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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Richmond sues Charlestown, Filippi goes on a media frenzy, District 33 fight gets interesting and lots more

Charlestown Tapas: for the discerning news reader
By Will Collette

Richmond claims its Constitutional rights have been violated

The Town of Richmond finally followed through on its threat to sue Charlestown and Hopkinton over what Richmond claims is its unconstitutional underrepresentation on the Chariho School Committee.

Under the Chariho Act, Charlestown and Hopkinton both hold four seats while Richmond has three.

Originally passed in 1958, the Chariho Act called for a nine-member committee, apportioned by population, which at the time meant that each town had three members. The law was amended in 1970 to increase the committee to eleven members. That resulted in the town with the lowest population getting one less seat than its peers. Richmond, by a margin of only 119 people, is the smallest of the three towns.

Richmond has been demanding cooperation from the other towns to change the Chariho Act to restore the size of the school committee to nine members, but the other two towns – especially Charlestown – have said “nah-uh.” Thus the suit. Read Cynthia Drummond’s Sun article for more detail.

Ethics complaint could sway special election

Next Tuesday, May 5, Democrats in House District 33 (South Kingstown and Narragansett) will vote in a primary to determine the party’s candidate in the June 9 special election to elect a successor to long-serving Rep. Donald Lally who abruptly resigned, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family (something he apparently forgot when he stood for re-election last November).

Cicilline Buonanno on the left and Hagan McEntee on the right
The two leading Dems, Susan Cicilline Buonanno, sister of Congressman David Cicilline, and Carol Hagan McEntee, an SK Council member, have been campaigning hard. But an interesting campaign wrinkle emerged on April 23 when former Narragansett Town Council President Glenna Hagopian filed charges with the state Ethics Commission against Cicilline Buonanno, accusing her of using public resources for her campaign.

Specifically, the complaint says that Cicilline Buonanno used the Cranston School Department’s e-mail and phone system at the Gladstone Elementary School where she is school principal to promote her campaign. She also listed her work phone number on campaign material. The complaint doesn’t say whether Cicilline Buonanno did this while she was on the clock, but that seems likely.

John Marion of Common Cause commented that while the act is unseemly, it’s not likely to lead to punishment since the tangible value of the e-mails and phone use is so negligible.

Cicilline Buonanno admitted she made a “mistake” but fired back at complainant Hagopian by saying “At the end of the day, the Ethics Commission is not a playground for the political process. It’s absolutely disgusting to me that it’s being used as a playground for the political process.”
What effect, if any, Cicilline Buonnano’s ethical “mistake” will have on Tuesday’s primary is impossible to determine.

Flip grabs a piece of the PawSox fight

Not one to miss a publicity opportunity, our Tea and carpet bagger state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi got another 15 minutes of fame by introducing legislation that would require approval by state voters before the state does a tax giveaway to the owners of the team currently called the Pawtucket Red Sox.

My colleague Linda Felaco and I simultaneously concluded that this is one of those situations that reminds us of the proverb that “even a broken clock gives the right time twice a day.” Even though this particular bill has merit, Flip pretty much ensured that it will never be passed by only getting four other right-wing Republicans to sign on as co-sponsors.

American burying beetle
Meet Flip's idea for the new state bug.
Not as tasty as calamari so use lots of hot sauce.
Filippi may also have to deal with the future consequences of taking this position the next time his political sponsors in the Charlestown Citizens Alliance try to work a major public land deal without getting explicit voter approval, as they did in 2013 by spending $2.1 million to buy the site of the proposed Whalerock wind turbine project. It’s not that the purchase was a bad idea (I supported it), but whether the voters should have been asked.

Just in….yet another example of the lengths Flip will go to for media coverage, he went on Channel 10 to announce his legislative proposal for a new state bug, the American Burying Beetle. 

I would have thought he’d go for the tick as a fellow blood-sucker (the Flipper is a lawyer). I mentioned Filippi's state bug idea to one loyal reader who responded "Filippi IS the state insect."

For more than you’d ever want to know about the American Burying Beetle, click here.

Filippi client celebrates anniversary

While we’re on the subject of broken clocks and Flip Filippi, one of his clients, the extremist militia group, the Oath Keepers, just celebrated its 6th anniversary. The Oath Keepers recruit ex-military and ex-police to their cause of resisting any federal action they consider to be unconstitutional. They provided gunmen to back up racist rancher Clive Bundy in his stand-off with the Bureau of Land Management and put snipers on Ferguson, MO rooftops until the real police ran them off.

Oath Keepers’ founder Stewart Rhodes’ remarks were published in the magazine Ammoland (which I only read for the crossword puzzle) where he talks candidly about the Oath Keepers’ preparations for armed insurrection within the United States. 

Read the whole thing for yourself, but here’s a pretty clear message:
“We are on the eve of conflict with domestic enemies of liberty who are relentless in their pursuit of power over us. That conflict has only grown clearer in the past six years [since President Obama was elected]….And ask yourself what you are willing to give, and to do, to make sure that all of their suffering and sacrifice is not for nothing….We have an absolute duty to do what we must to preserve the Republic – the liberty – that they gave so much for. Duty is ours. Results are God’s. Let us do our duty.”
Income inequality not a problem in Charlestown?

Our boy Tom Gentz has got our interests covered
That would be your conclusion if all you do is look at the numbers in one of the latest of the seemingly endless statistical comparisons coming out of GoLocalProv. They just did a piece comparing the apparent gap between the richest and poorest within Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns.

