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Monday, October 31, 2022

It wasn’t broke, so why did CCA fix it?

Because they think they can

By William Coulter 

Why does the CCA presume that
only THEY can protect the land?
This article appeared as a Letter To the Editor in The Westerly Sun on October 27.

Two letters to the editor (in The Westerly Sun) — by Ruth Platner on Oct. 10 and Suzanne Durney on Oct. 15 — paint a picture different than the one I witnessed at the Charlestown Town Council’s public hearing on a proposed Conservation Design Ordinance.

The first letter claimed that opponents of the ordinance wanted to increase, or even double, the yield of available building lots in Charlestown.

I was one of many residents who opposed the ordinance as it was presented. I urged, argued, and pleaded to the council to reject the proposal because I believe the current cluster-subdivision regulations already suit the needs of Charlestown.

I have difficulty understanding why the cluster-subdivision ordinance needed to be replaced entirely when the Planning Commission themselves presented several past Charlestown subdivisions as examples of what promising developments look like when accounting for rural character and open space buffers.

Additionally, while true that the number of lots will not increase in the new regulation, it has allowed lots to be tightly packed into one area on as small as ½-acre parcels.

That is not rural by any definition I know. So now a person moving to Charlestown went from owning a few acres around their house to owning a lot you would find in any densely packed town in Rhode Island. 

Why, I asked, can’t people be stewards of their land? Our family has owned a large parcel in town for nearly 70 years. 

Every possible land use was proposed to us including a gravel bank, junkyard, camping ground, solar, wind, cell, and, more recently, housing. 

It is still a farm. We have no plans to sell, but we do not want our value to be diminished or our land rights to be taken away.

I believe that a 3-acre lot is more appealing than 1 acre or less. I also think that having a septic system and a well on a larger building lot is far more conservation-minded.

Condensing building lots puts wells and septic systems closer together, endangering groundwater quality. 

One letter stated that “the preservation of this rural paradise is no accident” and alluded to the CCA being responsible for that. I am here to tell you that statement is a testament to the people of Charlestown since its incorporation in 1738 until today.

My family has resided in Charlestown since 1750. The CCA has held the council majority for the last 12 years, and it is a nice gesture to give them credit for the ruralness of Charlestown, but it’s families like mine and many others that preserved this town and left something for the future. 

The Oct. 15 letter to the editor ends with the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and then it goes on to endorse CCA candidates. The land ordinance that the CCA changed existed for the last 30 years, and the spirit of it for far longer, so why did they choose to ignore the majority of the citizens and “fix” something that wasn’t broken?

Trick or WHAT!?

The choice

By Clay Bennett


How to safely capture a bat. Seriously.


How abuse is baked into American sports

‘Nobody said anything because they feared being benched’

Rick EcksteinVillanova University

Too many coaches seem to believe that physical and
emotional abuse creates better athletes. 
imbarney22/E+ via Getty Images
As someone who has been researching, writing and teaching about women’s and girls sports for the past 15 years, I wasn’t surprised by the recent revelations of sexual and verbal abuse by National Women’s Soccer League coaches.

There’s a tendency to explain such horrific behavior in strictly individualistic terms – as a sign of personality disorders or moral deficiencies. But this kind of response misses the larger picture of how organized sports itself contributes to abusive and even sadistic behavior.

My book on the hypercommercialization of girls sports identified many instances of verbal and physical abuse of girls and young women at both the youth and college levels.

More recently, some colleagues and I have been exploring the structural causes of college athlete stress and anxiety. A pilot study of several hundred athletes (of all genders) at both large and small schools has revealed troubling examples of abusive coaching behavior. These examples were identified more frequently in women’s sports and were present in both large and small colleges.

Help Arrowhead feed our neighbors in need


How was Halloween invented?

Once a Celtic pagan tradition, the holiday has evolved to let kids and adults try on new identities

Linus OwensMiddlebury

Kindergarten students in 1952 race out of school in
Los Angeles, eager to celebrate Halloween. 
Los Angeles Examiner/USC Libraries/Corbis via Getty Images
“It’s alive!” Dr. Frankenstein cried as his creation stirred to life. But the creature had a life of its own, eventually escaping its creator’s control.

