In what organizers and many townspeople thought was a “win-win” idea for weary residents about to be released from a mask mandate, almost everyone but the three councilors who voted down the event proposed by PVD Food Trucks were shocked at the results of the Feb. 28 Charlestown Council meeting.

Eric Weiner of PVD Food Trucks made a professional pitch, mentioning the highly successful events he runs in the neighboring towns of Richmond and S. Kingstown, and in Warwick, Providence and statewide, and explained that his organization partnering with the town on their existing music and movie nights made perfect sense. They even offered to pay for an extra hour of band time, portable restrooms, rubbish removal and marketing.

The Parks and Recreation Commission voted 7-1 to approve the enhancement, and Craig Marr of the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Improvement Commission brought up the fact that it would increase attendance and bring visitors to the town. The Chamber would manage the beer and wine tent as they had for 21 years at the Seafood Festival and arrange for the contracting of services that PVD Food Trucks for pay. Heather Paliotta also offered to provide volunteers, and in collaboration with the Economic Improvement Commission act as co-sponsors of the event.

However, when councilors were given time to inquire, it was apparent that the three aligned with the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, led by Bonnie Van Slyke, who said she had “a long, long list of questions,” that it wasn’t going to be easy for Mr. Weiner. She also said she didn’t want to monopolize the conversation, but the meeting continued for two more hours.  Councilor Van Slyke lives adjacent to Ninigret Park.

Councilor Clarkin, who has a conflict issue, his father lives in the gatehouse at Ninigret Park, worried about parking and traffic flow issues, and worried about what dumpster would be used for event garbage. His questioning appeared self-interested to many, and even though he sought an advisory opinion from the Ethics Commission on his father’s residence before he ran for office, there have been many calls for him to seek another for issues pertaining to Ninigret Park.

The council received 35 emails prior to the meeting on the subject, 33 in favor and 2 against, far more residents spoke in favor than against in the public comment section; yet in the end, the council discarded the overwhelming will of voters, and overrode the near-unanimous vote of the Parks and Recreation Commission and replaced it with a scaled-down event that in the end will cost the taxpayers money in the form of town staff salary since they now have to plan the event. What should have been a “no-brainer” ended up getting changed to one of “no more than three trucks,” on a vote of 4-1, to which Council President Carney stated it was, “doomed to failure.”

Now, after two weeks of online outcries, the council has decided to give Mr. Weiner another chance to make his case on Monday night (3/14) at the regular meeting. This will be the first in-person meeting since the mask mandate ended and should be well-attended if the online commenting is accurate. There must be some concern as well since councilors Van Slyke and Clarkin have added an agenda item to the meeting this week concerning “Civility at Council Meetings.” Stay tuned to find out if town hall in Charlestown becomes its own version of the Boston Tea Party as councilors get pelted with Saugys, tacos and vegan treats.