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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Charlestown short subjects

1. Hitching Post founder dies
2. Beach property owners may soon get discounted insurance
3. DiLibero may get new gig
4. Mageau anniversary
5. RI-CAN saved
6. Charlestown retiree on tap to testify in Bulger trial
7. Charlestown bond rating is whoopee!
8. New pumper for Dunn's Corner
9. Voters OK casino in Springfield MA
By Will Collette

Condolences to Duhamel Family

Jerry I. Duhamel Sr. died on July 9 at age 80. For generations, he has been a Charlestown fixture at the Hitching Post Restaurant which he found in 1950. 

He and his family have run this reliable sign of summer and fed Charlestown and our legions of summer visitors a mountain of deliciously sinful fried delicacies, such as their famous “clam fritters” as they are known in Connecticut (clam cakes to real Rhode Islanders). The Hitching Post version has a lightness and fluffiness unmatched in RI. My colleague Linda Felaco always spoke glowingly about his lobster rolls

Donations in Jerry's memory may be made to Shriners Hospital for Children, 516 Carew St., Springfield, MA 01104.

Congratulations to Joe Warner

Joe is going to save beach property
owners beaucoup bucks
Charlestown's Zoning and Housing Official Joe Warner has just completed the training and passed the exam to become a Nationally Certified Floodplain Manager,” one of only twenty in Rhode Island. Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz had to sign his report card and pronounced it "satisfactory." I made that last part up.

This is a necessary first step to permit Charlestown to qualify to participate in the FEMA Community Rating System, a disaster mitigation program that recognizes municipalities that take measures to reduce storm damage, with a reward to homeowners in the town when they renew their federal flood insurance. To date, Charlestown has not participated. Westerly was just certified to join the CRS program, allowing Westerly beach property owners to get 10% discounts on insurance.

Since, Joe reports, every Charlestown property owner who suffered Sandy-related damage decided to rebuild, lots of them will probably appreciate the discount on their insurance that will come when Joe finishes work on the CRS application and the town approves sending in the application. The manual and application form for the CRS program are over 2,000 pages long. He is “cautiously hoping” Charlestown will have a rating in the CRS program in the fall.

Good luck to Bill DiLibero

I hope Bill gets this job
Former Charlestown Town Administrator Bill DiLibero is still looking for a new, full-time job after being hounded out of Charlestown, and then apparently black-listed, through the CCA Party’s “Kill Bill” campaign. He has been applying for jobs across the area, and has taken interim jobs, such as the recent stint working for Westerly’s Zoning office.

He is a finalist for Topfield (MA) Town Administrator. Massachusetts towns generally conduct these kinds of executive recruitment efforts a lot more transparently than Rhode Island towns, and certainly Charlestown, where under CCA Party control, the less the public knows the better.

I wish Bill luck. He worked hard for Charlestown and got royally screwed for his efforts.

ProJo marks five-year anniversary of Mageau case

Vanover got to carve a notch in
his camera case
For some reason, the Providence Journal decided to mark the anniversary of the arraignment of former Town Council President Jim Mageau on July 16, 2008 on assault charges. Mageau was arrested after allegedly pushing a video camera into the face of CCA leader Cliff Vanover after Vanover, according to Mageau, shoved the camera in his face. I know from personal experience that Vanover's modus operandi is to try to provoke his enemies into a fight, presumably so he can bring charges against them, and he often uses a camera as a prop. 

The case went badly for Mageau, leading to a set-aside verdict, essentially a no-contest compromise, that set the stage for an on-going lawsuit by Mageau against Charlestown where Mageau seeks to recover the cost of his criminal defense.

That case also effectively ended Mageau’s career in politics and gave rise to the oppressive, six-year reign of the CCA Party who have gotten away with stuff far worse than anything ever attached to Jim Mageau.

Wal-Mart bails out RI-CAN

Well, it's only fitting the America's largest corporate predator should donate a tiny bit of its profits to help its victims. The Westerly Sun reports that Wal-Mart has given Charlestown's main anti-poverty agency RI-CAN, a donation of $125,000 as RI-CAN struggles with a serious financial crisis

That's a very good thing that RI-CAN can use this restricted grant to make some needed capital improvements and can use $20,000 of the grant for salaries and operating expenses.

