Portsmouth Water District elections June 8

The Portsmouth Water and Fire District will hold its annual election of officers on Wednesday, June 08, 2016 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 one (1) Moderator and one (1) Treasurer are up for election.

Running for the position of Moderator is incumbent Ronald L. Molleur of 15 Molleur Rd.

Running for the position of Treasurer is incumbent Allen J. Shers of 40 Roger Williams Ct.

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.

Rep. Canario school bus driver training legislation passes House

16may11_canario.jpgPortsmouth Rep. Dennis Canario’s legislation (H8082) that requires school bus drivers’ annual training include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s school bus driver in-service training series was passed by the House of Representatives tonight, according to a state house news release. The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“There is nothing more important to Rhode Island’s parents than the safety of their children on our state’s school buses. This legislation ensures that our bus drivers are trained with the most up to date safety procedures and protocols that are available,” said Representative Canario (D-71). “The passage of this bill keeps our kids safer, it keeps our roads safer, and it makes sure that our state’s school bus drivers will always have the most current national safety training and do their jobs in the safest manner possible.”

The series includes training on driver attitude; student management; highway and rail grade crossing safety; vehicle training; knowing your route; loading and unloading; driving under adverse weather conditions; emergency evacuation; and transporting students with special needs. If the legislation becomes law, school bus drivers would need to receive the training annually.

Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.

LTE: R.I. must build smarter now to adapt to already-rising sea levels

By Rep. Lauren H. Carson

16may16_carson.jpgIn recent years, it has become common to walk out my front door near Newport’s waterfront in the historic Point neighborhood during a storm and see several inches of water surging up the road. For some, the challenges caused by sea rise and flooding still seem hypothetical, but for me and the hundreds of other neighbors and businesses in my district, the issue is on our doorsteps — sometimes over them.

While Rhode Island possesses the research and intellectual capital to tackle sea-level rise, I witnessed a communication divide between those studying the issue, stakeholders affected by it and leaders capable of addressing it. For that reason, one of my first priorities upon my election to the House was to sponsor the creation of a commission to study and bring attention to the economic risks that sea rise and flooding pose to our state.

The commission, whose members hail from real estate, hospitality and tourism, academia, science and public policy, worked for six months, conducting case studies on the Providence Port, the Newport waterfront and the Westerly beachfront, and listening to municipal, state, and regional experts.

What we found was that businesses from beachside restaurants in Westerly to marine shipping corporations in Providence are beginning to understand the threat of sea level rise and conceptualize solutions, but we still have much work to do to ensure the Ocean State adequately adapts. In the end, the state must adopt a philosophical approach to meeting adaptation goals that embrace the broader aim of protecting Rhode Island’s overall economy from flooding and rising waters.

Toward that end, I have introduced legislation requiring continuing training on sea rise and flooding for all local zoning and planning boards, to ensure that those who have the front-line duties of determining whether, where and how we build our communities have the information and tools to ensure new development and redevelopment is built with an eye toward protecting assets from rising sea levels, which also affect inland and riverene municipalities. This is quite possibly one of the most critically important things we can do to protect public and private assets, as well as lives and livelihoods, from flooding. Empowering local planners to recognize future risks and require that future development protect against them will do more than protect their investments; it will also help keep insurance costs for all Rhode Island properties from rising rapidly, since high replacement costs and recurring disasters increase insurers’ costs, and property-holders’ rates. The insurance industry should embrace my efforts to prepare for future risk.

I am also working to design a flood audit program similar to the existing free energy audit program offered by RISE Engineering through National Grid. While this legislation may not be ready in time for passage this session, helping businesses and residential property owners in the flood plain understand and mitigate their own risks was one of the recommendations of our commission.

At the commission’s request, the Department of Business Regulation is also considering regulatory training for real estate agents on sea rise and flooding as part of their continuing education requirements as a means for making improvements to existing properties when they hit the market to ensure their protection from flooding, and helping agents protect Rhode Island buyers from making risky investments.

