These letters were sent to the Town Council and copied to The Block Island Times:
To the Editor:
I don’t believe that there is anyone on the island, at the present time, who has fought the moped battle longer than I have. I have been a member of the Rescue Squad since 1976 — with 42 of those years as a very active member of the squad and a licensed EMT and the last two years as a reserve member acting as a rescue assistant and only responding when extra hands or ambulances were needed. In that time I have responded to hundreds of moped accidents. When I was Captain of the Squad, in the mid-1980s, we fought a long hard fight on the State level to ban the mopeds on the island for many of the same reasons that this issue must be re-visited immediately.
There is absolutely no reason for visitors and residents to have their sensibilities insulted and resources depleted on a daily basis from the constant aggravation which is brought upon the community from the rental mopeds. It is not necessary to draw you a picture, everyone is well aware of the issues - we have been over this time and again.
The difference is that now it is time to take back control of our home instead of being bullied and held hostage by a handful of business people who don’t care about our home at all. There is no middle ground in this discussion, no compromising, no deal making, no unkept promises.
The Town Council proved this past spring that they could enact ordinances very expeditiously for the health and well-being of the community. Well, no one has died from the Covid virus, but someone has died from a moped accident and this could have been prevented if previous councils had the courage to make decisions that were in the best interest of the town, respecting and acting on the will of the people regarding this scourge upon our landscape.
We knew at the conclusion of the summer of 2019 that our community had reached a tipping point. We have officially toppled over now. There are several considerations to regaining control, but a most doable and positive step would be to stop all rental mopeds forever. (It would also be in everyone’s best interest to include motorized scooters, electric skateboards, Segways etc. in this discussion.)
Have the courage to make this wrong right once and for all. This plague has gone on far too long and you, the Town Council, have the antidote.
Fighting the fight for 37 years,
Just Another Moped Story
To the Editor:
While driving home on Sept. 4, 2018, our car was side-swiped on Payne Road by a rental moped with two riders. Although at low speed and fortunately with no injuries, an $1,800 repair would ensue, with a $1,000 deductible. An investigative NSPD Officer generated R.I. Uniform Crash Report #32018-00217. No citation was issued for the operator of a rental moped on the dirt/gravel Payne Road, although the road is clearly posted as off limits to mopeds.
After two years, no monies have ever been recovered from either the operator of the rental moped or his insurance company. The wellknown Block Island rental moped company remains well protected through a “self insurance” requirement. So we are out $1,000.
With this exposure to rental moped customers riding in our own neighborhood, we feel even less protected now on these dangerous local Block Island roads.
This can happen to any of you!
“Local Unprotected Residents”
To the Editor:
A couple of years ago I saw a Block Island t-shirt that stopped me in my tracks. It was featured, front and center, in the window of a shop on Water Street. I stood staring at it for a full minute as a combination of sadness and fury washed over me. Bad Choices Make Good Stories.
That is what the t-shirt said and I realized with a sudden clarity, that is what Block Island is selling, not just in our boutiques, but as the identity of our island community. Come here, do really stupid stuff (you would never do anywhere else) and go home to brag about it.
More than ever, that is the attitude that seems to pervade Block Island in the summer. And it’s not just an unintended byproduct, a fun item of clothing with a cute message in a jaunty font. It is a reputation businesses are peddling and making money from. Block Island is where you come to get wasted and engage in risky behavior with no consequences. But as two fatal crashes in one week have made abundantly clear, there are consequences. I’m amazed it took so long for this to become clear, but deadly behavior causes death, if not every time, enough times to make it absolutely unacceptable. It is an unavoidable law of the universe, and no amount of beautiful beaches, windswept cliffs and charming seafood restaurants will change that.
To those for whom that reputation equals profit, please consider this: Because of our turn-the-other-cheek behavior, Block Island has become a place many families no longer want to visit, and even longtime summer residents are finding themselves rethinking their choices. If you can’t leave your home without risking your family’s safety, is Block Island really where you want to be? This is not a threat or a theoretical concept, it is a fact. Block Island has become an island that many see as not safe, not fun, and not inviting for anyone other than heavy-drinking day-trippers. If the tragedies of the past week have not moved you, let the might of the collective wallet be your motivation. Block Island tourism will fail if families do not feel safe here.
Block Island does not just have a moped problem, as so many want to frame this, we have an identity problem. Do we want this to be an island where families come to relax, spend time together and enjoy the abundant beauty and peace Block Island has to offer? Or do we want this to be an island where young people come to get drunk, act disgracefully and do incredibly unsafe things, endangering themselves and everyone else?