Much like Frankenstein’s monster, traditions are also alive, which means they can change over time or get reinvented. Built from a hodgepodge of diverse parts, Halloween is one such tradition that has been continually reinvented since its ancient origins as a Celtic pagan ceremony. Yet beneath the superhero costumes and bags of candy still beats the heart of the original.

The Celts lived in what’s now Ireland as far back as 500 B.C. They celebrated New Year’s Day on Nov. 1, which they called Samhain. They believed that leading up to the transition to the new year, the door between the worlds of the living and the dead swung open. 

The souls of the recently dead, previously trapped on Earth, could now pass to the underworld. Since they thought spirits came out after dark, this supernatural activity reached its peak the night before, on Oct. 31.

The Celts invented rituals to protect themselves during this turbulent time. They put on costumes and disguises to fool the spirits. They lit bonfires and stuck candles inside carved turnips – the first jack-o’-lanterns – to scare away any spirits looking for mischief. If all else failed, they carried a pocketful of treats to pay off wayward spirits and send them back on their way to the underworld.

Sound familiar?

Although focused on the dead, Samhain was ultimately for the living, who needed plenty of help of their own when transitioning to the new year. Winter was cold and dark. Food was scarce. Everyone came together for one last bash to break bread, share stories and stand tall against the dead, strengthening community ties at the time they were needed most.

New housing report highlights how hard it is to find affordable housing in Charlestown

If you want a rental, forget it. If you want to buy, you need to make $116K

By Will Collette

One of the big 2022 election issues is affordable housing, or rather the lack of it, thanks to the immovable resistance of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance. Kids who grew up in Charlestown can't afford to stay, new families can't buy or rent unless they earn big bucks and the town population continues to age. 

Here are the hard numbers on Charlestown from the newly released HousingWorksRI 2022 Fact Book. Read the full report on the state of the state HERE.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU VOTE: What you need to know about Charlestown politics

What is the Charlestown Citizens Alliance?

By Will Collette

Over the past 12 years, I have written and updated versions of this review of Charlestown's ruling party, the CCA - the Charlestown Citizens Alliance. It's a very different version of events than what you will get from the graphic novel the CCA has been sending to your mailbox.
This edition was written last July but if ever there was a time to read (or re-read it), that time is now as they once again, ask voters to renew their rule over the town.  

Tom Ferrio and I launched Progressive Charlestown in December 2010, a month where we drew 106 readers. 

After 12 years and 5.64 million pageviews (an average of 35,000 a month), I sometimes forget that our local readers might not closely follow Charlestown’s political adventures or know the history. This article is the first of a series aimed at giving readers more context in this important election year.

Let’s start with the town's long-time rulers, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) who seek to continue their reign by winning the November election.

In March 2008, the CCA officially formed as a political action committee (PAC) with Dan Slattery as President. Their purpose was Jim Mageau’s ouster from the Town Council (more on Jim, below), painting themselves as the epitome of civility, even though they started out by running a smear campaign against then Council President John Craig that actually drove him out of town.

The CCA achieved the goal of ousting Mageau with a powerful showing in the 2008 election. Mageau ended up as the lowest vote-getter with only 102 votes (4.3%).

However, the CCA became dissatisfied with its own elected Council members because they failed to follow orders from the CCA’s secret and mysterious Steering Committee. The Steering Committee list has not been updated in several years and includes at least one member who is dead. You cannot join the CCA nor are its meetings posted or public even though that’s where every important town decision is made.

So in 2010, the CCA purged their own Council members and replaced them with two of their most doctrinaire leaders, Tom Gentz and Dan Slattery.

With Ruth Platner commanding the Planning Commission (the only elected planning commission in the state, arguably illegal in composition), their conquest was complete. The CCA has controlled all the levers of power in Charlestown for the past 12 years.

Thank you, Jim, for launching the CCA

James Mageau (Jim) πŸ‘‰has been a fixture in Charlestown politics since the world was young. Irascible, obnoxious, and litigious. Often called a bully, Jim has probably pissed off more people in Charlestown that I could ever dream of doing. At least, I think so.

Mageau made his reputation through filing tons of lawsuits, complaints and rumors about conspiracies and corruption by everyone else in town but himself. He also liked to get in people’s faces to scream and curse them out. Mageau, for no particular reason, cursed out my wife Cathy when they first met.

Years ago, Jim told me he was a “Scoop Jackson” Democrat, i.e. a DINO who is conservative on just about all issues.