And to my momentary shock and amazement, Charlestown came out as the second most equitable municipality in the state, closely behind Hopkinton. East Greenwich, Jamestown and Providence were deemed to be the “most economically polarized.”

Here are GoLocal’s stats:


Percent earning under $14,999: 6.0%
Percent earning over $150,000: 9.8%
Median income: $69,349
% in Median bracket:19.5%

Inequality Score: 0.81
Score Key: Figures above 1 correspond to more inequality. Scores under 1 mean communities are more equal. 

How is the Charlestown ranking possible when there is such a yawning difference between the people who live south of Route One and those that live to the north? 

The answer is simple: in Charlestown, our most fabulously wealthy homeowners don’t live here. 

They’re non-residents who summer at their quaint cottages on the beach or the pond. In Providence, their upper class are residents and are largely concentrated on the East Side.

Here's the real dirt...

The URI Master Gardeners will be doing pH soil testing on Sat., May 2nd from 10-2 at Home Depot in Westerly and then again on Sat. May 9th on Rte. 108, Kingston at the East Farm Festival 9-2.

Earth Day survey on Earth-Friendliest counties names Kent County as one of the best in the US

Popular real estate website RealtyTrac did an interesting Earth Day survey that tried to identify which US counties were the most earth-friendly based on such factors as the percentage of people who walk to work, housing affordability and air quality. Neighboring Kent County came out as one of the best in the nation.

When you look at the factors in the RealtyTrac survey, it’s easy to see how Kent outpointed South County – most of our towns (especially Charlestown) have terrible affordable housing records. Our residents generally have to drive to work due to distance and absence of public transportation. During the summer, we have lots of unhealthy air quality days due to ozone.

Our abundant open space was not a factor.

Congratulations to UConn graduate assistants

The UAW-affiliated UConn Graduate Employee Union  reached an historical three-year contract deal with the university that would provide these student workers with a 9% raise over three years, waivers of some university fees for their classes and subsidized health coverage. The contract would cover 2,300 graduate students.

It is rare for contingent workers, the broad term covering everyone from day laborers to adjunct professors, to win union recognition and far rarer still to win a decent collective bargaining agreement.

McEntee delivers a lecture to Collins

When Sierra Club staff member Abel Collins was elected as president of the South Kingstown Town Council, I think we all expected interesting things from him. He didn’t disappoint, stirring up the town by proposing the town create a new town energy manager position at $100,000 a year.

Collins foresees a long list of tasks for this proposed energy manager including scoping out sites for alternative energy projects, figuring out ways to protect Matunuck residents, coordinating with URI to create a large-scale composting operation and more. Read here for more details.

He took flak from fellow Town Councilor Carol Hagan McEntee (who is running in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for a shot at filling the vacated House District 33 seat – see related article, above).

Here’s an excerpt from McEntee’s rebuke to Collins:
“I have to say, with the tone of your letter, you not only insulted our town manager, you insulted the other members of the Council. You called us ‘suffering under the illusion,’ and I do take offense to that….You’re new, Abel. You need to sit back and see what we do here….This is a process. We need job descriptions; you don’t just throw somebody on the job and say, ‘now go look for all those projects.’”
While Collins may have taken protocol and thrown it out the window, I think his idea has some merit.
In similar fashion, I think Charlestown would benefit from creating something like a town environmental officer with special emphasis on land and water issues. We have good Town Hall staff who cover various aspects of environmental protection, but it might make sense to have a town employee who looks at the big picture of Charlestown’s Number One issue and priority.

If you like tuna melt sandwiches, watch which brand you buy

Who doesn’t like tuna salad? Yummy! Unless of course there is more than tuna in your meal. There was a terrible accident at the Bumble Bee Tuna factory near Los Angeles in October 2012 where 62-year old worker Jose Melena was accidentally locked into an industrial pressure cooker and was cooked to death. OSHA is now seeking criminal penalties against the two managers in charge that could lead to huge fines and prison time.

Here is where the poor guy died, but also consider: this is where they make your canned tuna:

The LA tuna plant where Jose Melena died

Remember G-Tech and all the corporate welfare they received?

Plenty more space to rent
At one point, gambling technology manufacturer G-Tech was going to be an economic engine for Rhode Island, promising lots of good paying jobs and revenue for the state, if only we’d give them a hand in building a new headquarters in the middle of downtown Providence. Well, they got the state money and built the building and then sold out to an Italian company, the De Agostini Group in 2006. 

They’ve just gone through another international shake-up, the result of which is a new name – IGT, standing for “International Game Technology,” a new corporate logo for Governor Raimondo to wear on her lapel and a loss of jobs in Rhode Island, as IGT announced it was shuttering its Coventry manufacturing plant resulting in 44 area workers losing their jobs.

Those jobs are being moved to Reno, Nevada, though G-Tech or IGT or whatever they call themselves says it is committed to keeping 1,000 jobs in Rhode Island. Right.


So, good news for those laid-off G-Tech workers….you can get part-time, summer jobs with the YMCA! Here are job postings from RI Community Jobs, a service of the Swearer Center of Brown University. Click here to sign up for their daily e-mail with new job listings for non-profit and public service work.
YMCA of Greater Providence has several jobs in Peacedale:
The Block Island Ferry has a number of $9/hour seasonal ticket taker jobs in Narragansett.

And finally,