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AIPC releases plan for cleaner local waters

Middletown, RI - During periods of heavy rain, excess stormwater carries toxic pollutants through Aquidneck Island’s drinking water and overflows into recreational coastal waters. Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) has released a set of plans, called the Island Waters project, to collect and treat stormwater runoff, reducing harmful pollutants that enter the water system.

With support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), AIPC is anticipated to start breaking ground on a series of projects beginning in Spring 2019. Island Waters intends to promote a healthy water system for the 70,000 residents on Aquidneck Island. According to John Shea, AIPC Executive Director, the goal of the Island Waters project is “to work with the communities and residents of Aquidneck Island to protect and improve the quality of our water system.”

Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) closes recreational beaches when fecal bacterial levels are too high. Over the past five years, beaches on the island have been closed an average of 12 days per year during an approximate 100 day beach season and according to RIDOH, “some beaches in Rhode Island may see 10,000 visitors in a single day.” By improving the health of waters, Island Waters will encourage tourist beach traffic, boosting the economy and public health.

AIPC’s Island Waters partners include Aquidneck Land Trust, Clean Ocean Access, Eastern RI Conservation District, City of Newport, Towns of Middletown and Portsmouth, RI Departments of Transportation and Environmental Management, and U.S. EPA. The mission of AIPC is to preserve and improve the environment, economy, and quality of life on Aquidneck Island.

For more information, contact Claire Nelson, cnelson@aquidneckplanning.org, 432.553.7348. The full report can be downloaded at http://aquidneckplanning.org/projects/257/

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

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02871, Localblogging, AIPC

RI House Reform Caucus recommends rule changes

Providence — The Reform Caucus, made up of conservative, moderate, and progressive Democrats, announced their push for changes in the House Rules for a more open and transparent legislative process. The Reform Caucus is committed to changing the way business is conducted and after years of careful observation and first-hand experience, we are working to make it happen.
 
“There is a groundswell of interest from constituents for reform at the State House and the public’s advocacy is what will make this happen,” says Rep. Deborah Ruggiero – Jamestown and Middletown, “people are very aware that legislators are rushed into last minute votes on the final days of session without ample time to read legislation. That’s why we are recommending bills be posted for 48 hours so the public knows what their government is doing. We are also recommending good government bills like creating the Office of the Inspector General and enacting line-item veto.”
 
“My Newport voters want government transparency, public accountability and above all, they want to be part of the Rhode Island public policy conversation, says Rep. Lauren Carson – Newport, “the current condition of the House rules does not provide enough public transparency or participation. I want a clearer process for bringing bills to the floor for a vote and I want to be sure that Newport voters can review all legislative proposals before I am asked to vote on them. I stand firmly behind these efforts to reform the Rules of the Rhode Island House of Representatives.”

“Having served on the school committees for so many years I am very aware that we were subject to the strictest rules regarding our agendas, says Rep. Terri Cortvriend – Portsmouth /Middletown, “RIGL 42-46-6  requires 48 hours of public notice to make any amendments to a school committee agenda the same should be applied to state legislation. Our constituents are entitled to know what we are voting on and a minimum amount of time should be provided to allow them to share their opinions with us.”

??Caucus Recommendations 
 
1. Suspension of Rules for the final days of session hinders the public and legislators ability to read bills, process changes, and make thoughtful decisions.  Bills need to come to the floor earlier in the legislative session.  Recommendation: Rules may be suspended only by 2/3 majority of vote in the House.
 
2. Sub A to any bill made public for 48 hours.  Legislators need to be thoughtful and deliberative and not rushed into last minute votes to end session. The public and advocates deserve the same time to review and understand what their government is doing. As legislators, we have a duty to ensure there are no unintended consequences. Recommendation: Proposed Substitute Amendments shall be posted online, and made available to the public for 48 hours prior to any vote in committee, or on the floor.
 
 
3. Bills submitted will stay alive for the entire two year term. This would provide greater efficiency for the committee process and not force the public to return each year to testify on perennial bills. This would free up time for committees to work more in depth on legislation and have substantive hearings to debate Sub A proposals Recommendation: Every bill introduced during year one of legislative term shall remain before the body for consideration in the second and final year of term.
 
4. Discharge Petition Whenever a bill has the support of the majority of the representatives (38 or more House Members); the bill clearly has enough support to pass the House and deserves a vote Recommendation: Any prime sponsor of a bill would be allowed to circulate a separate discharge petition. If the sponsor gathered 38 or more signatures on the petition, then the bill would be brought up through the regular committee hearing process. The committee would vote to either recommend that the full house pass or send to the floor without recommendation. The committee would not be able to hold the bill for further study. Then the bill would proceed to the floor for a vote. Importantly, the sponsor of the bill could obtain signatures for the discharge petition in the normal course of business. The petition would not have to “sit on the desk” which is the current rule.   
 
