2010-08-05 / Editorial

‘Shocked and disgusted’ by council


I was shocked and disgusted at the revelation that the Jamestown Town Council voted 4-0 on Monday, July 19, to publicly humiliate and censure council member Ellen Winsor over her proactive role – starting almost one year ago – to educate the council and local communities, and advocate against the threat posed by Weaver Cove’s latest LNG proposal.

During this meeting, the council president proceeded to read aloud a press release and advisory complaining that Winsor does not represent the town, nor the council, when she speaks at various public meetings promoting a draft LNG Joint Resolution seeking local municipalities to join with Jamestown as signatories against the LNG proposal.

What were they thinking?

To me, this public censure is an outright travesty of justice, common decency, common courtesy, common respect and common sense. It shows incredibly poor judgment, unprofessionalism and a clear lack of understanding of the research benefits and advocacy efforts, motives and mode of operation of Winsor and the LNG Working Group (WG) over the last year – efforts made on behalf of the council, as well as the other communities in R.I. and Mass. adjacent to Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bays.

By demeaning and discounting all of the excellent research, risk assessments, timely actions and advocacy efforts of Winsor and the Working Group, the council’s actions have not only embarrassed our entire community in the eyes of the world – the second time in six months regarding this issue – they have severely set back and undermined almost a year’s worth of time-critical efforts to position Jamestown and the other Bay communities against the threat posed by the LNG proposal.

As the first Working Group chairman, I was intimately involved in the formation of the Working Group. Here are some of the applicable facts:

• In August, 2009, Ellen Winsor conceived the idea of an ad-hoc LNG Working Group “think tank” to research the threat posed to Jamestown by the LNG proposal. At that time, Ms. Winsor asked me to help her stand up this Working Group.

• During September and October, 2009, I solicited the membership of several blue-ribbon “citizen experts” who had relevant technical expertise (e.g., maritime security, operations research, world-class sailing, harbor ship-handling and safety, cryogenics, naval engineering, economics) for this Working Group.

• On Nov. 17, 2009, the Working Group met with our town administrator, who reviewed Jamestown’s historical efforts in this area, and described the LNG threat as a high priority item requiring urgent council attention. All agreed that this “private” Working Group – out of Hess Oil’s “public” meeting videotaping – was to support and report to the entire council, not just Ellen Winsor.

• In December, 2009, outreach relationships were started with a variety of stakeholder groups, including Save the Bay. Also, a LNG risk assessment document was drafted by a nationally known expert from Jamestown.

• In January, 2010, based on rigorous research by the Working Group, two resolutions, a “Jamestown” and a “Coastal Communities Collective LNG Resolution” were drafted as educational and legal tools to be signed and issued by the council. But on Jan. 19, 2010, the council inexplicably rejected and ignored, respectively, both draft resolutions when proposed by Winsor.

• In mid-February, 2010, family medical reasons resulted in my turning over chairmanship of the Working Group to another highly qualifi ed leader.

• On March 16, 2010, Winsor and Working Group member Gordon Carrolton, leader of the Fall River, Mass. “No-LNG” coalition, testified before the R.I. Senate LNG Task Force. Concerned about the potential adverse outcome of the looming government “environmental impact statement” – and in the absence of any sense of urgency by the council – Winsor and the Working Group proactively reached out to applicable R.I. and Mass. communities for signatures on the Coastal Communities “Collective” Resolution. But on April 19, 2010, the council inexplicably side-stepped the Working Group and established its own “LNG Threat Committee,” chartered to develop new town and joint/ collective LNG resolutions.

• On May 17, 2010, the council once again rebuffed an updated Winsor/Working Group resolution.

To date, the Winsor/Working Group resolution has been signed by officials of Newport, Portsmouth, Bristol, Warren, Cranston, Fall River, the Pokanoket Indian Tribe of Bristol, RISC (the state’s largest taxpayers organization) and the Taxpayers Association of Jamestown. With council agendas pending, conversations are ongoing with the remaining Bay communities.

The council’s time-late establishment of the new “public” LNG Threat Committee, the discounting of the “unauthorized” Working Group and this latest public censure of Winsor has caused unnecessary confusion to all parties that have already been engaged with Winsor and the Working Group for many months. Furthermore, these council decisions smack of incompetence by petty, politically partisan councilors, with a “not-invented-here” agenda, who appear to be more enamored with form, process and power than with substance, timely actions and effective products.

That’s not good leadership!

The Town Council could remedy this embarrassing debacle with dignity and honor by accepting and applauding Winsor’s pro-active LNG efforts made on their behalf, by retracting their ill-considered public censure and “apologizing,” and by figuring out a way to leverage and maximize the fruits of Winsor’s labor – and those of the Working Group over the last nine months.

This outcome would be, by far, in the best interest of all Jamestowners and all communities and stakeholders in R.I. and Mass.
John G. Shannon

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