Letters to the Editor, Oct. 12, 2012

Mon, 10/15/2012 - 2:00pm

To: the Editor—

A careful consideration on the proposed wind farm is no doubt the proper thing to do. It’s my feeling that not enough attention has been paid to the other major benefit regarding this enormous project.

First let me express my support for the wind farm on two relevant issues:

1. Short of a single cable without a wind farm to the island, which I believe to be economically unrealistic, the wind farm further shows that Block Island has been and remains committed to environmental issues. These include open space and recycling. In many ways the island has been praised for these efforts.

2. Our single source of electric power is directly tied to the price of oil that will remain a political football going up and down with world events, not to mention the carbon footprint of fossil fuel.

With that said, not enough attention has been given to the issues of telecommunications. It is true that the Times has brought the message that a fiber optic cable will, at no cost to the town, provide all of us with true high speed Internet and improved phone service.

As any islander realizes, telecommunication speeds have over the last two years dropped to dial-up speeds, especially on holiday and peek periods. This Fourth of July, having measured the download and upload speeds, I can say as a matter of fact that speeds were as poor as old dial-up speeds on that day and not great during any peak period. Anyone wishing to check the communication speeds at ant time only need to go to the web and using the web site speedtest.net can determine both in a matter of a few seconds.

This speed during this past summer was approximately one half of last year and one can expect with more and more devices being put online such as smart phones, iPads, laptops, desktops and even credit card approval equipment, that this will continue to slow down at an increasing rate unless the carrier improves the microwave transmission speeds that carry all this information. In all honesty I’m not sure that is feasible, either economically or from a physics point of view. I don’t have that knowledge.

However, as many of us pay for high-speed service that has not been provided, I’m a bit surprised a class action law suit has not taken place. We order a steak to be served a hamburger. That part I don’t understand.

My major point going forward is that without a change, we will be at a substantial disadvantage for the town, businesses, and even the school system, which can benefit from long distant learning if internet speeds are adequate. I’d go so far as to say that once the word gets out that we lack adequate high speed technology, some visitors to the island will seek to vacation elsewhere. I personally won’t check into a hotel, as an example, that lacks high-speed wireless service, and if it’s not up to my service demands I never return to that hotel.

As far as viewshed is concerned: get over it. We have all put up with telephone poles, highways, and structures that are considered ugly by some. Everything has its pluses and minuses, but considering the alternatives, seeing gigantic windmills off our shores versus the benefits seems to me a simple choice.

Lee David Miles

Delray Beach, Fla., and Block Island

To: the Editor—

My first memories of Block Island took place around 1950, when we lived with my Grandma Sheffield on what was once a farm on top of Pilot Hill. My mom was born on Block Island.

I have been a professional mariner most of my life; my career has included operating a ferry for several years for Interstate Navigation, serving Block Island.

Although my career forced me away from Block Island some years ago, my job has also brought me back there periodically. To me, it seems like I never get to spend enough time on Block Island.

I’ve just read the Navigational Risk Assessment on the Block Island Wind Farm’s site. I concentrated on this section of the proposal because it’s the only aspect of the project where I feel I could consider my opinion to be on a professional level.

This report cannot comb over some obvious facts, for example that the location for their wind farm is right smack in the middle of one of the most traveled marine waterway junctions in New England, the approaches to Long Island and Block Island Sound, and is also very close to the shipping lanes of the very large vessels transiting into Narragansett Bay. This fact is brushed aside by the windfarm folks, stating that everyone uses a GPS now and should know where they are at all times in restricted visibility. This is definitely not the case.

The report also brushes aside the fact that while the windfarm’s location will obscure some of the Southeast Light’s navigational capabilities, it will make up for it by becoming a navigational aid itself. This can be construed from two different aspects, the other point of view being that in a cruising area that was once unobstructed, there would now be a literal minefield of navigational hazards that can go bump in the night, or even during the day in one of the world’s densest fogs that only Block Island is capable of creating.

While a collision with a small pleasure boat with one of these behemoths would have almost no direct economic effect on the island, except for maybe making a few bucks for whoever does the salvage, have any of the perennial Block Island families really considered the consequences of the potential damage that would be incurred if one of these windmills met up with a very large oil tanker and blackened Block Island’s shores with crude oil that would not dissipate for generations? Case in point, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989. The sand is still emitting oil wherever you put your foot down along the shores of Prince William Sound.

Because I’m no longer a permanent resident of Block Island, I can only wonder: Do any of the island’s non boating residents realize that the lowest point of one of those swirling windmill blades could, by the project’s own admission, be as low as 71 feet off the water? Do they realize how many sailboat masts out there now are at least that high off the water? Many of the larger sailboats now boast masts in excess of 100 feet. Talk about adding new obstacles to the course during Block Island Race Week.