The Reform Caucus also recommends passage of ‘Good Government’ bills such as creating an Office of Inspector General, and enacting a Line-Item Veto.
 
The House Rules are adopted in the initial weeks of the legislative session every two years after anelection. Currently, House Rules give broad powers to the Speaker of the House in appointing committee members, committee chairs, controlling the flow of bills and the passage of all legislation in the House Chamber.

Editorial note: written from a press release.

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"Little Shop" offers big fun at Contemporary Theater

Seymour (Dean Hernandez) feeds Audrey IIA crew of iconic characters (Seymour, the ne'er-do-well attendant, Audrey, his put-upon co-worker, her sadistic dentist boyfriend Dr. Scrivello, and store owner Mr. Mushnik) are in for a strange ride as a total eclipse brings a rapidly growing, talking, (and hungry) alien plant to a skid row florist.

It's all for laughs in this Little Shop of Horrors, a classic Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid) musical, based on the 1960 Roger Corman cult film about a carnivorous plant with a taste for humans.

The Contemporary Theater Company has mounted a deliciously dark, toe-tapping production that careens gleefully from parody to pathos with fine acting, brisk staging, and excellent voices that make the show sparkle. And the plant puppets, wow, those plant puppets are spectacular.

Dean Hernandez is spot-on as the hapless Seymour, torn between conscience and his dream of impressing Audrey as his alien plant, dubbed the Audrey II, lures the world to their flower shop. The three skid-row urchins Ronnette (Morayo Akande), Chiffon (Alijah Ileana Dickinson), and Crystal (Jess Ring) who serve as the show's narrators and "Greek chorus" bring captivating presence and beautiful harmonies. And Sophie Pearson shines in her turn as the meek, tragic Audrey with a powerful show-tune-perfect voice ("Somewhere That's Green" is a standout number.) Jeffrey Oulette plays Mushnik with bluster and empathy, and Brad Kirton's over-the-top dentist join a solid ensemble in bringing the show to life.

Chris Simpson's direction, as always, is brisk and inviting, often threading the cast out through the audience in a stylish, effective  use of the Contemporary's space. Musical director Jean Maxon-Carpenter has coaxed excellent vocal performances, and the pit band does a fine job.
 
Special mention needs to go to Rebecca Magnotta, who both designed and runs the Audrey II puppets, from the table-top potted plant to the human-eating critter at the end. The centerpiece of the show, these are intricately beautiful and flawlessly functional. This is no mean feat when (without too many spoilers) several of the characters end up as, well, plant food. Magnotta's energetic puppetry combines with Jason Quinn's charming, chilling, off-stage voice to bring Audrey II to life.
 
Little Shop of Horrors performances Thurs-Sat evenings Nov 3, 8-10, 15-17 at 7pm, Sunday matinees Nov 11, 18 at 2pm. Tickets ($25/$15 student) available on www.contemporarytheatercompany.com or by calling the box office at 401-218-0282.

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02871, Localblogging, Theater reviews

Portsmouth remembers Marines lost in 1983 Beirut bombing

Beirut Memorial wreath laying This morning, about 100 family members, civic leaders, veterans, and residents gathered at the Portsmouth Historical Society for the Beirut Memorial ceremony, honoring the nine Marines killed in the barracks bombing 35 years ago. A speaking program was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the stone memorial on the grounds of the Historical Society.

Sen. Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. David Cicilline all spoke, and RI Office of Veterans Affairs Director Kasim Yarn read a proclamation from Gov. Gina Raimondo. State Senators Felag and Seveney, and Reps. Mendonca and Azzinaro were in attendance, as was Town Council member Linda Ujifusa and school committee members Terri Cortvriend and Andrew Kelly.

The speakers remembered the nine fallen Rhode Island Marines: Sgt. Timothy Giblin (Providence), Cpl. Rick Crudale (West Warwick), Cpl. David Mass (Warren), Cpl. Thomas Shipp (Woonsocket), Cpl. Edward Shares, Jr. (Tiverton), Cpl. James Silvia (Middletown), Cpl. Stephen Spencer (Portsmouth), and Lance Cpl. Thomas Julian (Portsmouth) and the other 232 Marines and sailors lost in the terrorist attack during the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.

"They gave their last full measure of devotion in defense of others, in defense of our nation," said Sen. Reed. "Let us rededicate ourselves to their mission of selfless service and being part of something greater than ourselves."

"We come together every year," said Sen. Whitehouse, "To commemorate these lives and the tradition of service that these nine Rhode Islanders and the United States Marine Corps represent."

