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Sunday, May 31, 2015

This special election is really about family values

The CCA Party wants it to be about fear and false information
By Will Collette
This budget proposes a tax rate of $10.10, the highest since
2004 and the seventh tax hike under the CCA Party.
SOURCE: Town Tax Assessor
Tomorrow, Monday June 1, you should go to Town Hall between 8 AM and 8 PM to cast your ballot in Charlestown’s special financial election.

You need to decide where you stand on four separate issues:

TOWN BUDGET – this budget will increase your tax rate to $10.10, the highest it’s been since 2004. It will be the seventh straight tax hike.

WARRANT QUESTION #1: Authorizes another $2 million to buy yet more open space even though more than 50% of Charlestown is already open space.

WARRANT QUESTION #2: Authorizes the CCA Party-controlled Town Council to give away property rights to the last big bloc of open space that town taxpayers paid $2.14 million to buy to an outside organization largely run by cronies of the CCA Party. Classic pay to play.

PETITION #1: Authorizes $1 million to commence with long-neglected maintenance at Ninigret Park and long-stalled improvements. This item was put on the ballot as the result of a petition by a non-partisan group of citizens.

Personally, and speaking for no one else but me, I will be voting NO to all the above items, including the budget, except for Petition #1 where I will vote YES to carry out work that desperately needs doing at Ninigret Park.

Just about every household has gotten mailers, maybe some e-mails or saw the opinion pieces run in the Westerly Sun or on-line that make arguments for and against all of the various items. You will need to sift through all the material, weigh the facts (hopefully checking to see which come with sources and proof and which are just opinion masquerading as fact), check your gut, use your common sense and decide.

Curiously, though very little attention has been focused on the budget which is, to me, one of the worst of the three items coming before the voters.

The Budget – I will vote NO

The CCA Party has raised taxes each and every single year they have controlled Charlestown government. Their own members get their own tax deals through exemptions, conservation easements, the Farm, Forest and Open Space program, lower assessments and fake fire districts while working families have to find more money every year to pay their property taxes.

The CCA Party has rebuffed efforts to bring tax relief to working families in order to defend the interests of wealthy non-resident property owners. Those wealthy non-residents supply 60% of the CCA Party’s funding.

Justice, by comparison

Eight strange allergy cures - do any of them work?


This could be big news for drivers and the environment

German car company Audi has announced that it has successfully created a carbon-neutral diesel fuel using water, air and energy from the sun – and to prove it they asked a German government official to fill her car up with the stuff and drive to work.

For those of us in coal dust-choked America, it may seem bizarre, but Germany, along with other countries around the world, have become increasingly consumed with finding renewable energy solutions to climate change and oil addiction. It has led them to look to wind and solar at scales that environmentalists in America can only dream of. And guess what? It hasn’t killed jobs. The results have been just the opposite.

Charter School Money Pit

Feds Spent $3.3 Billion Fueling Charter Schools but No One Knows What It’s Really Bought

(Madison, WI)–The federal government has spent more than $3.3 billion over the past two decades creating and fueling the charter school industry, according to a new financial analysis and reporters’ guide by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). (The new guide can be downloaded below.)

Despite the huge sums spent so far, the federal government maintains no comprehensive list of the charter schools that have received and spent these funds or even a full list of the private or quasi-public entities that have been approved by states to “authorize” charters that receive federal funds. 

And despite drawing repeated criticism from the Office of the Inspector General for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls within the federal Charter Schools Program—designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools—the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is poised to increase its funding by 48% in FY 2016.

Texas and the Golden Rule

Don't know why Texas would want federal help, given that they're all
bunkered and hunkered down for fear of a federal invasion

Like the anti-gay crusader whose daughter comes out as gay, or the pro-life hardliner who pays for his mistress’ abortion, Ted Cruz is learning very quickly that the big, bad federal government is only big and bad when you don’t personally need its help.

