SWEEEEEEEEP! Portsmouth Ballot Questions All Pass! (Update 2)

By commanding margins, all three of the questions on the Portsmouth ballot were approved today, in an election that saw 3,737 votes cast (a turnout of 31%, very strong for an off-year.) Charter change, at 54 to 46% was the narrowest margin, but still a 9-point win. Wind energy was approved by 60 to 40% and Open space by 57 to 43.

Town Council Vice President Jim Seveney was pleased with the result. "The community has spoken," he said. "In one evening, we voted for better participation, using less power, and looking over more beautiful vistas in this already beautiful town."

With a 9-point margin of victory, the result on Charter Change is clearly a stinging rebuke to the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens, Inc., who, in the last few weeks of campaigning, were engaged in a full-court press to defeat the measure and attempt to salvage their last shred of relevance. (I get to say that because I'm not a real journalist. But you know it's true.)

Sal and Chris Carceller, who had been outspoken champions of the change to the charter, were jubliant. In a statement released to the media, they said, "We trusted Portsmouth residents to make the right decision when it came to fair voting rights, and they did. Now every resident will have a say in a booth when it comes to challenging our budget, not just the residents who are able to show up under the tent. The tent meeting of August 2006 tore this town apart. We are hoping that the passing of this charter amendment will help heal our town. This is a victory for Portsmouth."

There were pockets where the PCC message clearly had traction. The votes from the Common Fence Point polling station were actually the reverse of the general trend: all three questions failed there. My hypothesis is that lingering anger over the sewer issue may have played some role with voters here. But a strong turnout, and substantial lead in the South end of town easily erased that deficit.

Town Councilor Len Katzman saw it as a victory for the truth. "There was a lot of deliberate misinformation put out there," he said. "I'm proud to see that Portsmouth didn't buy into it and were able to think for themselves."

Councilor Bill West also complimented the voters. "I want to thank the voters of Portsmouth," he said, "For turning out and voting, and for looking at and voting on the issues, and realizing that these are for the benefit of all the citizens of Portsmouth."

Personally, I think the Carcellers are spot-on. This is a victory for Portsmouth, and it removes any doubt in people's minds about whether the cranks in the PCC who get up and whinge at meetings really speak for a silent majority. Read my lips, Larry: You. Do. Not.

There are massive thanks due to many folks: the Carcellers, for taking on the Charter Change issue. The EDC and the Energy Subcommittee led by Gary Gump who put together such a compelling case for Wind. Ted Clement and the Aquidneck Island Land Trust for their partnership and vision on open space. And the Town Council, for whom this vote is a real validation. They got out there and pushed these issues, and this vote is a mandate on their leadership.

And we also owe thanks to our Canvassing staff, led by Madeleine Pencak, and the host of poll workers who pitched in to make this happen so smoothly.

But the biggest thanks go to you, voters of Portsmouth. Thank you for confirming our shared vision for our town. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Update: I was unable to reach Ted Clement of the Aquidneck Island Land Trust last night, but this morning, he was kind enough to e-mail me this response to the vote:

"When I learned that the Open Space and Recreational Development Bond had been approved I felt such joy and hope because long-term vision had won the day. In 2005 and 2006, Aquidneck Island lost around 360 acres to development with about 300 of those acres being in Portsmouth alone. Now is the time to act for land conservation and the environment in Portsmouth, and that is exactly what the majority of people did at the voting stations yesterday."

Update 2: Robert Marshall, chair of the Prudence Conservancy, sent along this comment on the results, with a focus on Prudence Island, which joined the rest of the town in approving all three ballot items:

"Forty-three Prudence Island voters went to the polls yesterday at the Fire Station and joined their counterparts on the mainland in approving a bond referendum authorizing Portsmouth to borrow up to four million dollars for open space and recreation projects.

Portsmouth has a good record of providing funds for the protection of open space, including contributing funds towards Prudence Conservancy recent purchase of a conservation easement on the Blount property. However, recent budget constraints had eliminated the source of funding for open space, passage of the bond will restore the availability of funds."


I read your blog often, Mr. McDaid and I LOVE it. I was so glad to see the results, I could not find them anywhere!! Kudos to the voters of Portsmouth, and Sorry Larry, I guess Ted Clement and co were more convincing at the dump last weekend!!!!!

