Highs and lows from last week

Highs and lows from last week

The Westerly Sun

(HIGH) Congratulations are in order for Anna LaCroix of Richmond, winner of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Women’s History Month essay contest, who will be sworn in on April 26 as Rhode Island’s 2018 Governor for a Day. The governor created the event four years ago for fifth- to eighth-grade girls as a way of exposing young girls “to the significance of public service.” Anna, 14, a Chariho Middle School student, received the call last week from Raimondo, and no one was more surprised at the news than her parents, who hadn’t known she had submitted an essay. Here’s how she started out: “If I was the governor of Rhode Island for a day I would help eliminate the rates of sexual assault, change the gun regulation, and help close the gap of inequality in the workplace.” Those are weighty topics, and her essay was notable for the specificity of its proposals, such as modifying college-level programs on sexual assault prevention for presentation to students as young as 12. She also called for tighter background checks for gun ownership, and for better enforcement of existing state law requiring equal pay for equal work, “to make sure that every person has the same opportunity to succeed in the workplace.” Anna LaCroix has taken her place among a generation of young women who are already making a difference in our society, and we hope she enjoys and benefits from her day of shadowing the governor.   

(HIGH) On June 20, at the annual meeting of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, Malcolm A. “Mal” Makin will receive the chamber’s highest honor as its Citizen of the Year. Makin, who lives in Charlestown, is the founder and president of the Westerly wealth management firm Professional Planning Group, which he founded in 1976. The announcement by chamber officials caught him by surprise, as it was delivered — fittingly enough — at the local YMCA’s annual Victory Celebration this month. For many years, Makin has been been at the core of a sizable group of community benefactors who have contributed substantially to the quality of life here. The hospital, the library, the ice rink, Chariho’s Community 2000 Education Association, and other organizations have benefited from his support. But he is most prominently associated with the Ocean Community YMCA. For the past four years he has chaired the YMCA Annual Campaign, which raises money to provide financial assistance so that children, adults and families can take part in Y camps and activities. This year the goal was $487,000, and the campaign concluded with $530,000. Makin recently completed a two-year term as president of the YMCA association board, a period when the Y finished its $8.4 million renovation in Westerly, for which he was a major donor. This is a record of achievement and the very essence of “giving back.”

(HIGH) As readers may have noticed, The Sun devotes a fair amount of attention to our local towns’ budget deliberations. Some may feel their eyes glaze over at times as we try — with varying degrees of success — to break down the numbers, sort out the jargon, and follow the ebb and flow of debate at town council, finance board, and school committee meetings. We’ve been doing this for a long time, so we can say with some confidence that the drama connected with the 2018-19 proceedings, at least so far, has not risen to the level of the past several years. It could be that taxpayers are feeling better off. Or it’s a sign of resignation, or lack of interest. The Chariho Regional School District’s budget passed easily in all three towns last Tuesday (with a total turnout of 790 voters). Budgets in Stonington and North Stonington seem to be proceeding toward town meetings in a businesslike fashion. Charlestown, which has one of the lowest property tax rates in the state ($9.59 per $1,000), is looking at an increase of less than half a percent. Westerly, which boasts the fifth-highest Grand List in Rhode Island, should come in south of $12 per $1,000 of assessed value. It’s an enviable situation. Several town councilors in Westerly have said they’re willing to consider higher funding for the ambulance corps and armory, and adding the Westerly Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force to the list of grant recipients. The taxpayers can certainly afford it.  

(LOW) One of the great oddities of the 2016 general election in Westerly was the appearance on the ballot of 34 amendments to the Westerly Home Rule Charter — on top of eight bonding and constitutional measures from the state, and all the candidates for local and state offices, and the presidential electors. The sheer number of charter proposals and counterproposals was ridiculous then, and no less so today. And now a list of suggestions from town staff members that suggested undoing some of the 2016 amendments has reignited the controversy. We know that the citizens who served on the Charter Revision Commission were passionate about their work. They have a particular perspective, and lay claim to the “will of the people.” But we disagree that they should have had unfettered access to the ballot.


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