CHARLESTOWN — The political winds are picking up in Charlestown, where residents have formed a new group to challenge the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, whose members hold all five seats on the Town Council.
Charlestown Residents United Chairman Damon Hamilton and others in the nascent political action committee say they want to bring inclusion, fairness and transparency to Town Hall — qualities they charge have been in short supply under CCA leadership.
“We’re in the next phase of coming out and trying to attract candidates,” Hamilton said. “We want to attract and support candidates that are willing to listen to all the residents of Charlestown, not just a few.”
The organization has its roots in a 2015 ballot advocacy group pushing for successful passage of a $1 million recreation bond for the Ninigret Park master plan.
The bond campaign was in reaction to what CRU said was the Town Council’s refusal to include a recreation component in the open space bond the council proposed. Residents ultimately asked the recreation bond group to form a PAC to attract candidates for local office.
So far, CRU member Timothy Quillen has said he’s considering a run for Town Council.
Quillen was chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission until he and four others resigned in December, right before councilors voted to reduce the size of the board from 13 to 9.
“Damon and myself, we built the dog park, the recreation pavilion,” Quillen said. “And (the council) slowly got rid of every person that I had … and then reduced the size of the commission.”
Former Town Council President Deborah Carney also is aligned with the group. She’s been a vocal critic of the recreation board cuts and other actions by the council that have riled members of CRU.
Early this year, when councilman and CCA member Stephen Williams abruptly resigned, many residents, including several CRU members, said the council should appoint Robert Malin to fill the seat. Malin, a Democrat, had received the most votes after the five CCA members elected to the council. Appointing him would be the “will of the voters,” supporters argued.
“There were nine people that got up and spoke in favor of Robert Malin,” Carney said.
The council instead chose George Tremblay. Council members said they went with Tremblay in large part because of his prior experience on the council. Tremblay was elected to the council in 2012 on the endorsement of the CCA.
Then in May, the council put three residents on the Charter Revision Advisory Committee, despite having the ability to fill all seven seats with applicants.
“How is it not one of them could throw out even a fourth or fifth name,” Carney said.
Tremblay defended the move.
“The council appoints applicants whose values align with the values of those that got it elected,” Tremblay said in a letter to the editor. “It would be hypocritical (and stupid) to do otherwise, and a dereliction of duty.”
But Carney said Tremblay’s only criteria for nominating the committee members was that “he knew them, and didn’t know the others as well,” she said.
The CCA says its members are Democrats, Republicans, moderates and independents. The group swept the Town Council in the 2016 election, and won four Planning Commission seats, as well as a seat on the Chariho School Committee.
“Good government requires an informed electorate,” CCA states on its website. “To that end, Charlestown Citizens Alliance will endorse and support qualified elected officers who endorse our group’s five major issues — responsive, open government, preserving the natural environment, responsible development, anti-casino gambling in Charlestown and fiscal responsibility.”
CRU’s members, currently about 20 residents, say the town’s leaders have strayed from that pledge. They’re eyeing the June 27 deadline for candidates to file to run for office, and hope to attract more potential alternatives to the status quo.