Following a series of devastating floods that took the lives of at least 19 people and caused millions of dollars in damage, the Tea Party Republican is demanding the federal government help pay for his state to get back on its feet. That in-and-of itself isn’t wrong. 

After all, liberals have known for years that a responsible federal government should be used to help people in their times of need. 

What makes Ted Cruz a particularly flagrant hypocrite is how he had just a few years ago watched the devastation of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast and decided they didn’t deserve help. Ideological conviction is so easy when it’s not hurting your own friends and family, isn’t it?

Citing “new spending” that he didn’t think was necessary, Cruz voted against a bipartisan emergency aid package designed to help the victims of Sandy, saying.
“This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington — an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.”

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Time to get our spending priorities straight

Enough of lost opportunities for recreation
By Maggie Hogan
Photo from Support Charlestown's Ninigret Park
This article originally appeared in the Westerly Sun as a letter to the editor. It appears here with the permission of the author.

Fourteen years ago, while pregnant with my second and youngest child, I completed a term on the entertainment subcommittee of the Charlestown Parks and Recreation Commission. The major item of discussion before the subcommittee was the feasibility of a fixed entertainment venue, such as a concert “shell,” and the viability of a new concert event called Rhythm & Roots.

While Rhythm & Roots has thrived, there is no concert shell. Indeed, the park has changed very little since those days, despite the creation of a Master Plan, as supported by the surveyed members of the Charlestown community as a whole.

In those same 14 years, we have authorized a total of $5 million for acquisition of “Open Space.” The Charlestown Town Councils have readily spent those funds and now seek authorization to spend an additional $2 million on more “Open Space.” While I do not know anyone who dislikes open space vistas and forests, there is a real cost to all of us each and every year. This cost has been ignored and glossed over by many of the open space advocates on these pages.

Indeed, some have gone so far as to say that voting for the open space bond won’t cost us a dime. Such statements are a bold and phony advertising come-on and fail to reveal the “fine print” of what it will cost when the bonds are actually issued. We can get an idea of what it will cost if we vote to approve more bonds this year, by looking at the costs of existing bond issues.

Home repair tips

News from the Worm Ladies of Charlestown

And yes, there really are Worm Ladies of Charlestown (and they're very cool)

URI Master Composting Class 
June 6th and 13th

This class is putting more emphasis on vermicomposting--a great opportunity to learn more!



NCSU's 16th Vermiculture Conference August 10 - 11, 2015The James B. Hunt Jr. Library, NCSU Centennial Campus
Duke Energy Hall, 1070 Partners Way
Raleigh, North Carolina 27606

The only annual training in the world on commercial vermiculture, this event provides the tools you need to start or expand an earthworm or vermicompost production operation. Learn about the latest research on the effects of vermicompost and extracts (tea) on plant growth and disease suppression. Discover how to effectively market earthworms and vermicompost, and the different technologies being utilized. At this conference there will be ample opportunities to get answers to your questions from industry experts and other growers.

NCSU's 16th Vermiculture Conference will be held in what is described as "one of the most spectacular libraries in the world."New this year: Field trip to the NCSU Compost Training Facility
NCSU extension information on vermicomposting  


Have one sent directly to your house.

The Worm Ladies of Charlestown, Inc. | 401-322-7675 |
161 East Beach Rd.
Charlestown, RI 02813

Down with phony phishing!

By DAVID SMITH/ecoRI News contributor
WARWICK, R.I. — Adding more days to the deer hunting season on Prudence Island was opposed and eliminating regulations governing groups of paddlers on Rhode Island waterways supported by those who attended a May 26 state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) meeting.

The workshop/public hearing on the hunting regulations was for the 2015-16 season, while the proposed fishing regulations are for the 2016-17 season. DEM officials will consider the testimony taken at the hearing before finalizing the regulations.

DEM’s assistant director for natural resources, Catherine Sparks, said it’s hoped that the regulations will be finalized by the end of July, and they would then go into effect 20 days later.

