Readers should be aware that I am currently a candidate for Tax Assessor on the Portsmouth Water and Fire District Board, in an election to be held Wednesday, June 13. Any posts bearing on that race should be read in that contact. For my campaign page, please visit JohnMcDaid.com.
Fifty years ago, Tom Stoppard dug up two minor characters from Hamlet and gave them a full-length spotlight. His play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, is a masterpiece, and the Contemporary Theater Company has mounted a brilliant, agile production that matches the linguistic sparkle of Stoppard — and Shakespeare. Do yourself a favor, and go see it this weekend.
We first see Ros and Guil (as theatre folk sometimes refer to the characters) flipping a coin which always comes up heads. It's a deft introduction of one of the play's core themes, the challenge of living within a determined universe, inscribed either by a numinous playwright or the laws of nature. The action — which pinballs across genres like a mashup of Noises Off and Waiting for Godot — threads moments of Ros and Guil's contemplation of their predicament into and out of the action of Hamlet in what is by turns absurdist, farcical, and deeply introspective. It's a complex, multi-layered script.
The gender-blind cast is up to the challenge. Rebecca Magnotta's Rosencrantz has an endearing naivete that offers a perfect foil for Laura Kennedy's earnest, troubled Guildenstern. The pair's chemistry is deeply human, their presence powerful, and their rapid-fire interactions are a delight. The two carry the full weight of the two-plus-hour show, and they make it look effortless. These are two standout performances.
And the supporting cast provides uniformly wonderful, nuanced moments that wrap around Ros and Guil. Valerie Tarantino's turn as the lead player in the wandering group of actors is a precisely served feast of earthy world-weariness. Tammy Brown is such a good Hamlet that I found myself wanting to see her in that role for real. She has long been one of the stars of the CTC, and she offers a deep, wry Hamlet who crackles in her scenes with the hapless duo.
The stage is a long, linear thrust, which works exceedingly well both thematically and in making use of the CTC's space, lighting is crisp and effective, and the costuming is richly detailed.
Christopher Simpson's direction is stellar. He clearly understands the core of this show — no mean feat, given Stoppard's complexities — and has coached performances that illuminate the deep themes of autonomy, helplessness, and the possibilities of individual action in an incomprehensible world. His staging demonstrates a s ure command of theatrical conventions and the possibilities of space. And, most importantly, his precise focus on the lived reality of Ros and Guil keeps this from being just "absurdist," in some narrowly academic sense; we learn to care about this pair, we connect with and mourn them, and in so doing, we learn something about our own human predicament.
Go see it this weekend. Performances May 17-19 at Contemporary Theater Company, 327 Main Street, Wakefield, RI. Get tickets: https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=79196 or learn more at the
CTC web site: https://www.contemporarytheatercompany.com/
The Portsmouth Water and Fire District will hold its annual election of officers on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at the District's main office at 1944 East Main Road. The polls will open at 7:00 AM and close at 8:00 PM.
Of the Board's seven seats, the positions of two (2) Tax Assesors and one (1) Tax Collector are up for election.
Running for the position of Tax Assessor are Walter H. Coelho of 162 King Philip St., incumbent Theodore T. Czech of 120 Roger Williams Ct., David M. Gleason of 63 Massasoit Ave., and John McDaid of 65 Gormley Ave.
Running for the position of Tax Collector is incumbent Frederick W. Faerber III of 271 Sprague St.
As required by the recent change in State Law, voters will be required to show identification to vote in the District's election.
Editorial note: Written from a news release.
Full disclosure: I am one of the candidates running for Tax Assessor. You can find my campaign web site at JohnMcDaid.com.
|John Vitkevich speaks at the PWFD Board meeting|
At the meeting of the Portsmouth Water and Fire District Board on the evening of May 15, the group voted, 4-2, to reject the nomination papers of John Vitkevich, denying him a place on the ballot for the June 13 election.
At issue was a mismatch between Vitkevich's "Declaration of Candidacy" (the form indicating intent to seek office) which was made out for the position of "Tax Collector," and the nomination papers (on which candidates gather the signatures of eligible voters who nominate them for a position) which was made out for "Tax Assessor."
Vitkevich had returned 31 valid signatures nominating him for Tax Assessor, although he told the Board his intent had been to run for Tax Collector. This was acknowledged, at the meeting, to have been a clerical error when the nomination papers were issued.
