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Monday, December 26, 2022

Charlestown Chunks #14

Short news items for Progressive Charlestown readers

By Will Collette 

Gavle Goat not burning but the Charlestown bonfire will 

As of this writing, the famed Gavle Goat of Sweden, an enormous 43 feet tall straw goat, has made it to Christmas without being torched by vandals for sport as often is. The town of Gavle changed its location this year and photos seem to show it surrounded by poisoned-tipped steel poles (I’m kidding about the poison). 

Gavle Goat 2022. Note the spikes
By contrast, the giant sculpture made of wooden pallets in Ninigret Park by renowned local fire artist Frank Glista is ready to be torched at sundown on December 31st

The New Year’s Eve bonfire is always great fun. 

The Plague 

What’s not fun are the rising number of COVID, flu and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases in Rhode Island. We no longer get daily numbers from the state, and those numbers don’t include the majority of cases that are picked up by home test kits.  

Our official community infection rate is back up to 168 per 100,000 but is probably a lot larger. Eight people died – probably unnecessarily – from COVID last week. Why did they die unnecessarily? First, masking is now rare but worse, our vaccination rate for the newest bi-valent booster is a miserable 22.7%. 

22.7%? WTF?

For most people who have been vaccinated earlier, your immunity has been steadily wearing off, plus COVID has spawned new, more aggressive variants. It’s a national problem: most Americans simply don’t have peak COVID protection anymore. Masking and making sure you have the latest shots are the ways to protect your life and your family. 

The Biden Administration is once again offering free at-home COVID test kits. I ordered them and they arrived within days. Order them at or call 1-800-232-0233.

Flu cases for 2022-3 are far higher and much earlier than the past three years. All in all, a very unhealthy environment for the old, the immune-compromised and children. Please mask up and get your shots. 

Charlestown needs more EMTs and firefighters

These are the brave men and women who protect us all, but there aren’t enough of them. So step up if you can. 

But DO NOT follow the example of Charlestown’s Ryan Manning. He was being discharged from South County Hospital but apparently didn’t have a way to get home. First, he tried to steal (“allegedly”) a security guard’s phone. Then, “allegedly,” he tried to steal a car from the hospital parking lot.  

When neither of those “alleged” efforts worked, Manning “allegedly” spotted an unattended, unlocked, engine-running rescue ambulance and took off in the direction of Providence. He was eventually busted when he was caught on foot near I-95 and Route 10 where he abandoned the ambulance. 

He was charged this week with driving without consent of the owner or lessee, possession of a stolen vehicle, tampering with a vehicle, and larceny.

Bill Seymour’s great article on Manning’s big adventure appears in the Independent.  

Funding for Charlestown?

There is a $16 million pot of money that Charlestown may be able to tap under the Municipal Resilience Program, administered by RI Infrastructure Bank (RIIB) to help local communities restore and improve resiliency of vulnerable coastal habitats, river and stream floodplains, and infrastructure. 

Charlestown would have to compete with other municipalities for funding for “shovel-ready infrastructure projects. One of Charlestown’s lead project ideas is doing some work on Charlestown Beach Road. The town’s Climate Resilience Commission has been tasked with coming up with a cost-benefit analysis and options for action. 

Nuclear waste 25 miles down the road

This graphic shows the radiation plume if New London/Groton
got nuked. A major disaster at Millstone would generate
a radioactive cloud that would follow the same track
I have been neglecting coverage of the Millstone Nuclear Power plant, just 25 miles upwind from Charlestown on the other side of New London in Waterford, CT.  

This troubled plant, run by Virginia-based Dominion Power, is one of the last operating nuclear plants in New England. 

The main  reactor, Unit 2, has been on-line for nearly 50 years, and in the course of time, has accumulated approximately 4 million pounds of high-level radioactive waste with no place to put it except right on site. 

On December 20, Assistant Energy Secretary and head of the Office of Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff visited Waterford to talk with local officials. The Biden Administration supports the continued operation of nuclear facilities for the carbon-free energy it produces, despite the massive unresolved problem of radioactive waste.

