Open Letter to Cranston Residents on the Concrete Plant

Dear Fellow Cranston Resident and Neighbor:

As President of the Cranston Citizens for Responsible Zoning and Development, a local non-profit association with over 250 families living in the Eden Park, Garden City and Auburn neighborhoods that formed to promote safe and reasonable development within our City, I am seeking your help in opposing a project which may threaten the health and welfare of your home and family.

You are most likely aware by now that the current Cranston Administration approved the construction and operation of a full scale batch concrete plant earlier this year in such a manner as to avoid what we believe to be a number of legal notice requirements and protection standards. Such plant is proposed to be located on Marine Drive (off Pontiac Avenue) in Cranston — a site that places it within a one mile radius of highly populated areas including the Garden City, Eden Park, Auburn, Dean Estates and Meshanicut neighborhoods. In addition such plant would be constructed in close proximity to at least three public and private schools and less than 700 feet from the CLCF practice fields that are used by our children almost every night of the week between spring and fall.

On September 28, 2006 a similar concrete plant in Charlestown, MA had part of its processing system explode resulting in the release over 3000 pounds of raw concrete dust into the local environment, blanketing a large area with hazardous crystalline silica and sending 61 people to local hospitals.

Since July of 2006, when knowledge of the Cranston concrete plant approval became public, our Association has worked tirelessly to organize, raise funds to mount a costly legal appeal, and contact endless state and local representatives to force the Laffey Administration to revoke the questionable building permit for plant construction. At present we have an appeal of the building permit pending before the Cranston Zoning Board, and we gained the support of the Cranston City Council who passed a complete ban of concrete plants in January of this year only to have the City Administration silently approve the Marine Drive plant days before the official ban became law.

Despite our current progress we still need the help and support of all concerned citizens to overcome the wealth and influence of the concrete plant developer, as well as the arrogance of the Laffey administration that refuses to revoke this unjustified building permit in the face of apparent overwhelming state and local law. Please consider supporting this effort, both financially and by volunteering your time, and help preserve the health and safety of our neighborhoods (as well as the value of our heavily taxed homes). Join our association today and become part of the growing opposition to this proposed concrete plant.

Contact us by phone or fax at (401) 223-4800, or by email at stopcranstonconcrete@gmail.com. Please consider a generous donation today, payable to “CCRZD” and mail it to PO BOX 20442, Cranston, RI 02920 [receipts will be provided.]

Our website at www.stopcranstonconcerete.org provides the history and background of this project, as well as updates on related events, public hearings, and photos and aerial views of the proposed site to help keep you informed.

Your time and support is deeply appreciated as we work to “beat City Hall” and eliminate one of the most potentially hazardous projects ever approved by a sitting Cranston Administration.

Frank Mattiucci, President

Previous posts on Kmareka regarding the proposed concrete plant can be found here:

Ward 2 to Concrete Plant: Not in My Backyard!

Rally to Stop the Concrete Plant

Projo Endorses Chafee — But Does it Matter?

Not surprisingly, The Providence Journal has endorsed Lincoln Chafee, citing as one main reason a factor similar to the one I described when I was interviewed by NPR and they asked why I thought many Rhode Islanders were still undecided about the Senate race: because Chafee has brought us many dollars, and losing his tenured position in the Senate will likely reduce those dollars in the short-term. The long-term payoff of switching to Sheldon Whitehouse is obvious to many of us, but not to everyone. Generally, people have a hard time with delayed gratification, and as the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two Bushes more than a Whitehouse. You know what I mean.

But ultimately it seems that the Projo endorsements have little impact. They endorsed Aram Garabedian for Mayor of Cranston back in 2002, for example, and yet people chose the fresh and promising face of Steve Laffey. Now they are endorsing the “status quo” candidate again, but my feeling is that this will have little impact. The poor performance of our Republican-controlled Congress has led many people to make up their minds already, and the polls say that Rhode Island is ready to let go of the Chafee legacy.

An Assortment of Notable Lynx (10-29-06)

An assortment of notable lynx

The War After the War—The first of a four part series by Thomas Farragher of the Boston Globe that movingly chronicles “the consequences of a roadside bombing in Baghdad that killed Jeremy F. Regnier, 22, of Littleton, N.H., in October 2004� and left his two surviving comrades struggling to come to terms with the experience.

Iraqis See the Little Things Fade Away in War’s Gloom—A thoughtful article by Sabrina Tavernise in the New York Times that relates the very personal ways in which the war in Iraq “tears the fabric of society, breaking communities and long-established social networks.�

Bill Moyers For President—A piece by former presidential candidate Ralph Nader in Common Dreams that makes the case for a Bill Moyers candidacy in 2008.

