Letter: Light shined does not have to cast pessimism

Posted 5/13/20

To the editor:

Barrington has one-fifth the statewide rate of positive COVID-19 tests.

We're fortunate that we have many office workers able to work from home. We have few apartment buildings, …

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Letter: Light shined does not have to cast pessimism

Posted

Barrington has one-fifth the statewide rate of positive COVID-19 tests.

We're fortunate that we have many office workers able to work from home. We have few apartment buildings, decent open space, and relatively low population density. These factors play a major part in our current status.

Barrington residents could more easily follow the public health guidelines put in place to protect us. Our relative privilege allows us to better abide by the policies than many other places. Last week’s editorial “Barrington should take down the barricades” misses that point.

The barricades weren’t irrelevant. They served the intended purpose: blocking automobiles. Pedestrians and cyclists were intentionally allowed into the open spaces. Unfortunately, boats weren’t able to launch. I’m guessing that was an unintended side-effect of the steps taken by the town manager to ensure maximum public health and safety.

It’s important to consider the reason “there is near-perfect compliance” with public health guidelines is what the town has done and how it has done it. A major part is that many of our neighbors are well informed and care deeply about the community. And part of the reason for compliance is that the Barrington Times has sufficiently frightened people into complying with what had been presented with a spirit of community-mindedness.

For example, the fine for not wearing a mask. A potential fine had been part of the executive orders for weeks before the mask order was added. When asked about it by the press, Mr. Cunha said “we don’t expect to fine anybody, because we expect people will care about protecting the community.” But that’s not how it was covered.

Another example is the coverage of a group of four people who crossed police tape to enter a closed facility. Regardless of agreement, they chose personal recreation over the public health guidelines that were in place for the safety of their community. But the BT headline seemed to blame the Barrington Police Department for doing its job of protecting the public.

As noted in the editorial, during the stay-at-home order, there were a handful of incidents of non-compliance that were addressed by authorities. That does not reflect treating the public like children. It was a few instances of people making decisions for their own benefit, and being treated like adults. Adults know that there are consequences for their actions.

It’s as if we have walked through the rain with an umbrella, arrived dry at our destination, but believe we were foolish to use an umbrella. Barrington’s “aggressive” approach to protecting its residents is why it appears “too aggressive.” Take a step back from the default position of casting a pessimistic spotlight on the town’s administration, and that becomes easier to see.

Things are opening back up. People will pick and choose which guidelines to follow. If everybody believes the orders are “too aggressive” and folks start to ignore them, we could have a surge hit our town. Will you then ask “was Barrington too reckless after the stay-at-home order ended?”

This closing point may be overlooked, but I want to be clear: I am not writing to defend the town or its manager. I have a responsibility to advocate for the people of our community. It is important that we all take care of one another and ensure that we continue to move through this awful period relatively unscathed. The Barrington Times can continue to be part of our community’s success. We’ve done well so far. Let’s keep sticking together.

Jacob Brier

Barrington

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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.