standing letters

In Hopkinton, councilor’s vote could be bought

I know many of the readers of this newspaper have read countless editorials regarding the solar profiteers in Southern Rhode Island and their attempt to convert residential property and forest to a sea of glass, creating a commercial haven of mega-power in our residentially zoned property areas.

I would like to point out another gem of information many of us who live in Hopkinton have found out about politics in present-day Rhode Island. Did your readers know a sitting town councilor can legally sell their vote in front of God, country, and all who watch videos of council meetings? Yes, it’s true. I know you would immediately say I have it wrong, but I challenge your readers to look at current-day politics in our sleepy little solar paradise.

One of our established, politically connected council members ( just watch the video on the town’s website) has decided that she has the answer to the solar quandary in our town. It isn’t to enact a moratorium on solar development like so many of our neighboring jurisdictions like Exeter, Cranston, and Tiverton, to name a few. It is to bleed the developer of some of their cold hard windfall from destroying 165 acres of forest abutting Arcadia Management land. Yes, our council member, in earshot of all listening, has told the developer of the project Southern Sky, they would secure her vote if they paid a total of $1.75 MILLION OF ADDED MONEY to projects she has deemed worthy of solar profits.

I understand many of you reading this would say that you were sure this was in the spirit of negotiating a better “deal” and we should be happy about her financial insight. What does funneling money to land trusts have to do with this particular project? What does doling out cash to demolish an old school have to do with this project? What does this have to do with whether or not these massive solar projects on residentially zoned lands are good for the residents of this town? The answer is it has nothing to do with it. It is simply a way to extort money from an entity trying to profit on a windfall of government giveback in tax rebates and energy incentives.

So, the next time you have a concern on a vote the town council of Hopkinton will be voting on, just come to an open meeting and bring your wallet. It’s not the merits of the vote that matter, just how much you can pay toward whatever entity the council wants you to “donate” to that year.

In case you’re wondering, I reached out to the attorney general of Rhode Island and asked if it was legal for a politician to sell their vote, and evidently it is legal. It’s not a crime in this state unless a politician personally benefits from the demand. I ask you, is this the way the system should work in this country? I know it works in New York, where I believe the saying “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” came from. I am not sure this is a fair way to execute your vote as an elected official.

Steve Wiehl

Hope Valley

The writer is a member of Hopkinton Citizens for Responsible Planning.

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