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Monday, February 19, 2024

Has the Charlestown Citizens Alliance run out of out-of-state donors?

CCA makes unusual pitch for early campaign cash

By Will Collette 

Since 2008, in every Charlestown municipal election, we’ve seen the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) raise huge amounts of cash from absentee property owners usually in the last few months before election day. 

It’s generally very quiet and last minute, often so late in the campaign that these cash gifts don’t get reported to the RI Board of Elections until after the election is over. 

During the campaign itself, the CCA blitzes the town and the letters to the editor page of the Westerly Sun with extraordinary claims about various threats (sometimes imaginary) as well as remarkable achievements unsubstantiated by evidence that testify to the joy and happiness the CCA bestows on Charlestown.  

And in contrast, the CCA casts all those who doubt their sacred mission as being in the pockets of developers. To try to forestall criticism of their smears against their opponents, CCA leader and Planning Commissar Ruth Platner penned a letter to the Westerly Sun to claim she had never, ever said town council members of “being on the take.” 

Like Tucker Carlson, says Platner, she’s just “questioning” Town Council decisions. So much for her non-apology apology. Further, she says she will not be bullied into letting up on her “questions.”  

Not that Ruth would ever bully anyone who crosses her, such as political opponents, town staff who don’t do her bidding, commission members who don’t toe the CCA line, applicants for zoning permits or even her own fellow CCAers who may, on occasion, vote their conscience, rather than the CCA party line, as current CCA councilor Susan Cooper did once (and only once).  

Until 2022, the CCA’s election routine was enough to keep the CCA in control of the entirety of Charlestown’s municipal government. In 2022, the CCA got its ass whupped by Charlestown Residents United (CRU). That apparently has caused the secretive CCA Steering Committee to change tactics. 

That seems to have changed based on a posting on the CCA blog where with 9 months left before the November 5 general election, the CCA has posted a broad appeal for money, seeking to add to their already formidable treasury of almost $12,000 according to their most recent campaign finance report.  

As usual, their pitch includes their usual casual treatment of the truth. To provide some truth in advertising, I have re-printed most of the CCA’s sales pitch but included some commentary and fact-checking in bold red. 

Here’s the CCA pitch: Your Donation Works To Protect Charlestown’s Rural Character, Environment, Economy, Tax Rate, and Future

SteeringCommittee /Charlestown Rhode IslandMailbox 0 Comments 

This fall, Charlestown voters will elect the individuals who serve on Town Council and our Planning Commission. 

For 17 years the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) has been dedicated to electing individuals who will work to protect those assets that make Charlestown such a unique and treasured place to live.  

Actually, it’s only been 16 years since the CCA registered as a Political Action Committee on March 10, 2008. The CCA was formed to oust then Charlestown Town Council President Jim Mageau from office. 

Initially, they tried to operate as an unincorporated association, but a complaint to the RI Board of Elections forced them to register as a PAC, given their explicit political purpose. None of the CCA leaders who signed the registration form still live in Charlestown. 

The CCA's priorities: We ask for your help in electing leaders who will protect Charlestown’s rural character, environment, economy, tax rate, and future. 

There are a few problems with this list of priorities. 

First, there is no definition of “rural character” so it’s basically whatever CCA leader and Planning Commissar Platner says it is. That translates into minimal housing, minimal kids, minimal services, minimal roads, minimal growth.  

Second, the CCA is only interested in local conservation, not broader issues of the environment like climate change, hazardous waste, or renewable energy. CCA-style conservation is not the typical flora and fauna concerns of common folks. Rather, it is theconservation” of wealthy donors’ financial assets by enacting policies that minimize, to the greatest extent possible, the need to fund public services requisite to a vibrant community. 

Third, the CCA has no interest in Charlestown’s economy except for tourism. They are hostile to small business and actually impeded tourism by making it hard for tourism workers to live or travel to Charlestown, determined we will remain the only Rhode Island municipality other than Block Island with no link to public transportation. 

Fourth, as usual, the CCA only wants to talk about the tax RATE, but not about taxes, especially fair taxation, as a whole. Charlestown taxes are far from fair due to a decade of corrupt favoritism practiced by the CCA during its 10 years of total control of town government. Details HERE. 

If they REALLY want to talk about tax rates, well try this fact on: Right after CRU kicked the CCA out of control of the Council, the tax RATE dropped from $8.17 to only $5.74. Of course, property assessments drove the rate, as is the case every year, but the CCA no longer can boast about rates without dealing with this fact.

Charlestown, circa 1914 (EBay)
Fifth, the CCA’s vision of the future, distilled in the Comprehensive Plan authored by Ruth Platner, is to try to freeze Charlestown in some imaginary past, a time without roads, before the Narragansetts won recognition as a Tribe, and new affordable housing meant some Swamp Yankee building a shack. 

The CCA continues: Good government depends on an informed electorate who want facts and detailed information. Through its website, newsletter, and social media, CCA notifies the public and explains in-depth the issues of importance to Charlestown. During the election period, CCA also prints and mails this essential information to voters. 

The CCA is not so dedicated to allowing that “informed electorate” to gain access to public records, using tricks like broad use of loopholes in disclosure laws, high fees and blacking out whole sections of key documents. 

They directed their longtime henchman, ex-Town Administrator Mark “Stonewall” Stankiewicz to enforce an information blackout, especially on shady CCA land deals. Prime example HERE. 

The CCA continues: Good government depends also on excellent leaders who will work hard. CCA supports individuals for office who will protect our environment and preserve our natural resources—the foundation of our tourist economy and critical to maintaining a low tax rate. 

They’re repeating themselves, perhaps lacking any other substantive points. Over the years, the CCA has gotten voters to elect such “excellent leaders” as Uncle Fluffy Tom Gentz, Deputy Dan Slattery, Bonnita Van Slyke, Ruth Platner and others from their inner circle. They’ve also given us a broad cast of characters who have their own agendas or whose main talent was following orders from the secretive CCA “Steering Committee.” 

The CCA continues: Charlestown Citizens Alliance is proud to be supported by the citizens of Charlestown and those who love our town. We are an all-volunteer organization entirely dependent on contributions from individuals. Please join those who have already given by making a contribution of any amount. 

If you would like to contribute to CCA, you have the choice of an online donation via PayPal, or you can send us a check using postal mail. 

Note the shifty language they add: “…and those who love our town.” That’s their cover for the CCA’s major reliance on money from non-residents to run the CCA’s campaigns. Through their payments to the CCA, these absentee property owners buy the CCA’s stance against things absentee property owners oppose such as Chariho school funding, affordable housing, a homestead tax credit for permanent residents and beach access.