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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

War with Richmond and Hopkinton

Slattery calls for general mobilization
By Will Collette
At its March meeting, the Charlestown Town Council passed not one but five resolutions, each offering a different way to tell Charlestown’s Chariho School District partners that Charlestown would respectfully like them to F**K Off when it comes to changing the relationship set out in the Chariho Act. Click here to read the Act.

CCA Party Town Councilor Dan Slattery normally maintains a reptilian demeanor during most proceedings, until he really gets worked up. Then his face goes from its normal red flush to the brightness of a ripe tomato. He started gritting his teeth and hissing out his words. It’s pretty scary if you haven’t seen it before, like an alligator going from full rest to full offense.

He also gets very excited and wants swift and aggressive punishment for whomever or whatever set him off. Richmond mortally offended Slattery by daring to suggest there ought to be a reassessment of how financial responsibility (i.e. taxes) and power are divided among the three towns. Compounding Richmond’s offense is their request to Rep. Larry Valencia to introduce bills in the General Assembly that would change the Chariho Act.

Valencia, as is his common practice, dumped the Richmond bills into the legislative hopper “by request” where they will probably sit until they die at the end of the General Assembly session.

All legislators do that – when a municipality in their district asked them to introduce a bill “by request,” they do so as a courtesy. Whether or not they actually do anything to get those bills enacted depends on a lot of other variables.

Since these are not Hopkinton or Charlestown bills nor are they supported by the Chariho School Committee, I am willing to bet these bills have absolutely no future.

explosion animated GIF
Look out, Richmond! Here comes Dan!
Our Council members – especially Council Boss Tom Gentz and Dan Slattery – know this but in an election year, it’s always handy to gin up a crisis to rally their base. The CCA Party base, comprised primarily of upper crust retirees already has a lot of animus against the Chariho School District and would rather declare war than even entertain higher taxes to pay for the education of some rug rats, especially those in another town.

Slattery went on at great length during the Council meeting about the unbearable injustice of changing the funding formula in any way that means more taxes for Charlestown and less for Richmond and Hopkinton.

Don’t get me wrong: I think Richmond is going about it the wrong way and should have known better than to take such an incendiary position. They should have known that this would make Slattery go berserk. The right way to conduct the debate is through the Chariho School Committee, which is what one of the five Charlestown resolutions calls for.

A special meeting of the three Town Councils, duly planned to meet the requirements of the state Open Meetings Act, to discuss their perspectives on the Chariho Act is another more civil option. However, given current conditions, at least a few Council members may need to be kept in strait-jackets (yes, I mean Slattery) to reduce the chances of bloodshed.

Every year, one or two out of the three Chariho towns goes nuts over the costs of the system. It depends largely on which towns are paying more in that year because of an increased share of the student enrollment coming from that town. Last year, Richmond and Hopkinton held their breaths until they turned blue and voted down the school budget, not once but three times, forcing the system to go with “maintenance of effort,” meaning they used the same budget as the year before.

Before that, it was Charlestown’s turn to throw a tantrum because our levy went up due to more Charlestown rug rats going to Chariho.

The Chariho Act predates the 13 years Cathy and I owned a home in Charlestown. I trust people like Deb Carney to explain the political history of the Act and what compromises were made to bring the three towns together. It would be shocking if there wasn't this kind of turmoil from time to time since nobody should expect to get everything they want out of a multi-party compromise.

The idea was to create a school system that would achieve the economies of scale that were out of the reach of each of the three towns on their own. And to provide children with a quality education that started them out right in life. I think an objective review of Chariho’s history shows that the system does provide quality education at a reasonable price.

I also think the alternatives – secession, affiliating with Westerly or South Kingstown, or creating our own town school system – being promoted by Slattery might be expedient ways for him to charge up the CCA Party base but are not constructive. Does Slattery really think Westerly (which is pissed off at us over Copar) or South Kingstown would want us to use their schools?

I urge you to check out the Clerkbase video for this segment of the Council meeting. Listen for yourself and ask yourself if Slattery is making any sense. Count the number of times his CCA Party colleague Tom Gentz steps in to try to calm Slattery down.

Listen to Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero and Town Clerk Amy Weinreich shoot down Slattery’s plan to immediately hand-pick a Chariho Withdrawal Committee to draw up the specs for a Chariho Withdrawal ballot question for voters to consider at our Town Financial referendum this summer.

I’m really glad that when Dan Slattery had his long and illustrious career as a federal pencil-pusher in Washington, DC holding on to the nuclear launch codes was not in his job description.