Aquidneck Land Trust plans Portsmouth herb walk

14apr23_ailt_forest.jpgThe Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT) will be hosting an "Herb Walk" through Portsmouth's Oakland Forest and Meadow Preserve on May 3, led by herbalist Jessyloo Rodrigues of Parcel Apothecary and ALT Stewardship Committee member Daryl Gardella, according to a release from the organization. Oakland Forest is located off Carriage Drive in Portsmouth. 

ALT said that participants can expect to discover "many edible and medicinal herbs that grow there. Herb walks are a new way to connect with forests and trails and to discover the hidden gems that grow in our own backyards!"

The walk is scheduled to kick off at 10am on Saturday, May 3 from Carriage Drive. ALT advises that carpooling is recommended, as parking is limited, and that participants should come prepared for a 1-2 hour tour. Sturdy shoes and appropriate outdoor clothing are strongly recommended. 

RSVP to Sophia Demaio by emailing her at or contacting her at 401-849-2799 x14

Land Matters Walk and Talk Property Tours is an educational program which gives the public the opportunity to get out on the land ALT oi conserving, and connect with nature and ALT’s work.

ALT's time-sensitive mission is to conserve Aquidneck Island's open spaces and natural character for the lasting benefit of our community. The organization has conserved 2,450.66 acres on 71 properties across Aquidneck Island since its founding in 1990. ALT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and the first land trust in Rhode Island to have received national accreditation. For more information, visit

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Gov. Chafee proclaims RI "Day of Reason"

21apr14_reason.jpgRI Gov. Lincoln Chafee has issued a Gubernatorial Proclamation officially designating May 1, 2014 as a "Day of Reason" in Rhode Island, according to a joint statement issued today by the Humanists of Rhode Island and The Secular Coalition for RI.

According to the joint statement, the action by Chafee "helps raise awareness throughout the State of Rhode Island of the importance of Reason as a guiding principle of our secular democracy."

The Humanists of Rhode Island and the Secular Coalition for Rhode Island will honor the National Day of Reason with local action and events. This observance is held in parallel with the National Day of Prayer, on the first Thursday in May each year. The goal of this effort is to celebrate reason — a concept all citizens can support — and to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. Humanists of Rhode Island are dedicated to good works and service projects that will best demonstrate our ideals.

The Secular Coalition for Rhode Island and the Secular Coalition for America share the common mission to increase the visibility of and respect for non-theistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all.

Humanists of RI
Secular Coalition for RI
Facebook page for Humanists of RI
Facebook page for Secular Coalition for RI
National Day of Reason

Editorial note and disclosure: Written from a press release. I am a member of the Humanists of Rhode Island.

PWFD announces "Drinking Water Week"

14apr17_pwfd.jpgAt the April 15 board meeting of the Portsmouth Water and Fire District, Chairman Philip T. Driscoll read a proclamation declaring May 4, 2014 through May 10, 2014 to be Drinking Water Week, and asked all customers of the District to join in promoting and practicing water conservation in our daily lives.

During Drinking Water Week the Portsmouth Water and Fire District will be promoting water conservation. Driscoll said that every water user can have an impact by being 'water wise.' "We are not saying 'don't use the water', we are saying 'don't waste it'."

For the twenty-fourth consecutive year, the District will conduct a water conservation program for the town's third and seventh grade school children. The program aims to increase each student's awareness of the importance of water in their lives and to teach them how to conserve water. The emphasis of the program is on changing the water use habits of the children and their families through simple, commonsense techniques. This education program continues to be well received by the Portsmouth school system.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

DEM warns Portsmouth on landfill-area development

14apr11_dem.pngAs reported last month, the RI Dept. of Environmental Management was alerted to development taking place on land adjacent to the site of the former Portsmouth landfill, currently being capped by AP Enterprise. Yesterday, they formally notified the town of their concerns in a letter sent to Town Administrator John Klimm, provided to harddeadlines by Mark Dennen of DEM.

[W]e have been informed that properties on the corner of Highland, Pine and Russell Avenues that are currently undeveloped, are being developed. As stated previously, investigations have not been done on these properties so the extent and nature of fill are not known. However, investigations on the APE property have shown exceedences of both residential and industrial/commercial standards for metals, semi-volatile organic compounds and volatile organic compounds. We do not have any reason to believe landfill material on these properties is significantly different from landfill material on the APE property.

We realize that permitting of the construction of buildings and roads is clearly within the Town’s jurisdictions, any activities on the landfill itself, or impacting previously deposited waste, will require advanced approval from the DEM Office of Waste Management before construction activities take place.

Read the full DEM letter (pdf)

RI Endometriosis Foundation hosts inaugural fundraising walk

14apr08_endo.jpgOn Sunday May 4, 2014, The Endometriosis Foundation of Rhode Island will host Rhode Island’s first Endometriosis walk. The inaugural EndoWalkRI will raise funds and awareness about endometriosis, which affects more than 176 million women around the world.