Vitkevich argued that it was the fault of the PWFD. "I was handed those by staff," he said. "I got signatures and told everybody I was running for tax collector."
The Board's attorney, David Fox, advised the Board they had two options: Reject the nomination papers outright, or accept them as an intent to run for the position noted on the form.
There was some discussion of the options, and Vitkevich stated that he "would not run for assessor." Asked if he had read the papers listing the incorrect office, he said, "I did read them."
Fox made the observation that everybody who signed the papers "could presumably read English," to which Vitkevich responded, "Of course they could. They don't speak Spanish."
When general manager Jessica Lynch said that the staff error was not intentional, Vitkevich responded, "Oh yes it was."
One member of the Board asked if it was possible to reschedule the election, to which another candidate in attendance responded, "You will get complaints from the other candidates." Attorney Fox also indicated that the date was set in the Board's by-laws.
After about fifteen minutes of discussion, the Board voted to reject Vitkevich's papers, 4-2.
Chair Phil Driscoll and Treasurer Allen Shers were in the minority, with Tax Assessors Ted Czech and Michael Nott, Moderator Ron Molleur, and Tax Collector Fred Faerber voting to reject. Water Commissioner Andrew Kelly was not in attendance.
Vitkevich promised he would appeal the decision to the Board of Elections and contact news media. "This is not gonna look good on the Portsmouth Water and Fire District," he said. He demanded a copy of the declaration of candidacy, which Lynch provided.
Editorial note: I was certified, at this meeting, to appear on the ballot for Tax Assessor, and I was the candidate who objected to the proposal to move the date of the election. No other news media were in attendance, or I would not have reported on this since I was a participant. Since I was not expecting to report on this, I did not bring my recorder, so quotes are from my handwritten notes; since the meeting was recorded officially, I stand ready to update if I got anything wrong.
The Rhode Island Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Jim Seveney (D-11) that would change the way drug awareness programs are approved and funded.
The bill (2018-S 2025Aaa) would amend the Rhode Island Student Assistance High School/ Junior High/Middle School Act to regulate and update the administration of the programs.
“Currently, there is little to no state money that’s allocated to substance abuse prevention in Rhode Island outside of the annual federal SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) grant,” said Seveney. “With passage of this bill, we’ll fix the flaws in the existing law and ensure that the programs are administered effectively.”
The legislation would place approval of drug awareness programs for minors charged with civil marijuana offenses in the discretion of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH). It would also redirect funds from certain civil fines imposed to the general revenue fund to be expended by BHDDH to fund substance abuse and student assistance programs for youth.
“There’s supposed to be a fee on every moving violation that the Traffic Tribunal processes to go partly into a restricted receipt account and partly into the general fund to be managed by BHDDH,” said Seveney. “That money could amount to something approaching $1 million. Currently, we do not collect it. With passage of this legislation, we will. It also assesses 50 percent of all misdemeanor marijuana fines that the Traffic Tribunal processes and puts it into the same fund.”
The act would also mandate that BHDDH establish funding criteria for distribution of funds and require that municipalities that receive the funds file annual reports verifying that the funds are being used for substance abuse prevention programs. It would also make high schools eligible for the program; currently the law mentions only junior high and middle schools.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, where similar legislation (2018-H 7221) has been introduced by House Majority Whip Jay Edwards (D-70).
Editorial note: Written from a State House news release.
The Administrative Board for the Portsmouth Water and Fire District approved a $4.32 million operating budget for its 2019 fiscal year that began on May 1st. The 2019 fiscal operating budget has increased 3.65% compared to the 2018 fiscal budget. The approved total budget, which includes capital expenditures and principal payments on debt service, is $4.75 million. There is a 4.51% increase in the 2019 fiscal budget compared to the 2018 fiscal budget.
There are no increases in water usage rates or base charges in the approved budget. The quarterly water rates are $7.28 for the first 5,000 gallons and $10.71 for all water use over 5,000 gallons in the quarter. The average residential customer that uses 60,000 gallons of water per year would have an annual cost of $624.04.
The Board set the District’s property tax rate at $0.21 per thousand dollars of assessed value, which is a $0.01 decrease from the approved FY-18 budget. For a District property assessed at a value of $400,000, the tax bill would be $84.00. Property tax revenue accounts for less than 13% of the District’s total revenue. The use of its taxing authority allows the District to issue general obligation bonds, which offer a more favorable interest rate than revenue bonds, when funding capital projects.
