Candidates Forum set for October 30, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
The Block Island Residents Association and The Block Island Times will be hosting another “Candidates Forum” on Sunday, October 30 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. (Location still to be determined.)
This will be an important opportunity for candidates (those on the ballot, as well as write-in candidates) to express their views on a range of issues facing Block Island and to answer questions from the public. This will be an in-person event and will also be streamed live. If you are a candidate for the New Shoreham Town Council in the coming election and would like to participate in this important event, please contact Joe Loya, President, Block
Island Residents Association, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statements from the candidates for three Town Council seats:
Thank you for the opportunity to address The Block Island Times audience.
First, it seems there has been some confusion regarding the upcoming election.
We have a five-member Town Council. The endorsed candidates for First and Second Warden are Keith Stover and Sven Risom, respectively, and they are running, unopposed. At the time of filing I was the only endorsed
candidate running for three open council seats. It was a great disappointment that no one else stepped forward back in June but, honestly, more of a disappointment that we had not generated interest in serving. As I believe most know by now, Neal Murphy and Margaret (Molly) O’Neill have since stepped up and been endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee, joining me in running for those three open council seats and I think that is great news.
The last few years have been difficult, I think it will be years before we realize the full impact of the pandemic. We tried at the onset to distance ourselves from the rest of the world, and by the summer of 2020 it felt the whole world was coming to our shores, bringing the frustrations and angers and fears grown over a spring of isolation. Conversely, I experienced some of the best moments of possibility, a call I expected to start with “You — the council — can’t do that!” was instead “How can we fix this?”
And that is how we all need to approach problems, not with the accusations and undercutting but with a mutual understanding that we are all in this together. Years ago I first heard “it may be more immediately satisfying to curse the darkness but there is greater long-term gain in lighting the candle.” We need to keep working with Providence but we cannot lose our unique reality that has been underscored this week as the boats haven’t run in days and the wind is still rattling the windows and bashing tree limbs. And especially as the news in Providence lost interest in “no ferries to Block Island” after day two.
What are my goals and objectives for the next two years, what is my “intent”? Very simply, to work together, to support, not micromanage, our staff, and to continue moving forward. There is nothing more soul and productivity-crushing than a laundry list of things-we-haven’t-gotten-done-yet.
We have to decide what we can and what we cannot afford to do, we need to focus as a body and stop reacting to whatever last bright and shiny object crossed our field of vision.
Why vote for me? The governing body of the town should be diverse, it should be comprised of folks of varying experiences and backgrounds. I could list a wide range of perspectives gained through serving in many different roles on Block Island and wax poetic on the value of institutional memory, but in summary, it’s really no more than I’m old and I know stuff.
I am running for Town Council because I want to establish a better rapport between the town and local businesses. Currently there is limited representation for local businesses on the council, which has contributed to the current adversarial relationship between the town and the tourism industry on Block Island. We can work together, and we do have common goals. I’ve been a part of the Block Island community all my life. I own a home and a business here, so I speak first as a citizen when I say that I realize the importance of protecting Block Island, both the land and the community. We can safeguard our very special community while also supporting tourism that helps to sustain our island financially. As an owner of one of the largest businesses on Block Island, I welcome the opportunity to have a seat at the table, as it’s critical that we have an unbiased council that serves and represents the public as a whole, and not simply the subset of individuals against summer tourism. Island businesses have been here for decades and are here to stay. They are not the enemy!
As a member of the Town Council, I would also like to strengthen New Shoreham’s police department. Our police department has been chronically underfunded, and we have had four police chiefs in the past two years! By increasing our police officer compensation and hiring more officers during the summer, we will be in a better position to enforce the town’s open container law, for instance. We need to fix the perception that Block Island is a place of lawlessness due to the lack of a police presence. It is my belief that the news headlines that ran late last spring indicating the town’s refusal to pay for State Police directly contributed to the increase in incidents island-wide over the summer. We can’t safely run our businesses or protect our community without a police force, especially as the island population swells during the summer. We need police officers who feel valued by all of us.
We also need to have a paid, instead of volunteer, fire and rescue team. Our first responders need to be compensated for their essential work, especially during the busy summer season. We’ve all seen them responding to bike accidents, etc., on the side of the road. It’s a full-time job! It’s not easy for them to respond to multiple accidents and incidents at once. If the fire and rescue team was paid, we’d attract more EMTs and have a safer place for both residents and tourists. We need to keep Block Island out of the news for issues related to the town’s lack of safety measures.
I am committed to the businesses and the residents of Block Island and welcome the chance to serve the community as a member of the Town Council. Thank you for your consideration.
As many know, I announced my candidacy as a write-in candidate for Town Council in August. However, I wanted to share more information with islanders so they can get a better understanding of my background, experience and focus for Block Island.
I was born in Boston and grew up in New Jersey and Long Island and spent every summer on the island as a child. My family’s connection to Block Island dates back to the
1800s but it was not until 1900 that we owned property, when my great-grandfather purchased the Innisfail. In the early 70s my parents purchased our cottage on Graces Cove.
I started my first job on the island at 14 as a dishwasher at the Oar and went on to work at many jobs, including managing the B.I. Club. In the 90s I opened Murphy’s Irish Imports. My many years of working on the island were instrumental in preparing me for the various roles throughout my career.
