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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tom Gentz’s head explodes

“Charlestown is…well, Charlestown”
By Will Collette

Four little words, “Charlestown is…well, Charlestown,” triggered a rhetorical tantrum from Charlestown Town Council boss Tom Gentz (CCA). Those four words appeared in a March 28 whimsical editorial by Westerly Sun managing editor Dave Tranchida. Tranchida used his weekly editorial spot to lament what a lousy month March was in our region, what with the bad weather, the awful shootings in Stonington, the Copar political scandal in Westerly and, “well, Charlestown.”

Gentz’s rhetorical explosion took the form of an overwrought op-ed that the Sun ran on April 2nd. How dare the Sun besmirch Charlestown when, under the enlightened leadership of Tom Gentz and the Charlestown Citizen Alliance Party, Charlestown has reached new heights of grandeur?

How dare Tranchida make such a remark without listing in detail all manner of grand achievements by Gentz and the CCA Party, such as leading the charge to eliminate the state’s affordable housing law? Or hiring a new police chief.

Or hiring a new Town Administrator (Mark Stankiewicz) to replace former Town Administrator Bill DiLibero who was driven out of town by the CCA Party’s trumped-up “Kill Bill” Campaign. I hope Stankiewicz mounts and frames Gentz’s description of him as “experienced, capable and talented.” This is the kind of description Gentz used to lavish on Bill DiLibero….until Gentz, his trusty deputy Dan Slattery and the CCA Party decided he had to go. But as we’ve heard said, “Charlestown is…well, Charlestown”

Once praised to the heavens by Tom Gentz, Bill DilLibero then had to go.
A cautionary tale.
I also loved this line from Gentz’s op-ed: This Town Council has worked through policy issues with mutual respect and consideration of our taxpayers.” 

Actually, the amount of respect and consideration afforded to taxpayers is in direct proportion to how much they pay in taxes. 

That is, if you’re an out of state retiree who owns a $3 million beach “cottage,” you’ll get a lot more respect from Gentz and his CCA Party colleagues than if you are part of a working class family living in a $250,000 house North of One.

Because, as I have regularly documented (click here for but one example), the CCA Party’s elected town officials simply do not care about working families, non-retirees and small businesses. The best you can expect is “benign neglect.” As in, “we’ll tolerate your little business as long as you keep it invisible; no signs allowed.” Or, if you have the bad luck to be running a business on a street where a friend of Gentz’s lives, you could be slapped with a punitive parking ordinance. If you speak out at Council meetings, expect scorn and derision.

Gentz and his date in one of his classic Porsches
On one level, I can appreciate Gentz’s willingness to stick up for the honor of this town. I love Charlestown, but for different reasons. That’s because the Charlestown I live in is different than the alternative reality that Gentz and the CCA Party has created.

In the Charlestown I live in more than 60% of the people work for a living. Or at least they try in the face of Charlestown’s high unemployment which has been running between 12.3% and 11.5%.

The Charlestown I live in has more children than there are retirees. It has families struggling to make do in a tough economy.

In the Charlestown I live in, when people do repair work on their cars, it’s usually because they need that car to get to work, not because their hobby is restoring classic Porsche sports cars to mint condition.

I miss Uncle Fluffy
Even though the town’s tax rate is low--after all, seeing as how we don’t have sewers or curbside trash collection (or indeed many curbs, for that matter, since many subdivisions don’t even have town-owned roads), taxes hardly need to be much higher--there are still lots of people in the Charlestown I live in who could use a tax break.

When Gentz first started his new career as Charlestown’s political boss, I called him “Uncle Fluffy” for the frothy, chuckle-filled way he tried to project himself. As everybody’s friend. As the uncle who pinches the kids’ cheeks just a little too hard at Thanksgiving.

But Gentz dropped that façade a while ago. We rarely see much of Uncle Fluffy anymore. Instead, we have Boss Tom Gentz who ignores or shuts down opinions contrary to his, who attacks small businesses, who twists and distorts the truth and who makes unilateral decisions. A guy who behaves as if he was Charlestown’s sole ruler, accountable to no one. Except perhaps his non-resident campaign contributors.

And he sure isn’t going to tolerate anyone, including the lead editor of our newspaper of record, giving even the most light-hearted hint that all is not perfect under his rule.