I am a lucky individual politically. While I have won and lost elections multiple times for the Hopkinton Town Council, I have won seven times, and currently I’m in my third term as vice president. I also chair the Republicans in my town.
The following should concern all Rhode Islanders regardless of the municipalities we live in. My views may not necessarily be the views of my fellow town council members, or the town committee members of my party.
Hopkinton, like many towns, has been dealing with the issues of solar projects and wind turbines. I, along with another town councilor, Sharon Davis, have voted against numerous solar projects since being sworn in in November. Mrs. Davis is an officer of her Democratic town committee.
The town did adopt an ordinance earlier this year regarding the solar issue. This October, Hopkinton will be voting on not allowing wind turbines in any zone in town. Currently it is not permitted, as it is not mentioned in our ordinances presently. That was an initiative of Sylvia Thompson, a town councilor, who is an officer of the Democratic town committee, and she has supported large solar in town and opposed it.
We do need to reflect on our consumption of energy, and our dependence on even foreign electricity. Canada actually supplies some of our electricity. The state needs to have a “game plan,” as fair as possible and practical, for expectations for the cities and towns of Rhode Island in this matter. Inconsistency of various municipalities in being part of addressing Rhode Island’s future electrical needs should not be acceptable. I cannot help but think of the affordable housing issue, and pension liability, and the differences among the municipalities addressing those issues.
The destruction of vast forest area should not be done lightly to build large solar arrays.
Western Rhode Island especially provides the best forested area for all Rhode Islanders’ enjoyment. In addition, both state and local officials need to reflect on the future of agriculture in Rhode Island. We are not a farm state, but we need to encourage agricultural endeavors in our state. Lastly, the continued reliance on property taxes to finance public education needs to be addressed. The continued pressure of using property taxes to substantially fund public schools impacts the tax burden on property owners. The delivery of other services derived from local taxes impacts municipalities addressing needs other than schools. The Rhode Island State Constitution does give a great role to the state in education. The state needs to consider its financial support of schools more. There are no excuses really for that, considering the 38 Studios debacle, among other escapades that we have witnessed!
In closing, I am lucky to have won a number of elections. I have been humbled by numerous political defeats. We are in an interesting time indeed!
Scott Bill Hirst
The writer is the vice president of the Hopkinton Town Council.