March 9, 2007

What Brings Conservatives and Progressives Together?

Marc Comtois

Those who read Providence Phoenix editor Ian Donnis' Not for Nothing blog have learned that Ian is a certified baseball nut (heck, he made a category for it on N4N). Today, Ian points to a ProJo piece about how some Providence residents are outraged that the city is unilaterally doing away with a baseball field in favor of a dog park. One of those resident is former GOP candidate for Providence Mayor Dave Talan. Ian comments:

Adding insult to injury is how this location is quite close to the place where professional baseball began in Providence.

As a longtime participant in the Providence Coed Softball League, I've been struck by how the condition of Collier Field, near the Bonanza Bus Terminal, hardly corresponds with what might reasonably be expected from Cicilline's improved City Hall. The grass is often overgrown in the summer, the field is poorly maintained, and infield flooding makes it generally unusable for a day or two after a heavy rain. Maybe it's false nostalgia, but veteran umpires say Collier was better kept during the Buddy era. I do know this: the diamonds at Pawtucket's vastly superior Hank Soar Complex are the softball equivalent of playing at Fenway Park, while Collier might be akin to a rock-strewn lot in Cartagena.

Aahhh can even bring conservatives and progressives together.

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I like dogs, but people come first. Dave Talan was interviewed yesterday for this Projo article:

Residents say: ‘Don't let our field of dreams go to the dogs'

Friday, March 9, 2007

PROVIDENCE -- A group of West End neighbors is crying foul over the park commission's decision to turn a baseball field at the Dexter Training Ground into a dog park.

"It's an outrage," said Charles Pinning, who lives two blocks from the park and plays baseball there. "I'm one of the founders of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association. I'm at the park at least three times a week and I learned about this by picking up the newspaper!"

Even dog owners such as June Massey, who lives a block from the park, were shocked by the decision.

"This is a densely populated neighborhood with many dogs, but also with many children. Having a ball field in a public park is totally appropriate."

The Board of Parks Commissioners voted in October to open the city's second official dog park at the training grounds, next to the Cranston Field Armory. At the time, Parks Supt. Alix Ogden said the dog park would be located on an unused softball field, adding that the site is ideal because it is fenced. Over the years, the field has become a popular spot for dog walkers, especially in the winter, when the park is vacant.

But some neighbors say that the parks commission made the decision without consulting with residents who live nearby and use the park. David Talan, a longtime youth basketball coach, said the baseball park is frequently used by children and youth teams.

On Sunday, Talan said a dozen children were playing a pickup game outside the ball field using a piece of cardboard to mark home plate. They were stunned to discover that the ball field would not lbe available this summer.

"We don't have nearly enough ball fields in this part of the city," Talan said yesterday. "We need more ball fields, not less. Don't let our field of dreams go to the dogs."

According to Talan and Pinning, it makes no sense to abandon the ball field when there is ample space to build a fenced dog park between Dexter Street and the right field fence of the ball park. (Talan, a Republican, ran against Mayor David N. Cicilline in the last election.)

Pinning and others are particularly upset because they say that the Parks Commission conducted no community meetings to gauge public support for closing the ball field, nor did it post fliers advertising the meetings during the summer, when baseball season is in full swing.

After several unsuccessful attempts to persuade the commission to change its mind, Pinning and Judith Reilly, another West End resident, filed a complaint with the state attorney general's office, claiming the commission had violated the state Open Meetings law. According to Pinning, none of the commission meetings between July 2004 and November 2006 had been properly advertised as required by law.

"These repeated violations led to exactly what the Open Meetings Act was meant to prevent," she said in a statement, "… public meetings that the public had virtually no chance of learning about in advance." The attorney general's office has not issued a ruling on their complaint, Pinning said.

Ogden could not be reached for comment yesterday.

When the Parks Commission meets this morning at 8:30, Pinning will submit a petition, signed by more 80 residents, asking the board to reconsider its decision to close the ball park.

"Here is a situation where everyone could be made happy, yet they refuse to do it. The mayor is buying a lot of ill will with this decision."

Posted by: Will at March 10, 2007 12:47 AM

Thanks for taking note, Marc. Now about that reserve clause . . .

Posted by: Ian Donnis at March 10, 2007 10:28 AM

The next constitutional amendment we pass should ban artificial turf and designated hitters.

Posted by: Rhody at March 10, 2007 2:31 PM
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