By an odd sequence of events, he not only got himself elected in 2006 to the Town Council but through a string of resignations (including John Craig, noted above) landed in the Council President’s Chair. That was simply too much for most Charlestown residents (myself included). Local Democrats couldn’t stand him and resigned en masse rather than serve on the Democratic Town Committee with him.

Mageau lost his 2010 bid for re-election with the lowest vote total of any candidate and CCA-endorsed candidates won a majority on the Council.

Mageau tried for a comeback a couple of times after his defeat, but clearly had lost his voter appeal. After many years of absence from the ballot, Mageau filed a Declaration of Candidacy for Town Council this year and has qualified for this year’s General Election as an “independent.” 

Though Mageau was once nominally a Democrat, he became Donald Trump’s most vocal supporter in Charlestown. However, even though he's a Trumplican, local Republicans didn’t want him either.

Looking back at history

Though Jim Mageau was the Charlestown Citizens Alliance's causus belli, the CCA’s true roots are in the old founding families of Charlestown. They ran large plantations on land stolen from the Narragansett Indian Tribe using slave labor, mostly African but also some Narragansett who were captured after the Great Swamp Massacre in 1675.

Over time, especially after World War II, rich transplants seeking cheap land for big houses on the ocean joined Charlestown’s “high society.”

In nearby Shelter Harbor, a group of wealthy men formed the RI Shoreline Coalition (RISC) in 2003 to protect their fake fire district and guarantee the ability of non-residents to vote in fire district elections. They actually wanted voting rights to be based on property ownership, not residence.

For most of its life, the Coalition was headquartered in Charlestown. The Shoreline Coalition morphed into the Statewide Coalition and then into “Rhode Island Taxpayers.” But in 2016, it died, largely due to the 2014 death of its founder Harry Staley.

However, you can find lots of DNA traces showing the kinship between the CCA and the Shoreline Coalition.

Besides DNA, the CCA also carries on its parent’s values: favoritism toward rich absentee landowners, hatred of the Narragansetts and a general desire to block families and people of color from moving in.

Yes, the CCA will do anything to preserve Charlestown’s “rural character” though that term has never been defined. In practice, rural character is code for the CCA's effort to wall off Charlestown against “outsiders” most especially “People from Providence.”

Money, money, money

Photo by Steve Ahlquist
Charlestown is no different than the rest of America where money generally determines election results. Out-going state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi πŸ‘‰beat much respected Rep. Donna Walsh (D) in 2014 because he is a wealthy man. His wealth scared off opponents for eight years.

Despite a complete lack of achievements, bizarre policy positions and questionable honesty, Flip was unopposed until this year and remained beloved by the CCA until he decided to quit.

This year, a credible candidate, Democrat Tina Spears, rose to challenge him so Flip pulled a Josh Hawley and flipped out of the race.

The CCA historically has always out-raised all competitors, holding on to power by using its paid propaganda to win over voters who normally don’t pay much attention to local politics. That's been going on again this year - WC.

Over the years, most of the CCA’s funding has come either from out of state or from neighborhoods that have become CCA territory. Ditto this year- WC.

Case in point: the Sachem Passage Association (SPA). Current CCA Town Council member Susan Cooper had claimed she was a “trustee” for the Sachem Passage Association on her filings with the RI Ethics Commission but has dropped that claim this year.

Other CCA donor bases include Quonnie and Arnolda.

In recent years, the CCA has used open space purchases to expand its political donor base. Buying land at the behest of a neighborhood filled with potential donors has paid off for the CCA, starting with the 2011 “Y-Gate scandal,” the first CCA land scam after they took control of the town.

The CCA locked in the devoted support of many Sachem Passage Association residents by spending $2.1 million in taxpayer money to block the Whalerock wind turbine proposal by buying the land out from under it.

The CCA rarely does fund-raising except in the last half of each election year. That’s when the money comes pouring in. I expect to see the first influx of big campaign bucks to show on the campaign finance report due to be filed on August 1.

Susan Cooper, a retired lawyer, is the only CCA Councilor seeking re-election. The rest of the CCA slate are primarily active or retired businesspeople with little experience in government but lots of experience making money.

What does the CCA really stand for?

You can read the CCA’s platform even though it’s largely a work of fiction due to glaring omissions but it’s a good place to start.

