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Friday, October 26, 2012

Fact-checking CCA's E-mail

CCA’s fictional view of Charlestown politics
By Will Collette

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance’s recent e-mail blast to its list is about as close to fiction as you can get this side of J.K. Rowling, but with none of the suspense.

The CCA missive trots out even more whoppers about the CCA’s achievements versus the alleged shortcomings and evil intentions of Charlestown Democrats. From the same folks who have been preaching “civility” for six years, they dish out another giant dose of dishonest invective. But they’ve been getting away with this for six years, so what the hell, they’re going to try it again.

Let’s go through the CCA’s message, item by item.

The CCA says this about Taxes - The Charlestown Democratic Town Committee has proposed an additional 12.4 % Homestead Tax on some property owners, on top of what they already pay in yearly taxes. This tax could adversely affect local businesses, tradesmen and renters. CCA-supported candidates for Town Council are adamantly opposed to this huge tax increase.  

THE TRUTH: The Charlestown Democrats want to cut taxes for every homeowner who makes Charlestown their home. Click here to read all about the Dems' proposal.

In fact, the Dems proposed a $1000 Homestead Tax Credit last November for every Charlestown resident, but the CCA killed that proposal dead because it would have shifted taxes to nonresident and millionaire property owners. 

These same property owners got a 7% tax cut as a result of Charlestown’s 2011 tax revaluation, and places like the Shelter Harbor Golf Club are taxed at discount rates. But the CCA is determined to protect these millionaires and nonresidents because they fund the CCA. Click here to read how truly bought and sold the CCA actually is.

After the CCA Council majority killed the Dems proposal, they also killed an alternative proposal to study Charlestowns tax system to see if there were inequities that needed to be addressed and to find ways to provide tax relief for middle-class households. 

The CCA would have none of that, despite the CCAs claim (see item immediately following) that they "welcome open discussion, address issues with factual information and do not disparage the character of those with differing views." Just review the video from the January meeting to see how untrue that CCA claim is.

The CCA says this about Civility - The blog associated with the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee uses degrading, inflammatory language to bully anyone whose ideas differ from them and is based on innuendos and inferences rather than facts and out-of context statements. CCA-supported candidates for Town Council and Planning Commission welcome open discussion, address issues with factual information and do not disparage the character of those with differing views.

Deputy Dan Slattery - now there's a real civil guy
THE TRUTH: Ever since Progressive Charlestown started publishing, the CCA has been trying to divert attention from the documents and facts we have disclosed by (a) decrying our style of writing, and (b) by tying town Democrats to Progressive Charlestown

Every time I get blasted out by the CCA, I wonder at their gall. For six years, they've run a cyber-terror campaign against all manner of opponents. They usually do it through anonymous postings, and lately through rants from the "Voice of the CCA," Mike Chambers. Their material is rarely – actually almost never – accompanied by sources, links to documents or evidence. They say it, so you're supposed to believe it.

And, to top it off, these anonymous attacks and Chamberpots are on their own official website. Nothing goes up on their website without the direct approval of their webmaster, Ruth Platner. 

Then they have the chutzpah to say that town Democrats are responsible for the opinions that our regular crew and numerous guests write – in their own names – when the town committee plays no role whatsoever in approving or directing content. Unlike the official CCA website.

Anyone who's ever sat with a group of Democrats knows it would take six months to arrive at a consensus to approve one single article we write, never mind the dozens of original articles we post every month. I've got nothing against that process, but it's just nonsense to think a committee could control or direct something like Progressive Charlestown. 

Again, anybody who knows Democrats knows we just don't have the same kind of command and control as the CCA.

As for the CCA’s claim about their open, factual and respectful way of dealing with citizens, they should remember there is VIDEO of Councilors Gentz and Slattery degrading citizens, engaging in personal attacks, and conducting unauthorized investigations, and there are also GOVERNMENT RECORDS of their violations of the Open Meetings Act. No matter how many times the CCA claims the mantle of openness, honesty and civility, there is a long paper and video trail that says otherwise.

The CCA says this about Respect for Town Volunteers- Our opponents have harassed and ridiculed volunteers for their diligent work on Town Commissions and Committees. They openly criticize and insult those that do not agree with them. CCA-supported candidates are committed to listening to cogent and thoughtful criticism from fellow office holders and the pubic [sic] while treating each and every volunteer with respect and honor even if they voice opposing views.

Maureen Areglado - she gets a pass on violating the Open
Meetings Act because she's a volunteer?
THE TRUTH: Hmmm, so if you’re a town volunteer, it’s OK for you to violate the Open Meetings Act (CRAC), try to heist town taxpayer money for private purposes (Y-Gate), use the Town Charter to conduct vendettas (CRAC again) and use town resources to produce bogus research reports to support your own prejudices (Planning)? 

In Charlestown, just about everybody is a volunteer. Just because you’re a volunteer doesn’t mean you can’t be held accountable.

