Letters, February 18, 2012
To: the Editor—
As a Block Island taxpayer, 6th grade math teacher and adjunct professor for the State University of New York, it was perplexing to read the school budget article in the Block Island Times dated February 11.
Superintendent Hicks is promulgating a request by our 4th grade teacher for a year-long sabbatical “during the transition to the new math curriculum.” Working myself in a small K-8 district, such requests are not only uncommon but not allowed.
During this time of fiscal instability and mandated educational change, it seems irresponsible to pay a teacher approximately 64 percent of their salary (not to mention the $59,391 replacement cost) to obtain an administrative degree, the cost of which may be partially reimbursed based on contract specifications. Clearly this individual is needed as support for the faculty during the shift to Common Core standards. Otherwise, why would Dr. Hicks do the unconventional — pay an additional $45,395 to have that same teacher work 90 days, at a rate of $500 per day? (That’s a full-time salary for a newly created, part-time job!)
It seems that the teacher on sabbatical would be making their full-time salary or even more money than when teaching. That’s a precedent no district should be establishing, especially in Rhode Island where educational practices are being challenged.
Creative use of the Rhode Island Department of Education resources and the BI school staff could provide more cost-effective alternatives. Hopefully there are other qualified staff members who would be willing, for a much smaller stipend, to provide guidance for and to collaborate with their colleagues. Perhaps using only the Title II Federal Funding ($5,374) for curriculum development would be more economically responsible.
There is no mention of student outcome or growth or of any guarantee or requirement that this individual provide administrative leadership services for a specific time frame, or at all, to the Block Island School. Three years of service as a principal anywhere in Rhode Island and in-service credit hours, such as math support services to the faculty, are applicable towards professional certification. Apparently, Block Island taxpayers will foot the bill to qualify someone for a new career, making the teacher eligible to be a principal not only in Rhode Island but any reciprocal state school system.
Block Island taxpayers should not be saddled with unnecessary expenditures and salaries, just because there is money available in a budget being presented as coming in under the 4-percent mandated tax cap.
If I misread or misunderstood the information presented, I stand corrected. If not, I hope I’m not the only one questioning this proposal both financially and educationally.
To: the Editor—
I, along with many others, was more than a tad concerned with regard to the recent letters to the editors followed by the BITimes editorial with regard to the tenor of the same and the policy with regard to publishing. All of which makes for interesting reflective reading during the so called six more weeks of winter — or until St Patrick’s Day when Ed reopens the Kittens and we can again rejoice at clam shack.
I applaud the BITimes for its policy of publishing these letters and trust that the policy will not be altered. It happens that I disagree with positions advocated in certain recent letters, for example Steve Hollaway is ok with a holiday tree (what in God’s name is a holiday tree?) — but then I also believe that “Merry Christmas,” not “Happy Holidays,” is the appropriate greeting. I also disagree with his position with regard to the West Cranston banner, which had been there since the initial class and should not have been disturbed. But Steve is a strong advocate for his positions and it would be reprehensible to deny him a forum.
The same applies to the recent political letter from Ray Torrey, who we all know is a nice man. While I think it highly unusual for a sitting councilman to give himself “attaboys,” if no one else in the letter writing, voting population will offer those affirmative words, then all the more power to him.
And what about Doc. John Willis? For those of you who save the BITimes, go back to his letter published in the May 7, 2011, paper. It is a wonderfully insightful look at the Financial Town Meeting and the pro forma process. Doc express concerns that all Block Islanders should share. For example, he touches on the problems faced by seniors living in our community. He mentions the continued increase in property taxes, which creates havoc with those living on a fixed budget and which will eventually jeopardize the legacy of island children unless our next council has a better understanding of the issue. In addition, Doc. questions the cost of educating the kids. A teacher-student ratio of one to four with a cost of $34,000 per student certainly appears excessive.
While readers don’t always agree with Doc., he does at times have the ability to focus on some of the issues that we all need to openly discuss with a real sense of urgency.
Letters such as the above provide great insight with regard to issues and life on Block Island and I believe the BITimes has an obligation to augment its reporting with letters like the above. Honest debate and people willing to attach their names to public comments is the lifeblood of our democracy, especially at a time when we are witnessing an increase in government intrusion in our way of life. Godspeed, John.
To: the Editor—
In the February 4 issue of the BIT, Second Warden Ray Torrey singled me out as resident island pundit in chief, describing me as reaching out to a small minority of malcontents and using terms such as malicious, preposterous bloviating, need to infuse some truth, tedious tirade and consider the source, all to try and get his point across that I am basically a liar.
This was because I said the Town Council attacked Club Soda, which they certainly did. Indeed, I think Mr. Torrey may have underestimated the number of malcontents in referring to us as a small minority.
Ray Torrey is an elected official and I am a public citizen, a taxpaying, voting resident of this island. As a citizen I have every right to complain about the overspending, rising taxes, uncontrolled utility costs and essentially what I consider a poor response from our Town Council, whose concerns for the increasing welfare of our island has been less than desired, for years now. To think that a councilman would go out of his way to subject a private citizen to such ridicule raises many more questions. I am exalted to know I had such an affect on Mr. Torrey and that is why I write again. Although the island is 15 miles from the mainland, let the council be reminded that the constitution still applies here.
Mr. Torrey suggests that maybe he should just let the sleeping dog lie, but no, he had to hit it with a stick — and now, you guessed it, the dog is going to jump up and bite him you-know-where. Club Soda was under attack, fearing for their livelihood with unfair restrictions placed by (you got it) the Town Council. Isn’t that considered an attack?
