(LOW) Some things are too predictable. Raise your hand if you were surprised that the Charlestown Town Council has come out in opposition to the radio antenna that the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency is planning to install at a site near Route 1 and Cross Mills Road. The 178-foot antenna would fill a “dead space” in the state’s post 9/11 emergency radio system, which is used by the police, fire departments, Coast Guard, and other emergency responders. How refreshing it would have been if the council had said, “Sure, we’re on board with that, and happy to do our part for Rhode Island.” But no: It would be an “eyesore,” and the town is registering its objection with the Federal Communications Commission. We hope that the FCC will give Charlestown’s letter the attention that it deserves.
(LOW) The dispute between the Town of Hopkinton and the Ashaway Ambulance Association has gone on too long. Cooler heads need to prevail lest Ashaway board member Ronnie Sposato’s dire warning comes true: That the council, by withholding needed funding, was endangering residents. “The fire district needs to step in, because you’re going to kill somebody,” he told the council, referring to a meeting the association has set up with the Ashaway Volunteer Fire District to cover the deficiency. The council has not acted on the association’s request for $50,000 in the upcoming budget, and has withheld $70,000 from previous grants, because the association has not complied with its request for information on various personnel, policy, and financial matters. One of the requests was for a nepotism policy, and it’s worth noting that Sposato is the brother of association President Jodi Perrin, who is married to the group’s treasurer, Eric Perrin. In addition, a $4,000 check, a legislative grant obtained by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, D- Hopkinton, was never deposited and remains unaccounted for. Ambulance corps officials have complained that the town was asking for information it had not requested of Hope Valley Ambulance, which has been approved for its $50,000 grant. Councilor Barbara Capalbo, an Ashaway resident, has offered to mediate. Let’s hope she can help clear the air.
(HIGH) Fear of “politics” seemed to be the guiding factor that turned the National School Walkout in this region into a relatively tame exercise. With a few exceptions outside our immediate area, school administrators put a lid on anti-gun violence sentiments, and the events at local high schools proceeded as heartfelt remembrances of the school massacre victims, with an emphasis on school security. One of the students we spoke with observed that the latest people to be gunned down had “passed away.” But it was not all euphemisms and waffling. In Stonington, student organizer Daisy Williams told her classmates that “the 17 that lost their lives on Feb. 14 died because of the gun violence entrenched in modern society. We are ready for a change.” And one of our most-read postings last week, from another Stonington student, Caroline Morehouse, pointed out that the Parkland, Fla., students who instigated the mass protests were not calling merely for school safety, but were demanding an assault weapons ban and other gun-control measures. Florida legislators listened and passed a limited gun control law on March 7. In her op-ed piece, Morehouse said the walkout had taught her a lesson: “Sometimes harmony is not the answer. Sometimes challenging authority is the only way to make your voice heard. With the gun debate, neither side can afford to fight quietly.”
(HIGH) The National Rifle Association, which has 5 million members, has achieved its grip on Congress and state legislatures because of its sophisticated political operation. The NRA’s state victory funds are not major campaign donors. Rather, as a New York Times article stated last month, the organization “derives its political influence instead from a muscular electioneering machine — fueled by tens of millions of dollars’ worth of campaign ads and voter-guide mailings — that scrutinizes candidates for their views on guns and propels members to the polls.” In that regard, the display of determination and sheer numbers on March 14 could set the stage for a showdown at the polls, and advocates of sensible gun protections need to turn the tables on lawmakers who are beholden to the NRA’s extremist agenda. On the day of Fitch High School’s “walk-in” last week, the Groton registrar of voters set up a table with the League of Women Voters and registered 77 new voters. That was a step in the right direction.