Recap of the North Kingstown Town Council Meeting Monday, January 23, 2023
After our salute to the Flag:
The town council held public hearings and then unanimously approved the following:
At the outset of public comment, Greg Mancini said this past Spring, he participated in a national study about violence in politics by the University of Illinois at Chicago. The study focused on negative, hostile, and menacing communications between constituents and public officials. It concluded that the constant personal and negative discourse fuels threats and abuse.“Experts warn that this climate may get worse”.
Unfortunately, this trend has hit North Kingstown. For the past several years social media platforms are filled with constant personal attacks against local public officials. Consistent with the results of the University of Illinois study this has escalated into death threats. In 2019 a resident made a social media post that said that the members of the town council “deserved to be covered in stones or better still hanged in the village center”. Recently, a school committee member received an email with a picture of noose that stated, “its coming”.
No matter where you are on the political spectrum death threats to local public officials is not okay. We have a great community; our quality of life is superb. Overall NK is a great place to live, and we are lucky to be here.
We, as your public servants, do not have a monopoly on good ideas and in fact sometimes we are wrong. However, none of us deserve death threats.
We welcome constructive criticism. But it does not have to be personal and definitely does not have to be life threatening. So, let’s work together to make our community better, not tear it down. With that we welcome any constructive and respectful dialogue from the citizens we serve.
A discussion of legislative priorities with our North Kingstown State delegation ensured. Councilor Larry Mandel asked how we can fix the dangerous stop lights at the Route 4 interchanges. All of the councilors impressed upon the delegation that the community needs more state aid to education and asked the delegation not to vote for any broad based tax relief without first providing more state aid to NK.
In addition to advocating for an increase in school aid, School Committee Chair Erin Earle and member Jennifer Lima advocated for passage of legislation that will let the existing interim superintendent continue to work through the rest of the school year; for a school free lunch program; increased safety needs; universal Pre-K; additional social workers; and, modification to RIGL 16-13-3 to allow a school district to immediately terminate an employee for “gross misconduct”. The harbormaster advocated for enabling legislation to allow the town to regulate motorized house boats.
Senator DiMario, Rep. Craven, and Rep. Casimiro regularly interacted with the council and asked detailed questions about the council and school committee’s requests. Senator DiMario said that there is a bill in to mandate increased social workers in schools that also has a component that pays the district for that cost. Rep. Craven said that the delegation will do its best to increase state aid, and Rep. Casimiro said that she is a substitute teacher so she knows what is going on in the schools and she too will try to get more resources.
Note: Senator Bridget Valverde did not attend because she was at her son’s spelling bee contest (he came in 3rd!).
After public hearings the council unanimously granted renewal of :
The Wickford Oyster Bar’s liquor licenses
Council Consent Agenda
The Town Council unanimously approved the following expenditures monies:
Expenditure: Ratified the manager’s emergency approval of a water heater at the golf course
Funding Source: Golf course special projects account.
The Council received the following:
Donations: $437 from the Thomas and Erma Wood Peirce Cemetery Fund and $120 for the NK Animal Shelter.
Homeland security grant for training and decontamination teams maintaining equipment: $20,000
Town Manager Report
The Town Manager reported:
The town unveiled its updated website and website address today. It is at www.northkingstownri.gov. Wickford Village has once again been nominated for Best Historic Small Town in America by USA Today. There will be 27 days of voting from now until February 18, 2023. You can vote once per day. So make sure you vote. The manager will present his Fiscal Year 2024 Budget to the council during its March 13th Council Meeting. he council will then meet with Department Heads and me all day on Thursday March 16th and the evening of Monday, March 20th before adopting a preliminary Budget that evening. That will be followed by a Public Hearing the week of April 17th --- we are working on a final date for the Public Hearing. Lastly, the town had a successful event last week where it hosted Senator Jack Reed and DOT Director Peter Alviti as we announced a $2 million federal earmark towards the Post Road / West Main Street Sidewalk Project. RIDOT is working with us on design work and we are hoping to break ground on this project sometime in 2024.
Old Business: None
The council unanimously approved:
A dock for 497 Shore Acres.
David Feeney for the Groundwater Committee
Suzanne Mancini for the Wickford Advisory Committee (Greg Mancini abstained)
National Gun Violence Survivors Week Proclamation