Philip Driscoll, Administrative Board chairman, indicated that the Board is working hard to properly maintain and improve the water system, and to improve efficiency through technology, while providing fair and reasonable rates for customers and taxpayers. To help improve the District’s operational efficiency, Mr. Driscoll encourages customers to pay District water and tax bills using the District’s online payment portal. The portal allows customers to pay by checking account, debit card or credit card at no cost to the customer. To pay online, customers should log on to portsmouthwater.org and click on Pay My Bill. Additionally, customers are encouraged to sign up for CodeRED to be notified of emergencies and shutdowns. Go to https://portsmouthwater.org/codered-emergency-notification-system/ to learn more and to sign up.
Editorial note: Written from a press reeleast.
Today, our campaign turned in almost 60 signatures on nomination papers, which is the first step to appearing on the ballot for the Portsmouth Water and Fire District Board election on June 13. The minimum number of signatures required is 25, but candidates always get extras in case some are not validated by the canvasser.
Collecting signatures is a great opportunity to have conversations with voters about their issues, and over the last three days, I heard questions about how water quality information is communicated and the relatively recent change to a quarterly billing cycle, among others.
I want to thank my friends Terri Cortvriend and Linda Ujifusa who helped collect signatures. Also have to say thanks to the folks who have already contributed to our campaign — because of their generous contributions, I can now plan additional opportunities to get my message out. Thank you.
For more information, please visit my campaign web site where I'll be sharing any election-related posts.
Last night, the RI House Judiciary Committee considered a batch of gun safety bills, and the yellow-shirted Second Amendment Coalition folks packed the rotunda for a 3pm rally ahead of the hearing in Room 101. I was there to testify for the "Safe Schools Act," which would close the loophole allowing concealed carry in Rhode Island schools. I want to thank the members of the committee who stuck around and listened attentively to all sides until 10:15 when I was called up to the mic (and I was far from the last one there.) Here's my two-minute testimony, as delivered...
I’m John McDaid from Portsmouth, urging the Committee to support H7591 as a parent and a member of the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence, an organization representing more than 100 groups and 120,000 Rhode Islanders.
RI General Law 11-47-60 already bans concealed weapons on school grounds. All this bill does is clarify that law’s scope.
Concealed weapons present a constant unavoidable risk. According to the CDC, in 2015 there were 17,311 reported unintentional gunshot injuries. That’s 47 firearm accidents every day.
Arguments that permit holders would protect students and staff are deeply suspect. Applicants in Rhode Island only need to put 30 rounds in a 14-inch target at 25 yards every four years. There is no requirement for training in real-world tactical scenarios — or even drawing from concealment — nothing that would prepare them for the complex, high-stress situation of an active shooter. Or for shooting a child.
Even in the hands of trained professionals, friendly fire and collateral damage are significant risks. According to a RAND corporation study, trained police officers only hit their targets roughly 30% of the time; in an active firefight, that number dropped to 18%. Adding more guns in the hands of the untrained in crowded school rooms and hallways is not a move in a safer direction.
Finally, the General Assembly has the power to address this. Even the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, which is extremely favorable to Second Amendment rights, specifically says, “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on…laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools.”
Article XII of the Rhode Island Constitution gives the General Assembly authority over education, saying “it shall be the duty of the general assembly…to adopt all means…necessary and proper.” As the “school committee” for the state, the General Assembly as a whole has a Constitutionally mandated duty to consider this bill.
CDC data https://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/nfirates.html
Rand study via Time Magazine: http://nation.time.com/2013/09/16/ready-fire-aim-the-science-behind-police-shooting-bystanders/
DC v. Heller: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf see p. 54
The Rhode Island Foundation is offering grants and scholarships through the Miss Swinburne Fund. Female students from Newport County and nonprofits that support the self-sufficiency and independence of Newport County girls and women have until April 6 to apply.
In 2017, the Miss Swinburne Fund awarded $42,200 in scholarships to 24 students and $22,000 in grants to local nonprofits, including Boys & Girls Club of Newport County, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and Lucy's Hearth.
The fund memorializes Elizabeth H. Swinburne, a civic-minded woman of the early 1900s who established a school in her Newport home to educate young women. Following her death, the Civic League of Newport continued her mission until transferring its remaining assets to the Foundation in 2002 to establish a permanent endowment.
The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $38 million and awarded $43 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2017. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit rifoundation.org.
Editorial note: Written from a news release.