Elected Officials Douse Climate, Coronavirus and Racism Flames With Gasoline


The number of dreadful people holding office in Rhode Island and nationwide is revolting. We will be stuck in this racist, coronavirus-flourishing, inequality-raging, climate-changing stupor until we start electing people who are compassionate, intelligent, and principled. Ideology and greed are burning this country to the ground.

It’s time to extinguish this long-smoldering blaze, which far too many elected officials are now trying to camouflage by incoherently yelling about the First Amendment.

Their unfit-to-serve behavior is easy to spot. Black Lives Matter and the coronavirus have exposed their ignorance, hate, and self-pity. This moment in time, a bruising 2020, has demanded genuine leadership. The Ocean State and the rest of a beleaguered nation haven’t experienced enough of it.

What our tax dollars instead have provided is a stomach-turning serving of political hackery. Elected officials throwing up all over themselves to avoid admitting systemic racism exists and that the coronavirus won’t magically disappear if we open enough restaurants and churches.

Elected officials in the northwest corner of Rhode Island decided this was the week to air their grievances about a virus that has killed more than 900 people here in Rhode Island and is still burning unabated across the country.

Five Burrillville Town Council members — Jeremy Bailey, Donald Fox, John Pacheco, Stephen Rawson, and Ray Trinque — passed a resolution declaring Burrillville a “First Amendment Sanctuary Town.” A tired political trope that only proves they don’t understand the Constitution or much care about public health. (Last year, the council unanimously designated Burrillville a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town.)

They seem to have forgotten that much of Rhode Island united to help the town stop an out-of-state developer from building a massive fossil fuel power plant in their neck of the woods. Asking the town to now help extinguish a virus that is transmitted person to person by respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, preaches, or talks was too much to ask.

The resolution declared that Gov. Gina Raimondo’s executive orders on social distancing, crowd size, and other coronavirus-control measures have caused “substantial harm to the emotional, spiritual and financial well-being” of the town.

Apparently, Burrillville is the only community hurting. It’s the only town whose summer has been inconvenienced.

The third paragraph perfectly encapsulates the meandering nonsense of the resolution: “Phases One and Two of the plan to reopen the Rhode Island economy include many cumbersome restrictions on places of worship, restaurants, retail establishments and other small businesses; with inconsistencies of enforcement afforded to legal, law abiding citizens versus illegal activities such as looting and arson.”

The resolution promised that the Town Council “will not appropriate funds for staffing, overtime, and/or expenses for work related to the execution of the unconstitutional executive orders that infringe on the aforesaid constitutional rights of the People of the Town of Burrillville to freedom of religion, assembly and redress of grievances.”

For those more vulnerable to the virus — senior citizens and people with pre-existing health conditions — the five council members say those residents should “exercise social distancing and safety measures to protect themselves,” because, apparently, the town, or at least five of its seven elected council members, doesn’t have much interest in continuing to do so.

The council members did, however, include in their resolution that the town “will not discourage them from such protections.” These ersatz humanitarians noted that the town “has already undertaken extraordinary measures to protect vulnerable populations, provide food delivery, medicine delivery and create a well working network of local support.”

Take a bow, and then pass a resolution that blames the governor for your surrender and basically tells your older constituents and those with compromised health to stay inside so the rest of the town can selfishly leave their masks at home, ignore physical distancing, and congregate as they would like.

The authors of the resolution are done sacrificing. What happens if Rhode Island’s 38 other municipalities decide to wave the white flag? You can find the answer in Arizona, Florida, and Texas.

To prove their mean-spiritedness, the authors’ nearly two-page resolution mentions the “Wuhan-origin” coronavirus five times.

According to a story in Northern Rhode Island News, town solicitor William Dmitri said, “I think it’s a great resolution. It doesn’t say that we’re not going to follow lawful orders.”

But it does say you have little concern for the way the virus spreads and little compassion for those it might sicken or kill while you whine about phantom slights to your First Amendment rights. It also shows how unpleasant you can be.

They likely picked up their taste for nastiness from the state’s callous speaker of the House, who last week, in the midst of a growing campaign to remove the word “plantations” from Rhode Island’s official name, said he doubted the well-documented history of slavery in Rhode Island.

In a radio interview, Nicholas Mattiello said, “I originally did not think we had actually slavery in Rhode Island, and that may not be accurate. … If we did, then, you know, that may sway my opinion the other way. I do believe in respecting history. I don’t like taking down monuments and anything else that is happening in this day and age. If you forget history, you are doomed to repeat it.”

What if you never learned (wink, wink) that Rhode Island played a leading role in the transatlantic slave trade? Did it happen? Does respecting history mean playing dumb when it comes to acknowledging the pain and suffering Black people have long experienced in this country?

During the June 19 interview, Mattiello was asked about whether Juneteenth should be established as a state holiday.

“Juneteenth … I apologize, but I don’t even know what you are talking about,” the speaker of the House responded, despite the fact that by the time he did the interview the event and its meaning had been splashed all over the media in the lead-up to Trump’s Tulsa rally.

Plus, state Sen. Harold Metts has repeatedly put forth resolutions recognizing the significance of Juneteenth.

Mattiello stands proudly with the cabal of elected officials burning progress to the ground with tiki torches. It’s time to put out the fire.

Frank Carini is the ecoRI News editor.


Join the Discussion

View Comments

Recent Comments

  1. Bravo!!!! Thank you Frank Carini! To me, and many residents here in Burrillville, this is not ok and we cannot and should not just let it go.

  2. Ah, ignorance. Such a precious commodity. Unfortunately, so prevalent these days! Good job calling it out, Frank.

  3. Why do I think it very unlikely that Burrillville will ever pass an ordinance designating itself a 13th, 14th, or 15th Amendment Sanctuary town?

  4. This Burrillville town council scenario is rooted in some small-minded huffing and puffing. The behaviors of proud, ignorant, and sociopathic public servants with a chilling chip on their collective shoulders. Come on folks, you’re better than this.

  5. Just wondering if these anti masker
    1 st AMMENDMENT- ers are planning on dying at home to make more room in the hospitals for those who actually tried NOT to get sick and spread it to their friends, family, and Co workers. If they got any “ REAL” news, they might actually understand that this ie real and people ARE STILL DYING. Of “ LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS”…. the first of these is LIFE. Your pursuit of “ happiness” should not “ trump” everyone else’s pursuit of LIFE. I blame TRUMP and FOX for spreading the virus along with the “ real” FAKE news/ propaganda. THEY should be charged with treason, sedition and malpractice, among other things.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your support keeps our reporters on the environmental beat.

Reader support is at the core of our nonprofit news model. Together, we can keep the environment in the headlines.


We use cookies to improve your experience and deliver personalized content. View Cookie Settings