party is infused with a dogmatic creed of rugged individualism, used to justify policies that benefit only the super-rich and large corporations, while hurting — even killing — the rest of us.
As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) points out, living with economic hardship in this country means an early death. Rugged individualism works for those individuals lucky enough to be born with silver spoons in their mouths. For those unlucky enough to be born with a steel shovel in their hands…well, data shows they'll die about 6.5 years before their silver-spoon peers do.

A Perry Tale about the Prince of Privilege

Prince Rick wouldn't be where he is without the steady "intrusion" of big government into his life.

It's bedtime, children. Get on your jammies, scootch under the covers, and I'll tell you a "Perry Tale."
In this one, Prince Rick is trying to make it to the big White House in Washington. It's a strange quest, because he calls the capital city "a seedy place," and he tells the commoners in the land that he hates — nay, deeply loathes — the very government that he wants to head.

Death in America

The Good Samaritan by Rembrandt (1630)
Death has been in the news a lot lately, it seems. Republicans have been cheering it on the campaign trail, and state governments have been disposing of high-profile death-penalty cases. Here in RI, our governor has been trying to prevent the feds from taking custody of a confessed murderer so they can seek the death penalty.

By Linda Felaco

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Does the GOP Hate Women?

Even though they're afraid to utter the W word, it's pretty easy to see what their views are on issues concerning the majority of voters.

After suffering through several un-presidential GOP debates, I'm struck by the amount of anti-woman rhetoric spewing from the candidates. Although none of them dares utter the W word — unless it's part of the phrase "our men and women in uniform" — it's pretty easy to see what their views are on issues concerning the sex that comprises a majority of voters.
Take a look:

Thelma and Louise?

This Modern World
By Tom Tomorrow

Click here for the full cartoon.

It Is Time to Study Social Security's Origins

The Great Depression taught Americans that the costs of unemployment and poverty are shared by all of us.

After a bubble economy burst, the stock market collapsed. Main street businesses began to fold and jobs soon vanished. Millions of job seekers remained unemployed as the months turned into years. Both government and personal debt soared. The best economic minds in America came together to find solutions and decided we needed a new program: Social Security.
Hold on a minute. Aren't people telling us we have to slash Social Security to solve these same problems? Texans Ron Paul and Rick Perry want to see the federal program ended. President Bush wanted to treat it as a private investment. That may have sounded appealing, at least until our investments went south.

Here come more CCA comments attacking red light cameras

One of them is ready to go to war (literally) to stop them
By Will Collette

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance and their followers who send them comments about town issues are at it again. Here's a second batch. Click here for the first batch.

Last June, CCA’s followers poured so much venom against the very idea of providing decent toilet facilities at our two town beaches, we fully expected voters to reject the June ballot question. But when reason prevailed, voters go the go ahead for new beach facilities by an 11-point margin.

This time, CCA and its chorus are targeting the initiative to get red light cameras for our Route One traffic lights, not only at no cost, but with the probability of some new revenue. Chief Shippee stressed that the initiative was less about making money for the town and more about changing driving habits, to perhaps prevent another tragedy like last year’s killing of Colin Foote who was run down by a red-light runner at West Beach and Route One.

I reproduced e-mailed anonymous comments the CCA had put out in their e-bleats. Then I added my own commentary on the merits of those remarks (the CCA thinks all opinions are equal and valid, even when they are false, stupid or just plain crazy).

Now, it seems the CCA has shifted from putting those comments out in its e-mails to posting them on their website. And (will wonders never cease?) SOME commenters put their names on their writing AND the CCA runs the comment with their name. One of those was anonymous when it went out in the CCA e-bleat but was signed by town Planning Commissar (and CCA web mistress) Ruth Platner on the website. Color me stunned. 

Here are some more CCA comments on red-light cameras followed by my snarky remarks.

Friday, September 23, 2011

This Koch Don't Trickle

I used to believe in trickle-down economics. Then I grew up.