I would argue that what we’re suffering is not just an identity problem — it is an existential crisis. People are dying, families are being destroyed, we are traumatizing our first responders and we are alienating residents and loyal visitors alike. Is this really the Block Island we want?
Let’s not be complicit in this any longer. Let’s be brave, stop the madness and remake Block Island into a safe place for everyone--young and old and in between.
Bad Choices Make Tragic Stories. Please, let’s rewrite our story while we still can.
To the Editor:
After the death of a 22-year old moped rider on Saturday, Aug. 15, I can no longer remain silent. I echo the same sentiments in Kay Lewis’ email.
I have been coming to the island for over 30 years. I was a teenage day tripper, then renter and now a homeowner on Block Island. For years I have observed the changes on the island with regard to its visitors and their behavior. I would like to share those observations and my thoughts for change. Without change, the island will no longer be charming. It is now known as the island of the free for all.
With regard to the ferry, I love the traditional ferry and rarely take the high speed. The new renovations are wonderful in AC comfort. Snack bar is great. What I don’t like is the last boat of the day especially on the weekend, when the visitors spend the day drinking at beaches or establishments and head home. I encourage families with small children to avoid the last boat. I have witnessed those revelers opening their coolers to continue the party. No one says a word, afraid to incite them in their intoxicated state. I am sure the young people working the ferry are not empowered to say anything and happily avoid confrontation with an intoxicated passenger. And of course, the lack of masking. Rarely is something said for the same reason.
The price to come to the island is relatively cheap. $22 round-trip is a small price to pay. With the upgrades, I would expect an increase in price of the trip. Also those day trippers, often with their coolers and chairs are not necessarily there to stimulate the economy and instead, they are impacting it negatively. Never a charge for those coolers to be brought on board and I have NEVER seen a spot check for coolers or back packs. Also return ferry times need to be booked in advance for the day trippers, no “open return” time. It is getting out of control.
Then there is the group that rents the mopeds. I know there was discussion years ago about cutting the numbers of mopeds and understand suggestions were met with opposition and threats of lawsuits. I would assume a study has been done that determines the financial impact of the moped use on the Medical Center, first responders, and the unpaid medical expenses that arise out of accidents. Not to forget the costs to the community. I am sure it is not a surprise that the practice run the moped riders take does not mean proficiency. And no helmets? I have been victim to the mopeds on their training mission, being hit in my car while I was stopped. The moped driver had rented the moped for less than 10 minutes. Over $1000 damage, time and inconvenience. The moped owners still profit.
My suggestion are as follows:
* Increase ferry fees for day trippers under the age of 65, maybe more so on the weekends, including the Monday holidays during the high season. Leave other passenger prices the same. Encourage people to spend time eating out and shopping and enjoying the nature that brings many of us here!
* Increase the fee to bring a car over. It is cheaper to bring a car than park it in a lot for the week!
* Charge a fee for coolers being brought on board
* Use extra revenue generated to have an officer or security person to monitor behaviors, spot check coolers and back packs.
* Determine a ferry surcharge that goes to the medical/first responders and/or the Block Island community in some manner.
* A significant moped rental surcharge that goes to the same as above,
* Tickets for no helmet use (maybe bicycles as well)
A bigger solution needs to be for the mopeds in general. It is truly out of control. The moped owners need to come to the table with a solution. Many potential visitors are turned off by Block Island’s deteriorating reputation as a party place, no rules apply. It is disheartening to watch the tone of the island change and the Block Island community needs to take back their island.
To the Editor:
Block Island is a grief-stricken town. We grieve for dead and injured persons we’ve never met and for their families. We grieve for everyone at our medical center and rescue squad. We grieve for police officers and troopers who must secure scenes of death and destruction. We grieve for the business owners whose mopeds have been involved in death and devastating injury. (How can they sleep at night?)
We also grieve for local and state political leaders of whom we are demanding the courage to protect a fragile town. New Shoreham can’t enact the laws needed to protect our town alone. We need our local and state leaders to work together to stop the devastation. Please be bold!
To the Editor:
In light of the recent fatal moped accident, I am requesting that there be an immediate suspension of moped rentals on Block Island until a thorough and unbiased investigation is completed.
This community is reeling from the tragedies and serious injuries that have occurred this summer.
