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Councilor Rips ARA, Board Members Fire Back

Leaders disagree on whether ARA board members should have made a presentation to the city council and whether the board members gave enough notice saying they would not do it.

Attleboro city councilors did not hold back their frustration Tuesday night when no Attleboro Redevelopment Authority board members appeared for a planned presentation of updates on various development projects. There was disagreement on whether board members gave adequate notice they would skip the meeting, but this did not appear to change the bigger picture that councilors said they should have been there and ARA board members said they had good reason to delay a presentation.

Councilor Richard Conti, the council's liaison to the ARA and chair of the committee on capital improvements & city development, announced toward the beginning of Tuesday's council meeting he had received an email from Judy Robbins, ARA chair and former mayor, the previous day saying she would not be in attendance.

"I'm not too pleased that she is not here, and it raises my concern, and I think it should raise yours as well," said Conti to his fellow councilors.

He added, "There are many things going on in front of the ARA now, and I thought this was an excellent opportunity for us to get [Robbins] in front of us and speak on current issues."

When asked by Councilor Jay DiLisio if he was told why Robbins was not appearing, Conti said, "You'll know when I know." However, the email sent from Robbins to Conti and obtained by Patch does give a reason, and Conti said later during the meeting he had opened the email, although Tuesday afternoon despite it having been sent to him Monday. He said he was too busy to read his council email Monday.

The email states, "I am not going to be able to appear before your City Council committee until April. Too much of the updating of ARA's current issues is still in the 'executive session' category. We fully expect to have better answers for you and your colleagues within a month or so."

ARA Board member Rick Correia told Patch late Tuesday night he also told Conti this information Monday morning when he ran into him at City Hall. He said he was angry Conti made it appear there had not been adequate notification.

"To be thrown under the bus like that without us having the ability to counter was not fair," said Correia, who said he did not understand how "a councilor who walks around with a smartphone took a day to read an email." 

Correia said the decision to cancel the presentation was made by the ARA board at its meeting last Thursday. Robbins gave her reason for taking several days to tell Conti about this in a Tuesday night email to Patch. 

"If you will recall, we had quite a lot of snow last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so Monday was my day to get back to the piles of ARA paperwork," she wrote. "I certainly felt that I notified Councilman Conti in a sufficiently timely fashion considering I had only been asked to bring an update to his committee meeting rather than speak on an immediate issue. I am sorry he felt offended."

Responding to the comments from Correia, Conti wrote in an email to Patch, "I let the email speak for itself, Rick [Correia] should have shown for Judy."

Correia said Conti's response showed he had missed the point; the ARA did not skip the meeting because Robbins could not attend, but rather because the board members were not prepared to make a presentation since some project details were not ripe for discussion outside executive sessions, which are closed-door meetings limited to topics regarding legal matters, real estate transactions and other specific topics allowed by the state.

This excuse did not sit well with councilors Tuesday night. They said ARA board members could have made the presentation, and if some subjects were off-limits, then the board members could have said that. Several councilors also expressed their general displeasure with the ARA, and its perceived lack of transparency.

"I've been asking for more transparency for a year and a half, and I think at this point it is unacceptable," said DiLisio, who said he does not like that monthly board meetings take place during working hours when it is difficult for others to attend.

He added, "There is a lot going on, a lot that we need to be brought up to speed on."

Councilor Jeremy Denlea said, "We've bent over backwards for them. I think we've gone out of our way to financially fund, to fund resources, to fund emotionally, all of these ARA projects. It's very disheartening that no one is here tonight."

