Letters to the Editor, October 5, 2013
To The Editor:
One of our Block Island mythologies has left me feeling hollow and disgusted. The particular myth is that our community is wrapped in a close knit spirit of kinship, that when our world veers toward excess, the common sense of fair-minded islanders will reveal itself and help set us back on course. Recent events in Town Council have put the lie to a good deal of that.
Consider that when a standing-room-only crowd appeared at a council meeting a few weeks ago to voice unwavering support for the service record of the Town Manager, the Councilman who had evaluated her most harshly was heard to observe the next day “I won’t be swayed by the mob.” At the most recent council work session at which the goals and objectives for a three-month evaluation of the Manager’s performance were discussed, the same councilman announced that he viewed the evaluation as a process “... leading to the transition to a new Town Manager.” At the same work session, the “I accuse” tone of the attacks by a second councilman intensified, and when the manager repeatedly attempted to clarify policy as well as her record, the councilman’s angry response was “...you simply want to pick a fight on every issue.”
How did the island get to the point where political process and decency have been hijacked by a culture of vendetta? There is plenty of blame to go around.
It belongs, in part, with the council itself. Lacking recognizable structure beyond an agenda, council meetings and (especially) work sessions often degenerate into a kind of shoot-from-the-lip free-form happening. When behavior or comments transgress propriety, other councilors mostly remain mute. Similarly, when a councilman insists on addressing the council for support of a grant application from which that councilman will derive income — a blatant violation of Rhode Island Ethics Commission regulations — he remains unchallenged by colleagues. When wrong-headed observations could easily be corrected from institutional memory, councilors seem hesitant to set the record straight. Perhaps, fellow voters, we should wonder if vitriol has influenced some councilors to pull back, or to just give up.
An equal share of blame for not setting the record straight belongs with The Block Island Times. This newspaper (and here I am criticizing an institution which on many fronts deserves abiding respect) has let its readers down, and thereby inadvertently lulled them into thinking that government is grinding along more or less normally. The fundamental problem is the discrepancy between the real meetings and the way they are reported. To date, council reportage is nearly devoid of nuance and elan. Virtually none of the disrespect shown the Manager, nor her critics’ inconsistencies of outlook and behavior find their way into print. When a Councilor proposes converting the town manager position into a part-time job, or (on another occasion) cutting all town employees work and pay by 5 percent, those assertions do not receive journalistic prominence. Why? Do we seem disinterested in the whole story? Are we unable to handle a full accounting — warts and all?
In the end, of course, the blame for lack of vigilance comes right back to us, the taxpayers and voters. No doubt that’s why attendance at recent Council meetings and work sessions has been abysmal. It is sorrowful to have to conclude that perhaps we’ve finally got the governance we deserve...
End of the Laneway
Corn Neck Road
To the Editor:
Things are sure going at a slow pace now. Within a few weeks and following Columbus Day weekend it will be shut-down city. We certainly hope the love of the island will continue into winter, drawing individuals here to see and enjoy this wonderful place year ‘round.
The memories of the last boat leaving on Labor Day and moonbeams from the hardy breakwater pants-droppers, are sort of slipping away. But wait a minute, you can go to any Town Council meeting and still get moonshots from at least three councilman at any moment, (a characterization of the contempt they have for the townspeople). Not a lovely sight by any means — and don’t sit in the front row. What a disappointment and embarrassment to the town, Chris, Ken and Sean, and I voted for one of them, (not him) — does that sound familiar?
Now the Hysterical, excuse me, Historical Commission [the Historic District Commission] is rounding up all the sign felons giving Mr. [Marc] Tillson [Town Building Official] something better to do, writing violations for all these terrible banners — Homemade Ice Cream, Lunch Special Today, 50% Off— but not for all, but just a chosen few. Okay, maybe the ones in front of the well at the Post Office are trashy, but for the rest, come on, they are not neon signs. Yet the Surf Hotel has banners every day, almost all year, and not a mention. I am not complaining, these banners don’t bother me. But what about, “None for some and all for some?” I think it is time for Claire, Billy and Mike to say “goodbye, farewell and we know you have had enough of us.”
The Surf has a lovely seaside bar now, canopy, plastic wind deflectors with full enclosure — and I love it. We spend many an afternoon there with me sipping tea or Coke. The HDC flipped that through without hesitation — oh, yes, they are now in violation of the east porch awning, but that’s nothing. The Old Island Pub, The Oar, McGovern’s Yellow Kittens — all are canvassed-covered, but the Springhouse Hotel has had its application denied two times. As they say down at the Liar’s Bench at the Old Harbor, “Go figure.”
The Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Council are struggling to hold together. A poll of members shows great divides within, many expressing a desire to see both directors resign as businesses small and large threaten to withdraw.
I have been a self-appointed public advocate for quite some time, bringing public complaints to both the Town Council and the HDC. Never have I had the support of either the Chamber of Commerce or the Tourism Council, yet these very entities should be the very ones that initiate all this. The directors sit idly by self-serving themselves with high salaries and do absolutely nothing for the greater business population.
The Block Island Times caters to both for advertising, pamphlets, and tourism supplements. Here again, they too should be playing a role as public advocate rather than taking sides such as Deepwater and Block Island Power and slanting the editorials. A conclusion is finally being drawn here that business might just be better off without the Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Council and The Block Island Times.
Beacon Hollow Farm
To the Editor:
As another busy summer passes and, like many others in the trades class, I have time to stop and think of what helped me through the busy seven-days-a-week work stretch.
To the crews at The Depot, Block Island Grocery and Rebecca’s, your breakfast and lunch sandwiches were great and the coffee was hot and always ready to go.
When it was my night to make dinner and I was late, or just too tired to do it, the crew at the Poor People’s Pub, The Oar or the Beachead always found us a table for a great meal. You guys are the best and you made my busy summer another great one, thanks.
Rodman Pond Road
To the Editor:
The Block Island Boy Scout Troop 30 would like to thank the Lions Club for their generous support this summer that enabled the Scouts to attend a week at Camp Yawgoog. This is the second summer that our Scouts have gone to camp as a Troop.
This summer they earned Merit Badges in First Aid and Emergency Preparedness, which brings them closer to their ultimate goal of achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. They also received Merit Badges in kayaking, hiked beautiful trails, learned knot-tying and fire-making skills, played water polo, and more.
The Block Island Scouts are active in their own fundraising (Boy Scout Car Wash this Sunday!) which pays for their mainland camping trips and winter activities. Last winter they went to a rock climbing gym where they also earned Merit Badges.
The Lions Club donation provided much needed funds that made it possible for every boy who wanted to attend camp be able to do so.
Thank you again for your support.
Bernadette McNerney and Eileen Miller
To the Editor:
I’ve previously observed that “it was Deepwater’s own deception and inconsistencies that paved the way to their downfall” (not to win infrastructure easements from the Town of Narragansett), second, a promise to the residents of Narragansett that we will continue our vigilance of Deepwater and, third, a warning to Deepwater “don’t be secretive any more”.
It took them only one month to attempt another secretive procedure — this time at the state level. On Sept. 22, the State Properties Committee announced an agenda that would have included a seemingly innocuous item to consider an offshore wind project, obviously an alternative proposal for Deepwater’s power cable to make landfall now at Scarborough Beach. That meeting was eventually canceled.
This new scheme, little as we know about it, is outrageous in its proposed alignment and in Deepwater’s failure to release their new plans first to the public via a revised Environmental Report. Deepwater used precisely the same tactic one year ago by negotiating first with Narragansett officials for several months privately before releasing their original Report. A revised Report must be released and scrutinized by the public before any negotiations between Deepwater and state agencies are scheduled, or have an appearance of having been discussed. An exact repeat of this tactic at the state level goes beyond the pale.
There are officials in state government who should, actually must, realize that this deception was a major factor in the Narragansett Town Council’s unanimous rejection of Deepwater’s arrogant proposal one month ago. The other aspect of the proposal that helped defeat it will become apparent soon to state authorities as they examine the outrageous profits Deepwater and its backer, D. E. Shaw, will receive through the generosity of all electricity ratepayers in Rhode Island. Transparency is the key ingredient needed here.
To the Editor:
Last week, after exhausting all other sources — including the Interstate offices on both sides, the trunk of my friend’s car in Galilee, the Bulletin Board and every single place I’d been by phone and in person since purchasing two pair of shoes I hadn’t realized lost until I got home two weeks ago — I put an ad in The Block Island Times classifieds. Everyone isn’t on Bulletin Board and perhaps someone had inadvertently picked them up at one of the ferry terminals. It surprised me the first time I heard that people comb those ads, a relatively inexpensive way to reach a lot of readers, but they do.
The paper came over on the Friday boat and soon thereafter I got a call from Tom at Interstate: “I have your shoes!” I had been optimistic but didn’t think one of the first people who reads the paper would know where they were. Later in the day, Trish also called to be sure I knew they were there.
Thanks to Interstate for holding on to them for a couple of weeks (that no one there knew they had them the first time I asked is unimportant, such things happen), especially to Tom for recognizing them in the ad.
No longer barefoot on Mansion Road.