After finishing college at the University of Scranton, I became an institutional fund accountant at Putnam Investments, achieved my masters in education at Fordham University, while teaching 5th grade in the Bronx full time. After working a part-time job at PricewaterhouseCoopers, to supplement a teacher’s salary, I was offered a job as an HR Manager. It was here were I found my “calling”! I would go on to have a 25-year career in Human Resources spending 12 years with Marsh & McLennan. While in Los Angeles I was recruited away to eventually become the Chief People Officer for Dine Brands. There I was able to blend my entrepreneurial spirit with my HR experience to better understand how to attract and retain the best talent for the organization and ultimately led me to purchasing the Old Town Inn in 2019.
Having a long love for Block Island, I am running for Town Council to support the community while continuing to grow tourism in a way that benefits as many as possible.
Not every decision is going to be good for every individual - each of us needs to be prepared to sacrifice some things for the “greater good” of the island.
I can ensure for you, if elected, that I will work as hard at town government as I have on my own business and will work to build consensus on what I believe are the important priorities for our great community:
• Affordable Housing
• Maintaining B.I. as a family-friendly destination
• Enacting/amending town ordinances to “manage” party behaviors
• Growing and preserving town resources
• Building and supporting a strong talent pipeline on-island and off to benefit the island.
• Green energy
Please feel free to stop into the Inn or send
me an email at email@example.com with your thoughts, comments or concerns.
Margaret “Molly” O’Neill
I am seeking write-in votes for the undeclared seat on the Town Council. I was surprised, like the rest of the community, to see that we only had two candidates declared for three available seats on the council.
Voters will need to write in two candidates if they wish to unseat one of the declared candidates. I have been involved in a variety of island organizations and committees and I have a real love for this community and its continued success as we find our footing and move forward as a group to craft our next steps.
Our community is so varied, the needs and the visions seemingly very different, but the explosive results of this summer have made it clear that we are one community with a shared love of Block Island history and culture. The opinions voiced at council meetings this summer came from seasonal residents, visitors, islanders and year-round residents and they were voicing the same things; a deep love of this place and disgust with the business interests working to erode the culture of the island. We have an engaged community that cares about what happens next and I think that is a very positive position to be in.
There is never only one answer to any problem. I believe we need to define our goals and begin our job of making constant incremental improvements that move towards our shared vision.
My husband Chris and I are both originally from New York but met and married on the island. We’ve raised our three children here. For 27 years I owned and operated The Scarlet Begonia, a gift shop on Dodge Street. For the last 24 years I have run Block Island Linen Rental - a business my mother started over 30 years ago. I have been a substitute teacher at the Block Island School off and on for 34 years.
I have served on the Board of Canvassers, the Recreation Board, Island Free Library Board of Trustees, and the Police Advisory Commission as well as Charter Commission.
Voters will see that I am on the ballot for Town Moderator - a position I have held for many of the last 14 years. (If I am elected to council there is a process to fill the moderator position).
I am a past president of the Chamber of Commerce, a member and past president of the Block Island Lions Club, an advisor to the Block Island Leo Club, Co-President of the Saint Andrews Ladies Guild and a member of the BIVFD Ladies Auxiliary.
Over the years I have been involved in many other organizations at various levels and I believe the cumulative experience of working with community members over so many years in all these capacities can only help by giving me a broad picture of the needs of our community.
I would like to officially share with everyone that I will be running as a write-in candidate for Town Council. This decision was made wholeheartedly the morning after the official ballot was released, which had only two ‘at large’ candidates running. The decision was reinforced by the large number of residents who asked if I would run again. And, like my fellow write-in candidate, Neal Murphy, our names did not make the ballot the next day due to a
procedural issue at the state level, forcing the write-in option.
I’ve been a resident of Block Island for 30 years, and as many of you know, served two terms on the Town Council. For 17 years I was employed by the Town in several different positions. Currently, I own and operate a few small businesses including Block Island Fishworks, Fort Island Kayaks, and Captain Nick’s. In the past I volunteered my time with the Block Island Lions Club, serving as president twice. I was Athletic Director at the Block Island School, and also served on the School Committee. I am currently the chair of the Recreation Board and sit on the Planning Board. Most importantly, I live on Block Island with my family year-round, in a home made possible by the affordable housing program. I have two children that have been enrolled in the Block Island school since kindergarten and are currently in 7th and 8th grades, and myself and my wife contribute our time and efforts to various island causes and organizations. My family, including my adult daughter, have a deep-seated love and respect for our Block Island home and neighbors.
Historically, political platforms aren’t necessary on Block Island. But I want to make it clear to the voters what and who I will represent and advocate for if elected.
• The working class of Block Island
• Affordable Housing
• Small businesses
• Police, Fire and Rescue Service
• The Block Island School
• Town transparency and accountability
On Election Day, it’s important to follow the instructions for write-in candidates. Mistakes will discount your vote and every vote will be needed! The circle must be filled in next to the write-in and spelling is critical for write-in candidates. My name must appear on the ballot as: CHRISTOPHER WILLI.
As Election Day approaches I look forward to hearing your concerns and desires for the direction Block Island needs to move in. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org for anyone who wishes to reach out with questions.