2008-12-31 / Editorial

A look at the Town of Jamestown in 2009

By Robert Sutton, Town Councilman

At the beginning of our term as Town Councilors, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser requested that we articulate in writing reachable goals for our time as members of the council. I know that the financial condition of our state and our country will probably drive a lot of our focus in the next couple of years in Jamestown. I also think within this financially difficult time there is opportunity to create, with all of the residents of the community, a more sustainable and energy efficient Town of Jamestown, consistent with many of the goals we articulated at the beginning of our term.

The upcoming year could be a year that the Town Council, town commissions and our professional staff concentrate on creating a more sustainable community lifestyle. I recognize that economic conditions will place financial burdens on staff and taxpayers, but these same troubled times will provide opportunities for tremendous sustainability successes, in spite of the economic climate.

These opportunities include the following:

• Work closely with the Wind Energy Committee to encourage and advance the possibility that wind power may be a viable energy alternative in Jamestown.

• Create a plan and a plan of action for the reuse of Fort Wetherill that develops and supports local, sustainable, water-dependent uses that provide opportunities for local employment and restoration, improvement and sustainability of the Narragansett Bay fishing/seafood resource.

• Work with the planning and zoning boards to develop laws and regulations that enhance opportunities for viable, sustainable retail and other business in our commercial area and encourage community support of our local businesses.

• Work with planning and zoning boards to develop laws and regulations that enhance opportunities for viable, sustainable agriculture throughout our community and encourage community support of our local agriculture.

• Complete the design and develop a strategy for construction of the North Main Road bike path and safe routes to school program. Complete the sanctuary trail extension and pedestrian trail system in the "center island." Encourage and develop all manner of ideas that provide alternative ways for moving about and provide outdoor activity for adults and most especially children and young adults.

• Take steps to reduce the amount of paper transfer of information between town staff and town council and the other town committees. Find and begin to develop as many ways as possible to introduce electronic data and data transfer that reduce paper creation, subsequent storage and personnel costs and make full use of our town personnel. Encourage in all of us habits that reduce the amount of stuff we throw in the trash and subsequently haul to the Johnston landfill.

• Work productively with DEM on the identifying and reducing the cumulative impact of the density of development in Jamestown Shores. Continue our commitment to conservation of the island's natural resources and natural beauty and reinforce lifestyles that minimize the impact on those resources.

It is my firm belief that the single most important resource that this community enjoys is the people that work for it. This has been my belief historically and this past year's work by staff, provided additional support for this idea.

The governor of this state has spent the last seven years fighting with his own employees and trying to convince the rest of us that the men and women that work for government are a big part of his and our economic problems. It has been a belief and strategy that has proved both counterproductive and disingenuous.

Now I am not saying that we should fall all over ourselves thanking our public employees, remembering their birthdays and stuff like that, but I am saying that Jamestown has a small dedicated professional staff, both paid and volunteer, who teach our children, maintain and plow our streets, wisely manage our taxpayer money, protect our safety and property, and manage libraries and recreation facilities all of which actively and positively contributes to our quality of life and the future of that quality of life. As taxes become more of a burden, and government services legitimately questioned by the town council, school committee and the people, town employees should be perceived as a resource, and involved in the discussion and solutions, not the focus of the problem.

I look forward to a busy and productive year.

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