Our study commission learned many important things about our fragile coast, but mainly we learned that there is a high cost to doing nothing. A do-nothing approach will likely cause insurance premiums to increase and homes and businesses to flood near and far from our 400 miles of coastline.

It is cheaper to act now.

Rhode Island is prepared to do that because of well-defined regulations, strong risk-assessment tools, and effective cooperation between the government, academia and the private sector.
We can project Rhode Island as a leader in the region for taking steps to ensure minimal property damage and business interruption costs and loss of value due to sea rise, sea surge and flooding.

Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) is chairwoman of the Special House Commission to Study Economic Risk Due to Flooding and Sea Level Rise.

Portsmouth high school electives to be discussed by committee June 14

Over the last week, teachers and students at Portsmouth High School began to hear that many elective courses were being eliminated next year (unless I've missed an e-mail, parents have yet to be officially informed; as of today, the courses were still listed in the PHS Program of Studies for 2016-17.)

At last night's school committee meeting, three students, a teacher, and one parent made the case for a robust selection of electives during the open comment period, but were advised that because the item was not on the agenda, the committee could not respond.

The students who spoke last night were eloquent about the importance of these and other elective courses, noting that they are required for STEAM certificates as well as preparation for the 21st-century jobs and college classwork they plan for their time after PHS.

Among the courses mentioned for elimination at last night's session were the entire theater curriculum, creative writing, Piano 2, and science fiction literature.

In an e-mail exchange yesterday, a school official confirmed that some of these courses would be cut. "Our budget for the high school next year shows a reduction of 5.0 teachers. As such, we have to make some adjustments in how we use our resources. We no longer can sustain running electives with low enrollment every year. Therefore, some but not all of the courses you mention above will not run next year."

Another source with knowledge of the process presented a slightly different picture, saying that, "If 15 or more kids enroll in these classes for next year they will be run."

In an article in the online Portsmouth Times, officials indicated that the goal was to offer the classes less frequently in order to fill them when they run. "For me, having 15 students instead of seven will enrich the quality of the class," Superintendent Ana Riley was quoted as saying.

Given the conflicting information, this afternoon, I filed a request for an agenda item for the next meeting, June 14, with Supt. Riley. I asked for an agenda item to "Explain PHS elective policy, discuss options, and make recommendations." This would give the school committee broad latitude to present information, hear feedback and interact with concerned parents and students, and potentially make recommendations for steps to mitigate issues.

As backup, I have requested that the District provide enrollment data for all electives from this past year, a list of which electives slated to run in 2016-17, and a list of staff reductions at PHS from 2010-2017.

My ingoing hypothesis is that we have been bleeding the slack out of the system with multiple years of limited budgets (last year's increase was 1.4%; the upcoming budget sees only a 2.4% increase.) With the District only down 52 students across the whole PK-12 range, it doesn't seem like a staff reduction of 5 positions at the high school is justified (although, to my mind, it does offer a possible explanation of why capacity for running electives might be limited.)

Parents of PHS students — and 8th graders — may want to attend the school committee meeting on June 14.

Portsmouth Rep. Canario co-sponsors Ethics Commission legislation

16may11_canario.jpgPortsmouth Rep. Dennis Canario has co-sponsored legislation (H8189) sponsored by House Speaker Nick Mattiello (D-15, Cranston) to broaden the powers of the state’s Ethics Commission by eliminating legislative immunity from Ethics Commission oversight through a constitutional amendment.

“Accountability has been absent for far too long within the walls of the State House and I considered it my duty to the residents of District 71 to co-sponsor and support this important piece of legislation that states unequivocally that no legislator is above the law,” said Canario (D-71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton). “The Ethics Commission was created to ensure that no one within the State House breached the sacred line of public trust and I am pleased to say that this legislation once again reaffirms the powers of the Ethics Commission to protect the best interests of Rhode Island’s taxpayers.”