My quick take is the CCA stands for controlling the land, protecting the wealthy, fighting the Narragansett Indian Tribe, and turning Charlestown into a sparsely populated gated community for people like themselves.

You should also read the town’s recently adopted Comprehensive Plan that was largely written by CCA leader and Planning Commissar Ruth Platner πŸ‘‰.

In it, you will see that the CCA opposes affordable housing, public transportation, Narragansett sovereign rights, business development except for tourism and services, and most green energy development while wanting everyone to ride a bike, plant shrubbery and support Platner’s goal of buying every acre she can to be set aside as open space. You can read this for yourselves in the CCA's 6-page mailers.

The CCA also has enacted numerous ordinances that attempt to micro-manage every business and residence in town. We have ordinances governing trees and shrubbery, light, the color of switch plates on electrical outlets, signs, mulch, etc. 

Most ordinances are “complaint-driven” meaning nothing happens without a complaint. That often feeds neighbor vs. neighbor feuds. Many town ordinances are unenforceable or enforced selectively, often ignoring some of the most obnoxious offenses.

Couple of examples: loud motorcycles and large illegal fireworks. Both are illegal and a public health and safety hazard, yet where is the enforcement?

Above all, the CCA stands for “rural character” as if all Charlestown residents have pick-ups with rifle racks, fly rebel flags and count on free care at Arrowhead Dental to save the last few teeth in their heads.

What you won’t find in their own self-description are these key parts of the CCA philosophy:

Larisa dismisses tribal sovereignty
Institutional racism

The CCA supports a perpetual war with the Narragansett Indian Tribe paying a $25,000 retainer to attorney Joe Larisa to monitor the Tribe and block any action the Tribe might take to better itself. It is the CCA’s position that the Tribe may do nothing on their own land without the town’s approval.

The CCA is also committed to “rural character” which, in practice, means no new housing that might attract “People from Providence,” working class families with children or any establishment that doesn’t meet the CCA’s undefined idea of “rural character,” although I think they might be using the antebellum South as their role model.

Reducing the town population

The CCA has an allergy to any housing that might increase the population.

To that end, the CCA seeks to buy up all the private land it can, regardless of the price. If you take the pattern the CCA has set over the past 10 years and extend it into the future, Charlestown north of one will consist primarily of government-owned open space and landowners with large tracts of land. South of One will be dominated by large and expensive waterfront homes occupied by wealthy retirees or owned by wealthy summer people.

Their latest ploy, their proposed “conservation development” ordinance, aims to give the Planning Commission more power to block new housing. How? By creating conditions that are so onerous and difficult that no one will seek to apply for a permit.

The CCA would be comfortable with a return to the 1700s version of “rural character” with large farms worked by compliant labor and large manor houses for the landed gentry.

Closed government, shady deals, rampant secrecy and rigged rules.

Charlestown has made it a struggle to gain access to public records. Our Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz seemed more devoted to finding loopholes in the law to deny access to information under the Access to Public Records Act, drawing a rebuke from the Attorney’s General’s Office.

The CCA-Three, their Council majority, have bent and twisted the rules of procedure and common courtesy to the point where getting an item on the agenda is a struggle unless you are a CCA member. The three are: Bonnita Van Slyke, Cody Clarkin, and Susan Cooper. Only Cooper is running for re-election. Clarkin doesn’t even reside in Charlestown anymore, making him ineligible to serve.πŸ‘‡

Last July the CCA-3 voted down a resolution that affirmed the right of all Council members to be able to place items on the Council agenda, a key part of their responsibilities as Council members.

Here's what they voted down: 

The CCA-3 also ramrodded approval for filing a $400,000 open space grant application with the state without revealing where the land is, what it comprised, the asking price and who owned it. A normal piece of business for an out-of-control CCA.

Part of the CCA creed is to follow the dictates of Trump mentor Roy Cohn to “Never admit, never apologize, always attack.” Even when caught in a lie, such as Ruth Platner’s recent Charlestown Choo-Choo Hoax, they will profess their good intentions and innocence. Or say nothing at all.

The Prime Directive

Ever since the CCA’s 2010 internal purge of CCA-endorsed Council members who were not following orders, the CCA has made it clear that anyone running for office under their auspices MUST obey all the CCA decrees. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s their published platform, or the values expressed in their actions, spoken at secret Steering Committee meetings, or whispered in their ears by Ruth Platner

It doesn’t matter if it’s unconstitutional or illegal or simply doesn’t make sense. 

