Editorial: The odd case of Silver Creek silence

Posted 5/23/19

Downtown Bristol business leaders have a right to feel abandoned. Their town and state representatives have abandoned them.

After arguing for months that the Rhode Island Department of …

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Editorial: The odd case of Silver Creek silence

Posted

Downtown Bristol business leaders have a right to feel abandoned. Their town and state representatives have abandoned them.

After arguing for months that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Town of Bristol were ignoring them while planning the Silver Creek bridge replacement project, they finally got their turn to ask questions and challenge decision-making during a public forum on Tuesday morning. None of them left feeling any better.

DOT representatives said they’ve already considered all alternative options, so none of the public’s ideas are going to work.

Town Administrator Steve Contene said the business folks were being “self-centered” — a term he immediately regretted using, but with a sentiment he stands behind. He is adamant that public safety trumps all else, including their worries about two months of revenue.

Bristol town councilors have been borderline mute on the subject. And state legislators are either disengaged from what’s happening, complimentary of DOT, or resigned to make the best of it.

There is almost no visible leadership on this issue, unless it’s to agree with DOT and support its efforts. For that, there is ample leadership.

But it seems no one is listening to or advocating for the best interests of the Bristol business community or the average Bristol citizen.

The downtown business leaders have been mislabeled and cast in the wrong light. Yes, they are arguing for their own self-interests — who wouldn’t do the same under the circumstances?

Yet they are also arguing for the best interests of Bristol. Closing one of only two north-south routes through this narrow peninsula will have a far greater impact on this community than anyone can comprehend. More than a few small businesses will suffer. Every business and every resident will suffer, one way or another.

A generation ago, Bristol had politicians who would have kicked in doors to be sure their constituents were heard. One famously staged a July 4 protest in front of the governor to see Hope Street repaved. Another launched an anti-LNG protest so vehemently it sank the idea of supertankers in Mt. Hope Bay. Others clawed tooth and nail to keep tolls off the Sakonnet River Bridge.

Today, Bristol has a legion of good people in leadership positions who have been oddly absent or disengaged from this issue. It’s too bad. It’s become clear that a few outspoken business folks don’t have the clout to change anything.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.