Tiverton residents might be a little confused.
Interim Town Administrator Christopher Cotta has said he was “livid” when he heard the state was going ahead and reopening Twin River without consulting him first, and…
Town Council President Patricia Hilton said that not being involved in the reopening discussions, and learning from the governor’s press conference that the casino would be reopening, was “doubly frustrating” especially after the town learned recently that the state has no intention of honoring its agreement to provide the town with at least $3.1 million in annual revenue from the casino this year. The town realized just $1.2 million this fiscal year from casino gaming revenue and asked the state to make up the $1.8 million difference, but because the casino was shut down the agreement is null and void, the town was told.
Back when Hilton was granting herself full authority to amend the town’s Home Rule Charter (which is like our local constitution), her hired Town Solicitor Michael Marcello was happy to argue that the council president could change the charter on her own authority even though it’s on the level of state law, because “her powers are coterminous with those of the governor’s.” In other words, during a state of emergency, Marcello thinks every town’s top officer is like another governor.
Nevermind the lunacy of giving the state 40 governors during times of crisis, when a chain of command is especially important. If Marcello and Hilton actually believe this, there should be no problem with Twin River opening. If she doesn’t think the casino should open, Hilton should just use her “coterminous power” to keep it closed.
Maybe Michael Marcello’s legal argument was just a bunch of smoke to let Patricia Hilton do whatever she wanted to do, including depriving residents of their charter-derived rights. If Hilton tried that trick with the state, the governor and the courts would quickly slap her wrist away from the reins of power.
This is entirely in keeping with the way the Cottas and Hiltons of Tiverton have run things for years. Anybody with more power than them they approach with hat in hand. If Hilton is really mad, she’ll use phrases like “doubly frustrating.” But when they think they can lord it over somebody, like local taxpayers, they will.
Christopher Cotta has gone out of his way — literally, as in driving to the State House in Providence — to prove himself the top guy in Tiverton when it comes to stopping the voters from having control over town government. So, he’s “livid” he wasn’t included in state decisions about Twin River, but he’s proven that he doesn’t want to include the people in budget decisions.
Keep this in mind whenever he and Hilton get around to allowing the people of Tiverton to enjoy the budgeting rights we wrote into our charter. They’ll say all sorts of things about giving the people a say and following the charter, but you can be sure they’re going to use this extra time they’ve given themselves to figure out how to make sure you actually don’t have a choice.