yerkillinme March 13, 2013 at 11:57 AM
I don't think the point here is whether the ARA sent an email to Councilor Conti the day before the meeting; the point is that after all this time they should have been at the meeting and at least offered an explanation to the Council as to why they weren't prepared to make the presentation.
Larry Rose March 13, 2013 at 12:19 PM
There is no information regarding the time frame here. How much time was given the ARA to prepare for a meeting, and how much time did the ARA have to respond? It all appears very confusing to me. But maybe that is par for the course.
blueskies March 13, 2013 at 12:31 PM
If the Board discussed their inability to be present at their "board meeting LAST Thursday" why was mr. Conte as the council's liasion unaware of the decision...unless he for some valid reason was unable to fulfill HIS paid responsibility to attend Their meeting?
yerkillinme March 13, 2013 at 04:23 PM
Blue skies, according to the Robbins email "too much" of the ARA's Board meetings has been in Executive Session, would Mr. Conti be involved w that?
Bill K. March 13, 2013 at 05:21 PM
The ARA had no issue running into the council chambers patting itself on the back when they had "good news" in the fall regarding the letter of agreement to sell land. So the ARA will only report in when there is news? A quarterly update should be mandatory not optional. The ARA set the expectation by establishing a timetable for reporting to the council, if there isn't any news, the ARA should still go before the council and be prepared to report that and to answer any and all questions the councilors have, regardless. Oversight by the council is necessary to protect the taxpayers from more calamity.
Jerry Chase March 13, 2013 at 08:09 PM
It's interesting that per state law, bodies like the City Council, can only go into executive session for one of the ten or eleven permitted reasons, by law. In sharp contrast, it's fair to ask is there is any limits on when or how often that a "created" agency, the ARA, can go into executive session. Further, to continue the contrast, the Council is answerable to the voters. To what or to whom is the local ARA answerable? Nothing or no one of which I am aware . . . except K.D., of course. The phenomenon here is a perfect example of the mayor "packing" the various municipal positions with his friends . . who are sure to do HIS bidding. In essence, we have a de facto dictatorship . . . strengthened by "whatever it takes" to solidify HIS will. And, yet, he's likely to be re-elected without difficulty. As the old song goes, "Nice work if you can get it . ." Finally, there is a RARE Public Hearning being held Thurs. eve., 3/14, by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Yes, it should be on AACS cable TV. I say that the local citizens should crowd the chambers for it. It begins at 6:30 p.m., at City Hall.
Bill K. March 13, 2013 at 08:43 PM
blueskies: What is "HIS paid responsibility" ? Do you have any idea what that may be. I don't think a stipend equates to "paid responsibility"
Gretchen Robinson March 14, 2013 at 03:02 AM
This is another instance of Rick Conti flying off the handle. Plus a bit of grand-standing.
Jerry Chase March 14, 2013 at 08:11 AM
Gretchen, your conclusion is not possible if you actually watched the meeting. I did. There was nothing of the kind. I'm grieved that you would think this way here, but also surprised . . . because I believe you to be a reasonable woman. Please re-consider after watching a re-run of the meeting on AACS.
Bear Cat March 14, 2013 at 10:58 AM
Jerry, have you contacted any members of the ARA? Why not do that before you become so sure of yourself. You must know someone on the board.
Wayne Lacroix March 14, 2013 at 04:32 PM
The council voted to give the ARA millions of dollars to bail them out, pay lawsuits and keep them in business. Wouldn't you think they would show some respect to the citizens (who essentially gave them the millions) of the city and show up to answer questions? Who's calling the shots here? Advice to ARA-- Get your ass in front of the council and citizens of Attleboro to answer questions. That was very DISRESPECTFUL.
Ken Tenglin March 14, 2013 at 05:41 PM
I bet if Rick was a lefty looney your opinion would be different. Be careful Gretchen, your liberal is showing again.
Jerry Chase March 14, 2013 at 08:38 PM
The issue is not me. Please feel free to politely disagree: I do the same now and then. It's "the American way."
Jerry Chase March 14, 2013 at 08:41 PM
Wayne, you are most correct here. To answer your question as to "who's calling the shots here?" It's "the emperor with no clothes": Kevin Dumas. It is an achievement for him, to give credit where credit is due.
Jerry Chase March 15, 2013 at 03:19 AM