The fishing hearing began with several people asking DEM to remove two sections of the regulations that govern non-fishermen. Charlestown resident Jim Cole, a member of the Rhode Island Rivers Council, Blueways Alliance and the Rhode Island Canoe & Kayak Association, was joined by DEM employee Chuck Horbert, also a member of those organizations, asking that sections 1.16.1 and be removed from the regulations. Horbert works in the agency’s Water Resources Division. A section that deals with fishing tournaments should be left untouched, they said.

Old school anti-science.

As a political phenomenon, the environmental movement is old enough to have a long and varied history. So it was inevitable that a curated trove of documents from its antagonists in the anti-environmental movement would come along.

The Anti-Environmental Archives is equal parts research library and musty old bookstore. Its 27,000 searchable pages help unlock the history of efforts from a generation ago to undermine environmental regulation and cast doubt on environmental science.

The simple takeaway is that the ascendant hostility toward the EPA and environmental groups and the retreat of many types of environmental enforcement have long roots.

Friday, May 29, 2015

UPDATED: Charlestown Financial Election news bits

As the clock ticks down to Monday’s vote, the bovine excrement flies!
By Will Collette

The update adds information on the Attorney General's office decision on Jim Mageau's open meetings complaint against the Town Council and also adds links to Sun letters to the editor that appear in Saturday's edition.

On Monday June 1, a small portion of Charlestown’s electorate will turn out at Town Hall between 8 AM and 8 PM to vote on the town’s budget and on three hot ballot questions. Campaigning is intensifying.

The supporters of Petition #1 to authorize $1 million to act on the long-delayed Ninigret Park Master Plan have their yard signs out. Hopefully, this is generating more support from voters for work on the Plan and on long neglected maintenance problems at Ninigret Park, Charlestown’s Jewel in the Crown.

Turn out will be critical next Monday to pass this measure to support Ninigret Park and to block the CCA Party’s Terrible Two warrant questions.

UPDATED:Mageau claims Council violated Open Meetings Act, but the Attorney General disagrees

According to the Westerly Sun, Jim Mageau has filed a formal complaint against the Charlestown Town Council for stonewalling questions from the public at the special hearing the town held on the budget and ballot questions. As you may recall, Council Boss Tom Gentz and his Greek chorus of fellow CCA Party Councilors essentially turned away public questions on the two CCA warrant questions, basically saying they didn’t have to answer.

The CCA Party Councilors’ conduct was so awful, it was singled out for criticism in a Westerly Sun editorial. The Sun rightly noted that this is the kind of arrogance that arises from one-party rule.

In his complaint, Mageau is arguing that, yes, they do have to because that’s the whole idea behind a public hearing. However, the Attorney General's office says that public officials are NOT required to answer or engage in any exchange with citizens. Mageau told the Westerly Sun that he will look into filing suit in Superior Court.

VIDEO: John Oliver on the trouble with chickens

VIDEO: Big Money

Congratulations to two Charlestown winners

DEM awards grants two grants to Charlestown recipients under the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act
By Will Collette

On Thursday, DEM and the Rhode Island Food Policy Council announced the winners of competitive grants under the federal Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) for proposals that will promote the development, growth and marketing of local food.

Of the 15 grants and $210,000 awarded statewide, two grants totaling $27,134 go to Charlestown recipients. One of them is going to make the anti-aquaculture NIMBY faction within the Charlestown Citizens Alliance very unhappy.

The two Charlestown grant winners are:

More than 30 years later leaking gasoline remains a problem nationwide

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

 This Mobil gas station in Richmond, R.I., was at the center of a ’60 Minutes’ story in the early 1980s about leaking underground fuel tanks. Three decades later, some 1,300 underground fuel tanks in Rhode Island leak gasoline and other contaminants. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)
This Mobil gas station in Richmond, R.I., was at the center of a ’60 Minutes’ story in the early 1980s about leaking underground fuel tanks. Three decades later, some 1,300 underground fuel tanks in Rhode Island leak gasoline and other contaminants. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

RICHMOND, R.I. — The story of Canob Park is a nearly forgotten one today, but in 1983 the neighborhood received national attention, when “60 Minutes,” the most popular show on TV at the time, featured the plight of a local neighborhood. The intent was to highlight an emerging environmental problem: hundreds of thousands of aging and leaking underground gas tanks and a lack of environmental regulations to address the threat.