I am writing this as Board Chair of Block Island Health Services, Inc. This is my voice… I have no intention of speaking for other members of the board, but I’m certain you will hear from them.
One of my responsibilities is to support the staff of the Medical Center and I will tell you they have been pushed to the limit both physically and mentally.
The community needs action.
Cindy Baute RN, MS
Allow outdoor entertainment
To the Editor:
Thanks for thinking long and hard on the outdoor music issue at this week’s Council meeting. However I think you should have shared your reservations about the ‘unintended consequences’ of this decision that you appeared to be struggling with just before casting your vote.
On Wednesday night, Tom and I were outside at the Spring House listening to a great music performance by the wife of the Baptist minister and her visiting sister along and the police chief, which brought many islanders and visitors dining together in a socially distanced outside setting. After we returned home at 9 p.m., we had the added pleasure of listening from our deck to a wonderful outside jazz piano being played by local talent at the Manisses for the pleasure of socially distanced diners at that establishment. Needless to say, we were very surprised and disappointed by the Council decision to cancel further outside entertainment on Block Island. The ‘unintended consequences’ of this decision are that many safe and wonderful summer gatherings will be limited or not take place at all, musicians will lose their jobs and many restaurants which have worked so hard to be in compliance with COVID guidelines are being punished for the possible reckless behavior of a few establishments.
Please consider reversing immediately this impulsive and insufficiently studied Council vote. The majority of this caring and intelligent community, does not appear to agree with you.
Thanks for the time and hard work that you put into being on our Town Council.
Pat and Tom Doyle
Supporting Keith Stover
To the Editor:
As someone who has been coming to Block Island for 35 years, built nine homes on the island and ran two businesses on the island, ran for public office on the island and have a fondness for Block Island, I was quite taken back by some of the comments that Council candidate Mark Emmanuelle made.
First of all I think if you are going to be a council candidate you don’t run with a grudge, you don’t run angry, and you don’t run with a vendetta. You should run because you have a vision for the future and you know the mistakes of the past. You should run because you have an understanding of the people who live there year round and an understanding of the people who own and live there during the summer as well as knowing the tourists and business people. You want to balance town services against the Town Budget. We all know that the mopeds have been a problem but it is a community problem. It is not the fault of the Chief of Police. To single him out, Chief Vincent Carlone, who is a friend of mine and who I believe is a man of character. He mingles in the community very well and balances his authority. I think it was wrong to single him out and to say you are going to be someone’s best friend or their worst enemy, save that for when you’re drinking Kool Aid.
Just a few things the Chief has done that we are all aware of: He did a great job in cleaning up Old Harbor. He risked his life, swam out, saved two people from dying and brought them ashore. A true act of bravery. Do you remember the incident when there were 3,000 people on the beach a few years back and he cleaned it up? It was a riot ready to happen. Every Saturday and Sunday in the summer I see him working. How many other Chiefs work on weekends? To say you are going to cut their budget is reckless. If anything you need to fund it better. Have you looked at the summer officers? They are all retired people from the mainland. They come over for the love of community and respect for the Chief. They can make more money doing traffic details with all of the construction going on on the mainland. The fulltime island police officers are grossly underpaid when you look at salaries throughout the state.
You said the First Warden wouldn’t put your concerns on the agenda. Maybe they felt those concerns were a vendetta and I would not put a vendetta on the agenda. I make no claim to be an islander. I make no claim to be a carpetbagger. I like to refer to myself as a “wash-a-shore” but I think there are concerns that the new council should address.
You have a building official who has all the licenses to do all the plumbing, mechanical, electrical, ISDS, Coastal Management and building. Who has no staff and is leaving Oct. 31. You have an ad in the paper for $16 per hour. God help us. That, I think, is a priority.
Funding the Police Department for additional help during the summer for traffic should be a priority. Having a plan of what the island will look like in 10 years from now should be a priority. Conservation should be a priority. Affordable homes should be a priority, Cindy Pappas and her Board should be praised. I noticed you criticized how they administered those homes. I think you must be able to compromise, articulate, and don’t be running because you are angry or because you have a grudge. Run because you’re smart.
That leads me to say that I would support Keith Stover. I liked his comments and how he handled his questions. Be thankful that you have Chief Vincent Carlone, the Building Official Marc Tillson and one of the most dedicated people I have ever run into, Cindy Pappas. What she has done for this island with the conservation and the affordable homes is a true testament to someone who loves the island.
Soon to be resident of High View Lane