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.
2018 is an important reminder of Sue Cienki’s tactics. She put the the three of you on the ballot. I am assuming she wants you to take up where she left off. Why didn’t the Republican Town Committee help you to get on the ballot? I don’t want a return to 2016.
I regret you have heard misinformation and made such a pre-judgement without ever speaking to me. Let me share with you and the community the facts of my decision to run.
I was on family vacation in July when the self-declaration deadline passed. Admittedly, I was not planning to run as my focus was on getting my second son off to college and helping my wife’s family adapt to the unexpected loss of her mother in late 2021. Previously, I had been asked several times by the EGRTC to run for either School Committee or Town Council over the prior year, but I shared with them what I’ve just shared with you. After no one initially self-declared for the party, I received numerous texts and calls of encouragement asking me to please run and give the community a choice and hopefully bring some balance back to EG leadership. Unknown to me, there is a state law that permits names to be presented within 24 hours after closing nomination papers. I presume the spirit of that law is for situations just as this where a community finds itself without a choice due to uncontested races.
To be very clear, not one text, conversation, or phone call ever occurred about my candidacy decision with Sue Cienki as I wouldn’t know her well enough to have any such influence on me. However, it was EGRTC members that talked with me. Throughout that day, I first resisted and ultimately talked through things with my wife and family after hearing the desire of people to have a choice due to feeling unrepresented in the recent past.
With my sons’ and wife’s support, I gave word to the EGRTC leadership that I would run and do my very best to serve if elected. It was my deliberation over family matters and managing spotty communication from a rural area in Pennsylvania that delayed the final submission of candidates until late in the day. From that point, I tried to enjoy the remainder of my vacation and not being local in EG, could do nothing more regarding how the EGRTC followed the process to declare my candidacy.
I understand it is politics and people will spin stories to fit a narrative they want to peddle to gain support for their preferred position. However, the facts are simple: I moved here in 2017. I was not engaged in any of the local politics of EG prior to 2020. I have no idea who Gayle Corrigan is…couldn’t pick her out of a line up! And, if it wasn’t for the obsession of a portion of this community with the past, the same would probably be true with Sue Cienki.
While your mind may be made up about me as a candidate, I hope you and others will leverage the truth I shared here in combination with the positions I’ve shared on representation, over building our infrastructure, push back on state LMIH control, school building planning, and community safety to think about what the future Town Council should look like in EG. People can spin things to an appeared connection between the challenging candidates and former leadership but it’s simply untrue. I’ll ask the discerning voter to consider if they want to be influenced by national political practices of tying new candidates to former ones when you can talk to them or other neighbors of yours that know them? I hope this additional information serves you and the community well in discerning how to vote November 8th.
Thanks for this insightful and on-point opinion. The issues you mention are the ones I hear town residents talking about every day. The lack of transparency from current EG town and school board leadership is disappointing and prevents us all from understanding their positions and plans on these issues, which are critical to our town’s future. We deserve better.
I know I’m voting for these new candidates and their forward thinking solutions.
It’s natural that current members of the Town Council would run on their highly successful record of turning the Town’s budget around, rescuing our schools and the Town’s reputation, obeying the law, rejecting cronyism, and providing transparent, responsible governance. 2018 is when that started. Why would we want to return to the corruption and bad-faith governance we had before that? Of course the Town will always face challenges, but I have every confidence our current Town Council is enormously more qualified to address those challenges than the alternative.