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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Promises, promises

The winning CCA candidates haven’t done such a hot job of fulfilling the promises of the CCA platform. How well have they kept their own personal promises?

By Linda Felaco

As I’ve shown in my review of the 2010 campaign literature of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance,[1] the winning CCA candidates not only have not done much of anything they promised to do, but they actually did some of the very same things they professed to be so “disappointed” in the previous council—all hand-picked by the CCA—for having done.

And yet they somehow managed to maintain the faith of their overlords on the CCA steering committee, since the CCA is letting them run for reelection rather than replacing them with a new slate like they did in 2010.

I’m still scratching my head over that one. In 2010, the CCA in essence asked Charlestown voters for a do-over. Having lost complete and utter confidence in their entire 2008 slate, to the point that they didn’t endorse any of their own incumbents, the CCA said, “This time we’ve picked better people, we promise!” and ran a totally new slate in 2010.

What this says to me is that the CCA candidates are for all intents and purposes puppets and the steering committee members are the puppeteers. “Shadow government,” as my colleague Will Collette has referred to it. Is this what Charlestown voters really want, ventriloquist’s dummies holding office?

Perhaps it’s churlish of me to expect mere puppets to uphold their personal pledges. Then again, who even knows who wrote them, the candidates, the CCA steering committee, or more likely, Ruth Platner, who seems to call just about all of the shots. Regardless, the candidates didn’t uphold the pledges in their bios any better than they did the CCA pledges.

According to the CCA’s 2010 campaign flyer, Tom Gentz “holds an MBA in finance and has a BA in Economics, which would bring a level of financial understanding to the Town Council.”

Where was this vaunted “financial understanding” when Gentz was hawking Y-gate? Charlestown Land Trust treasurer Russ Ricci repeatedly told us that by using both town and state tax dollars to buy two completely redundant and overpriced easements—a town easement and a state easement—we’d somehow be getting the property for “50 cents on the dollar.” And Gentz never contradicted him, even after we learned that the Y’s asking price was nearly double the appraised value of the property. I’m no financial wizard, but to me it looked like under the CCA’s plan we would have paid double, not half.

Gentz pushed the YMCA deal to the bitter end—and even beyond, when he wrote an Op-Ed in the Westerly Sun lamenting its demise (read Will’s analysis of it here and here). But records and sworn depositions by key players show that Gentz and his colleagues accepted a fictitious appraisal and a worthless conservation easement, and did no due diligence of their own (read Will’s analyses of the depositions here and here). I doubt Gentz was taught that when he studied for his MBA.

Nor have I seen any of the cost-benefit analyses the CCA promised they’d subject every proposal to, have you?

Tom,” we were also told in 2010, “is not afraid of tackling tough problems and vows to work with staff and volunteers on all levels of government to get the job done for the town.”

Yeah, he really rolled up his sleeves and tackled the tough problem of ramrodding the Y-gate deal through behind closed doors, didn’t he. And he sure took on the tough problem of trying to exempt the town from state affordable housing law, too.

Supposedly, during Hurricane Irene last year, the only one who put in more hours than Gentz did was then-town administrator Bill DiLibero. And we all know the thanks DiLibero got for that. Yup, the “Kill Bill” episode was a fine example of Gentz “working with staff … to get the job done,” wasn’t it.

Of course, Gentz kinda had a vested interest in helping the town weather the hurricane seeing as how he lives South of One. And we can’t let any of those million-dollar homes along Charlestown Beach Road get washed out to sea, can we.

I think it was Gentz himself who made that claim about the hours, though. Not sure how much I trust the calculations of an MBA who’s shown that he doesn’t know how to count.

Tom says “my ‘can-do’ spirit and dedication to the town will provide thoughtful leadership to the taxpayers of Charlestown.”

Yup, he sure showed that “can-do spirit” when he responded to what he mistakenly perceived as the imminent threat of a federal takeover of Ninigret Park by immediately ordering a surrender, didn’t he. And as far as “thoughtful leadership” goes, I think Will put it best when he dubbed Gentz “Uncle Fluffy.”

As for Dan Slattery, we were told that he “believes that ‘Town commissions should play a key role in advising the council and that citizen feedback is important in making informed decisions.’ “

Funny, he sure didn’t seem to be giving the Parks and Recreation Commission a key role in advising the council when he was trying to take Ninigret Park out of their jurisdiction. Though when you consider the amount of backpedaling he did in response to that good old citizen feedback, guess he has lived up to his promise there.

Gordon Foer surely made the easiest promise to fulfill as a Planning Commissioner: He said he “hopes ‘my work on the Planning Commission will continue to ensure that any changes in our community maintain and enhance its special beauty and character.’ And as we all know, the Planning Commission blocks change of any kind. Promise kept!

George Tremblay, who ran for Planning Commission last time around and is now running for council, we were told, is “grateful to those who have worked hard to maintain the town and I seek to make my contribution by serving on the Charlestown Planning Commission.”

Apparently, having completed his oh-so-incisive takedown of the state’s affordable housing law, Tremblay’s declared “Mission Accomplished” on his Planning Commission contribution.

As the top vote-getter for Planning in 2010, Tremblay has the six-year slot. Yet here he is two years later looking to bail already. And doesn’t he know that the Planning Commission is the real power base in this town and that he’s essentially asking for a demotion? Why on earth would you give up a six-year position to have to run for reelection every two years? Sheesh.

At this point, you might be thinking, Surely there was something in that mailer that they actually did. And the answer is, well, yes and no.

In 2010, the CCA promised to create “a long term financial plan.” And Council Vice President Dan Slattery took on this cause with his customary zeal.

Only thing is, we were already doing it. It’s written into the Town Charter, and state law requires it as well. Meaning even in the complete absence of any charter provision about it, we’d still have to do it.

Yet Slattery, for reasons that only he could explain, deemed it necessary to revise the town charter over this issue. And his proposed charter revision question was ultimately approved and will be appearing on the ballot in November. So on this promise, till the votes are tallied on November 6, the CCA gets an incomplete.

[1] Read their campaign flyer here, here, here, and here.