Letters, Feb. 4, 2012

Sat, 02/04/2012 - 2:06pm

To: the Editor—

Apparently my letter of apology to Mrs. Keating in the Jan. 21 issue was too clever by half.

Here is another try: I am sorry for writing in my Clergy Corner column that your bishop hates the governor. You pointed out that this amounted to accusing the bishop of a sin on the basis of hearsay, and you were right. My lame excuse, which does not make it right, was that as a naïf in Rhode Island politics I had the impression that the bishop’s disdain for the governor was common knowledge. It turns out it was only Buddy Cianci’s opinion.

But in a Jan. 28 letter, Ms. Sniffen took that apology and rubbed my nose in it. To what purpose? As a public figure on a small island I am supposed to have thick skin, but I am reminded of Shylock’s words, “When you prick us, do we not bleed?” I know the meanings of the words I use, and when I use words like “subtil” (from the King James) and “silly” to describe myself, I do so by way of deliberate self-mockery. What exactly is the point of telling me I am a subtil, silly serpent when those are the labels I humorously applied to myself? My intent was to apologize while at the same time suggesting that the whole viper-venom motif was a bit over the top.

Both my Christmas column on “why the holiday tree is OK with me” and response to the “viper” letter were about the importance of the separation of church and state, especially in Rhode Island, its birthplace. I am disappointed that no one has said anything about the substantive issues. In the past week, even the Rhode Island Council of Churches came out in support of the judge’s decision in the West Cranston case, in defense of the student who argued that the “Our Heavenly Father” prayer on the gym wall amounts to government support of religion.

I am troubled that the Times would run a letter which had nothing to do with the political issue and was only an attempt — with what motive I cannot imagine — to smear me as “a weak-minded, lacking-in-good-sense, stupid, foolish, cunning, wily, treacherous, malicious person who spreads gossip and rumors.” I am not going to take the Times or Ms. Sniffen to court, but in the name of civility can’t a newspaper ever say no to a letter that is merely a personal attack?

Steve Hollaway

Harbor Church

[Ed. note: Our policy is to edit letters for the legal basics, but otherwise give letter writers free rein to offer opinions and criticisms, sometimes heated. Are we too lax? Please take a moment to give us your input in our online poll, bottom right on our homepage at blockislandtimes.com.]


This letter was sent to the Block Island Housing Board and copied to the Block Island Times:

I have just finished reading the article by Judy Tierney in the January 21 issue [“Is double density part of affordable housing solution?”]. I am deeply disturbed that there might be any question about extending the ability of anyone on the island to donate a portion of their property for affordable housing without having to go through complicated regulations.

When I talked to the Housing Board more than eight years ago about selling two acres of my property to them for affordable housing, it was with the stipulation that a zoning change be made to allow others to do so without extensive special applications. Only when that change was made did I sell the two acres at a very reduced price so that two houses could be built on Champlin Road. Those houses are not even occupied as of this writing and already it seems that the zoning change is possibily being rescinded.

My dream was that as soon as “my” houses were occupied, I would be able to talk to other landowners who had oversize lots and suggest that they sell an acre or less for affordable housing so we could have our affordable houses interspersed around the island. This way our families who keep our town going could live among us.

I never realized that the zoning change had a time limit or that it would take so long to bring my dream of two houses to fruition. When I drew the winning names from the hat on October 5 last year, we left 10 fully qualified families waiting on the sidelines! These families are vital to the wellbeing of our island. They perform critical tasks that keep our island going. They deserve all the help we can give them to buy a year-round, simple, decent, energy efficient home. A clear zoning ordinance which facilitates this is the least we can offer them.

I ask that you all consider my concerns as you look at this issue.

Thank you for all the hard work. I look forward to greeting my new neighbors in the near future!

Ellen Jacke

Wallingford, Conn., and Rodman Pond Lane


To: the Editor—

There is an old adage — something about letting sleeping dogs lie — that is probably wise to observe, but after being subjected to yet another tedious tirade from our resident pundit-in-chief, John Willis, I feel the need to inject some truth into the conversation. It is said that an uninformed public is a bad thing for democracy and therefore a misinformed one is even worse.

