With the advent of YouTube and the 24/7 news cycle and the explosion of technology, there’s few things you can truly say you’ve never seen in your lifetime. On May 17, one of those things happened when the Charles W. Morgan, the 1841 wooden whaling ship that is the last of its kind, was towed gently out of its berth at the Mystic Seaport for the first time since 1941. The venerable ship, which once sailed the open ocean for years at a time in search of its gigantic ocean quarry, made its way to the deepwater port of New London to be fitted for a triumphant summer sail to historic New England ports. The initial leg of this voyage took years — decades, really — to come to fruition, and it was surely a majestic site to see the Morgan slip the bonds of the Mystic River and set a course down the coast. We were in awe, even though the truly unforgettable sight will come in June when the ship sails for Newport under full sail. Congratulations to everyone at the Seaport and beyond who had a hand in the restoration of one of this region’s treasures, no longer consigned to being a stationary living history museum.
Kudos to the Westerly Library board of trustees for considering a ban on smoking on the grounds of the library and Wilcox Park. There’s nothing that brings down the experience of visiting one of the truly inspiring public spaces in all of New England more than the sight of spent cigarette butts, or a cloud of secondhand smoke from a passerby. True, smoking is a personal choice, but when that choice infringes on the rights of others to enjoy public space, it is one we believe should be constricted to designated areas. Initially, library executive director only sought a 25-foot no-smoking zone around the library building, but with encouragement from the Department of Health she decided to seek a ban on smoking on the library and park campus. It makes perfect sense to us.
The Westerly Town Council last Monday completed its 4-year-long mission to severely limit street vendors’ activities in town, ostensibly on the grounds that the vendors posed a public-safety threat. The vendors and their supporters called the public-safety tack a bogus argument, and that the council wanted to squash competition with local businesses. Wisely, Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Konicki suggested reconsidering a compromise ordinance offered by Solicitor John Stockwell Payne that would have limited the number of street vendor licenses and the places where they could set up shop, but that suggestion was not heeded. In the end, the motion passed 4-2, and the street vendors relying on summer income are scrambling to figure out how they will make a living in the coming months. Instead of heated debate and charges and countercharges, we would have liked to have seen it play out differently. The vendors have their place in the town’s business landscape, and always have, especially in Misquamicut. With lawsuits expected to be filed, it’s a pretty sure bet we haven’t heard the last word on this issue.
The Hopkinton Town Council recently approved a resolution calling for a referendum on whether the Chariho School Committee should be able to move children to schools outside of their communities as a matter of policy. We wholeheartedly endorse this effort and believe that children should be schooled in their own communities and not endure getting bused far away from their homes. Certainly, modern financial realities make this a tough question. With ever-increasing demands on school budgets and aging school buildings, it’s understandable to plug enrollment into a spreadsheet and see where some fat can be trimmed. But our children deserve better than being treated like numbers, and the cost savings would pale in comparison to the barriers it would throw up to learning. Letting the voters decide seems like the best approach.