The Canob Park story had the important elements of a good pollution drama: an intimidating big corporation, a local government too scared to shut down a polluter and helpless residents dealing with well water contaminated by gasoline.

In the rural village of Wyoming, leaking tanks from a Mobil gas station were polluting home drinking water in the nearby Canob Park neighborhood. An Exxon station directly across the street also was suspected of leaking gas.

Of Course Jeb Bush Would Have Invaded Iraq

The former Florida governor gets too much credit for being smarter than his brother.
Mike Luckovich
For more cartoons from Mike Luckovich, CLICK HERE.
Jeb Bush must have set some kind of record for political flip-flopping this month.

“Knowing what we know now,” he was asked — that Saddam Hussein didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction, for example — “would you have authorized the invasion” of Iraq?

“I would’ve,” he said.

Almost immediately, the oatmeal hit the fan. Supporters and critics alike jumped up out of the weeds protesting his embrace of what many consider the greatest foreign policy blunder since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.

Before nightfall that day, he was backing crab-like away from that position. He had “misinterpreted” the question, he said. In any case, it was futile to take up “hypotheticals” like that.

But back he tracked until it seemed as though the former Florida governor would’ve been marching in front of the White House, occupied at the time by his own brother, with a “Hell No! I won’t go” placard.

The kindest interpretation friendly critics offered was that Jeb Bush was reluctant to take issue with George W., who, after all, ordered the Iraq invasion. It was filial affection, not foreign policy naiveté, that informed his first response.

Are you kidding me?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Charlestown Land Trust goes political

And breaks the rules
By Will Collette

On Monday, June 1, some small portion of the Charlestown electorate will go to Town Hall to vote on the town’s budget, which includes the 7th consecutive CCA-driven tax hike. They will also vote on three additional ballot questions.

Warrant Question #1 requests voters to authorize a new $2 million bond exclusively to purchase more open space land. Warrant Question #2 asks voters to authorize the Town Council to give away a conservation easement on the 75 acres of land Charlestown just bought, using all of the last $2 million bond issue.

The third item is Petition #1, which asks voters to approve $1 million in funding for recreation at Ninigret Park. This petition was necessitated by the exclusion of recreation from the $2 million open space request. 

Historically, Charlestown voters have been asked to fund bonds for both open space and recreation in keeping with the way state bonds are issued. But now, apparently, the ruling Charlestown Citizens Alliance, which controls Charlestown government, has decided to use recreation as a political football.

Entering into the political fray for the first time in my memory is the private, non-profit Charlestown Land Trust – which, by the way, is not a unit of town government, even though they often act that way.

The Charlestown Land Trust is a private, non-profit, tax-exempt organization recognized by IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization. They grew out of an older organization called the South County Conservancy. They are headquartered at the Kettle Pond Visitors Center of the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge.

The Charlestown Land Trust just sent a mass mailing to Charlestown households urging voters to Vote YES on both the $2 million open space bond request and Warrant Question #2, the giveaway of land rights to town property, the 75-acre proposed site of the Whalerock wind farm that taxpayers paid $2.14 million to buy. 

Not coincidentally, that land is slated to be given to the Land Trust, so you might say they have some skin in the game.

Enough skin that they are willing to violate campaign finance laws and possibly jeopardize their tax-exempt status.