Conform or die as the 2008-10 CCA Council majority learned. The 2010 purge occurred when several CCA Councilors supported construction of the Whalerock wind farm. 

To them, it had merit and besides, CCA leader Tom Gentz had made a big presentation to the Council in support of wind energy, citing a CCA-conducted poll showing overwhelming public support for wind power. That poll was purged from the CCA website, but not before I reproduced the results HERE). Gentz was a big backer of a test turbine called “the Met Tower” in Ninigret Park, the precursor of a large municipal turbine in the Park that never happened.

Here's Dan Slattery delivering anonymous
anti-wind power leaflets in Sachem Passage
What these hapless CCA Councilors didn’t know was that Tom Gentz and Deputy Dan Slattery were canvassing the Sachem Passage neighborhood AGAINST the wind project. 

As my colleague Robert Yarnall documented, this effort by two CCA top leaders to subvert the CCA’s public support for wind power was done largely to win the support – financial and electoral - from the Sachem Passage neighborhood for the CCA.

It was like a page out of 1984 as the CCA did a 180 degree turn from loving wind power to absolutely hating it. Now, our current wind power ordinance makes it impossible for any Charlestown resident to install even the smallest residential wind energy device. Pure Doublespeak!

Those Councilors the CCA elected in 2008 were effectively excommunicated. This sent a message to all future CCA candidates: Obey or we will kill you.

The CCA also purged each town Board and Commission of people they deemed unfriendly to the CCA’s spoken and unspoken goals. 

They systematically placed their own loyalists onto these commissions, whether they were qualified or not, often passing over far more qualified volunteers whose only fault was a lack of professed homage to the CCA.

The CCA purged Charlestown’s Town Administrator Bill DiLibero over an astounding fake issue over who actually controls Ninigret Park

DiLibero and his Parks and Recreation director Jay Primiano (who was also purged) favored more active recreation in the Park, while the CCA won the undying support of the wealthy Arnolda neighborhood by fighting against anything other than passive (and quiet) use of the park.

One of them actually argued that children playing in the park kill birds. How? Citing an imaginary study, when children make noise, migratory birds fly away never to return, preferring to die at sea rather than tolerate the kids. I tried to find this so-called science and failed. If you have better luck, let me know.

The one exception to the CCA's aversion to active recreation was the construction of Faith’s Folly, an asphalt path in the Park for bikes and walking that no one uses.

CCA founding member Faith Labossiere really wanted this pathway and told the Council it would only cost $7,000 and would be very nice. Except the final cost was $266,927, a 4,000% overrun and used tons of asphalt, a material Planning Commission Ruth Platner has virtually banned for any other use.

But the land deals, the favoritism, the “pay-to-play” have been the CCA’s primary accomplishments since 2010. Personally, I believe the CCA may be just one more shady land deal away from a grand jury.

Charlestown Mad Math

When your ideas stink, back them up with some phony numbers

By Will Collette 

You can't have too much open space
This article original ran on October 3. As we get to the final stretch, you should look closely at the CCA's actual track record before you mark your ballots.

Charlestown’s Planning Commissar Ruth Platner is once again throwing together strings of numbers to try to support her obsession with buying more land as open space. Whether we need it or not. Whether the price is fair or not. Even though more than half of Charlestown is already open space. 

Regular Progressive Charlestown readers may remember Ruth’s first, classic foray into phony math when she concocted a mathematical formula “proving” that families with school-age children are parasites and thus Charlestown must not, under any circumstances, build more affordable housing. Never mind that kids who grew up in Charlestown can’t afford to live here. 

CCA Town Council member Cody Clarkin is a prime example, refusing to give up his seat by claiming he is still living with his parents and not in the Westerly house he and his roomie leased in July. Clark, a former Eagle Scout, admitted he couldn’t find an affordable home in Charlestown. 

Anyway, Ruthie pushed a concocted mathematical formula that she claimed showed how educating children only costs taxpayers – particularly absentee owners – lots in taxes and returns no value. 

Thus, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance’s priority was to block new housing, even traveling to Providence to ask the state for an exemption from state law due to our special “rural character,” meaning a shrinking population, reduced number of children and no room for “people from Providence.” 