Said Rep. Cicilline, "As a nation we must pledge to support the families of those who lost that day as well as the veterans of all of our country's wars. Those who risk everything for our country deserve the thanks and support of a grateful nation."

The morning's main speaker, USMC Lt. Col. Jonathan Kenney, delivered an impassioned remembrance that drew on poetry, his time serving in the same battalion, and the memorial to the fallen at Camp Lejeune. "When I was stationed in Camp Lejeune North Carolina," said Kenney, "Every day I drove along Highway 24 to and from work. And I would pass the Bradford Pear trees that line the median of the Freedom Highway. And each of those trees were planted to represent every life that was taken on the 23rd of October. As I pass each one of those trees, it's hard, not to see in every one of those, the extent of loss that was suffered on that fateful day. Every tree represented a Marine with a family. With a mother. With a father. With a girlfriend, with a fiancee, with a wife, brothers sisters. They each had different ambitions. Each of those Marines. But they served with a common purpose and tragically, we lost them in the blink of an eye."

A full transcript of his remarks is here, but this was his powerful summation.

"If you've ever heard the Marines Hymn," said Kenney, "You'll know that the last line says,"When the Army and the Navy look on Heaven's scenes/They will find the streets are guarded/ By United States Marines." I would submit and we know, we're confident here in this room, that while Marines may be guarding those heavenly streets, it's the Rhode Island Nine who are standing in front of those heavenly formations looking out for us. And so it's important again that we respect the sacrifices they made and be grateful. May God bless each one of those fallen heroes. May God bless the families, each one of you still suffering with their loss. We offer you our support as you continue to struggle. And may God bless the United States of America."

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02871, Localblogging, beirut

Portsmouth Town Council candidates who deny climate change

This week's candidate forum at Portsmouth Town Hall saw three people running for the Town Council question the reality of climate change. Their comments came at an event organized by the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens (PCC). But a look back to 2016 shows that they are not the only ones.

Here's video clip from the October 10 forum where candidates -- and Town Council incumbents -- Paul Kesson and Liz Pedro voiced their skepticism, with Kesson calling it just a "scientific study" and Pedro explicitly saying "I don't consider climate change a crisis."

Also at the Wednesday forum, candidate Peter Roberts (who, according to the RI Corporations database, is a director of the PCC) said, "There is no change" and "there is no sea level rise either."

But there are other Town Council candidates on record from previous runs in 2016. In an article in the Newport Daily News on October 18, 2016 here's what they had to say:

Incumbent Council President Keith Hamilton: "Town Council President Keith E. Hamilton, a Republican, said during a phone interview that sea levels are rising, but doesn't know the source. “Fearmongers will have you think it's man-made, and we'll all be living at waterfront property at the (town's) high school.”

Portsmouth Concerned Citizens (PCC) president Larry Fitizmorris: "“I don't know there is any direct evidence the seas are rising at all, not saying there are not issues with sea walls in Island Park,” said Larry Fitzmorris, a Republican who is president of Portsmouth Concerned Citizens. “I don't see any data on how high the tide is going to be here, whether shoreline is climbing or subsiding.”

Candidate (and PCC Secretary) Debra Cardoza: "Debra Faber Cardoza, also a Republican, said there must be “concrete evidence” that sea level rise is a threat. “I have seen evidence indicating a very slow rise in sea levels, an inch in a thousand years span,” she wrote in an email. “To me, that does not appear to warrant a dramatic ... action.”

According to the RI Corporations database, the purpose of the PCC is "TO PROVIDE A COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION THROUGH WHICH MEMBER-CITIZENS CAN ACT COLLECTIVELY TO PROMOTE THE COMMON GOOD AND SOCIAL WELFARE OF THE TOWN OF PORTSMOUTH."

Anyone who has read the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change might find that mission statement -- and the comments from the other candidates -- hard to square with acting for "the common good" of a town with as much coastline, and as many homes at risk, as Portsmouth has.

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02871, Localblogging, PCC, Elections

???????Prudence Island Water District adopts budget, sets rates

Prudence Island Water District logo

At its regular monthly meeting on Saturday, September 15th, the Prudence Island Water District Board adopted a budget for fiscal year '19 which begins on October 1st, according to a news release.

The Board approved operating budget is $256,232. The Board also approved a capital improvements budget of $555,738.

The Board also set a tax rate as well as a water rate to fund the budget for the coming year. The tax rate was set at $0.69 per $1,000 of assesed value of property within the district with a total tax levy of $51,712. The annual water rate was set at $550.00 per connection.

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

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02871, Localblogging, Prudence Island

A call to support journalism

In response to last week’s call to action from the Boston Globe over 350 news outlets around the country have run opinion pieces over the last 24 hours on the importance of a free press. That could not be more timely, nor more critical.