Bill Maher – New Rules—A video clip, posted on onegoodmove, from the most recent episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, in which the host provides commentary on recent events that is both hilarious and hard-hitting.

A Cautionary Tale for These Torturous Times

If the child of tragedy is the need for understanding and accountability, its spoiled stepchild is the scapegoating of innocents. The latter occurs when reason and restraint fail and when the search for answers and suspects is fouled by overzealousness, expedience, and the like. In such cases, the search itself becomes suspect. So corrupted, a host of unconscionable tactics—including fabrication of evidence, coercion, torture, et al.—are rationalized as acceptable. All too soon, guilt is assigned, and innocents are sacrificed in the name of justice. But it is only in name.

Consider the following editorial, reprinted in full, from today’s Washington Post:

A Travesty in Libya

IN AN attempt to shed his rogue status, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi has foresworn weapons of mass destruction and agreed to compensate the families of those who died in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. But on Tuesday a trial reopens that could again tarnish Libya’s image. Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor are accused of intentionally injecting the AIDS virus into more than 400 Libyan children. The accusations are an attempt to deflect Libyans’ attention from the shocking state of their own medical system. The evidence against the six foreigners is flimsy, but they could face a firing squad.

The infections occurred at a children’s hospital eight years ago in Benghazi, a city in Libya’s northeast. When the outbreak was discovered, a local magazine suggested that the infections reflected poor standards of hospital hygiene: Children were often treated with unscreened blood products, and equipment was not always cleaned before reuse. But Libyan authorities seized the foreign health workers at the hospital and tortured them until they confessed to malpractice. The foreigners were convicted and sentenced to be executed. But Libya’s Supreme Court ordered a retrial following foreign protests.

The prosecution’s case in the new trial is built on a report by five Libyan physicians. The British science journal, Nature, obtained this report and showed it to Western medical experts, who determined that it contained no real evidence. Meanwhile, the Libyan court has refused to admit as evidence an investigation done by two prominent European AIDS experts. The Europeans concluded that the infections had begun before the foreign health workers had even arrived in Benghazi. They also noted that many of the children were infected with hepatitis B and C, evidence consistent with the theory that the HIV was spread by poor hospital hygiene.

The European Commission and the United States have called for the release of the health workers. If Libya nonetheless goes ahead with this travesty of justice, it will be saying that it prefers to scapegoat foreigners rather than admit to the weakness of its own medical system. The first victims will be the health workers. But they will be followed by the Libyans themselves, who need a government with the honesty to confront the true causes of HIV infections.

Biting the Bullet v. Using the Bullet

Those to whom the public delegates the ever vital authority to serve and protect must ever operate with good prudence and judgment. There is little question that these individuals and agencies are charged with great responsibility and have a challenging job to perform, particularly as that job often requires balancing competing needs and risks and making quick decisions upon which people’s lives may depend. On occasion—though it may feel counterintuitive—the authorities must opt to forgo or relinquish intervention, because the potential costs of pursuing such exceed the potential benefits. Thus, however unfortunate, there are times when ending a pursuit is the wisest and safest choice.

These circumstances are brought to mind as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision this week to hear arguments on a case involving a police officer’s use of deadly force while in pursuit of a suspect. The Washington Post provides coverage:

High Court to Rule on Deadly Force in Police Chases

The Supreme Court stepped into the national debate on the risks of high-speed police car chases yesterday, announcing that it will decide whether the Constitution permits police to use deadly force against a fleeing motorist whose only suspected offense is speeding or reckless driving.

The court’s decision was a victory for a Georgia police officer appealing a ruling earlier this year by the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. That court had concluded that the officer acted unreasonably by ramming a fleeing speeder, causing a crash that left the driver, Victor Harris, paralyzed….

When the court hears arguments in Scott v. Harris…early in 2007, it will be the first time the justices have reexamined the constitutional prerequisites for employing deadly force against unarmed fleeing suspects since 1985.

In that case, which involved not a speeder but a suspected burglar, the court ruled that police may use deadly force only when they have good reason to believe someone will be killed or injured if they do not.

“It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape,” the court ruled. “A police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead.”

The 11th Circuit cited that ruling to support its decision against Scott, noting that Harris was not suspected of any offense more serious than speeding, a misdemeanor, and posed little risk to the public because the streets were empty at the time….

Pursuits — even of armed and dangerous suspects — have become controversial in recent years, because of the risk they can pose to third parties and police officers themselves.