The walk will take place rain or shine at Johnston Memorial Park at 11:00am. Registration is now open and there are different levels of participation. Walkers can visit for all event details.

There will also be vendors in attendance to provide our EndoWalkers with information regarding infertility, therapy, and wellness.

The Endometriosis Foundation of RI (EFRI) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded by Jennifer Zanni, who was diagnosed with Endometriosis in her early 30’s. She started the local chapter of the national organization to provide resources and support for this common, but very misunderstood, condition.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

CTCs "Cloud Nine" subverts with dark hilarity

Cloud Nine cast, click to embiggen. Photo by Seth Jacobson Photography.

These days, it's common to talk about the intersecting systems of oppression that comprise race, gender, and class — we even have a word for them: kyriarchy. But when British playwright Caryl Churchill wrote "Cloud Nine" back in the late 1970s, it was one of the first theatrical works to dissect such hidden power structures, and she did it with a ribald Brechtian comedy that earned her an Obie for its off-Broadway run in 1982.

Wakefield's Contemporary Theater Company, no stranger to challenging works, has mounted a spirited, engaging production that runs through May 3, and if you enjoy Churchill's work (or thought-provoking theatre in general) this is a must-see.

The play's two acts span 100 years, with the first in an 1880s British colony and the second in 1980s London, but for the several characters we follow, only 25 years have elapsed, just one of the many distortions Churchill introduces. She specifies that roles be cast against gender and race, with men playing women, women playing men, and a white actor as a black servant. Helpfully, director Ryan Hartigan begins each act with the players holding identifying cards (another layer of cultural inscription.)

The first act, set in Africa in the days of colonial power, plays like a Restoration comedy, as the veneer of an ideal British family is peeled back to reveal infidelity, repressed sexuality, and violence. Clive, the patriarch, is played by Birk Wozniak with a starched resolve; Andrew Katzman as his wife, Betty, offers a nuanced portrayal as the helpless and dominated anchor of the family tortured by unfulfilled desire. Their son, Edward (played with impetuous energy by Amy Lee Connell) tries to hide his attraction for both dolls and their visitor, the explorer Harry Bagley (Sami Avigdor). Mother-in-law Maud (Tammy Brown), governess Ellen (Stephanie Traversa), and servant Joshua (Ashley Macamaux) round out the household, which is thrown into conflict by native unrest and the arrival of Bagley and the divorced Mrs. Saunders (Traversa).

There ensues a round of assignations, rebuffs, and recriminations, made intentionally stranger by the cross-gender casting: Clive and Mrs. Saunders, Betty and Harry, Ellen and Betty, Harry and Edward (and Joshua, and Clive — well, he's an explorer, no?). Against this backdrop of sexual dalliance, the servant Joshua plays witness and informant, alienated from his own culture to the point that he cannot even grieve the death of his parents at the hands of British troops. But during the marriage that ends act one, we finally see him raise his rifle.

One hundred years later, we find Betty, Edward, and Victoria (now 25 years older) in Thatcher's London, where the veldt has been replaced with spraypainted cinderblock and the last remaining "colony" is Northern Ireland. Betty is now played by Stephanie Traversa (née Mrs. Saunders) and she wonderfully embodies the character's diffident emergence from the shadow of Clive. Tammy Brown, as daughter Victoria, nicely inverts her Act I role as Maud to become the lesbian partner of Lin (Amy Lee Connell, earnest and frazzled). Edward (now played by Andrew Katzman) has a fraught relationship with his partner Gerry (Ashley Macamaux, reprising Joshua's taciturn distance), who is more comfortable with bath house sex. Sami Avigdor turns in an exuberant performance as Lin's daughter, Cathy. Eventually, the loose ménage à trios of Victoria, Edward, and Lin hold a drunken ceremony to the Great Goddess, after which cross-temporal apparitions begin to appear.

Director Ryan Hartigan has made wonderful choices in both casting and tuning the performances, and the result is satisfying, highly theatrical, and appropriately jarring. There are many fine moments spotlighting the transient and shallow escapes of Act II: Victoria's estranged husband Martin spouting psychobabble, Gerry's monologue on train station sex, Betty's discovery of masturbation. Audiences of 2013 are now as far separated from this time as the characters are from the rigid colonialism of Act I, and it allows us to see both how inscribed and overshadowed these explorations were, and to better appreciate the keen insight of Churchill in so well capturing them.

Accompanying the performance are Matt Requintina on piano and guitar and vocalist Meg Perry, who deliver languid, stylish period music for both acts. The set design, by Perry and Christopher Simpson, deserves mention: they have converted the three-quarter round stage into a raked square, peaked in the center and bevelled lower across stage left and right in a way that physically embodies the reflection inherent in the two-act structure and provides interesting opportunities for physical juxtaposition.

