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Thursday, July 26, 2012

“Leave the people out of it”

Boss Gentz names names.

… Unless, of course, you’re CCA and you’re screaming for someone to be fired.

By Linda Felaco

At the July 9 Town Council meeting, Town Council President Tom Gentz (CCA) called for a boycott* of Progressive Charlestown, denouncing our lack of “civility” and our impolite habit of “naming names.” Gentz repeatedly demanded that we “leave the people out of it.”

Which sounds reasonable in principle, but there’s just a few problems with that.

First, just how would Gentz have us report on town government without naming names of who’s doing what when, where, and how? Should we assign numbers to the councilors like in the old Dating Game and refer to them as Councilor #1, Councilor #2, Councilor #3, and so on? I suppose town employees who have unique job titles could be referred to by title rather than by name, but it’d be kinda hard to report on what goes on at Town Council or Planning Commission meetings without “naming names.”

Perhaps Gentz would like us to use a “master lever” in Charlestown so we could “leave names out of it” when voting.

The CCA would also have us refrain from naming names when the miscreant is a volunteer, so as not to discourage volunteerism. Hey, in Charlestown, almost everybody is a volunteer, including the writers and editors of Progressive Charlestown. But how does being a volunteer make you immune from criticism when you violate the Open Meetings Act, use your position for personal revenge or power, make terrible and potentially harmful decisions and policy recommendations, or otherwise behave badly?

The CCA also considers it a form of “intimidation” if you let on that you know what street someone lives on. As if we can’t find out each other’s addresses with a couple of mouse clicks. Perhaps we should go around town with bags over our heads so we can be anonymous at the Mini-Super. After all, it might be too intimidating to have anyone know what groceries I’m buying.

Speaking of groceries, it was a real class act, and very “civil” and “nonintimidating,” when a certain CCA member I won’t name but whose initials are CV followed Will around the supermarket chanting “Mr. Hate, Mr. Hate.” Yup, that’s civility all right, Charlestown-style.

Joanne D'Alcomo demanded that the council
name names.
Though oddly enough, for all the CCA’s squeamishness about “naming names,” during the hearings last year on the proposed zoning change for the YMCA camp, Joanne D’Alcomo made repeated and vociferous demands that the town council members reveal the names of anyone who’d contacted them on the subject—and even the content of the e-mails—and had to be repeatedly informed by Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero that communications between constituents and the town council are not a matter of public record.

And it’s not as though the CCA was the least bit shy about using Bill DiLibero’s name in the course of their infamous “Kill Bill” campaign.

In fact, Gentz himself was not shy about “naming names” when he was excoriating Will last week—in violation of Council Rules, I might add. And I could name a couple of local businessmen for whom appearing before Boss Gentz has been a less-than-pleasant experience. Oh, and the superintendent of the Chariho schools might not consider Gentz to be a model of civility. And I wouldn’t exactly call it “respectful” when Gentz referred to Dr. Lew Johnson as “Vanna” when he gave his presentation at the hearing on the lighting ordinance. Or when Gentz routinely cuts off Evelyn Smith when she politely tries to offer her voluminous expertise on subjects he hasn’t troubled himself to research the background on. Gentz might have a bit more credibility on the subject of “civility” if he were to practice what he preached.

You see, Mr. President,† there is a very real difference between us here at Progressive Charlestown and you CCA folks, and it’s not that we “name names,” because you do too. It’s the way we name names. We name names in order to report on people’s actions that have a bearing on the town government. We don’t whitewash, but we also don’t discuss anyone’s personal life and in fact have declined to publish dozens upon dozens of personal comments that added nothing to the discussion. Trust me, if you think we’re bad, you don’t even want to see the stuff we don’t post. And when you consider the many, many vicious slurs made by opponents of President Obama, “Boss Gentz” and “Deputy Dan” are practically compliments.
The CCA regularly invokes the name of boogeyman
Jim Mageau in order to consolidate their power
over Charlestown.

CCA, on the other hand, has always named names—hell, the very impetus behind their formation was to drum Jim Mageau out of office—and they take special relish in getting people fired or attempting to destroy their businesses. And they do get personal. Witness Michael Chambers’s and “Peyton Storm’s” childish speculations on “Oppressive Charlestown” about what they think goes on in Will and Cathy Collette’s marriage. When anyone who’s married knows that every marriage is a black box. No one ever really knows what goes on in anyone else’s marriage other than the two partners. Have we ever speculated about the relationship between Mike and Donna Chambers or Ron and Maureen Areglado? Some things just don’t bear thinking about. Perhaps Mike Chambers and “Peyton Storm” think Will and Cathy are fair game because Progressive Charlestown is not “civil.” But we never made any pretentious claim to be civil, only to tell the truth. It’s easy to be civil to those we like. The real test of civility is in how you treat your opponents. And the CCA has flunked it time and again throughout its six-year history.

*Not that anyone appears to have listened to him—indeed, some commenters were quite incensed at the idea that Gentz would presume to tell them what they can and can't read. He may well have just given us “free advertising” by sending folks our way who hadn’t heard of us before and were curious to see what all the fuss was about. Either way, readership is up, despite the fact that it’s full summer and folks are out and about rather than sitting at home in front of their computers.

†Enjoy the title, because I don’t expect it to last past November.