“I no longer listen to what people say. I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies.”
— Winston Churchill
It’s unfortunate that locally elected officials must be held to these standards, but that was exactly the case at the Charlestown Town Council meeting on March 14 when the CCA members came out claiming they were defamed at a prior meeting by violating the Open Meetings Act. Councilors Clarkin and Van Slyke performed a Kabuki dance, replete with painted-on crocodile tears, but then made a call for more civil discourse. Maybe if they hadn’t been reading off scripts the packed crowd would have been more receptive. Maybe if they had looked into the eyes of the audience while speaking it would have been better received. Maybe if they had kept their promise of civil discourse, and the appearance they hadn’t already decided the issue, maybe taxpayers and voters would believe a word they said.
However, that wasn’t the case. Quickly after the council members had their say, Councilor Clarkin made the motion to change the order of business to move the item that people had gathered to discuss. Once discussion started, it was apparent that the CCA members’ actions prior to the meeting had been concerted, without full council involvement, and for political ends. They tacked so hard; most members of the crew had fallen overboard. Gone was their motion from the previous meeting to keep any event to “no more than three trucks,” replaced with an event schedule that would include eight trucks. Like magic, the CCA members’ concerns about garbage removal, parking, traffic control, and food trucks polluting the soil at the park had evaporated. The CCA had new messaging, “We all love food trucks (just not PVD Food Trucks)”.
Mr. Weiner of PVD Food Trucks pointed out the difficulty of finding vendors for dates to drive to events where crowds aren’t guaranteed and the current prohibitive transportation costs, whereas he has a stable who would make the trip since if they didn’t make a profit one day, he’d make sure they did at their next outing. He also pointed out that many of the dates proposed are already in conflict with several large events that will employ many popular food trucks. However, Councilor Van Slyke read him a host of hoops he’d have to jump through to continue the process. It was at that point Craig Marr of the Chamber of Commerce withdrew their support, and eventually Mr. Weiner withdrew his application.
Kim Colter summed it up nicely in her remarks, “You (the council) represent us all, not the CCA, not the CRU, all of us.” Well, three members of the council exhibited behavior at the meeting in direct contradiction to what they cried foul about earlier in the night. Maybe Frank Glista is correct in calling for residents to act at the voting booth in November. The rumble in the crowd certainly felt like change.
Thom Cahir Charlestown
This article appeared as a Letter To the Editor in The Westerly Sun on Match 18, 2022.