What does fair, representative, responsive, transparent, and ethical government look like to you? Does it include authority for a “majority” of a Town Council to block another Councilor from placing items for discussion or action on an agenda? Does it include authority to schedule regular council workshops during daytime business hours when the two “minority” party councilors could not attend without being forced to close their businesses early - instead of meeting in the early evening? Does it involve the adoption of minutes with the bare minimum of information so that if a resident wanted to really understand what took place at a meeting, he or she would be required to watch several hours of an online video? Does it involve the refusal to appoint members to a Charter Revision Commission, in opposition to the requirement of a town’s charter?
In November 2019, after the majority of councilors were exasperated by one recalcitrant councilor’s exaggerated review of minutes, the council switched to the current “bare bones” approach of recording minutes. If you read a set of minutes from 2018 vs. minutes today, they are light years apart. In October 2021, Councilors Carney and Klinger moved to return to the more detailed format. They were outvoted. What benefit derives from such a skeletal approach to recording our town’s discourse? The majority’s retort was that people could view videos! That’s some answer: make someone sit through a four-hour video, of sometimes questionable quality, instead of providing sufficient minutes that could be read in 10 minutes! I invite you to review Council minutes on the website from 2018 against minutes from 2022 to compare for yourself. From a robust recounting, we now have “discussion ensued.”
Since 2019, the majority has voted to remove Councilor Carney’s items from the upcoming Council agenda, including: Fund Balance Policy, adding electricity to a pavilion at Ninigret Park, fencing around basketball courts at Ninigret Park, the 2021 Fiscal Year audit, and a resolution in support of a mandatory review of the Home Rule Charter following the results of a town-wide survey. In all these instances, Councilor Carney’s constituents, who support such discussions, were deprived of fair representation in their local government. This is a blatant violation of Section 15-28 of the Town’s Charter, (and common decency) but the current majority doesn’t care- because they maintain control of the narrative.
The last time the Charlestown Charter Revision Commission met was on Oct. 22, 2018 (“real” minutes available on Secretary of State website). That means our citizenry has not been able to propose changes for fellow voters to consider for the past four years.
If all the foregoing exclusionary tactics appeal to you, then keep voting in the same special-interest cabal in Charlestown. If, however, you’re like me, and you are appalled by such reprehensible governmental conduct, then vote for the bi-partisan candidates running under Charlestown Residents United (CRU) banner: Deborah Carney, Grace Klinger, Richard “Rippy” Serra, Stephen Stokes, and Lorna Persson. Vote for clean, even-handed, responsive, and truly representative government.
Maggie Hogan, Charlestown
This article was published as a Letter To the Editor in The Westerly Sun on October 19.