Hi, chrisr...
Thanks for your kind words about the blog. And I echo your kudos to the voters of our town. It feels really good to know that we live in a place that truly cares about equal access to voting and preserving our environment.


NICE! I can't believe all three failed in CFP, but hey, I got my absentee ballot in so I feel just fine. Score three for the REAL concerned citizens of Portsmouth.

Hi, Phyz...
Thanks for your comment. Ditto your thoughts on who counts as the REAL concerned citizens of this town. That would be all of us, and we have spoken. Thanks for voting from wherever you are tonight!


So now we have less time to petition, (it goes for everyone just wait for when the town socilaists need to petition for something, I can hear their spoiled whining now) hampering everyone's ability to change their local government. And we have open space.....On one side of the island... We can now no longer devlope certain areas, restricting our ability to grow the community. Thus not creating new construction jobs and hurting the local economy even more (Although Target was a really bad idea). Now I liked the wind energy plan, I think it is a really good idea, especially if you make a surplus on it you can sell the energy back. However did it need to happen this year? We already have enough budget concerns and this is salt on the wound. The only way to pay for it is a tax hike. Where did you think the money was coming from? The wind will always be there. So taxes will continue to rise because the tax payers no longer has a means (tent meeting) to check the local government from taking more money. Congratulations, Portsmouth. You voted your right away. Hope your wallet can live with your choice.

Hi, BainofMcDaid...
Welcome to the blog, and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I assume you are with the consulting firm named Bain, because otherwise you are spelling the word wrong.

But here's a reality check, pal. Your fearmongering and namecalling do not represent the majority of this town, and I do not believe they ever did.

Facts are what ruled the day in this election, and the majority of Portsmouth saw right through the empty rhetoric spouted by you and your fellow travellers. Facts. Tax increases are now controlled by the Paiva-Weed cap, and the new financial referendum extends the rights of citizens to vote on budgets. Development does not enhance the economy but rather costs us more in taxes. Wind energy will more than pay for itself.

I know you're bitterly disappointed in the result. But if this is the best you can do, I feel sorry for you.


when did I fearmonger? And namecalling.... Was I just preached at by someone who has called a man "fat moon-ass" (a description that also applies to you I think [now that was name calling]) And who also invents names for those he disagrees with? At the most I called the sitting democratic concelers "socialists" which is a term very befitting of them. So please next time you feel the need to preach, look at your past posts.

p.s. Bane is spelled wrong on purpose

Hi, BanhofMcDaid...
The following (mis)statements constitute fearmongering:
>we have less time to petition
>hampering everyone's ability to change their local government
>We can now no longer devlope certain areas,
>restricting our ability to grow the community
>not creating new construction jobs and hurting the local economy
>The only way to pay for it is a tax hike
>taxes will continue to rise
>tax payers no longer has a means

And I get to call people names because this is *my* blog, pal. You want to do that, go get your own.


ps. Did you also make the grammatical errors on purpose?

I won't criticize you. I won't criticize your grammar or spelling. These are, after all, comments in a local blog and not Letters to the Editor of the New York Times (or Wall Street Journal if you prefer). I won't criticize your name calling either. I've been known to fling a few good spicy names myself when I've had my temper flared (although I tend to be more descriptive and creative than "socialist" -- but that's just me).

Instead, I feel sorry for you. I really do. You see, Wednesday morning I woke up and felt good. Actually, I felt great. I felt exuberant. I woke up to a town, my beloved Portsmouth, that affirmed my personal values and my family values. I woke up to a town that embraced true American Democracy where all citizens get a fair chance to vote (and, BTW, you are just plain wrong about the time-frame red herring that the PCC tried to scare everybody about). I woke up to a town that values open space and providing athletic fields for kids AND adults to use. I woke up to a town that has the vision and will to be part of the global warming solution and as a side benefit gets to save money in the process.

I am happy, because I look at Portsmouth and see a bright future with citizens that care about our quality of life. That's why I feel great -- because I have been granted a true gift, from God, to have the ability to look at these wonderful visionary things that are a large part of what makes Portsmouth such a fantastic place to live.