A 2004 University of Washington study found that, from 1994 to 2002, 260 to 325 people were killed annually as a result of high-speed chases. [full text]

How the Supreme Court will ultimately rule here remains uncertain, though it seems clear that the crux of the case involves examining the supposed exigency of the circumstances and then determining what standards for forceful intervention need apply and whether those standards were reasonably met. Was deadly force justified? And, more broadly, when ought the authorities bite the bullet (and break off pursuit) versus use the bullet? What is acceptable?

The same set of questions could perhaps be used to examine this country’s recent foreign policy, in particular the Bush administration’s use of deadly force in Iraq in its pursuit of Saddam Hussein and his phantom WMDs. Many before and the vast majority now believe the invasion and subsequent occupation were not justified. The circumstances were not sufficiently exigent, the threat was overblown, and the dangers and costs of intervention were too great. Nonetheless, the authorities in this case refused to break off their pursuit and continue to do so—to the detriment of thousands of U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. To break off pursuit even now is pejoratively viewed as cutting and running. But what the authorities—i.e., Bush and his cohorts—appear reluctant to acknowledge are established legal standards and precedents which assert, in effect, that it is sometimes better to cut one’s losses than to risk disproportionate harm. Failure to adhere to the rule of law on such matters opens the door to much unnecessary devastation, as well as possible civil and criminal penalties.

So how might the Supreme Court—if they could be relied upon to be sufficiently objective—rule in a case such as Bush v. Iraq? Would the Court find that the defendant, George W. Bush, did willfully and recklessly engage in a pursuit that included the use of deadly force, while discounting or distorting the necessity of this pursuit and ignoring the likelihood of causing considerable damage and loss of life as a result? What would the verdict be? Perhaps the ruling that is to come in Scott v. Harris might shed some light upon the darkness. Stay tuned.

Politicking Across the (Contami)Nation

You know it’s getting late in the election season and the media is losing energy and originality when one of the nation’s preeminent newspapers, the New York Times, decides to cover not just the politicians but the “parasites� with whom they come in contact. No, I’m not speaking of the various lobbyists and other influence peddlers who wish to curry (i.e., purchase) the favor of current or potentially future members of the political establishment. I’m speaking of actual parasites, as well as their microbial brethren. Mark Leibovich offers what turns out to be an interesting article on the unseen perils of pressing flesh with the populace:

In Clean Politics, Flesh Is Pressed, Then Sanitized

Campaigns are filthy. Not only in terms of last-minute smears and dirty tricks. But also as in germs, parasites and all the bacterial unpleasantness that is spread around through so much glad-handing and flesh-pressing.

“You can’t always get to a sink to wash your hands,� said Anne Ryun, wife of Representative Jim Ryun, Republican of Kansas.

Hands would be the untidy appendages that transmit infectious disease.

Like so many other people involved in politics these days, Mrs. Ryun has become obsessive about using hand sanitizer and ensuring that others do, too. She squirted Purell, the antiseptic goop of choice on the stump and self-proclaimed killer of “99.99 percent of most common germs that may cause illness,� on people lined up to meet Vice President Dick Cheney this month at a fund-raiser in Topeka.

When Mr. Cheney was done meeting and greeting, he, too, rubbed his hands vigorously with the stuff, dispensed in dollops by an aide when the vice president was out of public view.

That has become routine in this peak season of handshaking, practiced by everyone from the most powerful leaders to the lowliest hopefuls. Politics is personal at all levels, and germs do not discriminate. Like chicken dinners and lobbyists, they afflict Democrats and Republicans alike. It would be difficult to find an entourage that does not have at least one aide packing Purell.

Some people find that unseemly in itself.

“It’s condescending to the voters,� said Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democrat.

A fervent nonuser of hand sanitizer, Mr. Richardson holds the Guinness Book of World Records mark for shaking the most hands over an eight-hour period (13,392, at the New Mexico State Fair in 2002).

Indeed, what message does it send when politicians, the putative leaders in a government by the people, for the people, feel compelled to wipe off the residues of said people immediately after meeting them?

“The great part about politics is that you’re touching humanity,� Mr. Richardson said. “You’re going to collect bacteria just by existing.� [full text]

And has there ever been a greater collection of bacteria than the current political establishment? Just the thought of coming into contact with any of them makes me want to dunk myself in Purell. Now, if only they could make a cleanser that politicians could apply to their oft-compromised morality and honesty. Although, if such a product were applied, I imagine the outcome would look something like this:

Dick Cheney melts after exposure to moral antiseptic