Editor’s note: Opinion submissions are welcome – send to [email protected]. However, we are no longer accepting submissions about the Nov. 8 election. We have a few left to post that were received by the Oct. 25 deadline.
By Brian Turner
Like a scratched vinyl record on my parents’ old record player, we hear our incumbent town councilors saying, “2018…2018…2018….” Town Council candidate forum, “2018,” EG News letters to the editor, “2018,” and let’s not forget election mailers, social media posts, and palm cards, “2018!” Even their biggest supporters gladly join them piling into the DeLorean to jump “Back to the Future” of 2018 Main Street, East Greenwich, in every effort to avoid discussing the issues of 2022.
Meanwhile, since their glory days, time has passed on, and the world has undoubtedly changed. Society has witnessed a global pandemic, generational inflation, labor shortages, interest rate increases, deemphasis of brick-and-mortar business, and significant housing value jumps. Thinking such issues will not impact our local town and resulting taxes or policies is naive. Add to those realities the deep politicization of nearly every issue, and our community is polarized with many feeling they are unrepresented (https://eastgreenwichnews.com/opinion-touching-a-nerve/) and concerned about future decisions facing the town. Yet our five incumbent councilors remain immersed in the year 2018 during this election season. Do they have enough plutonium to power the flux capacitor and return to address the substantive issues facing 2023-24?
During our time canvassing, listening to questions from voters, and reading voluminous amounts of town documents, there seem to be three primary issues on the minds of East Greenwich voters. One is the planned 410-unit development on Division Street. A second is the future of Eldredge School and the overall building plan for EGSD. Coincidentally or conveniently, we’re not sure which, every meeting on these two topics this fall has been cancelled or delayed by the incumbent Town Council and School Committee until after the election. “Great Scott!” This has allowed the councilors’ positions and progress on these current and critical voter issues to remain a mystery other than to say, “Our hands are tied,” about the Division Street development and “excellence in education” is a platform priority. In contrast, as challengers we have offered innovative ideas regarding state affordable housing laws used to bypass our local authority (https://eastgreenwichnews.com/affordable-housing-egs-town-council-hands-are-not-tied/) and are committed to resisting corporate builders from capitalizing on our community’s desirable location at the expense of our infrastructure sustainability.
As for Eldredge and the school building planning, many questions abound. Admittedly, work is in progress, and many decisions need to be made. While some town councilors and school committee candidates want to suggest that people are creating rumors, the fact is there are consequences to decommissioning Eldredge. State Statute H7943A (https://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText22/HouseText22/H7943.pdf), passed in 2022, suggests buildings facing the proposed decommissioned future of Eldredge could be repurposed for affordable housing, and there is still no guidance on this from Rhode Island’s new Housing Czar. As challengers, we are committed to using every method available to our town to keep the future of that historical site within local control and accessible to the community as a whole. Unfortunately, you are only hearing this reality and getting such a commitment from your new Town Council candidates.
The third issue we hear, related to school and community safety, is on the mind of many, especially parents. Unfortunately, their concerns are not about Biff roughing up Marty at the school dance. Here in 2022, the community worries about active shooters at public gatherings and school buildings including our elementary ones. Our Town Council incumbents have remained silent on this issue while we as challengers addressed it in the community forum (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRlYO-FEldc) and with recommendations to get School Resource Officers in every East Greenwich school (https://eastgreenwichnews.com/opinion-research-supports-sros-in-elementary-schools/).
Perhaps our incumbent councilors can’t generate the 1.21 gigawatts of power required to get back to 2022. While they regale you of their 2018 glory, consider if you are confident that they are fully engaged in current community issues, will represent our town’s historical centrist attitude, and provide the innovative solutions we need for East Greenwich’s future. We, Brian Turner, Peter Rodgers, and Brandon Salomon are committed to those purposes and ask for your vote on Nov. 8 if you want the next Town Council to focus on the future instead of reliving the past.
Brian Turner is a candidate for East Greenwich Town Council.