Highs and lows from last week

Highs and lows from last week



(LOW) Trying to help people who insist that they’re Right (and that their spouse, boss, parent, or even the “system” itself is Wrong) is a staple of the counseling business. Folks who take this attitude to the extreme are capable of some pretty harmful behavior. Part of the therapist’s job is to put things in perspective, temper the emotion, and have the client ask himself: In this instance, how important, really, is it to be “right”? Sometimes acceptance is the answer. In this spirit, we offer some free advice to the Westerly Town Council: In regard to the state’s $7,500 fine for the Water Department’s failure to warn customers, in a timely fashion, of a potentially unsafe pH problem, the best course of action would be to simply pay the fine. Yes, we know that the appeal does not involve the town’s lawyers, but time is money. And any more effort that the town manager and public works director put into this matter could more profitably be used on something else. A lesson has been learned. The town can communicate its concerns to the Department of Health in a non-adversarial manner. Let’s move on.

(HIGH) There was no ambiguity in the message that a Rhode Island coastal management official delivered to the Town Council last week: “There are no authorized mooring fields in the Town of Westerly.” Since every shoreline town in the state is required to have a harbor management plan, and everyone with a mooring will have to get a local permit, the harbor plan that the council is reviewing now is sure to have a major impact on the boating population in Westerly and beyond. “There’s a lot of concern, I hear it in the community,” Councilor Jean Gagnier said. The official, Kevin Cute, maintained that the Coastal Resources Management Council was not aiming to take away people’s moorings. But it stands to reason that the number of moorings is finite, and if the town follows the letter of state and federal law on public access, and sets up a new distribution system, there will be winners and losers. The only sure thing will be an ocean of red tape as the town inventories its moorings, brings everyone into the fold, and proceeds to establish a permit system. 

(LOW) The decision of members of the Ashaway Fire District to bail out the local ambulance service with a loan of up to $50,000 should be seen as only a temporary remedy to the painful head-butting between ambulance officials and the Hopkinton Town Council. The vote at a special meeting last week was not only lopsided — 40 to 3 — but the turnout itself was noteworthy. As Fire Chief Ronnie Sposato noted, “We never had 43 taxpayers at a meeting. Obviously the taxpayers care. The Town Council should take note of that, too.” Well, we think the Town Council has noticed, but its members are responsible to the whole town. It was only after an impasse over the ambulance service’s failure to provide requested financial and policy information that the councilors took a hard line and withheld grant money allocated over the past two years. Why has it been so hard for the leadership cadre of the Ashaway Ambulance Service — a number of them related to each other by blood or marriage — to grasp what they need to do? Why have they failed to meet the council’s conditions? The statements that we have reported, from Sposato and others, have seemed to focus on process and communications rather than substance. If there is a basis for a lawsuit, as the ambulance association’s attorney suggested, then he should sue. Perhaps the courts could shed some light on what’s really going on. 

(LOW) We were interested in a news item last week reporting that a lawmaker from Pawtucket, Rep. Carlos Tobon, was proposing a “Qualified Family Migration to Rhode Island Act” to boost the state’s population during the 2020 census. Families could get $10,000 for their year in the Ocean State. The goal would be to attract 30,000 families, and the qualification would be income of at least $100,000 per year, and a household of at least three. At stake is the state’s second congressional seat. We have two congressmen and 4 electoral votes. Less populated places, like Alaska, Vermont, and the states of the Northern Plains, have 3. Rhode Island is on the cusp of joining these rural outposts even though it ranks second, behind New Jersey, in population density. So … we’re less than two years away from the census. Does anyone seriously think we could game the Census Bureau in this short period of time? Even disregarding, for a moment, the possibility that a citizenship question could largely negate those 30,000 souls — where would we put them? In a barracks? The state’s housing shortage is well-documented. In its latest report, the Rhode Island Association of Realtors said there were 2,614 single-family home listings in February, down 15.6 percent from the same month in 2017, and 32 percent lower than February 2016. Some of those new Rhode Islanders would have to double up.


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