Friends of Club Soda rallied to the chambers, overflowing into the hallway. Ray Torrey said “the hearing proceeded in an orderly fashion,” yet Dan West reported correctly in the January 21 issue of the BIT that during a protesting neighbor’s comments an audience member yelled out “Who are these people, they don’t live here.” Several members of the audience spoke in favor of Club Soda and some restrictions by the council drew most of the criticism. By the end of the evening the restrictions were lifted.
I would hope that this type of behavior from a councilman would not deter any future malcontents from speaking out or writing out as is our gifted right. Ray’s grandma told him, when in despair from something someone has said, to just consider the source. I’m not sure what type of derogatory meaning lies there for me, but my source happens to be Poland Springs.
Beacon Hollow Farm
To: the Editor—
It’s pretty safe to assume Doctor John Willis and I are on different parts of the political spectrum. Yet, we both have independently arrived at the same conclusion: the Town of New Shoreham is poorly managed, poorly governed, hides from the public what is their right to know, and has very little if anything meaningful to cite as accomplishments in the past 10 years.
Most of this had to be documented through public comment and letters to the editor in the Block Island Times, as the First Warden will not agenda these items for Town Council meetings.
I don’t enjoy writing these letters, but I and a few others are willing to pay the price of upsetting the entrenched special interests by speaking out to try to effect change, rather than remain silent and accept the status quo. Mr. Torrey, our Second Warden, should use his considerable talents in the little time he has left in office to demonstrate leadership and action on behalf of the taxpayers instead of pandering to the good ol’ boy network that has served us so poorly. Please don’t blame Doctor Willis for undermining confidence in the Town Council. That was done a long time ago, by the Town Council itself.
To: the Editor—
In August of last year, my wife and I helped bring Laura Israel’s documentary film, “Windfall,” to the island. Unfortunately, the screening was contested by the arrival of Irene but, fortunately, a good number of fearless Block Islanders came to see the film.
It was our collective hope that seeing “Windfall” would do what its maker intended: encourage a dialogue on the issue of wind power. (May I state that my family and I are pro-alternative energy and pro-wind power, as long as it is implemented in a useful, intelligent way?)
“Windfall” opened in New York last week and received very positive reviews in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and on the Huffington Post, among others. These reviews have been posted on the Block Island Times website, and we hope that some of your readers might take a moment to read them. They are enlightening as the authors seem to have gotten the message that a dialogue on this issue must be created and encouraged, and that people must pay attention to the impact the turbines will have on their lives and their environments before they are installed. No line is more succinct than:
“But the film’s implications are clear: The quest for energy independence comes with caveats. Developers’ motives must be weighed, as should the risks Americans are willing to take in their own backyard.”—Andy Webster, New York Times.
And no paragraph is more prescient than:
“Viewed through a long lens, ‘Windfall’ is about much more than the hidden costs and unexpected side effects of wind-power generation, or about a citizens’ uprising in the tiny town of Meredith, N.Y., in the Catskill region 150 or so miles northwest of Manhattan. (Mind you, both are gripping stories.) It’s about the American tendency — and very likely the human tendency — to look for magic-bullet solutions to complicated social and economic problems, where none are available.
It’s a microcosmic version of the political divisions — between left and right, environmentalists and free-marketers, corporations and citizens — that have virtually paralyzed our republic. It’s a reminder that whenever a virtually unregulated industry (as in this case) offers capitalists a chance to defraud the little guy and make a bundle, they’ll do it. It’s a tantalizing case study that suggests ordinary people still have the power to steer a course between faceless bureaucracies and greedy capitalists, but only just — and only if they can find a way to overcome their differences and work together.”—Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com
I have felt that, since the government threw the PUC’s first ruling on Deepwater Wind out the window, we were allowing ourselves to be led down a path with our eyes closed. Can we, with authority and conviction, answer the following questions?
1. Have any of us stood three miles away from one (or for that matter five) operating 500-foot tall windmills?
2. Are we better off encouraging a wind farm 10 miles off our shores, the distance usually observed for such projects?
3. Do we know with certainty what Block Island’s share of the cable’s cost is, and how that translates onto an individual’s bill?
4. Do we clearly understand the impact wind turbines located so close to shore will have upon wild and human life?
5. Are we prepared to give up our viewshed for what is referred to as an experiment after so many have given so much to keep Block Island as it is today?
6. Do we know with certainty what will be required for safety lighting at the top of each windmill and on each base, and is that acceptable to our community, which cherishes its night sky?
With respect for beautiful Block Island and its people,
Susan and Peter MacGill
Katonah, N.Y. and Lewis Farm Road
To: the Editor—
The article in last week’s Block Island Times about a proposed resolution concerning the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act reported that the Town Council had in the past passed resolutions opposing the Iraq War and the Patriot Act. This statement is only half true.
While the council expressed its opposition to the Patriot Act, in response to a petition from Block Islanders for Peace and Justice, it did not pass an earlier resolution offered by the same group that urged the council to take a strong stand against the invasion of Iraq.
The BIPJ resolution about the Iraq war, based on a petition signed by 50 members of the Block Island community, was similar to ones adopted by a number of other municipalities, including Providence. It stated that there was “no convincing evidence that Iraq presents a current threat to the world that cannot be contained by means other than war.”
At its meeting on March 19, 2003, the Town Council chose to pass an alternative that urged people to get involved in the issues, support the troops and encourage the Bush Administration to work with the United Nations — but it did not condemn the war. The Block Island Times noted that while there were deep differences in opinion among those attending the meeting, the discussion remained civil.
Martha and Bill Wilson