Online June 29, 2006


LETTER: Residents right to speak


We are responding to the letter to the editor from Nancy Devaney, one of the paid employees of the Common Ground grant at URI. She states her "disappointment" with a story in which residents whose quality of life is continually disrupted many nights expressed their frustration with the lack of progress to control this situation. It is inappropriate to label those interviewed as "a disgruntled few" when the legitimate complaints should be taken seriously and addressed by those empowered to do so. No resident/s should have to sit in silence and tolerate some of the situations described.

The article several weeks ago, "URI anti-drinking initiatives see results (Independent, May 18)," referenced the Common Ground grant as if that was responsible for improvements in Narragansett neighborhoods. Results in URI initiatives related to student drinking are the focus of that grant, not improved quality of life for Narragansett residents. Reporting decreases in incidents does not give an accurate picture. Numerous complaints continue to be called in, but not all result in incident reports or nuisance stickers. Neighborhoods where rental properties are designated a public nuisance still have problems. Some of us have worked many hours with our town and URI to achieve some of the progress we do see.

The article of two weeks ago, "Residents say students rowdier than URI admits (Independent, June 15)," is the other side of the story. It is not about the decrease in DUI arrests that Mrs. Devaney writes of. The following issues are the focus of the article: The anxiety and fear experienced by the resident who never can anticipate what is going to happen in the house next door or on their street or the next one over. The strangers entering the neighborhood in droves, screaming, yelling, fighting and urinating in their front yards. Are they URI students or young people from other towns drawn to the area because it is known parties are going on? Are there illegal activities and is the resident/family at risk? After the police leave, will it start up again; will there be retaliation?

These conditions are physically and emotionally draining. Residents need to believe there will be a credible, quick response to their concerns when they experience these intolerable situations. Those critical of resident's complaints should visit some of the neighborhoods after 11 p.m. on a party night.

As residents of a community impacted by the university, we do not need to be reminded of the contribution the university makes to the state and the town with its faculty expertise, research projects and students. We are also aware of the talented, devoted full time residents who contribute tremendously to our community without publicity. Economic contributions and community commitment of each should not even be compared. Do not confuse that broader issue with the specific topic of the article that was the continued unacceptable behavior of some tenants of overcrowded rental properties in Narragansett and its impact on our quality of life.

Although we did lobby for the recent off-campus student code of conduct, URI needs to play a larger role in the surrounding communities by implementing more stringent policies when personal safety issues and illegal activities occur in our neighborhoods. This may mean suspension, expulsion and loss of financial aid, which is taxpayer funded.

The Common Ground grant administered by URI will continue its activities to mitigate problems associated with alcoholism. The residents of the town will continue to speak out for strict enforcement of our ordinances and for zero tolerance in our community with stiffer penalties within the court system. Hopefully some mutual goals are achievable.

Most reasonable parties recognize the need for restorative justice for neighborhoods that experience the difficulties described. Narragansett residents do not need to be reprimanded for relating their unfortunate experiences.

Eileen Desforges

Carol Stuart

Douglas Wardwell



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