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One letter-writer’s mea culpa ... of sorts


Thom Cahir responds to a Letter from Bonnie Van Slyke in The Westerly Sun.


Guilty as charged! I did indeed reference the Hayes case and Mr. Vanover’s own words about being “exhausted,” and how he changed his vote, according to Ms. Van Slyke’s letter of July 26 (“Personal attack on Vanover was dishonest”). However, I’m not sure how truthfully repeating someone’s words and multiple cases of the Zoning Board trigger Ms. Van Slyke to such a degree.


Maybe Ms. Van Slyke was more upset that I added that the Zoning Board hadn’t been guilty of running afoul of abusing the process previously. However, she failed to mention it in her letter because it didn’t fit her narrative. In the 2019 Bruce Gardner and Charles A. Sweet Revocable Trust case, Judge Taft-Carter wrote, “The decision of the Zoning Board of Review is affected by clear error of law, clearly erroneous in light of the evidence of this case, arbitrary and capricious, and characterized by abuse or unwarranted exercise of discretion.” Refer to WC-2019--0327 for full details.


Ms. Van Slyke and her Charlestown Citizens Alliance cohorts must be feeling particularly minimized and desperate right now. Why would they want to defend Mr. Vanover when he may have escaped being cited for his words, but the appearance led to this footnote in a filing: “Member Vanover could be praised for his candor. However, the message it sends to applicants and opponents appearing before the Zoning Board is stark: if you think your position is going down to defeat, keep the hearing going as long as possible, and maybe a board member will simply give up. That is not how zoning decisions should be made.”


This whole affair smacks of last year’s CCA disinformation campaign, charging plagiarism against opponents. When I wrote a response to The Sun calling for an audit of articles on their website because all the bylined articles resembled rewritten press releases, it was only a matter of days before many disappeared or were renamed “Steering Committee.” Guilty as charged.


It must be frustrating to have wielded power so ruthlessly and for so long with so little transparency and with no one to fact-check the gaslighting. I plead guilty to being Ms. Van Slyke’s worst nightmare since coming to town seven years ago, having experience as a political organizer and messaging expert.


Let’s face it, Ms. Van Slyke has lost standing in the town and is on video at a recent council meeting stating, “I don’t mean to be argumentative … well I do mean to argue.” If writing letters to The Sun is her only outlet, I’ll be here to fact-check her. I worked in a newsroom for years and still freelance for numerous outlets, so I’ll just consider it, my guilty pleasure.


Thom Cahir, Charlestown


This article was originally published as a Letter To the Editor in The Westerly Sun on July 31, 2023.

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