Although there are several other aspects of the project brushed over in their statements, I won’t drone on about them here. I’m very sad, though, to see the place where I spent several years growing up being, what almost seems to me, crooned into creating what could possibly be the proverbial ship wreck.

I watched for several years, while staging my boat out of Cape Cod, how the residents there fought tooth and nail to prevent the very same thing from taking place in Nantucket Sound. They have so far succeeded. What concerns me here is that I don’t see that same fervor for objection to this Block Island Project.

The NASA Windmill Project that we were subjected to several years ago, if nothing else, proved to me, anyway, that while they promise something for nothing, windmills can also be a maintenance nightmare, and I would imagine in this case even more so now that they’ll be squatting in salt water.

Bob Mouton

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

To: the Editor—

It has become clear, largely as a result of the 38 Studios debacle, that Rhode Island’s economic development efforts, its attempts to convince businesses to locate and grow in the Ocean State, are adrift and have been, for some time, highly ineffective.

While 38 Studios crystallized for many the fact that we are simply not doing a very good job of selling our state, that $75-million boondoggle is just one of a number of questionable decisions by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, the quasi-public agency whose mission is of paramount importance to the overall welfare of our state and all its citizens.

In recent weeks, the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Economic Development has heard testimony and received study reports calling for a refocusing and a re-energizing of our state’s economic development efforts. One presentation was by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, another by three highly respected individuals from the Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island. Both recommend systemic changes in the way Rhode Island pursues economic growth. On Oct. 16 we will hear from the Rhode Island Foundation about the economic development ideas generated at its Make It Happen RI forum in September.

The joint committee, of which we are co-chairs, welcomes the thorough and thought-provoking presentations. They will be invaluable to the committee, which has met regularly and consistently the past year, collecting data and advice from numerous sources in an effort toward preparing legislation for the upcoming legislative session, legislation that will position the state for the greatest economic recovery in the shortest amount of time.

The anger and disappointment that followed the 38 Studios situation has opened the door to an honest discussion about how the state sets and carries out its economic development strategy. In reality, we can’t expect there to be a “silver bullet,” one idea that’s going to be the answer to all our prayers. We need collaboration by our state’s brightest thinkers, people who have experienced the hurdles facing small and large businesses, and people who have worked in economic development efforts and who know what helps and what doesn’t. We need government to be bold in how it moves forward.

Rhode Island has no greater challenge in the years ahead than to revitalize the economy. It has been the number one focus of the Senate for years and will continue to be, as we work to restore a strong and vibrant economy in Rhode Island. The Joint Committee on Economic Development remains fully invested in that effort and is eager to see the ideas that have been presented transformed into a winning formula for our state, a formula that improves the climate for business and helps create jobs for our citizens.

James C. Sheehan

Senator – District 36

Narragansett, North Kingstown

Donna M. Walsh

Representative – District 36

Charlestown, New Shoreham, Westerly, South Kingstown

This letter was sent to the leadership of BIHS and copied to the Times:

On the eve of his departure for vacation, Interim Executive Director Dr. Baute told me you would be acting on his behalf during his absence and that communication is to be with you. Hence this letter.

The 2003 bylaws of BIHS (adopted on 9/23/03) were in effect in 2005 when two committees were appointed by the board: one to prepare the bylaw amendments creating the membership qualifications and participation contemplated by the 2003 bylaws, but which had never been implemented; and the other committee to work on the amendments concerning membership eligibility and the power of the membership to elect directors. Those amendments were approved accordingly and incorporated into a further set of bylaws adopted 10/5/05.

(A) In the 2003 and the 2005 bylaws, Section 1 of Article V contains, in part, the following provision:

“The members of the corporation may, at any meeting called for the purpose, by vote of a majority of the members, with or without cause, remove any director.”

(B) Section 6 of Article V of the 2003 bylaws and Section 7 of the 2005 bylaws contain the following provision:

“The Board of Directors shall have and may exercise all the powers of the corporation except such as are conferred by law, by the Articles of Association or by these by-laws upon the members.”

That provision means what it says: the board was without power to take away from the community membership, the right to remove directors (as was given to it in the above bylaw provision) and to give itself that power.

(C) That’s just what it purported to do in the bylaws adopted December 4, 2006, under which the first sentence of the sixth paragraph of Section 2 of Article IV provides, as follows:

“The members of the Board of Directors may, at any meeting called for the purpose by vote of a majority of the members, with or without cause, remove any director other than those publicly elected.”