As for listening to “cogent and thoughtful criticism from fellow office holders,” that would be a big change from the CCA leaders’ current practices of actively excluding town commissions who either have expertise or in many case specific responsibilities stipulated in the Town Charter when their opinions do not match the CCA’s plans. 

They ignored the Conservation Commission on Y-Gate. 

They ignored the Economic Improvement and Parks and Recreation Commissions on lighting. 

They ignored Parks and Recreation when they launched the Battle for Ninigret Park. 

They regularly ignore or bypass the Affordable Housing Commission on affordable housing matters, and CCA Town Council boss Tom Gentz is routinely disrespectful to its chairperson.

The CCA says this about The Environment - Our opponents have criticized what they see as overly zealous efforts by zoning and planning commissions to protect salt water and fresh water ponds and potable groundwater supply from high density housing development. CCA-supported candidates are proudly committed to measured, intelligent growth consistent with protection of these valued resources so essential to the character of Charlestown.   They have been responsible in the past decades[1] for approving development that looks out for ALL of Charlestown and not a chosen special interest.

THE TRUTH: This is a classic CCA red herring. Anyone who doesn’t share their blind devotion to buying up open space, even when it isn’t open space such as the YMCA camp, must be pro-developer. This is the kind of “civil” discourse the CCA likes best – fake issues and innuendo. 

The CCA made the Planning Commission the most powerful political body in Charlestown, usurping powers it has no right to have under either the Town Charter or state law, in their single-minded pursuit of open space and single-minded opposition to everything else. 

In the CCA’s world, the only environmental issue is open space. Indeed, they refuse to so much as monitor any of the town’s waste sites because that would require acknowledging that they were there, which would freak out the landed gentry they rely on for financial support.

The CCA says this about Wind Energy - Some of our opponents are in favor of industrial-sized wind turbines taller than the Statue of Liberty on the edge of the National Wildlife Refuge and next to residential neighborhoods whereas others favored residential turbines without regulatory controls to protect families and their neighbors from the risk of faulty installation.  CCA candidates on the Planning Commission wrote an ordinance that allows responsible installation of residential wind turbines, with consideration of the health and safety of owners and their neighbors.  CCA members of the Town Council introduced and voted to approve a moratorium on industrial wind turbines as their first action on the Town Council.

Residential wind power effectively
banned in Charlestown by the CCA
THE TRUTH: Another red herring. Who exactly are these unspecified opponents who favor “industrial-sized wind turbines taller than the Statue of Liberty”? Name the names, CCA – don’t try to get away with innuendo. 

In fact, none of the town Democrats supported the Whalerock project. However, the committee did indeed testify against a CCA-pushed town ordinance that effectively bans small residential wind generators by creating conditions that are impossible to meet. There was nothing "responsible" about that CCA ordinance.

When the Committee asked for time under “Persons wishing to be heard,” the CCA Council members tried to censor that testimony – only to be told by the Town Solicitor that this would violate the law and expose the town to litigation. 

When confronted on their censorship attempt, Councilors Gentz and Slattery flat-out lied and denied they ever tried to censor a speaker. Hoots from the audience made them back off that claim and Gentz ended up apologizing. Click here to hear it for yourself.

The CCA says this about Affordable Housing - CCA-supported candidates and our opponents support meeting our needs for affordable housing.  Where we differ is in defining those needs.  Our opponents accept the state-mandated obligation of a uniform 10% for all RI communities, whereas we believe effective policy requires some scientific measure of needs for each community.  Our opponents accept the law as written, whereas we seek to amend the law so its terms are consistent with pre-existing local and statewide land use plans.  CCA candidates seek to protect the town from depredation of our natural resources through the license the law gives developers to ignore local planning and zoning regulations.  Our opponents seem indifferent to these concerns.

George Tremblay and his imaginary facts
THE TRUTH: The CCA is so opposed to affordable housing that they want to overturn the entire state law. Their solution, which is also there buried in their rhetoric, is that they want to “solve” Charlestown’s affordable housing needs by simply redefining affordable housing to mean any property whose value has fallen below approximately $220,000. 

This helps absolutely no one. If my house was one of those to get the new CCA “affordable” label on it, I would not be very happy about it.

When it comes to “defining the needs,” the CCA’s Town Council candidate George Tremblay recently came up with “research” so fundamentally flawed that it will make a laughingstock of Charlestown when it gets sent to every city and town and every legislator. 

Tremblay is also campaigning against the state Bond Question #7 on the grounds that there are billionaires and millionaire elderly people exploiting affordable housing – a claim that is completely unsupported by fact, but high on imagination.

And that is what the CCA brings the voters in 2012 – fevered imagination, unsubstantiated claims, attacks without substance and a holier-than-thou attitude that is belied by their actions.

[1] Which is an interesting claim since the CCA was formed only six years ago. So who’s the “they?”