And, I feel truly sorry for you because you do not have that God-given gift. You look only so far as your own wallet to decide if you are happy. It must be a very bleak life. Your neighbors want to build a community that preserves that pasts and embraces the 21st century, and you are angry that it might cost a few bucks. That is so very sad. I feel truly sorry for you.

Hi, Lije...
As always, you have written a calmer, more human response, and I thank you for it. For me, the slap-dash quality of the writing is not just a surface factor, which is why I feel it is fair game. Disorganized and clichéd writing is almost always the result of disorganized or uncritical thought. When you hear people spewing talking points instead of engaging the issues, it is usually a sign that they haven't thought things through.

Take a sentence like, So taxes will continue to rise because the tax payers no longer has a means (tent meeting) to check the local government from taking more money. The careless quality of the prose is, for me, a reflection of the carelessness of thought. Both the claim (taxes will continue to rise) and the warrant for that claim (no tent meeting = no check) are provably false: Paiva-Weed now controls tax increases, and the new budget referendum actually increases the number of citizens who will get to vote on budget modifications. I believe the surface chaos is a reflection of the deeper logical problems.

So yeah, I know I can look like a dick for criticizing somebody's grammar. And if I were a politician instead of a blogger, I would have to think about 'how am I going to bring this person around to my position?' But you know what? I am a blogger. I'm a progressive blogger. And if someone posts that the Town Council are socialists because they...well, I don't know exactly why he thinks they are socialists, maybe because they approve the school budget or something...anyway, calling them names and spewing a bunch of ill-considered stuff is going to prompt me to call bullshit.

I do feel sorry for Bain too. As chrisr says elsewhere in this thread, folks who love Portsmouth are willing to spend a little more for the value of living here. And I know that there are people for whom finances are tight, or living on fixed incomes, and that it is hard to see beyond that, and they deserve some slack. As Warren Zevon said, "You're a whole different person when you're scared."


If open space and wind energy represent a small increase in my taxes (and WOW did I grow the economy with the <$100 the PCC saved me) I say Bring it on. The character of the town is what matters. Yup, it costs more to live here, I think its worth it.

Hi, chrisr...
Thanks. The PCC has had everyone so frightened of taxes that I think it's been hard for people to even say this in a political discussion. But yes, I believe -- and the vote Tuesday confirms -- that people in Portsmouth are willing to pay for what they see as valuable. Not overpay, to be sure. But when a clear argument can be made, like the Wind Turbine, the majority of Portsmouth voted to spend a few dollars more.

The PCC's arguments have been all about costs, and all about ignoring, or denying the reality of the benefits.


I am compelled to comment on the comment that we could have waited to build the wind turbine.

Yes, we could have waited .....

---If we would have waited, we would have lost the $2.6M zero interest bond.
---If we would have waited, the wind turbine would have cost more to buy.
---If we would have waited, electricity prices would have gone up.
---If we would have waited , the line for a turbine would have gotten even longer, lengthening the time it would have taken to start generating revenue.
---If we would have waited, the money we hope to get from the RI Renewable Energy Fund would have gone to some other project.
---If we would have waited, I suspect we would have continued to go on waiting -perhaps forever.

Hi, PEDC-Chair...
Thanks for making this so clear. For me, the 2.6-million-dollar zero-interest bond is key. I know that you could still make the economics work without it, but passing this up would mean paying a lot more. Which *would* mean more out of people's wallets. So deciding to do this now actually saves the taxpayers money.


John - I was not able to be in RI last week, but I did vote in a *booth* as an absentee before I left. I must take the occasion of this recent townwide vote to thank you for allowing this, your own personal blog, to morph into something of a public service. When I see the lies, misinformation, fearmongering and microphone-hogging behavior of the troglodytes, I get very angry - but it is extremely reassuring for me to read your blog because the things you say - and the comments of many of your readers - validates my impression that the troglodytes don't care about things like *facts* and *rational argument.*

Also - congrates on your new, pretty kitty.

Hi, Viking...
Thanks for your comment. I'm very glad that you got to vote last week, and I share your thanks to all the folks in Portsmouth for turning out and voting for a better future. I think the days of the microphone-hogging trogs are numbered. Events have blown by them, and while they may still strut and bluster, I think deep down they know what last week's vote really means.