“Publicly elected” refers to the two directors elected by taxpayers and voters, which means that a majority of the board could, with or without cause, remove any of the seven directors elected by the members — a totally absurd result.

Ironically, the first sentence of Section 2 of Article IV contains the same provision as the one quoted above from the 2003 and 2005 bylaws, to wit:

“The Board of Directors shall have and may exercise all the powers of the corporation, except such as are conferred by law by the Article of Association or by these bylaws upon the members.”

(D) The current 2011 bylaws follow suit: they give the board (under the first sentence of the sixth paragraph of Section 1 of Article VI) the power to remove any director other than those publicly elected, notwithstanding that the board (under the first sentence of Section 2 of Article 6) is prohibited from exercising any power conferred by the bylaws upon the members.

It is apparent that the board had no power to confer upon itself, and take away from the members of the corporation, the power to remove directors. Such an attempt was an act ultra vires, beyond the scope of its powers.

When notified in advance that these materials would be presented to the Town Council at its October 1 meeting, Kim Gaffett asked Millie McGinnes to furnish me with sufficient materials to show that such changes in the bylaws were not the doing of the current board, but of the 2006 board, which included Chick Marcoux and other directors who closely guarded the rights and powers of the community membership so as to make the board accountable to the membership, including the right to remove directors. Millie was the president of the board in 2006 when those ultra vires changes were first made and then carried forward. She is at a loss as to how the changes came about and acknowledges that under the circumstances they were inadvertent and improper. She, as a member of the current board, stands ready to correct them and reinvest the members with their right to remove directors.

Under the circumstances and in view of the fail safe provision preventing the directors from conferring on themselves the right to remove directors reserved under the bylaws to the membership, the power of the board to remove directors is, ab initio, null and void and that power still remains with the members.

However, for clarification and to prevent further confusion, the bylaws should be promptly corrected, and language adopted to restore to the members the provision for removal of directors just as it was under the 2003 and 2005 bylaws.

A special meeting should, without delay, be called for that purpose and the correction effected on or before the regular monthly October meeting, evidencing good faith on the part of the present board.

Richard Weisbroat

West Side Road

To: the Editor—

During my recent visit to Block Island and the historic, elegant lobby of the renovated Surf Hotel, I was shocked to learn that some fiend had stolen the two queen figures from their well-know chess set.

What kind of bottom-feeder would do such a mean deed? Bring them back!

Patricia M. Lee

Danbury, Conn.

To: the Editor—

There appears to be a very somber attitude toward the upcoming elections here on the island. I have not been witness to any significant drive by any candidate for the available political positions. It’s not as if we don’t have any problems here, it is sort of a who-cares mentality.

Well, I care. I care about the costs of living here, not only for me but especially for those that have lived here for years but now have to consider moving on. I have brought my thoughts to the Town Council on many occasions on higher taxes every year, the loss of thousands of dollars to the town with the transfer station debacle and the cost of electricity. It all fell on deaf ears and the council has essentially done nothing to remedy these situations. Now let me list some of our serious problems.

First and foremost is the cost of electricity. The Block Island Power Company has a choke hold on all of us. The trickle down effects from their outrageous rates, highest in the country by almost double, have crippled the economy of the island. Rental rates, commercial real estate rates, businesses and individual citizens all plan their lives around what they can afford out here while trying to pay for electric, sewer and water. Our sewer and water rates, also some of the highest in the country, are a direct result of BIPCo. The sewer plant spends more than $50,000 a year on electricity, not including what they generate themselves during the summer months. The water company also puts out over $50,000 for their electric bill. Why haven’t any political aspirants looked into reverse osmosis, using electricity to produce our water when we have more water than we know what to do with it? Past political figures have suggested that the wells are brackish because they were dug too deep. New, shallower wells would produce fine water, but no, we pay BIPCo and are fiscally dying in the process. Dubai out in the Arabian desert uses reverse osmosis, and for good reason.

Let us take another look at a plan that is supposed to correct an already bad situation, that’s Deepwater Water. They will use the cable to try and convince us of this dire need for unsinkable floating windmills. Structures that will be able to outlast the fury of hurricanes will provide us with lower electric rates. The problem here is that the electric power will go through BIPCo’s turnstiles. Meanwhile BIPCo and its owners walk away every year with huge profits. The council is now contemplating a rate increase for BIPCo. Citizens, beware of any politician that has connections with Block Island Power Co.

I need to move on to the school situation, where 114 children are being educated at a cost of almost $5 million. We all love our children and want the best for them, but what about the remaining 850 of us? Sean McGarry, a school board member, has sat on the School Committee, and now he is running for a spot on the Town Council. Good luck Sean!

