Letter: Westport — Let’s not forget

Posted 11/26/19

To the editor:

To Westport officials (and wannabes) …

Westport is a town with a growing retirement population, with people that have all of the best intentions, but I see some troubling …

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Letter: Westport — Let’s not forget


To the editor:

To Westport officials (and wannabes) …

Westport is a town with a growing retirement population, with people that have all of the best intentions, but I see some troubling trends. I can go through all the sayings — “The only good change for Westport is from a vending machine,” and “The last person who built a house in Westport wants to be the last person who built a house in Westport.”

 These sayings have been transformed into, “We have to change as long as you agree with me,” and, “No one can do anything I don’t like without my permission regardless of regulations or laws,” or even, “They should be allowed regardless of laws and regulations.” 

There were two excellent letters written over the past few weeks to this publication, one advocating “taking the town back,” the other eloquently advancing the need for change in some areas. That status quo won’t work, that is for sure, but running around with your hair on fire is no way to react.  Everyone can learn something from both letters, regardless of what side you fall on. 

But alas, more deference seems to get paid to the more vocal, well connected campaign contributors and event throwers than to most residents. Certain town boards have become thrones of permission with inconsistency in application of laws and regulations. Special people getting special things. I missed the catch-all clause in town by-laws that states, “I don’t like it,” or, “I do like it,” are sufficient for approval or denial. I was recently in front of a board who would not vote for approval of something in total compliance for just one of those reasons.

In all this, residents seem to be a forgotten group.  Yes, believe it or not, there are citizens who work for a living, raise families, and work to make ends meet without the benefit of trust funds, huge settlements, or flexible high paying jobs. 

These people may have been lucky enough to have grown up here or are fortunate to live here, modestly at best. They are tremendously affected by policies and decisions that lack consideration of or any factual back up. And yes, there are people who actually do know something, even more, than you do about certain things that you might want to consider having a conversation with. I would like to think that these omissions are just a memory situation. 

Most recently, there were proponents of an animal registry and keeping of animal regulations who seemed to have forgotten that when you have meetings during the working day, the people that are affected most can’t attend.  This was evident in the nighttime meeting that was held in regards to “Keeping of Animals.” 

When I hear an advocate get up and say, “I’m glad the farming community ‘finally’ showed up,” at that hearing held that night, there was a  feeling inferred by the speaker of people not taking the time to attend daytime meetings, as opposed to not being able to attend daytime meetings. Apparently the speaker forgot that farmers work during the day, or more probably didn’t care. 

One proponent of the recently passed “Animal Registry,” a constant letter writer and Westport critic, apparently forgot to license her dog for the last two years while she railed about someone possibly not having to register their pet bunny. Another advocate forgot that she was not going to live here anymore. Another advocate and current board member had no problem speaking out against a proposed tenant farm by law at Town Meeting (Article 34, 2012 Annual Town Meeting) which would have prevented the whole Medeiros farm tragedy, but that seems to have been forgotten. 

But the animal advocates had no problem blaming the Board of Health in 2016 for the Medeiros Farm incident and then supporting “their candidate” in the recent election. After all, a campaign promise is more important to the inner circle crowd. Most of the advocates’ (not all) major concern is about raising cocktail glasses and Facebook followers than raising animals. 

They must have forgotten 2012, or didn’t have all the facts. Please remember this when you put the nail in the next farmer’s coffin, or pass regulations that make it unaffordable to live or work here, and then crow about losing cornfields, open space, and other essentials of rural living in the neighborhood you profess to hold so dear.  

After recently attending several workshops on the river, and the accompanying report, I saw what was seemingly disappointment in the eyes of some clinging ideologues because the “cause du jour,” denitrification septic systems, was not branded the as the only solution to problems with the river.  

Yet as I scanned the room, I saw more people that didn’t have denitrification systems living in close proximity to the river, than those who did. I actually saw only one out of about 40.  For the record, I do believe that denitrification is warranted in some locations, but other types of change, as mentioned in the presentation, are warranted. There are many more solutions to the river’s problem that must be implemented. 

A knee jerk reaction to the problem of nitrogen in the river is not the way to proceed. But the ideologues driven by outside forces want to institute policies that don’t affect them or their pocketbook, but will hamstring the average person. I ask you to hold hearings that can be attended, to reach out - outside your neighborhood.  If you opine that people write to publications while “not knowing all the facts” after you convene a 10  a.m. meeting, or even worse, make decisions at a round table gathering of friends (yes it happens), you have no one to blame  but yourself. 

So, the next time you look in the mirror (some will have to clear the smoke away), please remember that this is a town of many diverse people and your decisions have far reaching effects. Running to the Board of Health to pass regulations because they cannot be overturned by “the people” they effect just drives more wedges within the town. Clinging to ideologies that are popular with the 20 people you see regularly, who nod in agreement like bobblehead dolls and hang on every word, won’t garner support or discussion on some very important issues. 

Ultimately, I hope that the problems with decision making are based upon forgetfulness.  In the meantime, I will be at the beach running my licensed, leashed dogs. I will go to work every day, come home, attend a meeting or two and try to inform people who can’t attend. I will register my animals in accordance with the regulations, unless of course, I forget.

Sean Leach


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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.