I remain disturbed over the events of the past few weeks in town with one notable exception. The bond issue for open space and water protection passed through a town referendum. The negatives are: few people voted, and the settlement on the Copar situation seems a great disappointment. What many expected, especially after the comments of the legal boys we hired to protect our interests, has not turned out well. The potential threats to the environment and the neighbors remain.
In a recent Barron’s article, there was a commentary on future water shortages, not so severe here, but nationally and worldwide. Only 2½ percent of the world’s water is fresh and that amount has fallen 35 percent since 1970.
Population and demand have increased markedly. Aquifers have been drawn down and wetlands decimated.
Westerly is not immune from the threat of shortages We rely too much on one location for our wells and they have been contaminated in the past. Many see new threats with the blasting potentially affecting the flows into the aquifer and in air quality issues.
The big picture issues are where our leaders need to stand up on principle.
They are on infrastructure (material conditions of our roads, schools, and water supplies) and overall employment issues. The biggest drivers of our continuing budget dilemmas are mostly related to persistently rising personnel costs.
The demands of the unions are insatiable, and they have overwhelmingly powerful representation, leaving no flexibility to address our physical plant. Walter Lippmann may have summed it up best by saying “The justification of majority rule in politics is not to be found in its ethical superiority (or intellectual ).”
Priorities need to be set and adhered to. It is called fiscal discipline.
Our leaders are always susceptible to immediate pressures from various interests and they fail to address the big picture items. They squabble in minutia.
Look at our Comprehensive Plan, which was passed by the Town Council after a great effort to solicit input from all areas and sectors of the town. It was then approved by the state. The biggest issues were water quality, and character and integrity of the town. It was the vision and a road map and has been ignored by various boards.
Lastly, there are many things beyond our direct control. We can no longer ignore or simply accept this incompetence. Our state ranks last in virtually every measure of business health. The politics are TOXIC on all fronts. We need change and we need vision and adherence to goals we have set before us.
The writer is a member of the Westerly Finance Board and is a former Westerly town councilor.