We have a president who routinely attacks journalism as “fake news,” and told an audience at one of his rallies, “Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Here in Rhode Island, we have the Newport Daily News attacked by former White House spox Sean Spicer, essentially for covering his book tour. We have one of our television stations being forced to run content by its corporate parent Sinclair. We have the state-wide newspaper of record with little coverage outside Providence, having closed all its bureaus ten years ago. We lost our alt weekly, the late, lamented Providence Phoenix, and with it a vital voice and training ground for people often unheard in mass media.

So what can we do?

First, we can fight for the notion of a free press in the marketplace of ideas. We can speak up for the value of journalism and respond to those who question it without reason. Journalism is a mechanism for getting to “what happened,” and that’s necessarily fraught. Reporters do make mistakes, that’s part of the process: we fix them. But the criticism from the highest levels of the current administration is generalized and absolute. Shouting “fake news” at any story with which one disagrees is not rational criticism, but rather the refuge of the authoritarian who wishes to discredit an entire profession.

Second, we can support local, independent news. Here in Rhode Island, we are fortunate to have two robust online news sites, UpriseRI.com and RIFuture.org. (Full disclosure: I write for RI Future.) Here in Portsmouth, we have PortsmouthPress.com. We also have a strong weekly in the Portsmouth Times providing focused local coverage. All of these news organizations could use your clicks, your shares, and, yes, your dollars.

Finally, we can and must use our political power to protect our rights. Ask your state reps if they supported Net Neutrality, something which is critical to keep the voices of small news organizations flowing. Look at the records of all your elected officials and judge for yourself whether they support freedom of the press, and when it comes to Election Day, use your power in the voting booth.

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02871, Localblogging, News

best football prediction site in the worldPortsmouth Democrats urge State Party review of endorsement process

The Portsmouth, RI Democratic Town Committee, at their monthly meeting on July 5, 2018, unanimously adopted a resolution urging the state Democratic Party to review how general assembly candidates are endorsed and create a plan to improve the process.< /p>

"The members of the Town Committee expressed their disappointment in the way endorsements were handled by the State Party in the current election," said Town Committee Chair Len Katzman. "While we are encouraged by the two endorsements which were rescinded on Thursday, we feel that there are systemic issues which still need to be addressed. We want all Democrats to be able to trust the process."

The resolution urges the state committee to craft a plan to proactively educate all Democratic candidates about the procedures and timelines involved in endorsement, as well as taking steps to improved the transparency and accountability of the process.

Full text of the resolution:

Resolution urging the State Democratic Party to review and improve candidate endorsement process

WHEREAS, the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee, as an on-the-ground arm of the Democratic Party has a compelling interest in fairness and transparency in all Party activities as well as preserving the image and value of the Party locally; and

WHEREAS, the 2018 State Party endorsement process for general assembly candidates has resulted in negative impact on incumbent Democratic elected officials, endorsement of candidates with questionable credentials, allegations of unfair treatment, and harsh national media coverage; and

WHEREAS, the State Party has a responsibility to uphold both the integrity of the endorsement process and the image of the State Party as aligned with Democratic values;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee hereby calls upon the officers and staff of the Rhode Island Democratic Party to engage in a review and produce a plan to educate all Democratic candidates about procedures and timelines, and improve the transparency and accountability of the endorsement process.

LET IT BE KNOWN that this resolution was unanimously adopted by the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee on the 5th day of July, 2018.

[view as pdf]

"The members of the Town Committee are proud Democrats," said Katzman. "We believe that the State Party needs to do whatever is needed to ensure that all Democrats feel confident that the endorsement process has integrity."

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

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02871, Localblogging, Portsmouth Democrats, Dems

Portsmouth Water releases Consumer Confidence Report

The Portsmouth Water District’s annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) was mailed to District water customers on June 20th and June 21st. The CCR indicates that the District’s drinking water met or surpassed all federal standards in 2017.

The CCR, which is required of all public water suppliers by the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, summarizes the District’s water sources and provides information on regulated and unregulated contaminants in the water.  The CCR also provides important health information on drinking water, including bottled water, particularly for those people that may be immuno-compromised.  

The District does not own any water supplies, but purchases its regular water supply on a wholesale basis from the Newport Water Department and relies on the Stone Bridge Fire District in Tiverton for emergency water supply.

Copies of the report are available at the District’s main office at 1944 East Main Road and the Portsmouth Free Public Library.  The report is also available on the Internet at http://www.portsmouthwater.org.

Customers with questions on the report or about water quality in general are encouraged to call the District’s office at 683-2090.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

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02871, Localblogging, pwfd

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