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.

​​​​​​​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.

Seventeen years




South void, northwest corner, looking South.

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.

Portsmouth 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.

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.

LTE: Address tax issues with third-party rental platforms

carson.jpgBy Rep. Lauren H. Carson
 
Technology development keeps changing everyday life in ways that were unforeseeable only a few years ago. A decade ago, probably few people would have believed that our economy would soon be changed by apps that would let you hail a cab online, or websites that would crowdsource funding for entrepreneurs or charitable causes. Or that in 2018, a significant portion of travelers would sleep in a stranger’s home instead of a hotel.
 
Government at every level has struggled to keep up with the dizzying pace of this development, and the result is that policy has not caught up to technology. Short-term rentals coordinated through third-party hosting platforms is one such wild frontier where an entire economy has sprung up, unregulated, unchecked and very questionably taxed.
 
In my district in Newport, where hospitality is the driver of the economy, the effects of this development are particularly evident. Our tax and health and safety codes were developed with the expectation that residential properties housed residents, not travelers. This new hybrid use — and the use of third-party hosting platforms that complicate the identification of the properties being used — have left Newport, other municipalities and the state at a loss to determine how to ensure that hosts are complying with the measures that are intended to keep guests safe and in compliance with the collection of hotel and sales taxes.
 
An attempt was made in 2015 to collect the hotel tax from the third-party hosting platforms, but the result was the delegation of tax collection to the hosting platform, which submits only one double-sided form once a month with only a grand total of the taxes it says its users owe the state and the fraction that should go to each community. We’re just accepting the money and their word.
 
The tax problems are just the tip of the iceberg. This use may well also be putting a squeeze on our housing stock, as investors have begun buying properties solely to rent out the rooms in this manner.
 
Proponents argue that the model provides homeowners, particularly woman and seniors, with income that helps them afford their homes. But what can it do to protect these vulnerable populations from those who spend the night in their homes? Background checks and analytics cannot detect first-time offenders who recognize this opportunity.
 
I have submitted legislation that will help ensure compliance with our tax laws and building codes. My bill requires third-party hosting platforms to use best practices to ensure the properties they list are complying with all applicable local, state and federal laws regarding their rental and use, and ensure that they are complying with any local registration requirement. Additionally, the bill requires them to provide each property owner with a monthly accounting of the taxes collected for rental on that property. It would be the property owner’s responsibility to remit that accounting to the state along with any taxes they have collected themselves for rentals outside the platform.
 
The use of third-party hosting platforms will only continue to grow, and Rhode Island must adapt. We cannot continue to allow a very significant portion of our hotel taxes to be collected and submitted anonymously, without verification. I urge swift passage of my legislation to rectify this situation.

Rep. Lauren H. Carson, a Democrat, represents District 75 in Newport.

Thank you, Portsmouth

While we did not prevail tonight, I thank the voters of Portsmouth and congratulate the new members of the Water Board. I am honored to have participated in this election which set record turnout numbers. As a writer, I’ve learned that if you don’t collect a few rejection slips, you’re not aiming high enough when you send out stories. The work goes on, and you can be sure I’ll continue to pitch in wherever I can to help move Portsmouth forward.

As tax assessor, I will ensure taxpayers of transparency

This letter, as it ran in the Newport Daily News on June 6, 2018

Safe, clean water efficiently flowing to your tap is something you don't want to have to worry about, and I want to help make that happen. I'm running for tax assessor in the Portsmouth Water and Fire District board election on Wednesday, June 13.

This is a nonpartisan election for a largely technical administrative position, and I'd like to explain why I'm a good fit.

After doing doctoral work in communication theory and teaching at the college level for seven years, I moved to the private sector. In my 22-year career as project manager at a multinational firm, I ran multimillion-dollar software development efforts, negotiated contracts, reviewed technical documents, and worked with teams to analyze problems, generate the data to make decisions, and implement solutions. I would love to put this skill set to work to benefit the ratepayers of the Portsmouth Water and Fire District.

As a proud third-generation Portsmouth resident, I've tried to pitch in where I can. I currently serve

on the Portsmouth Conservation Commission and PSD Technology Committee, and I was an appointed member of the most recent Charter Review Committee.

I'm a freelance journalist, and for more than 10 years I've run a website, harddeadlines. com, providing news and commentary on local issues.

As a practiced communicator, I will always work to ensure transparency. My experience in business will help me be a good steward of both Portsmouth's precious resources and our tax dollars.

And as a parent and proud resident of Portsmouth, I will always be guided by what's right for our town.

I ask for your vote next Wednesday, June 13, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the district office, 1944 East Main Road.

John McDaid, Portsmouth

Portsmouth Water District Election set for Wednesday, June 13

On Wednesday, June 13, 2018, registered voters residing in the Portsmouth Water and Fire District will elect two (2) Tax Assessors and one (1) Tax Collector for a three year term to the seven member Administrative Board.  The polls will be open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM at the District's office at 1944 East Main Road.

Walter H. Coelho of 162 King Phillip St., incumbent Theodore T. Czech of 120 Roger Williams Ct., David M. Gleason of 63 Massasoit Ave., and John McDaid of 65 Gormley Ave. are running for the Tax Assessor’s seat.

Incumbent Frederick W. Faerber, III is running for the Tax Collector’s seat.

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 a candidate for the Tax Assessor position. You can find my campaign web site at johnmcdaid.com.

Pages