New round starts in old R.I. bridge-naming fight
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - State lawmakers named a street after the Ginsu knife brand in half a year. A bill dedicating a university hall for a longtime provost zipped through even faster.
Yet now entering its fourth year is a fight over naming a to-be-constructed replacement for the Sakonnet River Bridge, which connects Portsmouth and Tiverton. Representative Amy Rice of Portsmouth wants it named for Anne Hutchinson, the colonial religious dissident who settled part of Rhode Island, while a fellow lawmaker thinks it should carry the name of a local soldier killed in Iraq.
In past years, Rice's bill has been amended against her wishes to include the name of a Revolutionary War hero and vetoed last year by Governor Don Carcieri, who said he would form a blue-ribbon committee to decide the issue. Rice isn't giving up, although she says fighting the latest proposal carries political risk.
"It puts me in a pickle," Rice said. "I'm not going to come out and oppose it, oppose a war hero who fought for our country and lost his life."
Representative John Edwards of Tiverton, whose district includes the bridge, said local veterans lobbied him to name the bridge for Sergeant Christopher Potts, a member of the Rhode Island National Guard killed by insurgents in 2004 while manning a checkpoint 13 miles north of Baghdad. He was 38.
Potts lived on both sides of the river during his lifetime, Edwards said. As best he knows, Hutchinson never set foot in Tiverton.
"A veteran was killed in action," Edwards said. "That's the kind of person you want a bridge named after."
Potts's widow, Terri, didn't initially care much about the debate until a Vietnam veteran approached her about the effort. Nothing will cure her pain, but she says she thinks naming a bridge for her husband might help her 6-year-old son and 20-year-old stepson. The plan includes mounting plaques on the bridge listing the names of soldiers killed in action.
While deployed, Christopher Potts worried his youngest child, Jackson, would forget him. "He used to tell me all the time, 'Don't let him forget, don't let him forget me,' " Terri Potts said. "Granted, we are not going to let him forget, but what an honor for him one day . . . when he's older to understand and see that" bridge.