At first, Ruth promoted this bogus math on the CCA website. Then after lots of pushback, she buried it deep in the website, but you could still find it if you knew where to look. But then, she made it disappear altogether. Did I mention that Ruthie runs the CCA’s website? She also runs the CCA’s new Illegal political action committee designed to promote open space politics without the bother of accountability for filing campaign finance reports. 

More Mad Math

Ruth is now pushing another far-fetched mathematical theory that, in a nutshell, says that the more land we take off the tax rolls by buying it as open space, the more our tax base will grow. That’s because land values go up when they’re near open space. 

When Ruth and her husband Cliff Vanover made this claim in the past, I (and others) have demanded evidence which neither Ruth nor Cliff provided. 

This time, she cites as her evidence a study done by the Southern New England Forest Consortium, a Chepachet-based forest group, that concluded that forests are good. 

But there’s a small problem with her “proof.” The Southern New England Forest Consortium dissolved in June 2009. Platner claims “Other studies have had similar findings” but where are they? 

You want "rural character? Here's your rural character.
Lagoon filled with hog waste. Bob Nichols, USDA

It’s reasonable to believe that if your house is next to a toxic-emitting industrial site, a freeway or a lagoon filled with liquid pig manure, it is worth less than if it was surrounded by woods or ocean. 

But except for some small pockets, nearly all of Charlestown residential properties are already surrounded by woods or water or both, as the town’s own official map shows. 

Even the densely packed shoreline neighborhoods have no trouble keeping up their values due to their proximity to the ocean and salt ponds, not to mention the millions their largely absentee owners pour into them despite the probability of sea level rise and increased and intensified storms resulting from the climate crisis. 

They're even selling t-shirts on Amazon
Here’s an important piece of background to Ruth’s obsession with expanding open space at any cost: she does not trust private owners to be proper stewards of their own land. 

She is part of the subset of conservationists who think people are the problem and that Gaea would be better off without them.

There’s even a “Voluntary Human Extinction Movement” that encourages people stop having kids to bring this “voluntary” extinction about. 

The current grievance being pushed by Platner and her minions is that two non-CCA councilors – Council President Deb Carney and Grace Klinger – blocked the purchase of a ~100 acre parcel dubbed the “Richard Property.” 

Carney and Klinger opposed paying for an appraisal until the town has a plan to manage all the open space it currently owns. 

There is no emergency to buy the land. The Richard family own that land and had it designated as open space to get a low tax rate under the Farm, Forest and Open Space program for 15 years. There is no sign they plan to drop the open space designation and even less evidence they plan to allow the land to be developed.  

The appraisal question never went to a vote.

This is what Platner and her acolytes are calling an anti-conservation position. Especially vehement was CCA Town Councilor Bonnita Van Slyke who is, ironically, trying to sell her Arnolda estate for $2.4 million to some oligarch who is invited to “build your own palatial coastal retreat” – right on water certain to rise due to climate change. 

Just about every land deal Ruth has spearheaded over the past 12 years since assuming supreme power over Charlestown land use policy has been tainted. 

Since 2011, nearly every land deal featured either doing a favor for a friend or courting political supporters for the CCA. The properties were invariably assessed at only a fraction of the selling price. Several involved blatantly phony appraisals where the price was based on non-existent and even impossible conditions. 

Half a dozen major deals later, Charlestown taxpayers have footed millions of dollars in bills to buy open space we don’t need. Plus, these deals helped the CCA in its relentless quest to maintain power even by literally buying votes. 

Lost Cars

The CCA can't be trusted with our money
And it doesn’t end there. Ruthie stuck her oars in during the troubling Charlestown “Three-million Dollar Oopsie.” For almost two years, Charlestown’s budget was inaccurate because unspent money had been moved to different parts of the budget. 

The Budget Commission never caught that until they were told by the town’s auditors (since resigned) that they had overspent by about three million dollars. For the first half of this year, all the responsible parties – Budget Commission, Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz, etc. - tried to point the blame away from themselves. 

In a strange attempt to rescue the Budget Commission’s honor, Platner tried to apply Ruth’s New Math to explain that losing track of $3 million was no big deal. According to her, it’s like parking your car in a different place. The money wasn’t “lost” per se. However it was forgotten for almost two years – that’s the “oopsie.” 