Mr. Willis’s claim that Club Soda was under attack by the Town Council is ludicrous. At its January 18 meeting, the council met to reconsider the stipulations attached to the Class BV beverage license granted to Club Soda. Maxon Balmforth and Rick Lysik appeared with their attorney to plead the case for Club Soda. The issue was noise, specifically noise caused by smokers congregating outside in front of the building.

Now Club Soda may have been around for a hundred years, but until about 10 years ago, noise was not an issue since the smokers were still legally puffing away at the bar.

The hearing proceeded in an orderly fashion: the owners making their case for relief from some of the restrictions, and Mr. Michael Stratton, a neighbor who was aggrieved by the noise, making his case. All parties were polite and professional. The council, concerned about the legitimacy of the complaint but also impressed by the sincerity of Mr. Balmforth and Mr. Lysik as to their intentions to correct the problem, ruled in favor of Club Soda and removed the most onerous conditions. Subsequently, Mr. Stratton wrote a very gracious letter to the paper that impressed the patrons of Club Soda who had come out that evening to support them. All in all it was a good example of democracy in action. At no time did I have the feeling that Club Soda felt they were under attack.

Mr. Willis’s continued malicious attacks against the Deer Task Force are also very unfortunate and way over the top. The Deer Task Force, created several years ago at the request of many of our citizens, has worked hard and long to find ways to significantly reduce the deer herd. Their efforts include encouraging more private landowners to allow hunting on their property; bringing hunters and land owners together; working with conservation groups to establish managed hunts on their property; increasing the number of hunting days available, etc. Their emphasis on safety is paramount. To claim that they operate “without any regard to safety” or that anyone here is in “constant jeopardy” or “essentially trapped in our homes” is false. The DTF members represent a broad cross-section of the island population and include hunters and one member from our police force. Their job is often frustrating and thankless. State regulations conflict with efficient deer reduction. Nevertheless, they are making progress. They deserve our gratitude for their hard work, not the ridicule of Mr. Willis.

In my opinion, all of this preposterous bloviating masks an underlying strategy to undermine the public’s confidence in the competency of their Town Council. John Willis seems to be reaching out to the small minority of malcontents, each with his own small axe to grind, who feel wronged by the actions of this council. I have sat at the council table for five years now and, as my final term winds down, I am pleased that I can look back with pride at our accomplishments. We haven’t been successful at everything, but I think we’ve done well. I have been especially lucky to have had the experience of sitting with four very competent and hardworking fellow councilors who put in some long hours and attend over 50 meetings a year. At no time have we acted in a way that was contrary to the best interests of the town and at no time have we withheld anything from the public.

One would hope that in the future, John Willis would confine his literary pursuits to tales of Charlie the horse and other amusing stories. If he persists with his political screeds, perhaps he might hire a fact checker. In closing, I derive some solace from four little words of wisdom that my grandmother used to calm me down when I would get upset upon hearing an obvious falsehood. She would say: “Raymond, consider the source.”

Ray Torrey, Second Warden

Payne Road


To: the Editor—

Block Island is known for many things — beaches, fishing, historic lighthouses, its natural beauty, and being a perfect place for a family vacation. There is most certainly one thing about Block Island that has grown in fame quite inexplicably: the Mudslide. Sure, if you saddle up to the bar at Shoals and ask for one, you might get a scowl, but almost every bar or restaurant on the island serves up a mudslide in their own unique fashion — with bananas, chocolate syrup, and yesterday’s coffee grounds to name a few. It’s become the island drink for tourists and visitors (and maybe once in a blue moon, a guilty pleasure for its residents).

I propose to the Block Island Deer Task Force, and to all island restaurants and eateries, that you adopt venison as the island meal. Surely the deer that wander into our yard on the Neck, eating apples and pears (and when our garden fence fails, tomatoes, onions, peppers, berries, and various kinds of herbs) must be absolutely delicious! The black Iberian pigs that roam the forests of Spain eating acorns, olives, and maize are practically worth their weight in gold ($90 a pound in the U.S.).

Just imagine venison nachos at Eli’s, venison burgers from Payne’s, a venison confit from Winfield’s, venison Stew at Bethany’s, a venison wrap from Rebecca’s, surf and local venison turf at the Narragansett, soups, jerkys, steaks, roasts, sausages and even venison stroganoff! After all, if you can’t beat ‘em, cook ‘em!

Colin Gilbert

Greenwich, Conn., and Corn Neck Road