Organic fixes to electronic problems

Electronic folk remedies
By Gemma Correll

To see the rest of them, CLICK HERE.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Starburst Galaxy M94 

What could cause the center of M94 to be so bright? Spiral galaxy M94 has a ring of newly formed stars surrounding its nucleus, giving it not only an unusual appearance but also a strong interior glow.

leading progenitor hypothesis holds that an elongated knot of stars known as a bar rotates in M94 and has generated a burst of star formation in the inner ring. 

Recent observations have revealed the outer, fainter ring is not closed and relatively complex.

M94, pictured here spans about 30,000 light years, lies about 15 million light years away, and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici).

Imagine the loss if we DON'T protect the environment

By KEVIN PROFT/ecoRI News staff

Fishermen dock their boats at Gardner’s Wharf Seafood and sell their catch directly to the North Kingstown, R.I., seafood market on Wickford Harbor. Rising waters and more frequent and intense storms, however, are a growing business concern. (Kevin Proft/ecoRI News)
Fishermen dock their boats at Gardner’s Wharf Seafood and sell their catch directly to the North Kingstown, R.I., seafood market on Wickford Harbor. Rising waters and more frequent and intense storms, however, are a growing business concern. (Kevin Proft/ecoRI News)

Gardner’s Wharf Seafood couldn’t be closer to the water without being in it. Located on its namesake in Wickford Village, the North Kingstown, R.I., retail seafood market and wholesale processing station commands a stunning view of Wickford Harbor.

For more than 70 years, local fishermen have docked their boats and sold their catch to Gardner’s Wharf, a tradition Pete Chevalier has kept alive since 2003. His business employs about 10 people and sources about 80 percent of its seafood from nearby ports such as Galilee, New Bedford and Boston.

On a handful of occasions since taking ownership, Chevalier’s business has paid a price for its proximity to this historic harbor.

“Irene was the worst,” Chevalier said. Despite extending 200 feet into the harbor, Gardner’s Wharf is elevated above neighboring properties, and became an island as the sea swelled around it. Chevalier estimated that the storm surge during Hurricane Irene’s 2011 visit reached 4-6 feet.

Compost our way to prosperity

Mike Merner, founder of Charlestown's Earth Care Farm, RI's biggest
organic composting operation

Climate change is the existential crisis of our time. The removal of organics from our landfill stream is one of our key strategies for reducing the production of greenhouse gases, especially methane, and provides a new resource for one of the few industries in Rhode Island that is expanding, agriculture.

Like solar energy, compost is an idea whose time is finally coming. We could have adopted both technologies 30 years ago, but we waited for the damage to the planet to become overwhelming. Now we play catch-up.

We also have an opportunity to remake Rhode Island. It’s my opinion that Rhode Island, and for most of urban New England, economic growth, if it occurs at all, will never return to the growth rates we have become accustomed to or that our politicians like to promise. 

Sosnowski bill on cesspool passes. Now we need Teresa Tanzi’s House bill to pass.

Senate passes bill requiring onsite wastewater treatment systems, removal of cesspools

Senator Sue Sosnowski (L) and Rep. Teresa Tanzi plus Delia at a
Charlestown event
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) that would provide for the eventual removal of all cesspools in the state.

The bill (2015-S 0369A) would amend the Rhode Island Cesspool Act of 2007, including replacing individual sewage disposal systems with onsite wastewater treatment systems and would require cesspool removal or replacement upon the transfer of the property where the cesspool is located under certain circumstances.

The current law requires the phase-out of cesspools located within 200 feet of a shoreline, wetland or drinking water supply. This bill provides for the eventual removal of all cesspools beyond these 200 foot boundaries.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Is Charlestown suffering from “buyer’s remorse”?

The “dissident minority” is growing

Is this really the face we want to show to visitors?
(Photo from the Ninigret Park blog)
By Linda Felaco

I used to think that keeping up with the Charlestown Citizens Alliance’s (CCA’s) spin machine would be a full-time job. But then I realized all their sturm und drang can be summarized as “CCA good, Progressive Charlestown bad!” Which makes the rebuttals a lot easier to write.