Ron Paul is a very hard man

No insurance? Dying? Go to Church
By Jen Sorenson

The Republican Presidential field of hopefuls includes some of the strangest people in politics. Even though this is the silly season early in the campaign when candidates try to pander to their base and do whatever it takes to get attention and stay alive in the polls, you've got to admit they've been putting some weird stuff out there.

Like the "Let him die" cries that cropped when Ron Paul (R-TX) answered a question about whether the government should help a dying man with no health insurance.

The weekly cartoon "Slowpoke" takes that on - click here for the full version.

But for Ron Paul, his answer wasn't simply a matter of abstract principle....

Arrowhead Dental says thanks for the press

Dentistry From the Heart 2011
(photo from the Arrowhead Facebook page)
This week, I received a letter from Dr. Gouin at Arrowhead Dental Associates about my Free Dentistry Day story and thought I'd share it here (read it after the jump). If any of you are in the market for a new dentist, Arrowhead is the place to go.

New report shows Charlestown lags on affordable housing

Despite CCA propaganda, the need is severe
By Will Collette

Habitat for Humanity house in Charlestown
Partly funded by state affordable housing bond
One of the very first articles I wrote for Progressive Charlestown was on the hard numbers behind Charlestown’s affording housing crunch. Since then, the Progressive Charlestown team members have written often on the topic, while the Charlestown Citizens Alliance has pushed a misleading, if not downright false, perspective on the story. 

Here are some key facts: of Charlestown’s 3,318 year-round housing units, only 53 qualify as long-term affordable. Almost none of them are rental units.

In order to meet the minimum number required under Rhode Island law, we need to add 279 more units of long-term affordable housing, and most of them should be rentals.

Take a look at the new HousingWorksRI 2011 Fact Book for the hard, cold statistics and read on. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Emails from Jim

Last Friday, 4 days after the last Town Council meeting, I received an email from Mr. Jim Mageau.

At first I was hopeful that it would lead to something interesting, but I found that hope fades. 

by Tom Ferrio

Ocean State Theatre Company Looks To Rent Warehouse In East Greenwich

Ocean State Theatre Company, which leases Theatre-By-The-Sea in Matunuck, wants a year-round home, but will keep leasing in South Kingston.

By Elizabeth McNamara

New Progressive Charlestown Design

Your Progressive Charlestown staff have been evaluating a new layout of our website to make it easier to use. We decided we liked the new design this afternoon so I took a deep breath and (I think) got it all changed in about 10 minutes.

My apologies if you were using Progressive Charlestown at the time and became disoriented. All should be stable now!

UPDATE: Charlestown dodges a bullet

What goes up must come down.
(Credit: NASA)
Charlestown residents can breathe a sigh of relief: Although NASA still doesn't know exactly where the obsolete 6.5-ton satellite currently hurtling to Earth will land, they've narrowed the impact window to sometime tomorrow afternoon, at which point it won't be passing over Charlestown or indeed anywhere in North America.

Sorry to disappoint anyone who was hoping to find a nice chunk of space debris in their back yard to sell on eBay. But you can still get in on the betting action on where it lands. Although any eventual debris will most likely land in the water, if any pieces do reach land, odds are it will be either in Africa (9-4 odds) or South America (11-to-4 odds).

By Linda Felaco 

Why we haven't written about The Rogue

The punchline in today's Doonesbury cartoon hit very close to home for your dedicated staff at Progressive Charlestown.

The opening frame is at the left. You can read the entire strip here.

Playing Monopoly at the Beach, Part 2

Did Lisa DiBello help her business associate pass “Go”?
By Will Collette

In Part 1, I compared the revenue the town of Charlestown receives for concession rights at the two town beaches. Concessionaires at Blue Shutters Beach bid fiercely for the contract and, as a result, the town has received almost $60,000 in fees.

