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Burk Should Check His Facts and Be Honest About His Opponents

Watch what they do, not what they say.

Mike Burk, chairman of the Tiverton Democratic Town Committee and unsuccessful Town Council candidate, does three things in his letter to the editor responding to me that readers should watch:

  1. He takes a condescending, divisive attitude.
  2. He withholds information in order to deceive readers.
  3. He makes statements that appear to be false.

On 1:  Burk makes clear that he’s reluctant to stoop to the level of actually carrying on a civil conversation with the likes of me.  He and his Tiverton 1st, Tiverton Democratic Town Committee associates are apparently too good for that.

On 2:  To enable this attitude, Burk leaves out statements and facts that don’t fit his good-guys-versus-bad-guys picture.  It’s simply a fact that there has been only one other time in recorded Tiverton history that the Town Council had to appoint a person to the Budget Committee because one of its members won election to the Town Council, and it unanimously appointed the next-highest vote getter from the election, Laura Epke.

Burk also skips over my point that candidates’ interests and town dynamics change over time.  I didn’t ignore the fact that the same council that appointed Epke in 2010 did not appoint the next-highest vote getter the following year; I included that in my letter.

Burk is free to disagree with my argument that the appointments were different, and we can engage in the sort of back-and-forth that should characterize political debates in a community.  Instead, he pretends I never made it.

On 3:  Burk should review the Town Council minutes that he claims prove me wrong.  Although I haven’t been able to find minutes from the meeting on April 4, 2011, the agenda shows it was a special hearing about a proposed municipal tax cap.  The Budget Committee vacancy shouldn’t have been a topic at all.

He probably means the meeting on April 11.  Those minutes show a motion to appoint Louise Durfee, but there’s no indication that she asked for the job.  By contrast, the candidate who was ultimately appointed, Jeff Belli, had “expressed interest” in the position.  As I said in my previous letter, my recollection is that Durfee never applied.

Burk then writes that, months later, the council “put in place a process to ask for people to apply and then be interviewed.”  The first mention of another vacancy is on November 14 the same year, and the minutes state that the “Town Clerk had placed two separate ads several weeks ago.”  She may have done that at the request of the council, but it’s odd that there’s no record of a discussion of the process that they were supposedly “putting in place.”

On November 28, Council Member Jay Lambert “noted one other person submitted an application [and] subsequently withdrew the application.”  So the council appointed the only other applicant, Jeff Caron.

If the new Town Council requests applications to fill David Perry’s vacancy and none of the remaining Budget Committee candidates from the last election respond, it would be entirely reasonable for the council to appoint somebody who does.

Take note, by the way, that Burk only mentions three “Katz-aligned council members” who voted to appoint Belli and Caron: Robert Coulter, David Nelson, and Joan Chabot.  He doesn’t mention that Cecil Leonard and Jay Lambert voted for them, too.  (On the Durfee vote, Lambert was with the majority and Leonard was with the minority.)

Maybe Burk didn’t share this information because both Leonard and Lambert were endorsed by Tiverton 1st and the Tiverton Democratic Town Committee, this year. So, he wants to trick readers into believing that we live in a black-and-white world in which I’m just a bad guy who can’t be trusted.

I’m actually one of your neighbors, presenting facts and making an argument about how town government should operate. People can disagree, but if they do it like Mike Burk does, then they’re the ones “dividing Tiverton.”

Watch what they do, not what they say.  We’ll likely find that Burk shot off his belittling, divisive letter because he’s got somebody in mind for Budget Committee, perhaps himself.

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Justin Katz

Justin Katz, Vice President of the Tiverton Town Council, is a writer and researcher focusing on Rhode Island policy and politics. For more about Justin, see our About page. justin@justinkatz.com (401) 835-7156.

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