Take the magisterial “guest commentary” by “King Tom” Gentz, the autocratic leader of the Town Council, a wholly owned subsidiary of the CCA, published recently in the Westerly Sun. In it, Gentz tells the CCA’s usual origins myth, stating that “The CCA political action committee that swept all 13 elective offices in Charlestown last November was formed in 2008 to put an end to the locker-room conduct that characterized public meetings.” 

Which is actually pretty easily debunked given that that’s not how they stated their purpose to the Board of Elections when they first organized. 

Springtime for Hitler, and the CCA

Are you visiting here because you have seen the brilliant and talented fiction of John Goodman and Michael Chambers? Are you curious about how this website, which the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee has no influence over (despite continuing claims by Goodman and Chambers to the contrary), compares the CCA to the “final solution”?

For you, prospective regular reader, here are some resources so you can judge for yourself instead of blindly accepting what others write. We just ask that you share this with others who may be gullible enough to accept what Goodman and Chambers write, at face value.

A step forward for renewable energy in Rhode Island

Senate passes Sosnowski legislation creating renewable energy task force in Energy Resources Office

STATE HOUSE – The Senate passed legislation introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) that would require the Office of Energy Resources to assemble a task force to promote the development of markets for alternative renewable home heating and transportation fuel, such as clean burning biodiesel fuels. The measure, which now heads to the House of Representatives, passed the Senate 35 to 0.

The legislation (2015 S-0410) would also assemble a task force to develop an energy efficiency program for home heating oil and propane. The reports of these task forces would be due Jan. 31, 2016. The alternative renewable fuel task force would have up to $50,000 from the Renewable Energy Fund to hire consultants.

This is not a spoof


Scientists in South Korea have developed a new way to store energy that also offers a solution to a growing environmental problem.

Reporting their findings in the IOP Publishing journal Nanotechnology, the research team successfully converted used cigarette butts into a high performing material that could be integrated into computers, handheld devices, electric vehicles and wind turbines to store energy.

Send in the Clowns

As the 2016 presidential candidates belatedly get worked up about inequality, they're losing touch with reality.

Hardly a day goes by that another candidate doesn’t announce his or her intention to run for the presidency. One day it’s Carly Fiorina, the next it’s Mike Huckabee, Bernie Sanders, or Hillary Clinton, even.

It’s like the circus — when the little car rolls into the center ring and a clown gets out, then another, then two more, and on and on until the ring is overflowing with 1,000 clowns, or so it seems.

We won’t get up to 1,000 politicians yearning to lead the “free world,” or what’s left of it. But we should reach two dozen presidential aspirants who are asking us voters to take them seriously before we’re done.

It’s still early, but it looks as though the major message of this election is going to be about closing the cavernous gaps between the rich and the poor. Democrats have always suspected that the poor are being victimized by our economic system, but now it seems that the Republicans are singing that song too.

Former First Brother Jeb Bush, whose family has been rich ever since his grandfathers got into oil and weapons 100 years ago, is now excoriating the “elites” who’ve stifled growth and left the middle class to twist slowly in the wind.

Charlestown, Bradford citizens blast lack of enforcement at Copar Quarry at DEM budget hearing

When DEM inspectors went to check out citizens' complaints about
silica dust from the Copar Quarry, all they had to use to collect the
dust was the surface of one of the inspector's cars. True story.
By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — The state environmental agency is getting better at issuing permits but it’s getting worse at stopping polluters, according to critics of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s proposed 2016 budget.

At a recent Statehouse budget hearing, DEM director Janet Coit praised the agency for its customer-friendly improvements, such as faster permitting, a new customer-service center and the implementation of a workplace efficiency program.

But there was sharp pushback from critics who said dwindling environmental enforcement is allowing polluters to harm the environment and create public-health problems.

“The enforcement capacity at the agency has been whittled away for 10 years now, ” Save The Bay executive director Jonathan Stone said during the May 12 hearing.