However, at Charlestown Town Beach, the same concessionaire, The Dog Pound, has held a monopoly since 2001, usually getting the contract with no competition, but has only paid $17,002 to the town. This is a pretty good illustration of why state law requires government contracts to be competitively bid.

In this installment, we’re going to look at how that competition actually works in Charlestown’s beach concessions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A great year ahead for the Westerly Sun

Frank Glista soliciting donations for maintenance of the
Charlestown Naval Airfield Memorial
The performance of Jim Mageau and Joe Dolock at last week's Town Council meeting was a sufficient cue to start watching the letters to the editor in the Westerly Sun.

And we weren't disappointed! Competing letters by Frank Glista and Jim Mageau in Tuesday's Sun set the tone for things to come.

Death in Georgia

Barring a last-minute pardon from either the governor of Georgia or President Obama, Troy Davis will die at 7 p.m. for a crime he may not have committed.

By Linda Felaco

Things To Do in Charlestown - September 22 through 28

Channel your best Swamp Yankee, watch the acclaimed film Carolina, RI: Smallest of the Small, celebrate with Sandra Puchalski, attend a concert, do some bird watching.

We should have enough activities to keep you busy. The weather should be crisp and beautiful with some periods of showers for most of the next week.

Your tax dollars at work

When is a ban not a ban? When the CCA says so.
By Will Collette

If you subscribe to our town's Paper of Record, the Westerly Sun, I hope you saw Charlestown's PAID legal advertising on pages 16 and 17 of yesterday's paper (September 20). This is the second time town taxpayers have paid for this legally-required public advertising of Charlestown ordinance that totally bans wind to energy devices of any size, type or location.

For weeks, Planning Commissar Ruth Platner, the CCA-dominated Town Council majority and even the Westerly Sun have been saying this ordinance is NOT a total ban. It's just a pause, a time-out, that will allow Platner and her merry band of Planning Campensenos to craft a nice ordinance for resident wind energy.

We keep saying that you should READ the ordinance, not just listen to the propaganda.

Facebook changes its layout

If you were one of those people, like me, who did a "what the %$#^" about Facebook yesterday or today you should read this comic.

Teaser on the left and the entire thing here.


CCA Voices of Greed blast red-light cameras

Are red-light cameras a harbinger of “failed socialism?” Or are CCA followers just idiots?
By Will Collette

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance is cranking up its anonymous voices of greed again. This time, these faceless legions are attacking, of all things, the opportunity for Charlestown to install cameras at our red lights along Route One to bust people who run those lights and put all of the rest of us in danger of violent death.

These cameras would not only cost the town NOTHING, but would probably generate revenue as the town would get a percentage of the fines for the violation.

In this town, where Colin Foote’s family still mourn his death on May 16, 2010 at the hands of a reckless driver who ran the light at Route One and West Beach, how dare the CCA launch this tirade.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Obituary: Don't Ask, Don't Tell. 1993-2011.

After a long illness, at midnight last night, the discriminatory military policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" died a quiet death. The policy is survived by the 14,346 service members who were discharged under DADT. 

The White House issued the following statement marking its passing:

Short Takes

Donna on TV
Injun Joe on the warpath
Dan Gordon goes to jail (and gets out again)
Bob Watson goes back to court
Watch out for falling space junk and, oh, 
Space aliens are attacking the Earth (and we're all gonna die)
By Will Collette

"You can see a strip of dead stuff”

Local Farmers Still Coping with Irene

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
Tropical storm Irene powered its way through the region nearly a month ago, delivering perhaps the "new normal" for our climate-changed weather: torrential rain, explosive winds and an infrequent phenomenon, especially for farmers — sea spray.

Sea spray is salt water blown ashore from the tops of waves, and the harmful salt is the reason crops aren't planted close to the ocean. But Irene pushed salty moisture far inland, destroying produce such as winter squash, corn and tomatoes across southern New England.
"We've never seen that kind of storm," said Brian Simmons, of Simmons Farm in Middletown.