To the Editor:
First, many Conimicut residents, myself included, were very pleased when our councilman, Joseph Solomon, became the acting mayor upon former Mayor Scott Avedisian’s departure. We were looking forward to having a mayor who knows personally the problems and virtues of Conimicut Village and Conimicut Point Park. We had high hopes that Solomon would also do some really good things for our entire city. We still do. Time will tell.
We thought that Solomon, with personal knowledge of how Conimicut Point Park is poorly maintained and cleaned, would pay particular attention to making sure the park that lies less than a quarter mile from his home becomes a better run park.
Alas, that hope went the way of the Dodo Bird when Solomon announced on his second day on the job that he was suspended the unanimous city council resolution that mandated all Warwick public beaches charge entrance fees to pay for cleaning and maintaining the beaches - a resolution that he voted for when he was president of the city council.
While the entry fees were designed to provide financial resources to pay for better cleaning and maintenance of the parks, they would also have deterred visitors whose primary purpose is to hang out at the parks just to drink and leave their litter.
The city council resolution requiring fees was clearly intended to be implemented this summer. However, the resolution apparently gave the mayor some discretion in how the fee system was to be implemented. Using that discretion, or misusing it, as the case seems to be, Solomon has put the entry fees on hold at least until next summer.
So, for yet another season, Conimicut Point Park and the other Warwick beach parks will continue to suffer the garbage, filth and poor maintenance caused largely by beach visitors who live outside Warwick.
It’s ironic that the same day Solomon put the kibosh on park entry fees, the Providence Journal published its summer guide that showed Warwick beach parks charging small entry fees. The guide also shows that every beach park in Rhode Island, except for those in Warwick and on Block Island, charge fees to enter their parks. It’s no wonder Warwick parks are so much dirtier and more poorly maintained than beach parks in other communities.
Doesn’t Solomon recognize why other cities and towns are charging entry fee? Sure, it’s to gain revenue to help them keep their beach parks clean and well maintained, but it’s also to keep the littering riff-raff out of their parks. Does Solomon think Warwick parks should continue to be the refuge for litterers who don’t want to pay entry fees to their own cities’ parks?
Back when the issue was before the City Council, Solomon said that it was fairer for beach patrons to bear more of the expense of beach maintenance than to put the entire burden on city taxpayers, many of whom may never use the beaches. So now that he’s acting mayor, the taxpayers no longer matter?
Solomon also said that he has now heard concerns from Warwick residents about the entry fees. Where were those concerns when the city council voted unanimously to impose the fees? Not a single city councilor, to include then-Councilor Solomon, felt constituents were upset about the fees. So who are these “concerned residents” that appeared totally silent only a few months ago?
Instead of putting off the fees until next summer or some future summer - or perhaps never, Solomon could have asked the City Council to revise its resolution to charge fees only to visitors from outside Warwick. That might not raise enough revenue to improve park maintenance but it would likely have covered the cost of the teenage fee collectors, who need summer employment, by the way. It certainly would have helped keep the parks clean by deterring those visitors – both resident and non-resident – whose only reason to enter the park is to hang out, drink and litter.
If the City Council has any gumption at all, it will quickly pass another resolution mandating the fees be implemented this summer as intended, revised if necessary to exclude Warwick residents. Failure to act will show that the council is willing to allow the mayor to cavalierly disregard a unanimous council resolution immediately after taking office. The Council’s failure to act will set a precedent and will portend badly for future City Council-Mayor relations.
If Acting Mayor Solomon has taken this action because he thinks it might help him be elected mayor in November, he is sorely misreading the electorate. Warwick residents who use the parks and beaches will be upset because the parks will continue to be filthy, while our residents who don’t use the parks and beaches will be upset because their taxes will continue to pay for park cleaning and maintenance, such as it is.