But before you go all gooey about the nice Wal-Mart people, remember that Wal-Mart has put many local businesses out of business, ranging from the Sunrise Deli and now the Shaw's market in Westerly. Plus, Wal-Mart pays the kind of poverty wages that forces many of its workers to have to rely on Food Stamps and agencies like RI-CAN to survive. 

So while I'm happy for RI-CAN, this does not change the fact that Wal-Mart sucks.

Charlestown author on Defense witness list in Bulger trial

Whitey Bulger in his prime
WPRI (Channel 12) made a big deal of noting a local luminary, Charlestown’s Robert Fitzpatrick, as one of the 37 names of potential witnesses submitted by Defense lawyers for 80-year old alleged Boston mobster Whitney Bulger in his on-going murder trial in Boston.

WPRI’s Tim White reported that Fitzpatrick is a retired FBI agent who assessed Bulger’s potential as an FBI informant, and recommended that he not be used as an informant.

Fitzpatrick’s warnings were ignored and Bulger used his status as an informer, according to prosecutors, to curry favor with the FBI, making his criminal activities easier to carry out. Fitzpatrick wrote a book on the subject called “Betrayal: Whitey Bulger and the FBI Agent Who Fought to Bring Him Down.”

No word on when or if Fitzpatrick will actually testify, as many are called, but few are chosen.

Let’s get crazy and spend some money!

"Thank you, Mr. CCA, for raising my taxes
six times in six years to build up a big surplus!"
Good news for Charlestown. The Moody's financial rating service just issued its rating for Charlestown’s general obligation bonds, the ones we count on to pay for government whenever there’s a gap between tax payments and obligations just came in at Aa2. That’s Moody’s third highest rating.

These bond ratings used to mean a whole lot more before the economy crashed and the public learned that Moody's and Standard & Poors had given gold-star ratings to the sub-prime mortgage securities that trashed our economy. And before the public learned that while investors used to pay the rating services, the ratings services are now paid by the businesses and governments whose bonds and securities are being rated.

Congratulations, Charlestown, because with an Aa2 rating, we in the same bracket as Cincinnati, Brick Township, New Jersey, New York City, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Qatar and Bermuda. In 2011, immediately before its economy went into the toilet, Spain held a Moody's rating of Aa2. I’m not making any of this up.

Dunn's Corner FD will buy new pumper

According to the Westerly Sun, 45 voters in the Dunn's Corner Fire District turned out for the Annual Meeting on July 17 and approved the purchase of a new pumper truck to replace a 25-year old pumper that is at the end of its working life. Given the scarcity of fire hydrants, we certainly need to have working pumpers. Dunn's Corner serves a chunk of Westerly and a chunk of Charlestown, with two different tax rates - 32 cents per $1000 in valuation for Westerly and 40 cents for Charlestown.

The cost of the new pumper will probably mean a tax hike of between 4 and 7 cents per $1000. For folks in the Charlestown section of the Dunn's Corner FD, that's in addition to the unneeded 16 cent per $1000 tax hike levied by the CCA Party-controlled Town Council. Tax bills arriving soon!

Another big casino OK’d in Massachusetts

Voters in Springfield, MA just approved a new $800 million casino to be built by MGM Grand in Springfield after likely approval by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. 

That makes the second green-lighted project in the Commonwealth which has approved construction of three new casinos and one slot parlor. The other is in Taunton.

Studies have consistently showed that Massachusetts gamblers are the largest bloc of clients at Rhode Island’s two slot parlors and Connecticut’s two huge Indian casinos. All of these facilities expect to take a huge financial hit when the Massachusetts gaming establishments open since Bay State gamblers will probably opt to save on fuel costs so they’ll have more to lose at the craps table and the slots.
Stop it.

And that’s yet another reason why Charlestown, and particularly the CCA Party, needs to stop obsessing about a Narragansett Indian Casino in Charlestown. Ain’t gonna happen.