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Sunday, April 27, 2014

VIDEO: Charlestown Tapas

Lots more tasty tidbits of local news
By Will Collette
Misquamicut Beach project starts late

dog animated GIFAs of April 23, no sand had been moved from Botka’s sand pit at the north end of Pasquiset Pond down Routes Two and One to Misquamicut. The federally-funded beach restoration project requires 84,000 cubic yards of sand mined in Charlestown to be moved via thousands of truck round-trips to the beach by June 1 via Route Two to Route One and back again. Click here for earlier details.

They were supposed to start in early April but blew at least two weeks of an already tight window of time. They’ve finally started moving the sand and, so far, plan to work Monday through Friday, though they just got Westerly's approval to work on Saturday too. The contractor, MZM Construction of New Jersey, is subject to daily penalties of $2,385 if the job isn’t done by June 1.

Charlestown unemployment dips slightly

Jobless figures from the RI Department of Labor and Training show a one-month, one percent decline in Charlestown unemployment from 11.6% in February to 10.6% in March. That’s almost two percentage points higher than the state average of 8.7%.

That one percent, one month decline in unemployment is actually bad news for Charlestown since all of that 1% decline was due to Charlestown workers dropping out of the workforce. Despite the drop in the town’s unemployment rate, the number of Charlestown residents actually working dropped by five people.

Charlestown has the ability to address this problem, but the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, which has controlled Charlestown government for the past six years won’t take them. Click here for seven practical steps Charlestown could take to put our people back to work.

Blame it on construction

robot animated GIF
Is that Tim Quillen at the controls?
One of the main reasons why Rhode Island remains mired in recession is the collapse of the state’s construction industry. 

Construction also happens to be the largest occupational category for Charlestown workers. Even though construction work is seasonal and construction workers move between employers and construction projects frequently, the work usually pays a solid middle-class wage.

A new report by a coalition that includes both union and anti-union construction groups shows that Rhode Island’s construction activity is $1 billion less per year than it was ten years ago. That alone puts a tremendous drag on the economy.

There is very little construction activity in Charlestown. Building Official Joe Warner files a monthly report with the Town Council that includes a run-down of construction occurring in Charlestown. In March, there was only $1.6 million in construction activity, of which only $642,055 was new construction – that’s maybe one or two houses.

Blame it on Canada

America used to pride itself on the strength of its middle-class, considering it the backbone of the country. But not anymore. With the decline of trade unions, a bad economy and relentless demands for givebacks by employers, America’s middle-class has dropped from its vaunted #1 status and has been replaced…by Canada.

So what’s up with that, eh? Even with higher taxes to fund Canada’s universal health coverage and generous social safety net, middle-class income is higher than it is in the United States. Several western European countries are also poised to overtake the US as well. They too have higher taxes and far more extensive social services and universal health care.

Researchers note that while US growth is on par with Canada and Europe, the benefits of that growth are not being shared equally causing a bigger gap between the rich and everyone else while squeezing the middle-class. Contributing factors include outsourcing of jobs, deregulation, tax cuts that primarily aided those in upper brackets, shrinking trade unions and declining government investment in programs that benefit the middle-class,

Job Openings

Brown University maintains one of the only daily listserves for jobs available at local non-profits. If you’re looking for work in the non-profit sector (health care, academic, social service, community organizations), click here to sign up for a daily e-mail. Here are a couple of recent local listings:

Wood River Health Services is looking for a full-time, permanent dental assistant to work at its clinic in Richmond. You need at least one year of experience. The salary is not posted. To apply please send a cover letter, resume and salary requirements to Please put position you are applying for in the subject line.

URI Cooperative Extension Outreach Center – look for a part-time, temporary Youth STEM Educator/Research Associate to work in Kingstown. The job is 25 hours a week through November 1st. You would be developing educational programs for young people in sustainable horticulture, urban agriculture, energy and environmental science.

Visit the URI jobs website at: to apply and view complete details for job posting # (6001441).  Please attach two (PDF) documents to your electronic employment application: (1) Cover letter, and (2) Resume to include the names and contact information for 3 references. The application period will end May 02, 2014.  Only online applications will be accepted.

Larry Valencia, Teresa Tanzi and Donna Walsh want Voter ID repealed

Larry Valencia introduced House Bill 7767  which would repeal Rhode Island’s odious voter ID law. Even though there have been no prosecutions and only unverified anecdoctal evidence of voter fraud in Rhode Island, we became the first Democratic state to enact voter ID, the centerpiece of the Republican Party’s campaign to suppress voter turn-out.

Local progressives Donna Walsh (D-Charlestown) and Teresa Tanzi (D-Peace Dale) were among four members of the RI House to co-sponsor Larry’s bill to repeal the Voter ID law. Good for them!

CRMC about to issue final decision on Deepwater wind turbine pilot project

The state Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) is poised to give its final OK to the five-turbine test project Deepwater Wind plans to build on the east side of Block Island. They will meet at 6 PM on May 13 at the Administrative Building at One Capitol Hill in Providence. Deepwater’s prospect look positive. They also need DEM’s approval as well as the US Army Corps of Engineers. Deepwater hopes to begin construction in early 2015.

I wonder if local wind NIMBY leader Maureen Areglado will make one last attempt to stop this project on the grounds that wind energy makes people crazy. Well, some people.