If passed by the House Committee on Judiciary and the House of Representatives, the proposal would place a referendum on the November ballot to remove legislative immunity from the state’s constitution. The proposal also includes additional changes to the Ethics Commission and Ethics Code. The legislation requires two-thirds of the commission members to change any rule or regulation of the commission. Individuals will also be prohibited from filing a complaint with the commission once the filing period begins for a given election in order to prevent frivolous complaints and the politicization of the Ethics Commission.

The Ethics Commission legislation is the latest of several reforms calling for more transparency at the legislature. Last year, the House of Representatives approved sweeping campaign finance reforms to increase disclosure of campaign account activity. Candidates and office holders are now required to file annual bank statements, maintain separate campaign accounts, and appoint a treasurer if annual account activity exceeds $10,000.

In 2014, the House of Representatives unanimously approved the removal of the “master lever,” which abolished the practice of one-line straight-party voting.

“The taxpayers of this state deserve nothing less than total accountability and transparency within their government and elected officials. The recent reforms passed by the House are a clear statement that we as legislators serve the people of Rhode Island and not the agendas of special interests,” added Canario.

Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.

Portsmouth community-building dog park wins $10K grant from Rhode Island Foundation

The town of Portsmouth is among the organizations that will share $500,000 in "Centennial Community Grants" from the Rhode Island Foundation, according to a release sent to media this afternoon.

The town received $10,000 to help create a dog park for its 1,672 registered dogs and their owners as a place to gather and interact, thus building community in a 2-acre section of Melville Park, centrally located in the town, that will be dedicated to preserving the natural beauty that typifies Newport County.

"This dog park will be a welcoming place for residents of Newport County and beyond, including visitors to the Melville Ponds Campground, and also provide opportunities for community volunteers as well as education and training to dog owners," said Bunny Miller, of the Portsmouth Dog Park Planning Committee.

The project is among 43 that received funding from the Foundation. All the work that is being funded is expected to be completed before the end of the year. The maximum grant was $15,000.

The Centennial Community Grants program is just one in a series of activities to mark the Foundation’s 100th anniversary this year.

“We are celebrating our Centennial by funding projects that will bring life to every one of Rhode Island's remarkable cities and towns. Communities will blossom and grow stronger as this works rolls out,” said Jessica David, the Foundation’s senior vice president of strategy and community investments.

“Our work would not be possible but for the visionaries who came before us, the donors who generously invest in Rhode Island and the community leaders who convert the resources into action,” said Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation.

The Centennial grants were funded in part through a generous gift from long-time Foundation donor Anne Sage.

“This is such a wonderful way to celebrate the Foundation’s 100th anniversary. What an amazing opportunity to cast a wide net and benefit people from every corner of Rhode Island,” Sage said.

Founded on June 13, 1916, with a $10,000 gift from industrialist Jesse Metcalf, the Foundation’s assets have grown to nearly $800 million. Over the past five years, the Foundation has awarded more than $165 million in grants.

The centerpiece of the centennial celebration is a $10 million campaign to restore Roger Williams Park. The work will include improvements to the park’s entrances, new signage, expanded walkways and bicycle paths and repairs to the Museum of Natural History, the Bandstand, the Casino and the Temple to Music.

The Foundation has already raised $5 million. The support includes $1.5 million from the Foundation itself as well as a $1.15 million gift from The Champlin Foundations to restore the historic Bandstand and Museum. In addition, more than four dozen other donors have contributed to the campaign.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2015, the Foundation awarded $41.5 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grant making 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 press release.

Healthy local food summit on Saturday in Portsmouth

16mar29_foodsummit.png

Portsmouth will host a free (registration required) half-day "Food Summit 3" on Saturday, April 2, focusing on local-grown food on Aquidneck Island. The event will "take the pulse of the emerging healthy local food movement in Rhode Island, where Aquidneck Island has become an incubator of a new and vital food system," organizers said in a release.

