Letter: 'Team Douglas' has its work cut out

EastBayRI.com ·

To the editor:

I would like to commend Dr./Mr. Douglas for, at long last, getting a formal ruling from the State Ethics Commission. 

There was really no way around this. The ethics commission statute in part states: “If you are an elected or appointed public official of state or local government, or if you are a public employee of state or local government, you may request advice from the ethics commission. If you believe you may face a real or potential conflict of interest, the time to request an advisory opinion is before you take any official action. A person or entity subject to the Code of Ethics must write a letter to the commission requesting an advisory opinion…”

Their consigliere Ken Block, channeling Tom Hagan, put the best spin on it he could in his most recent letter to the editor. Apparently, after reading the ethics commission statute in its entirety, they all acknowledged what many in town have encouraged them to do for months. 

Based on the ruling, it appears that they are clear to participate in their respective positions. Attempting to follow the town solicitor’s admonishment to recuse themselves from school budgetary meetings was confusing and would ultimately have been a colossal waste of their time. While the essence of the ruling is that the Douglas’ cannot and would not accrue any monetary gain, my contention is that taxpayers potentially have everything to lose! 

So, Team Douglas has made it over the first of many hurdles to come. And what are the others? 

First, they will have to overcome their own entrenched, myopic and unconditional, “support the schools at all costs” mentality. You may recall that Mr. Douglas, along with the new A.L.U. team (that’s the active listening unit, formerly known as the C.O.A.) must make a transparent and serious effort to be more understanding of those who don’t share the same belief system around governance, town expenditures and especially the annual school budget. 

Both Dr./Mr. Douglas are on record and wholeheartedly support,

• The new middle school “Condo on a Swamp” project, and its excessive 25-year tax burden

• The 8.2 percent tax hike this past year and,

• The “School Start Times” initiative (about $400k per year)

I’ll admit the Douglas’ are very nice, well-intentioned people. I know few folks in town that aren’t. I am however diametrically opposed to their “nanny state” initiatives, personal political ideology and big-government agenda. Are taxpayers really to be responsible for “sleepy children?” And I don’t trust their instincts when it comes to the greater good of the town, its finances and a fiscally responsible tax policy. In my mind, they’ve brought a remarkably progressive mind-set to this town and at a time that can ill afford it. 

Their biggest hurdle will be to gain the trust of all of Barrington’s residents. This can only occur by advancing a balanced, fair and pragmatic governance mindset. Just wondering where Team Douglas would stand if/when they both continue to push for their “Sleepy Child” initiative and the town council decides it needs $300K for re-paving twenty roads? 

So, for Team Douglas, they’ve got their work cut out for them. And as for Mr. Block, he’s a nice man too and would have made Michael Corleone proud.

Scott Fuller