This “oopsie” and Platner’s shady land deals make many Charlestown voters leery of the CCA claim that they know how to manage the town’s money. 

Platner seems to think her push for more land purchases can somehow paper over these issues, but the CCA’s 12-year history of shady deals, lies and cronyism are the real issues Charlestown voters should address at the polls.

By the way, if you want to see for yourself how much of Charlestown is ALREADY open space, here's an official town map that was published just months ago in Ruth Platner's own town Comprehensive Plan.

Bring the hammer down


Happy Halloween


Wild and Scenic Community Grants

Applications due December 29, 2022

Wild and Scenic Community Grants are now available!

Top values of the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers include land acquisition or management activities, free flowing rivers, water quality, ecosystems, hydrology/geology, cultural and scenic/recreation.

Grant awards up to $4,000 are available and applications are due December 29th, 2022.

Eligible applicants include non-profits, municipalities, educators and others. 

Eligible locations are within the watershed towns, including Exeter, Charlestown, Hopkinton, North Kingstown, Richmond, South Kingstown, West Greenwich and Westerly in Rhode Island, North Stonington, Sterling, Stonington and Voluntown in Connecticut.

For the application and program description, visit

For further information, or to connect with a representative appointed to the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Stewardship Council, contact Coordinator Kassi Donnelly at . 

Feel free to forward this message and spread the interest


Why are so many people delighted by disgusting things?

Bradley J. IrishArizona State University

In what’s called ‘benign masochism,’ some people
find the feeling of disgust pleasurable. 
Ocskaymark/iStock via Getty Images.
Halloween is a time to embrace all that is disgusting, from bloody slasher films to haunted houses full of fake guts and gore.

But the attraction to stuff that grosses us out goes beyond this annual holiday.

Flip through TV channels and you’ll come across “adventurous eating” programs, in which hosts and contestants are served all manner of stomach-clenching foods; reality shows that take a deep dive into the work of pimple-popping dermatologists; and gross-out comedies that deploy tasteless humor – think vomiting and urination – to make viewers laugh.

You can see this in other forms of media, as well. In romance novels, for example, you can find portrayals of consensual sibling incest that are designed to titillate the reader. And, most extreme of all, there are internet shock sites that host real footage of death and dismemberment for those who want to seek it out.

It isn’t just a recent media phenomenon, either. Early modern England has a similar culture of disgust, which I’ve written about in a forthcoming book.

Why are so many people drawn to things that should, by all rights, compel them to turn away in horror? Modern science has an answer, and it has everything to do with how the emotion of disgust fundamentally works.

How unhealthy is red meat?

A new rating system could help you cut through the health guidelines

Aleksandr AravkinUniversity of WashingtonChristian RazoUniversity of Washington, and Jeffrey StanawayUniversity of Washington

The new rating system shows that eating the right
amount of vegetables can lower your risk
of heart disease by nearly 20%. Westend61/Getty Images

We developed a new method for assessing health risks that our research suggests should make it a lot easier for people to determine which health advice to follow – and which to ignore. 

The approach, recently published in the journal Nature Medicine, offers a straightforward way for both policymakers and the general public to assess the strength of evidence for a given health risk – like consuming red meat – and the corresponding outcome – ischemic heart disease – using a rating system of one to five stars.

The system we developed is based on several systematic reviews of studies regarding risk factors like smoking and health outcomes such as lung cancer. Well-established relationships between risks and outcomes score between three and five stars, whereas cases in which research evidence is lacking or contradictory garner one to two stars.

In our analysis, only eight of the 180 pairs that we analyzed received the top rating of five stars, indicating very strong evidence of association. The relationship between smoking and lung cancer, as well as the relationship between high systolic blood pressure – the higher of the two numbers in a blood pressure reading – and ischemic heart disease were among those eight five-star pairs.

This rating system enables consumers to easily identify how harmful or protective a behavior may be and how strong the evidence is for each risk-outcome pair. For instance, a consumer seeing a low star rating can use that knowledge to decide whether to shift a health habit or choice.

In addition, we created an online, publicly available visualization tool that displays 50 risk-outcome pairs that we discussed in five recently published papers in Nature Medicine.

While the visualization tool provides a nuanced understanding of risk across the range of blood pressures, the five-star rating signals that the overall evidence is very strong. As a result, this means that clear guidelines can be given on the importance of controlling blood pressure.