No way to sugarcoat this: Cloud Nine is a challenging, adult show. You'll want to keep your wits about you and your mind open. But if you want to see Churchill's penetrating farce handled with verve and depth by a highly talented troupe of performers, this is a very satisfying evening of theater.

"Cloud Nine" at the Contemporary Theater Company, 327 Main Street, Wakefield RI. Performances: April 10, 11, 12, 25, 26, May 1, 2, and 3 at 7 pm and April 27 at 2 pm. Tickets $20 Fri/Sat, $15 Sun, available on the web or by calling 410-218-0282. Thursday performances are "Pay-What-You-Can." Contains adult themes, language, and sexual situations inappropriate for children.

Correction to "Drown Your Town" map for Island Park

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 12.29.19 PM.png
Click to embiggen.

In an article in the Portsmouth Times this week, a map I had created in Google Earth of Island Park with a 1-meter sea level rise appeared to show more potential flooding because of the resolution of the map (technically, the eye height from which the image was snapped.) While this was unintentional, I apologize for any confusion and anxiety this may have produced.

I've attached a new map, which uses the outside estimate of year 2100 rise from the EPA, shot from a much lower altitude to improve resolution, and it clearly shows that even at 1.4 meters of sea level rise, there would still, technically, be a connection between Island Park and the rest of Aquidneck Island.

I received an e-mail from one of Portsmouth's public officials complaining about the inaccuracy, so I wanted to set the record straight. The map was incorrect. I have heard that the Planning Department is in the process of drawing up official maps for various sea level rise scenarios as part of the Natural Hazard Mitigations Plan update, and I would urge all my neighbors here in the Park to study those when available.

Again, my apologies for this error.

Portsmouth Rep. Canario named Deputy Majority Leader

canario.jpgPortsmouth Rep. Dennis Canario has been appointed a Deputy Majority Leader of the Rhode Island House of Representatives.
The appointment was announced this week by Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello.
As a Deputy Majority Leader, Canario is a member of the House leadership team and will work closely with the Majority Leader and Senior Deputy Majority Leader to ensure that party members are properly informed on measures and votes coming before the body.
In addition to that post, Rep. Canario has been named the Secretary of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare and will continue to serve as a member of the House Committee on Judiciary.
Rep. Canario, who is serving his first term in the House of Representatives, is a retired police officer who served on the Portsmouth Town Council for six years, including two years as president.

With this announcement, three of Portsmouth's reps have been appointed to leadership positions in the House. In addition to Canario, Jay Edwards (D-70) is Majority Whip, and Ray Gallison (D-69) is chair of the House Finance Committee.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Portsmouth Rep. Edwards becomes majority Whip

With the support of Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello (D-15, Cranston) and his colleagues in Tuesday’s Democratic caucus, Rep. Jay Edwards (D-70) has secured a new title: House majority whip.

He will join a new slate of lawmakers who have been cemented as part of the speaker’s leadership panel, including Rep. John DeSimone (D-5, Providence) as majority leader and Rep. Joseph Almeida (D-12, Providence) as deputy majority whip.

“It is truly a privilege to serve on the speaker’s newly assembled team,” Representative Edwards said. “I am pleased that I will be able to use the leadership skills I have cultivated as senior deputy majority leader to serve at the behest of Speaker Mattiello and my colleagues in the House. I have a great deal of confidence that we will be able to bring creative and practical ideas to the forefront in order to rebuild what was once a thriving economy here in Rhode Island. More importantly, my constituents will continue to have a strong voice in the chamber. I have fought for their interests and the needs of all Rhode Islanders to the best of my ability since I was first elected in 2008. In that regard, nothing has changed.”

Majority Whip Edwards, 55, has been an active opponent of tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge and has introduced legislation this year to create a predictable statewide funding source for roads and bridges without the toll. He has been a strong advocate for government transparency, tenants’ rights, and cracking down on industrial polluters, among other issues. He was also the lead sponsor for the 2012 bill that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Prior to his 2008 victory in the District 70 race, Representative Edwards served on the Tiverton Town Council. Since he became a state representative, he has served on the Labor, Small Business and Veterans’ Affairs committees. He is a 1983 graduate of Northeastern University, graduated from St. George’s School in 1976, and is a 1975 graduate of Le Centre Scholaire St. Marc in Lyon, France. He and his wife, Donna, have three children: John, Kelsey and Mae. A project manager for the construction firm H.V. Collins Company, he is past chairman of Associated Builders and Contractors Rhode Island, and has been active in the Tiverton Land Trust, Friends of the Tiverton Library, Caritas RI, the Tiverton Lions Club, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, the National Eagle Scout Association, Save the Bay and Clean Water Action.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.