Cote says he’s leaving RI; drops role of citizens’ advocate
After nearly a year of leading the Car Tax Revolt and spending $10,000 on efforts to engage the community in city politics, resident Rob Cote announced early Friday morning that he plans to move out of the city, possibly even the state, due to lack of citizen attendance at last week’s budget hearings and recent council meetings.
In an email to the media, as well as more than 200 members of the revolt, Cote wrote, “Please be advised that in view of the limited attendance by taxpayers and the overwhelming attendance by union thugs at the city budget hearings, coupled with the obvious intent of a city council to support a criminal enterprise in Warwick and to ignore the best interest of the taxpayer, I have chosen to remove myself from assisting in any and all efforts to correct what is so dramatically wrong in Warwick.”
Cote didn’t elaborate on what he means by “criminal enterprise.”
He continued in the letter, “There is nothing that a handful of people can do to make change. It becomes a choice of logic versus time. The time has come where I spend all of my time with my family and plan our strategy to relocate.”
During a brief phone conversation, Cote said, “I can’t fight this fight on my own,” and declined to speak of the issue any further with the Warwick Beacon.
However, he appeared on the Dan Yorke Show Friday afternoon and said while he hoped his efforts would “institute change” in the community and encourage people to be more aware of their local government, he has thrown in the towel.
“The smoke is already on my heels,” he said. “We sent out hundreds of emails letting people know and you get a dozen people that show up. If we don’t get regular attendance at these meetings, there won’t be any change and I just don’t see that happening with all the efforts that we put through. How do you move forward in a society when this is the element you have pandering to the unions? They don’t want to hear from people with logical views.”
On the show, as well as via email, Cote expressed that he didn’t appreciate the manner in which he and other members of the public were treated at the hearings. He felt Council President Bruce Place allowed the assembly of mostly Warwick firefighters and Department of Public Works (DPW) employees to jeer him when he asked the mayor and his staff if the DPW would fiscally benefit from obtaining GPS tracking systems and time clocks that require fingerprints to clock in and out for work.
At the hearing, he said the questions came from an investigation he conducted, plus research done by WPRI reporter Walt Buteau, in which they witnessed DPW employees “wasting” taxpayer dollars.
“These are legitimate questions when you follow around DPW workers who drive for 300 miles around the city of Warwick and never get out of the vehicle for months on end,” Cote told Yorke. “My purpose was to address what we could save with a GPS … It was brought to the mayor’s attention and he dismissed it.”
Further, he said he didn’t like the fact that Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono, Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson and Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis applauded as he was jeered.
Also, said Cote, when he and more than 200 members of the Car Tax Revolt came before the council last summer, there were 30 police officers on duty at City Hall. But, during the budget hearings with a crowd of mostly union workers, no officers were present.
Cote also claimed he was threatened by a DPW employee at Thursday’s hearing. In fact, he mentioned the incident to a Beacon reporter via email. When asked to elaborate, Cote failed to respond in time for press.
Despite his frustration, Cote’s efforts grabbed the attention of Rep. Joseph McNamara, who drafted legislation in January to modify automobile assessments from full clean retail value to average trade-in retail value, as well as set up a “quantifiable” appeal process in which vehicle owners would be able to submit a certified appraisal to challenge “inflated” values. As of now, the bill is on hold for further study.
Cote grew up in Warwick and graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School in 1977 before earning a Bachelor’s Degree of Science from the University of Rhode Island in 1981. These days, he works full-time as a certified welding inspector.