First Gentleman, Andy Moffat, and RI DEM Director Janet Coit will be among the community leaders attending to discuss of the movement toward economic health and sustainability. The event also serves to announce the uniting of Aquidneck Growers’ Market, Sustainable Aquidneck, and the Island Commons Food Initiative under one umbrella to more effectively serve the changing food system needs of the Aquidneck Island community under the new name of Aquidneck Community Table, or ACT.

Highly interACTive, this lively symposium will focus on ACTivism and will reveal

  • Rhode Island’s first community food map,
  • The results of Aquidneck Land Trust's Newport County farm survey, and
  • The new, energetic movement to create community and school gardens across the island.

The program will dedicate time to ways that everyone can learn and contribute to the healthy local food movement via the island’s first ACTion Fair, showcasing many ways to get involved:

  • Building Newport's first community garden,
  • Island Community Farm programs in Middletown, plus
  • Many other emerging ways to make healthy food accessible to all members of our community through action, conversation, and understanding.

April 2, 2016, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
St. Mary's Church Parish Hall
324 East Main, Portsmouth
Free and open to all
Registration required: bitly.com/FoodSummit3ACT

Further details? Please contact
info@aquidneckcommunitytable.com

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

Watch RI Rep suggest that proposing gun legislation be criminalized [update]

house_judiciary_roberts.pngThere was a lot of contentious talk at last night's RI House Judiciary hearing on gun safety bills, but one piece of testimony stuck out for me as being particularly chilling. One of the bills, H7199, proposed by Rep. Aaron Regunberg, would limit magazines to 10 rounds. Rep. Sherry Roberts (R-29 Coventry, West Greenwich) offered this response:

"This bill does nothing other than to seek to turn the law-abiding citizen who owns firearms into a criminal. First of all, when legislators take their oath of office, they take an oath to uphold the Constitution. If anything, what we really need is to criminalize those who seek to infringe on the Second Amendment rights guaranteed to individuals both by the US and Rhode Island Constitution, in my opinion. Perhaps it is time to demand that legislators who propose this type of legislation that would defy the Constitution, perhaps we should ask them to forfeit their seat instead."

Transcribed from Capitol TV: Visit the House Judiciary category, click on "House Committee on Judiciary 3-22-16 Part 2" (thumbnail is a guy with a yellow tie). Relevant clip is at 24:39. Or, in the clip below, scroll to 2:49.



Thanks to Steve Ahlquist for the video capture!

It's one thing to pack the state house to try to kill bills in committee. It's quite another thing, in my opinion, for a legislator to suggest that those who propose common-sense gun safety measures lose their seat and become subject to criminal penalties. Of course, this is just my opinion.

Full disclosure: I attended as much of last night's hearing as I could stay awake for as a supporter of the several gun safety bills on the agenda. I have also donated to Rep. Regunberg's campaign precisely because he proposes this kind of legislation. He is not, in my opinion, a criminal.

Update: Embedded video added.

LTE: Register to vote in the RI Primary by March 25

This letter to the editor is from Portsmouth resident Linda Ujifusa

To vote in the April 26 RI Presidential Primary, you must be registered to vote by March 25, 2016.

In this contentious election year, your vote in the primary counts more than ever. You will vote not only for your party's candidate, but also, for your party's national convention delegates.

To check your voter registration status, you can call your local Board of Canvassers’ office or go to: sos.ri.gov/vic

To get a registration form, update your name, address or party affiliation, as well as get a form to request a mail-in ballot, go to your local Board of Canvassers or go online to: sos.ri.gov/divisions/Elections/Voters/voter-registration

Note: You must print out the forms and snail mail or deliver them to your local Board of Canvassers.

This weekend, non-partisan voter registration tables will be set up:

Sat., March 19, 2016 - 9 am to 1 pm - at the Aquidneck Growers' Market, Newport Vineyards & Winery, 909 East Main Road, Middletown, RI; and

Sun., March 20, 2016 - 10 am to 2 pm - at Clements' Marketplace, 2575 E Main Rd, Portsmouth, RI.

So much is at stake in this year’s election. Please make sure you and your family and friends are registered to vote!

Linda Ujifusa

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