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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Town Indian fighter survives - for now

January 2023 Town Council Meeting Report

From the CRU 

Joe Larisa, the face of institutional racism in Charlestown,
gets another chance to show he's worth
$25,000+ a year. - Will Collette
The Town Council meeting on Monday, January 9, was fast-paced, relatively short, and covered quite a few topics. Council President Deb Carney demonstrated her skill with Robert's Rules of Order to work through the development of motions and discussion effectively and efficiently.

Last week, we published a preview of important agenda items here

This article summarizes what happened on the most significant agenda items. The agenda packet for the meeting is here.

Charter Revision Advisory Committee

The proposed ordinance amendment will make the Charter Revision Advisory Committee a standing committee rather than only meeting at the request of the Council, as it was prior to 2019. As ordinance changes work, this was proposed last month and the hearing on the change took place this month. This didn't take much time since there were no comments from the public and the change was adopted unanimously by the Council.

Climate Resiliency Commission

Another ordinance amendment proposed last month, for a hearing this month, was to add 2 members to the Climate Resiliency Commission. Again, no one spoke in opposition and the amendment passed unanimously.

Legislative Priorities

This was an agenda item requested by Representative Tina Spears. Representative Spears started discussion by suggesting four critical topic areas: 1) land use and zoning, 2) school funding with attention to transportation funds, 3) shoreline access, and 4) climate resiliency.

Council member Stokes mentioned low insurance billing rates for Emergency Medical Services in RI which are threatening the survival of ambulance/rescue services in rural areas. He also advocated for a Right to Repair law, motivated by farmers being restricted on working on equipment they own. Further, he mentioned the recent large increases in electric rates. EDITOR'S NOTE: John Steere conceded to demands from farmers by announcing on Jan. 9 that they will allow farmers to repair their own equipment, though there is some skepticism. - Will Collette

Council President Carney emphasized the issues of funding for school transportation, shoreline access, and affordable housing.

Representative Spears spoke of senior transportation as being an issue that came up during canvassing discussions. EDITOR'S NOTE: a link to RIPTA would be nice, maybe by having the Westerly and South Kingston buses make a larger loop by crossing (and stopping) on Route 1. - W. Collette

There was considerable discussion about poorly maintained state roads in Charlestown, many that may not be widely known as state roads, such as Sanctuary Road.

EDITOR'S NOTE: to this list, I would add reforms to eliminate fake fire districts by requiring an organization wishing that designation to show that a majority of its resources are being used to actually fight fires. - W. Collette

Assistant Solicitor for Indian Affairs

After a lengthy speech by Attorney Larisa about the importance of maintaining Town zoning and planning rules on tribal land and discussion by the Council, no action was taken on the relationship with Larisa. This means that the current retainer engagement continues at the moment. 

The Council will meet in executive session with Attorney Larisa on Tuesday, January 31, so he can fully explain to the Council what action he recommends regarding a federally proposed Rule Change regarding Native American Tribes.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For the many reasons why Larisa should be dropped by Charlestown, CLICK HERE. - W. Collette

Ordinance Revision Committee

The purpose of this proposal is to review Town ordinances for compliance with State law. The Town Clerk, Amy Weinreich, has looked at outside vendors that could handle that work with professionals experienced in doing that. Council President Carney suggested that in addition to reviewing compliance with state law, we should look at the relevance of ordinances that may be outdated. (The oft-stated illegality of throwing snowballs was mentioned.) The Council asked the Clerk to get more information about the professional review for discussion at the February Council meeting. The Council also voted to create an ad hoc review committee to review ordinances for relevance.

EDITOR'S NOTE: One ordinance that needs to be reviewed and either revised or repealed is Charlestown's virtual ban on installation of small wind to energy devices on residences and businesses. To read more about this ordinance and why is belongs on the priority list, CLICK HERE. If we're not going all in on green energy, what's the point of having a climate resiliency commission?  - W. Collette

Next Meeting

With the elimination of a formal agenda meeting, the Council has the flexibility to have a second Town Council meeting during months when the amount of business justifies it. This will, hopefully, mitigate the need for marathon meetings late into the night. This month the Town Council will hold a second meeting on Monday, January 23, 2023 at 7:00 PM in the Town Council Chambers at the Charlestown Town Hall.