If you can’t obey the rules, change them

I predicted this: On April 21, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted the request of the Virginia-based owner of the Millstone nuclear power plant just 20 miles west of Charlestown to use warmer water to cool the reactor in its Unit 2. They may now use seawater as warm as 80 degrees, up from the previous limit of 75 degrees.

Millstone had to shut down for two weeks in August 2012 because seawater exceeded 75 degrees but rather make changes to stay within the safety margin, they petitioned the NRC for a change in the rule.

Millstone draws millions of gallons of seawater every day to cool its reactors and then sends that warmed sea water back into the ocean. The NRC, for its part, is the classic example of a regulatory agency that has been captured by the industry it is supposed to regulate. Click here for back-up.

Here’s a weird NIMBY thing

SCREW 'EM - Taylor wants to fish at Quonnie
Richard Taylor of Willimantic, CT wrote a letter to the Westerly Sun in an attempt to stir up some rebellion against the tyranny of the feds temporarily closing off Quonochontaug beach to protect the nesting of endangered piping plovers. 

Taylor says he is president of the Quonochontaug beach fishing club and claims that “lobbyists that are paid millions of dollars to push special interest groups’ wishes” are exerting undue influence to protect these birds over poor little guys like him and his fishing pals at the Quonnie fishing club.

He wants you to join him in the fight to screw the plovers under the banner “You’ll have to pry my fishing pole from my dead, cold fingers.” I’m not making up the general gist of this bizarre call to arms. Click here to read it for yourself.

Charlestown recycling ranking much better, says new RIRRC report

In the past, I have reported that Charlestown has ranked last or next to last in the past three years for the amount of recycled material it has recovered and the amount of money the state has paid Charlestown for its recyclables. Measured in that fashion, Charlestown recycles far less than towns much smaller than it is, such as Block Island.

However, the RI Resource Recovery Center has just issued a new “How’s My Town Doing?” report that casts Charlestown recycling performance in a much better light. According to this new analysis, Charlestown has a “material diversion” rate of 42.6%, which is good for eighth place in Rhode Island.

North and South Kingstown, East Providence, Portsmouth, Middletown, Barrington and Warwick have higher rates. Providence has the lowest rate at only 17.4%. I’m not sure if these new rankings are a better measurement of success than looking at how much money municipalities recoup from the sales of recyclables.

Whichever statistics you choose to believe, there's an saying that goes "Statistics are like a captured spy. Torture 'em enough and they'll say anything."

No mutant dog-wolves after all

In a recent Charlestown Tapas, I reported about local fear in North Stonington that the town was being invaded by mutant wolf-dogs (interbred hybrids). Connecticut Conservation Police went to the home of an Eastern Pequot tribal leader Ashbow Sebastian to take DNA samples of his dogs which resembled the description of the scary hybrids.

The test results are back and they show that Mr. Sebastian’s dogs are white German Shepherds, not wolf-dogs. However, DNA results were positive for a wolf-dog” on a stray animal that was shot and killed by one local resident

Jay Primiano’s new book is out

“Swim That Rock,” a book for teenagers written by Charlestown’s Parks & Recreation Director Jay Primiano and John Rocco has been published. I’ll be doing a full review of the book later on. We could be looking at the next J.K. Rowling here and then we can all say we knew him when.

Here’s the Amazon listing with blurb:

Follow-up on Councilors Behaving Badly

In the last Charlestown Tapas, I reported on bad conduct by South Kingstown Council member James O’Neill and Richmond Town Council member Paul Michaud. Both, for very different reasons, displayed some bad behavior that drew criticism and some shame on their towns.

A complaint was lodged with South Kingstown Police by Rachel Clough after Channel 10 caught Councilor O’Neill saying “she’s lucky I didn’t hit her,” after Clough asked the Council to honor veterans by only issuing permits for veterans’-related activities on Memorial Day.

Richmond Councilor Michaud didn’t threaten anyone with bodily harm, but he did manage to piss a lot of people off when he voted with his fellow Councilors to urge voters to approve the Chariho School District budget and then sent out a mass mailing urging voters to reject the budget he voted to support.

This drew the ire of the other members of the Richmond Town Council who wanted to have Michaud publicly explain his two-faced stance on Chariho. Michaud refused to attend the meeting where this was to be discussed and said he would file ethics charges against his fellow councilors if they brought it up again. One of the councilors said he was told by the Ethics Commission that there was no likely basis for Michaud’s charge.

Now Michaud is coming under fire from his fellow town Republicans who accuse Michaud of acting like a loose cannon. Michaud explained his dual-position by claiming that he send the letter to voters urging rejection as chair of the town Republican Committee.

Poll says Rhode Islanders don’t like Rhode Island

A new Gallup poll says that only 18% of Rhode Islanders think our state is the best or one of the best places to live. That’s last place. And at the other end of the spectrum, a full 17% think Rhode Island is the worst place to live. The worst ranking honors go to Illinois where 25% of their residents think the state is an armpit. At 17%, we are tied with Connecticut for second place.

Despite all this, most Rhode Islanders stay here. And more than a few Rhode Islanders go away for a while and then return home, as Cathy and I did after being away for 25 years. I think it’s fair to say that Rhode Islanders love to complain, but really love this place, faults and all.

Progressive Charlestown hits another milestone

In the middle of the night on April 22, the odometer on the number of people who clicked on an article to read it crossed the million and a quarter mark. Average daily readership runs around 2,000. We used to make a much bigger deal each time we hit such a mark, but at this point, I think we've established ourselves as an entertaining source of news and ephemera.