There are several issues to address and perhaps, lessons to be learned, from the Charlestown Whalerock land saga. This letter focuses on one of the issues. Whether you agree or disagree with the Charlestown Town Council’s decision to go ahead with the $2.1 million purchase, the issue for me is that that is one heck of a lot of money for a Town Council to be able to spend on anything without the approval of the voters.
The “Open Space/Recreation” bond authority passed by the voters several years ago was just too vague. The money could have been used to fund anything from Whalerock to the beach pavilions to development of almost any undefined facilities at Ninigret Park. And the decision could have been made by the Town Council without a voter referendum. Let your mind wander and I think you could come up with some pretty bizarre things that could legally fall under “Open Space/Recreation.” Could the council have decided to build a bingo parlor? That’s “recreation.”
The lesson learned, I hope, is that we should have no more open-ended bond authorizations. Before Charlestown votes on a bond issue, the voters should know very specifically what the money will be used to fund.