Do we need more affordable housing? Many of the present inhabitants can barely live here now. They are paying mortgages that they cannot afford, electric, sewer and water bills that are late if paid at all, food, fuel, all outrageously priced out here — and then there’s our winter unemployment, the highest in the state. Let me qualify this statement somewhat: There are those in affordable housing whose families have one, two or even three homes here in the million dollar range and they don’t seem to have any problem. This in itself is the problem. They won the lottery. What then happens to dedicated people like Joe DeMatteo and Marc Tillson, loyal town employees and certainly essential personnel, who are in need of housing and have been on a waiting list for years? This system is flawed. Forget the federal funds and do what is right.

I have been called a gadfly (a person who likes to upset the status quo), a resident town pundit, a firebrand (someone who addresses things forcefully), and I accept all the nominations. I am concerned about those that have lived here for years but now fear the end of life on Block Island is near. I do have a sour note for some: I plan on staying for the duration or salvation, whichever comes first.

John Willis

Beacon Hollow Farm

To: the Editor—

This letter is in reference to an advertisement that appeared in the 6 October 2012 edition of the Block Island Times.

For the record, this is to clarify that at no time was Mr. Slate given authorization to use “bit o’heaven” in a political advertisement in connection with his campaign for a position on the Town Council. Mr. Slate has apologized for this action. We thank him for his prompt response.

Mary Ellen McCabe

Marcia McCabe Wilbur

Mary Alice Wilbur

“bit o’heaven” Block Island

To: the Editor—

I found Block Island in 2008 on the advice of Natalia Plamadeala, who was also from my country of Moldova, who had previously explored the island. I want to thank her for helping me find this piece of paradise on earth. I had a chance to explore the glorious beaches, sunsets and trails and to meet very nice people and to work different jobs.

Coming from another country, I found the people in the community a family who were always helpful, friendly, respectful and genuinely kind. It was home base for me — a home away from home. My first job was working at the Depot, and I recall the warm welcoming. The owners and employees were very, very nice. They were a good example for me. We were a great team. I would like to give thanks to Cindy and Stan Geer for being very generous and supportive of me, along with all the employees who have become my friends for life. They have made my experience on B.I. overall completely memorable.

It was a wonderful experience to work with Debbie Lucchesi. She is an amazing person, very generous, giving and caring, positive and full of hope. It was also a nice experience for me to work at Finn’s. Wonderful people. I want to give thanks to the owners Debbie and Fred, and all the employees. They arranged a great surprise baby shower for me when I was pregnant. I truly appreciated the generosity.

To all the many people on this island who have helped me and my family out over the past four years, I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Most important, I would like to thank the following people: Natalia Plamadeala, Debbie Lucchesi, Michael McGinnes, Tatiana and Lee Romela, Melisa Loizou-Muenzner and Robbie and Irina Murphy.

I am going back to Moldova at the middle of October, but I plan to return. My son Alex was born here, I want him to come back to where he was born to explore opportunities and to have a better quality of life. I will fully recommend this beautiful island to other people from my country. I will miss all of you.

Zina Grigorita

Chisinow, Moldova

To: the Editor—

The treasure hunters left the Not-New-Boutique with their bags full of all types of clothing for men, women and children. They were delighted with their finds and often came back next time wearing their new selections!

The Block Island Catholic Ladies Guild is grateful to all who dropped off their unused items and allowed the island workers, visitors and residents to add great pieces to their wardrobes. Recycling at its best !

The ladies and gentlemen who set up the boutique, sorted and arranged the clothing on the shelves and helped on sale days are deserving of special thanks.

The whole island benefits from the Boutique — the people who purchase the mostly dollar items, St. Andrew Church, which will start the fall season with newly cleaned carpets, and the C.C.D. children who will receive supplies and trips and capital expenses at the church.

We had a great season and hope to see all of you again next spring.

Joanne Hutchins, Pat Queally and Wendy Northup

Not New Boutique organizers

To: the Editor—

The 4th Annual Taste of Block Island held September 21 to 23 yielded an enthusiastic crowd of visitors with the beautiful sunny weekend weather. Many hands contributed to this bi-annual event designed to showcase the island in the shoulder season. Thanks to the following sponsors for their continued support: So Rhode Island, Sysco, and Providence Beverage.

We are grateful for the continuing commitment the island businesses make to this event by offering discounts and by creating so many appealing events. They are truly the backbone of “The Taste.”

The 2013 summer “Taste of Block Island” weekend will be held May 31 to June 2, so mark your calendars.

Taste of Block Island Committee

Megan Moran

Sarah Cullen

Cariona Corcoran

Julie Fuller

Kathy Szabo