Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Thursday, June 4, 2015

CCA Party rearranges the pool chairs

New Steering Committee roster posted with no fanfare
By Will Collette
New information emerges from the CCA Party's secret clubhouse
The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CA Party) is all about restoring Charlestown to roughly the 1920s and 30s. Yes, the 1920s and 30s were the halcyon years and also when most of the current CCA Steering Committee members were born. The average age for the ten Steering Committee members is 76 years old, with the youngest at 63 and oldest at 87.

They would love to restore things to the way it used to be. The times after the Narragansett Tribe was declared extinct by the General Assembly in 1880 and 1882 when Charlestown’s leading families grabbed all their land but of course before the Tribe won federal recognition and a major part of its ancestral lands.

The time before the Ninigret Navy Auxiliary Air Field was built. The time when wealthy gentlemen farmers ruled the roost with their farms covering most of the land. If your family couldn’t trace itself back to the town’s first settlers, you were nobody.

The CCA Party does not make a big deal about its Steering Committee, even though they meet monthly to presumably decide the organization’s priorities. These meetings are not public and not announced. I’ve often speculated that they meet in a little hut in the reeds in the salt marsh or maybe a tree house in the woods, but no one outside the CCA Party inner circle knows.

How these meetings are conducted and how decisions are made is totally secret, even though the CCA Party controls every elected office, important commission and the hiring and firing of Town Hall Staff.

Who attends those meetings is also secret. I guess it has to be considering that they hold all five Council seats and all eight Planning Commission seats. If those members came to Steering Committee meetings and discussed anything related to Charlestown, they would be violating the state Open Meetings Act

The CCA Party holds its meetings in secret and, I am certain, it is there
that the decisions that affect the whole town get made
In fact, I’m willing to bet they violate OMA every time they meet, but getting the proof of that will take an insider with a pang of conscience. I am not willing to bet on that happening.

The CCA Party also controls comfortable majorities in the Zoning Board of Review, the Charlestown delegation to the Chariho School Committee and the Budget Commission. Again, if those individuals turn up at Steering Committee meetings and talk town business, that’s an OMA violation.

But of course, we don’t know that for sure because we can’t know that for sure, since the meetings are secret.

The newly announced roster of the CCA Steering Committee includes Town Council Boss Tom Gentz, Budget commissioner and former Town Councilor Dan Slattery who also is the CCA Party Treasurer. There are two Zoning Board members: Cliff Vanover and one of the CCA Party’s chief fundraisers, Joe Quadrato. There’s Town Moderator Leo Mainelli, former Planning Commissioner Jan Knost and Virginia Wooten who holds no post other than figurehead CCA President.

So even if there isn’t a quorum of each of the public bodies they control – Council, Planning, Budget, Zoning, etc. – at each CCA Party secret Steering Committee meeting, we still have an open meetings problem. I suspect that that those Steering Committee meetings serve as a Super-Council for the town with at least one ranking member of each of those bodies present. The entire agenda for town governance is set at those monthly secret meetings.

And that’s wrong, if not illegal.

Of the ten Steering Committee members, there are three former Charlestown residents who now live out of state: former CCA President Bernice Krantz, former Zoning Board member Milton Krantz and former Town Council member Kate Waterman. 

That means non-residents are under-represented on the Steering Committee given that more than 60% of the CCA Party’s funding comes from non-residents. By that reckoning, six out of the ten CCA Party Steering Committee members should be non-residents.

Planning Commissar Ruth Platner is an advisor but not an official Steering Committee member but doesn’t need to be, since she pulls all the strings. Town political curmudgeon, Nazi-hunter and hate-baiter John Goodman also is an advisor without holding an actual seat. I'd love to hear the advice he gives.

Given this line-up, how is it possible for this group to meet and not violate the state Open Meetings Act?

The only change in this year’s line-up is that Faith LaBossiere is off while Dan Slattery and Jan Knost are on. I guess the reasoning behind the tight-knit, rarely changing Steering Committee is that the CCA Party thinks this is a winning formula, and they certainly have the election results to prove it.

Maybe LaBossiere lost her spot for her advocacy of a bike path in Ninigret Park at a time when the prevailing mood within the CCA Party is to curb human activity in the park, with positive disdain for active recreation.

The Charlestown Democratic Town Committee (CDTC), compared to the CCA Party, had a lot of major changes to its roster. Three of the CDTC officers stepped down. My wife Cathy O’Reilly Collette stepped down as chair but remains on the committee. John Hamilton replaces her as chair.

Tim Quillen stepped down as vice-chair for health reasons. Former state Representative Donna Walsh replaces Tim in that position.

Suzanne Ferrio stepped down as Secretary and Dawne Burns stepped up to replace her.

I resigned last July and Frank Glista resigned in November. Henry Walsh died in March.

Plus, according to its latest campaign finance report, town Democrats are low on cash.

Usually after an election, the CDTC has more cash on hand than the CCA Party but not this time. According to the CCA Party’s most recent campaign filing, they have $6,523.97 on hand, compared to the $2,306.78 reported by the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee.

I didn’t mention the Charlestown Republican Town Committee because it has pretty much gone dormant; they did fill a first quarter report showing no activity and $395 in the bank. The CCA Party pretty much fills the niche Republicans would usually fill. 

Charlestown used to have a Moderate Party Town Committee (back when Dan Slattery and John Goodman were among the 11 registered Moderates in town), but it has long since gone out of business.

The June 1 election is bound to have an effect both on the CCA Party, which experienced its first electoral losses since losing the vote on the town beach pavilions in 2011.

The Democrats haven’t had much to celebrate in a while, but they mounted a successful campaign to block Warrant Item #2 which would have given a conservation easement to CCA Party ally, the Charlestown Land Trust, and effective control over the town-owned former proposed site for the Whalerock wind turbines.

Donna Chambers is NOT happy with how
June 1 turned out
Then there’s the ad hoc group, Support Charlestown’s Ninigret Park, whose slam-dunk 2 to 1 victory in getting voter approval for $1 million in improvements to Ninigret Park. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next with them – other than, of course, a fight with the CCA Party-controlled government to actually spend the money as the voters intend them to.

CCA Party Chariho School Committee member Donna Chambers was nonplussed by that $1 million Ninigret bond issue and the loss of the conservation easement to the Whalerock land. She told the Westerly Sun: 
“I think voters were very misinformed about the truth of the easement and thought that the property was just going to be given away, when in fact the easement would be protecting the land from future development and conserving the nature on it….And we will see what the intentions are for the Ninigret Park bond.”
I have a suggestion for Ms. Chambers to help her clear up her questions about the “intentions” for Ninigret Park. Read the Ninigret Park Master Plan. Or get somebody to explain it to you.