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Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Charlestown Chunks #9: cooperation, payback and shame

See how Charlestown's registration breaks down, Ashley wins judgment, and more

By Will Collette

Eligible voters in Charlestown. Precinct 3, the heart of CCA's voting base, is also the most conservative. As of Tuesday, September 6, 127 Charlestown voters have already cast their ballots for the Sept. 13 primary: 49 by mail and 78 by voting early at Town Hall.

With the September 13 Democratic primary coming fast – early in-person voting and mail-in voting has already begun – the media are all over many of the state’s key races. While mud-slinging campaigns get a lot of attention, I was pleased to see a piece in the Providence Journal that featured cooperation between candidates for Senate District 38 (Westerly, south Charlestown, South Kingstown) on the issue of beach access.

The article featured rival Democrats Victoria Gu and Michael Niemeyer who both pledged to make beach access a top priority. As you may recall, this year’s beach access bill failed even though it won in the House unanimously because bill sponsor Blake “Flip” Filippi forgot to line up a Senate sponsor. Well, if either Gu or Niemeyer win on September 13, they will push the bill in the Senate. They face Westerly Town Council President Sharon Ahern in a three-way primary.

This article and other recent pieces also highlight the role fake fire districts – fire districts that don’t fight fires but do block off the beach – play in the access issue. Hopefully, we’ll see legislation that requires all fire districts to actually fight fires or lose their tax privileges.

Ashley gets some belated justice

Many of us in Charlestown remember our former town Planner Ashley Hahn and her frequent clashes with Planning Commissar Ruth Platner. Among the most memorable was Ashley’s 2012 discovery that Charlestown had misclassified many properties under Charlestown’s zoning ordinance, often to the property owner’s advantage.

Platner lost her argument that this wasn’t really a problem - Ashley had done her research. Platner had no option but to promise the problem would be fixed but it never has been.

Ashley left in November 2013. Platner replaced her with our current and far more compliant Planner Jane Weidman who, conveniently, had just been terminated by Block Island.

Ashley’s next job was as West Warwick’s town planner but that job ended badly. According to a detailed article in GoLocal, Ashley was terminated when she needed time off for treatment for post-partum depression. Rather than make reasonable accommodations for her medical needs, the town manager fired her on bogus grounds (the lie that planning committee members didn’t like her) and replaced her with a childless white male.

In 2015, she filed suit arguing that the town violated three sections of the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act of 1990, illegally discriminating against Hahn based on her disability and sex. 

After an unusual delay, Ashley finally got a jury trial, which she won. The Town of West Warwick has signed a Consent Judgment ordered in the Kent County Superior Court to pay her $800,000. That works out to $100,000 a year over the eight years since she was wrongfully terminated.

While “justice delayed is justice denied,” winning so decisively definitely doesn’t suck.

Preserving a sordid history

John Brown. University founder and slave trader
Area historian and author Christian McBurney of West Kingston was profiled in The Independent that featured his new book “Dark Voyage: An American Privateer’s War on Britain’s African Slave Trade.”

McBurney also produces “Small State/Big History, The Online Review of Rhode Island History.” It’s an anthology of papers by other local historians as well as his own work. Much of the material focuses on South County. You can sign up for a weekly e-mail that lists that week’s featured article. I’ve been getting it for years and enjoy it.

His new book details the sordid history of the Marlborough, a South County-based privateer chartered by the Continental Congress to attack and seize British shipping. 

John Brown, founder of Brown University, was the ship’s principal investor. As such, he received 50% of the spoils – the value of the ship and its “cargo.”

The Marlborough specialized in capturing British slave ships working with John Brown’s extensive knowledge of the slave trade. They sold the captured slaves to plantations in the French Caribbean. As McBurney put it: 

“The mastermind and primary investor behind the voyage was Providence merchant John Brown. With his experience as a slave trader — he had been an investor in two previous slave voyages.”

You can buy “Dark Voyage” from the Rhode Island Publications Society at, online at, click here, or the publisher’s website.

Bad flood maps?
On September 4, FEMA Director Deanne Criswell told CNN’s State of the Union: “The part that’s really difficult right now is the fact that our flood maps don’t take into account excessive rain that comes in. And we are seeing these record rainfalls that are happening.

She said FEMA maps are “outdated” due to the excessive rain generated by climate change. She said, “FEMA’s maps right now are really focused on riverine flooding and coastal flooding and we work with local jurisdictions to update the maps,” but as we know in Charlestown, excessive rain fall can make predictable floods a lot worse.

Curt Schilling says debt forgiveness makes people lazy

Ultra-conservative former Red Sox pitcher and conman Curt Schilling condemned President Joe Biden’s executive order allowing forgiveness of between $10,000 and $20,000 in student loan debt.

He said this plan benefits “a generation of lazy unaccountable uneducated children being covered by hard working debt paying Americans.”

I have to assume Schilling is not counting himself as one of those “hard working debt paying Americans” after ripping off hard-working Rhode Islanders when he defaulted on $75 million loan for the infamous, now defunct, 38 Studio business in 2014.

What Schilling got through his debt default is equivalent to as many as 7,500 people getting student loan forgiven through Biden's plan.

Curt Schilling, once a hero but now just another right-wing asshole hypocrite.

Why do we need this?

Lehman and family. So he's the guy to get more blacks and Hispanics
to hunt?
Starting August 1, RIDEM has a new staff member, Dan Lehman, who is “filling a new position… as the hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation specialist.”

His mission is to get more people to hunt and trap our state’s beautiful forest creatures.

He’s going to focus on kids aged 12-15. Plus, he’s determined to encourage more women, families, millennials and people of color” to go out and kill something. Or trap it, which is even more horrifying to me.

Apparently, not enough people are buying hunting licenses – 8,800 last year compared to the state’s peak year 2000 when 11,600 people bought licenses. I sometimes think there are at least 8,000 shooters in the woods behind my house.

Of all the things to spend taxpayer money on…to paraphrase Eminem, “Rhode Island’s got 99 problems but not enough shooters ain’t one.”

Speaking of 99 Problems

Have the smelling salts ready when Faith LaBossiere reads THIS ARTICLE.

 Apparently, people in bike-crazy Europe are having second thoughts about riding bikes to work and for exercise and enjoyment. 

It’s just not safe.

CCA leader LaBossiere has long been Charlestown’s bicycling gadfly, pushing bike paths regardless of cost, practicality, property rights, etc. including the infamous and largely unused “Faith’s Folly” in Ninigret Park.