" . . as to why they weren't prepared . ." ? Oh, I believe that they were, or could have been 'prepared'. It was simply a case of unwillingness, likely due to timing; and a willingness to be impolite, IMO.
Jerry Chase March 15, 2013 at 03:21 AM
The ARA had promised in February or earlier, to appear before the Council this week. And, yeah, the Council bailed them out with lots of $$ not long ago . . . "for the record".
Jerry Chase March 15, 2013 at 03:22 AM
No. He's merely noting the phenomenon.
Gretchen Robinson March 15, 2013 at 07:12 AM
Jerry, you have a thing about the mayor, like he's over in City Hall manipulating the action of our City Councilors. Maybe that fits your vision of how things work over there, but it doesn't fit mine. I see a lot of CCs with minds of their own, acting under their own steam.
Jerry Chase March 17, 2013 at 09:12 PM
Gretchen, How many items which the mayor favors lose in Council votes? "Scarce as hen's teeth" is about right. That's the point, Gretchen: he loses about as often as the Harlem Globetrotters. Since "no two people think alike", how many times could you flip a coin, having it come up "heads" 97% of the time? Isn't it rational to think that any series of events would yield a significantly different result? If you've noticed, I have lately given the current mayor credit for his political success, which is impossible to ignore. From his point-of-view, it would be hard to improve on his track record. It's strictly objective, "give credit where credit is due". So, it's surely not a personal thing with me.
Gretchen Robinson March 17, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Loose Cannon alert!!
Duff White March 17, 2013 at 11:39 PM
What Mr. Chase fails to acknowledge is that at every level of government, effective leaders communicate with members of the legislative branch to bring forth positive proposals. It is not uncommon for the president, a governor or a mayor to work with various members of key committees to create a solution which is agreeable to most prior to its introduction, Mayor Dumas is no different and as a result, most proposals pass. Mr. Chase never had that working relationship with the mayor's office, any department head or fellow councilors and as a result, he was largely ineffective during his term. Mr. Chase: we understand, you dislike the Mayor and Councilors Cook, Blais and Kirby, does that mean that they are wrong? March 15, The Sun Chronicle ran an article referring to the "dire financial picture" North Attleboro is facing, Rehoboth is its own running sitcom and Seekonk has its constant battles. Despite its imperfections, Attleboro is in better shape than many surrounding communities. The Industrial Business Park happened along at a time when the economy reached its worst state since the Great Depression and is likely to be an albatross for years to come but that does not mean that the rest of the projects are bad. Who better to run the ARA than Judy Robbins? The IBP was her idea so nobody will work harder to make it work. If you look at the concept for the Intermodal Transportation Center, you will see a great project for our community.
Gretchen Robinson March 18, 2013 at 12:56 AM
Duff, I don't know how the Loose Cannon crack came after your entry but it was meant for the remarks made by Jerry Chase's comments. As for the mayor's leadership style, I saw that at work when the City Council passed a vote to fund, an badly needed upgrade of the high school track, a new animal shelter, also a crying need, everyone agreed, and updating the computerization of the Water Treatment Plant to meet federal standards. The mayor had apparently worked with all parties beforehand, listening, considering, balancing and weighing, advocating, etc. And leading!!! Everyone was on board with the proposals, as I remember. I was there as one of a hundred people in support of the animal shelter. The mayor was well spoken and not at all arrogant. What I see in him is good leadership. Maybe not the style of leadership his critics assume so maybe they better think again about their views. I have been critical of the mayor in the past. In fact, at one point I said I wouldn't vote for him if he ran again. I am rethinking that position now. I think he is a good leader. Not perfect, but good, solid, committed.
Jerry Chase March 18, 2013 at 06:19 PM
Duff, you make some good points here, many of which I have never disputed. Gretchen, there's a lot that you don't see from merely watching the AACS. Finally, despite several current councilors asking the mayor to direct AACS to cover the ZBA public hearing, the administration chose not to do so. And the leadership at AACS would not do so without such directive. I merely ask, "What harm could occur by having a PUBLIC HEARING on the local cabel TV?" Lastly, I believe that those who conclude that my alleged dislike of Dumas, Cook, Kirby, or Blais, believe that such alleged dislike trumps my assessment of their political actions. It does not. Further, there is not near the degree of dislike within me for them that some allege, Duff & Gretchen. Go ahead; ask Brian about me, as to whether I can and will converse with him politely. Brian is an okay guy; I just disagree with his political style . . and maybe he disagrees with mine. That's OK.