The New London Day noted: 

Earlier this year, the Southeastern Connecticut Governments sent a letter to the Department of Energy in support of “a consent-based siting process to establish interim storage sites, and hopefully an eventual final disposal site,” to allow “the relocation of spent nuclear fuel from reactor sites,” such as Millstone.

All previous federal efforts to create a national repository for nuclear waste have failed. The one operating trial site, called WIPP, had to serious safety problems including fires and major leaks. The new federal approach is to bribe communities to accept a “consent-based siting process” that, given our history with hazardous waste, will mean radioactive waste sites will go into poor communities comprised mostly of people of color.  

The Day described this new approach: 

The Department of Energy announced in September a $16 million funding opportunity “to provide resources to communities interested in learning more about consent-based siting, management of spent nuclear fuel, and interim storage facility siting consideration,” according to a news release from the Department of Energy. 

While most people think of nuclear disasters in terms of the 1986 Chernobyl reactor meltdown, the other extreme hazard is an accident in the piles of on-site nuclear waste. 

This is what happened in Japan at the Fukushima nuclear plant when an earthquake in 2011 generated a tsunami that breached the containment ponds on site.  

Radiation at both Chernobyl and Fukushima spread over great distances. We are only 25 miles and downwind from Millstone. 

Fire in the radioactive waste at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan

Charlestown’s civic engagement

Crunching the voter turn-out numbers for the November 8 general election showed Charlestown voter turn-out at 58%, the highest in the state. The lowest turnout was in Central Falls with only 18%. 

Charlestown voters had a lot of reasons to turn-out with a red-hot Congressional District 2 contest where Seth Magaziner went on to beat Allan Fung. Charlestown favored Seth by 5.4%. 

All the state general offices were contested and ended up being swept by Democrats. Charlestown voted for the winning Democrats in all offices except General Treasurer where the town voters favored Republican James Lathrop over former Central Falls mayor James Diossa by 2.5%. 

Turn-out translated into big wins for Tina and Victoria who flipped a House and Senate seat from Republican to Democratic

Charlestown voted for our new state Representative Tina Spears and state Senator Victoria Gu by wide margins (16.3% for Tina and 17.8% for Victoria from Charlestown voters). Charlestown once again supported three-time challenger, Charlestown’s Jennifer Douglas, by 0.8% over right-wing nut state Senator Elaine Morgan. Unfortunately, Morgan's vote margins in the other towns in the district led to Jennifer's third defeat.

Also boosting turn-out was the contested Town Council race that pitted long-time Charlestown bosses, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) against the insurgent bi-partisan Charlestown Residents United (CRU). The CRU team trounced the CCA ticket ending the CCA’s control over the Town Council that started in 2008.

Our new Town Council majority from the Charlestown Residents United slate: (l-r) Deb Carney, Rippy Serra, Grace Klinger and Steve Stokes

Voter statistics for the 2022 election can be found HERE. 

Choo-choo confusion

As most Charlestown residents who have been following the on-going Amtrak controversy know, the Federal Rail Administration is committed to doing a traffic analysis with an eye toward improving service. The much-reviled Old Saybrook-Kenyon Bypass is NOT on the table. 

Similarly, Connecticut DOT is also doing a feasibility study and is considering adding Westerly as the end of the line for its expansion of Shore Line East.  That offers an additional option for local travel to New York City. However, it has stirred up fears and confusion that CTDOT might build a new train station in chic Stonington Borough. 

But apparently, that’s not going to happen, at least not in the Borough, though the much larger town of Stonington is definitely a possible site.  

Borough Warden Jeff Callahan told the New London Day “This is a matter of some confusion,” adding 

“There’s no place in the borough that you could fit a train station. The people who are involved in the study acknowledge that. Apparently, the problem is that whoever wrote the legislation that funded the study for the state, for some reason said the Borough of Stonington not Stonington, so they have to keep saying the Borough of Stonington, even though it’s pretty obvious it’s not a possibility.”

So, Charlestown isn’t the only place nervous about choo-choos.