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Saturday, August 8, 2015

UPDATED: Filippi again does the opposite of what he preaches

Constitutional right to beach access doesn’t apply to his own beach
By Will Collette
UPDATE: The original of this article ran last Sunday. It addresses one of the many contradicts between what state Rep. Flip Filippi says and what he does. 

New information published in this week's Block Island Times shows that the Block Island Land Trust dropped its efforts to get the Filippi family, owners of Ballard's Inn, to restore public access to a beach path that they had blocked off . 

The path remains blocked by a dumpster. 

Land Trust member Sven Risom said the Trust leadership "basically got tired of battling them [the Filippi family] and gave up." The Block Island Land Trust cut an alternative path to the beach.

And good for the Land Trust as Block Island Rescue Squad representative Gary Ryan said "it's critical that we have access." Ryan noted that since the Filippi's blocked off the beach access path, the Rescue Squad had to go through Ballard's Inn to get to the beach when responding to emergency calls.

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance appears to have begun their efforts to get Filippi re-elected, despite his failure to get results at the General Assembly, ties to right-wing radical militia, and lies about his residency

The CCA Party made a big deal about Filippi's effort to get a few cases of bottled water to Charlestown during last week's storm emergency in a feature piece on their website and a special CCA e-bleat. This may be the first time Filippi has done anything useful to Charlestown.

Please read on for the original article on Filippi's infringement on the Constitutional right of access to the beach.

Charlestown is part of RI House District 36 which also includes Block Island and parts of Westerly and South Kingstown. For years, it was represented by one of the General Assembly’s most effective and principled legislators, Donna Walsh.

In 2014, Donna was defeated by a slick, fast-talking wealthy businessman, Blake “Flip” Filippi, who ran as an “independent” but is actually a registered Republican major donor and Libertarian who received major support from the Charlestown Citizens Alliance. 

Filippi is also aligned with the Tea Party and some of the most radical anti-government militia groups such as the Oath-Keepers (click here to see Flip’s ties to the Oath Keepers). Filippi also does not live in the 36th District.

Filippi made a ton of promises during the campaign about how he was going to immediately tackle the problems of the victims of the Copar Quarry, cut taxes on Social Security, fight state corruption, roll back utility rates and give every voter in the district a box of marshmallow Peeps®.

He accomplished none, absolutely none, of his campaign promises. Though he introduced a flurry of legislation, it seemed that for the most part, these bills were designed to get him some one-shot media attention.

The only legislation he put any apparent effort into was a bill that nobody wanted – a bill to abolish the state salt-water fishing license.

Every organized fishermen’s group in the state told him the bill was a bad idea (click here for the details) and gave him all the practical reasons why he should leave well enough alone. Filippi offered up a variety of different changes he promised to make to accommodate their concerns. He even told the House Environment Committee that he was going to amend his bill to retain the state license.

He lied.

In the end, he stuck with his original bill to abolish the state license because, in his opinion, something that is a constitutional right should not be licensed, taxed or permitted. That’s how sacred he felt public access to the ocean is that he was willing to make a fool out of himself.

Well, it turns out that the public’s constitutional right to access to the ocean isn’t so sacred when it comes to Filippi family property, the centerpiece of which is Ballard’s Inn on Block Island.

As the Block Island Times recently reported, the Filippis are now in a battle with the Block Island Land Trust because Ballard’s has blocked off the public access path to the beach with junk and construction debris.

Worse than that, they have constructed a fence all the way across the beach from Ballard’s to the water, and comes very close to encroaching on the time-honored public right of access to beaches up to the high tide mark. See photo below.

 Photos by RenĂ©e Meyer for the Block Island Times. There are two more photos in the BI Times article.

There is even some question about whether the fence and the rubble encroach on land owned by the Land Trust or the town. Note the piping left on the wrong side of the fence.

So much for the sacred Constitutional right of access to the ocean.

Filippi’s brother Steve, who actually runs Ballard’s (contrary to Flip’s campaign claims that he ran Ballard’s along with the family’s Lincoln cattle farm and his Providence law practice), offered an explanation of sorts.

According to the Block Island Times, Steve Filippi said:
“The beach fence was put up in coordination with the Block Island Police Department to clearly show the property line. By law, Ballard’s cannot allow anyone to bring their own alcohol onto our property nor allow anyone to leave with an alcoholic beverage. Beachgoers are not allowed through the Ballard’s alley because it is private property and it’s not the safest way to access the beach. There are delivery trucks, cars and a compactor constantly there. Someone could seriously injure themselves. Ballard’s is a responsible member of our community and public safety is our top priority.”
Well, there are several things wrong with that “explanation.” First, if that beach access point is not open to the public, as it has been for many, many years, somebody forgot to tell the Coastal Resources Management Council because they list that location as one of Block Island’s beach public access points in their newly released ocean access guidebook (go to page 13).

Second, the main reason – maybe the only reason Ballard’s is a “responsible member of our community and public safety is our top priority” is because they nearly lost their license. The town issued an order to strip Ballard’s of its license over public safety problems and violations of town ordinances. Click here for the town’s decision to revoke their license. Only then did Ballard’s sign an agreement with the town binding them to good behavior.

So where is Flip Filippi on this important Constitutional question? Why wasn’t he out there telling his brother to get out of the way while he cleared out the beach access path and tore down that fence?

What an amazing photo op that would be, and we’ve come to learn how much he just loves those photo ops.

Or is Flip's commitment to Article 1, Section 17 only absolute when it comes to pushing a bill that would screw Rhode Island's salt water fishermen?

I hope somebody remembers to ask Flip his views on public access to the ocean when he comes around in 2016 asking for your vote.

So there you have it. Our State Representative demonstrates that Constitutional principles are for chumps and that he will do anything for attention.