Jerry Chase March 18, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Also, Duff; I have never questioned Mrs. Robbins' competency. Your style is different from mine. Big deal. Does anything make your style superior to anyone else's, or does it make mine inferior to yours, for example? Why don't we both concentrate on expressing our own ideas, and ignoring what other say. If my words and opinions are rejected, so what? The goal is fair exchange of ideas; and demeaning yours or mine serves no good purpose. I confess that I'm not perfect; and maybe I've critiqued some politician's "person"; but I do try to concentrate on plans, concepts, and ideas . . . . and let them sail or sink by their own merits. Fair?
Gretchen Robinson March 18, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Jerry, I don't have time to go back to figure out what went on between whom or to sit there watching AACS. I barely have time to read the paper and post a bit on PATCH. Time to move on. Let's agree to disagree. Nobody is saying you are a bad person so please stop trying to defend yourself.
Jerry Chase March 19, 2013 at 01:38 AM
OK. Peace to you, Gretchen, . . and to Bill.
Gretchen Robinson March 19, 2013 at 02:19 AM
Thank, Jerry. It's a new day.
James Jones March 19, 2013 at 08:06 AM
Gerry, the Mayor does not have authority over DoubleACS which is why a directive did not and would not have come from the Mayor. Please do not assume what we would or wouldn't cover and why, without speaking to me personally. I do not know of the "several councilors" that you speak of, but only one Councilor spoke to me. If the others had called me, I would have given them this explanation as to why we weren't covering the meeting: A meeting of the ZBA is open to the public, which means anyone is free to record their meetings...as is the Planning Board, Election Commission, Retirement Board, Alcohol Licensing, Park Commission, and the list goes on. If we made it a practice to record every meeting that someone thought was important for the public to see, the only thing we would have time to record is public meetings. That being said, in the past we have never covered a ZBA meeting or an ARA meeting. Nor has my Board been approached to start covering these meetings so I wasn't about to set a new precedent of doing so. That being said though, in keeping with the spirit of public access television, we are more than happy to train you or anyone else in the city, how you use a video camera to record these meetings. Respectfully
Gretchen Robinson March 19, 2013 at 03:56 PM
James Jones: thank you for your clear info. on how AACS operates and its limitations. AACS was there for the local NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Health) group when we were still able to be active. You taped shows on ADHD in children, and Autism Spectrum Disorder with speakers from Bradley Children's Hospital. And you taped several programs for adults. Given the prevalance of Depression and other mental health disorders, I want to thank you for the time and attention AACS gave to getting the message 'out there.' AACS is a terrific community resource and I hope in the future that local people will take you up on the opportunities there for public education and information. Things like the coverage of the City Council Hearing to decide on a new Animal Shelter, a new track for Attleboro HS, as well as the poetry readings at the Attleboro Public Library all enrich our lives It all builds a sense of community and opens a way for a sense of belonging to this special place called Attleboro. Where we're leaning into the future!!! As part of my future I hope to bring some people to set up a talk program with community leaders or just interesting people. But first I have some other projects to finish up. You are a great bunch of folks over there at AACS. Keep up the good work!!!
Jerry Chase March 24, 2013 at 05:37 AM
In regards to the ARA: we should not be nay-sayers automatically. I confess that on a few occasions, I may have done this. That being said, however, I continue to believe that the CITIZENS and CITY COUNCILORS have the RIGHT to critique the ARA or any arm of city government. There does seem to be a bit of projected attitude by some that the ARA should be considered above criticism. Not.

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