John McDaid's blog

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.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, News

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.

Tags: 
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.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, pwfd

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.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Elections

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

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Elections, pwfd

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.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Elections, pwfd

General assembly approves red flag and bump stock bills

With final approval in both chambers today, the General Assembly approved two bills to prevent gun violence and mass shootings: a ban on bump stocks and other rapid-fire gun modifications and “red flag” legislation that allows courts to disarm individuals who are believed by law enforcement to represent a violent threat to themselves or others.

Both bills were sponsored by Portsmouth legislators, and will now go to Gov. Gina Raimondo, who has planned to sign them in a ceremony tomorrow, Friday, June 1, at 11:30 a.m. on the south steps of the State House. 

The first bill, sponsored in the Senate by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and in the House by Rep. Dennis Canario, is known as a “red flag” law because it allows police to seek from Superior Court an “extreme risk protective order” that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms, based on threats and other warning signs that the person might commit violence.

“This legislation is a way to stop tragedies before they happen. Of course someone who has guns and is making serious threats to harm people with them should not be armed. Too often, after a mass shooting we learn about all the warning signs people saw from the shooter and wonder why they still had guns. But the truth is, there isn’t always a legal means to stop them. Our legislation provides a speedy but fair process to ensure that those who pose a legitimate risk do not remain armed,” said Sen. Goodwin (D-1).

Said Rep. Canario (D-71), “As a retired police officer with more than 25 years of experience in the law enforcement field, recent tragic events have placed into focus the extreme dangers of having firearms in the hands of troubled individuals. I thank my fellow officers for their leadership and commitment to this public policy issue. This legislation seeks to take guns away from individuals with behavioral health problems so that our children and the public will remain safe.”

Under the bill (2018-S 2492A2018-H 7688Aaa), an extreme risk protective order would prohibit an individual from possessing or purchasing guns, would require them to surrender guns in their possession and would invalidate any concealed carry permits they have. The order would be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and all state and federal lists used for determining whether those seeking to purchase guns have been prohibited from doing so. Violating such an order would be a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The order would be in place for one year, but could be renewed by the court. Those subject to one could also petition once per year to have them lifted.

Under the bill, a law enforcement agency could petition Superior Court for an extreme risk protection order if it believes the individual poses a significant danger of causing imminent injury to himself or others by having a firearm. The petitioner must state to the court the specific statements, actions, or facts that give rise to a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts by that individual, and must concurrently file for a search warrant to search for any weapons the individual possesses.

Upon the filing for an order, the court may issue temporary extreme risk protective order, similar to a temporary restraining order, if the court finds probable cause to believe the individual poses an imminent threat to others or himself if armed.

A judge would determine at a hearing whether to issue an extreme risk protection order, considering any recent acts or threats of violence with or without a firearm and patterns of such threats or acts in the previous year, and the individual’s mental health, substance abuse and criminal histories. The court would also consider any unlawful, threatening, or reckless use or brandishing of a firearm by the individual and evidence of any recent acquisition of a firearm.

Such legislation could have helped to prevent the Parkland, Fla., school shooting Feb. 14. Police say the alleged shooter carried out the attack with a legally purchased semi-automatic weapon. Before the shooting, his mother had contacted law enforcement about his behavior on multiple occasions, but Florida did not have a red flag law. It has since passed one.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a national advocacy group that supports the bill, a nationwide study of mass shootings from 2009 to 2016 showed that in least 42 percent of those incidents, there is documentation that the attacker exhibited dangerous warning signs before the shooting.

Connecticut, California, Indiana, Oregon and Washington enacted red flag laws prior to this year, and since the Parkland shooting, so have Florida, Maryland and Vermont.

The other bill (2018-H 7075Aaa2018-S 2292A), sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Craven and Sen. James A. Seveney, would ban bump stocks, binary triggers and trigger cranks on semi-automatic weapons.

A bump stock is an attachment that allows the shooter to fire a semi-automatic weapon with great rapidity. It replaces a rifle’s standard stock, freeing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires.

In October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, 12 of the rifles in the gunman’s possession were modified with a bump stock, allowing the weapon to fire about 90 shots in 10 seconds — a much faster rate than the AR-15 style assault rifle used by the Orlando nightclub shooter, which fired about 24 shots in nine seconds.

“With the tragic and horrific event in Las Vegas demonstrating the powerful lethality that bump stocks can facilitate, we must make the law clear that Rhode Island will not tolerate these dangerous tools of death. Currently there is some ambiguity to whether or not applying a bump stock to one’s weapon is legal in Rhode Island, but it is still legal to purchase one. This bill will end that practice, making the sale and possession of bump stocks, even if they are not affixed to a weapon, illegal and punishable by the full extent of the law,” said Rep. Craven (D-32).

Said Sen. Seveney, (D-11), “While federal law bans fully automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986, the bump stock and other modifying devices do not technically make the weapon a fully automatic firearm, even though it allows a weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun. This law would effectively ban these horrific devices in Rhode Island.” 

The bill would make it unlawful to possess, transport, manufacture, ship or sell a bump stock, regardless of whether the person is in possession of a firearm. Those violating the provisions, would face imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine up to $10,000, or both. It would also make it unlawful and apply the same penalties for any person to modify any semi-automatic weapon to shoot full automatic fire with a single pull or hold of the trigger.

The legislation would also ban binary triggers, which is a device designed to fire one round on the pull of the trigger and another round upon release of the trigger, effectively doubling the weapon’s shooting capabilities; and trigger cranks, which attach to the trigger of a semi-automatic weapon and cause the weapon to fire by turning the crank handle.

Both bills have the support of Governor Raimondo, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, the State Police, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (a part of Everytown) and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“I applaud the General Assembly for taking an important step to enhance our gun safety laws public safety by establishing a legal process to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others,” said AG Kilmartin. “While there is no one answer to ending the epidemic of gun violence in our country, I believe measured approaches such as the red flag law and banning bump stocks will improve public safety while also protecting the rights of legal gun owners.”

Editorial note: Written from a State House news release.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA, Jim Seveney, Dennis Canario

Seveney bump stock bill passes Senate

The Senate today approved two bills to prevent gun violence and mass shootings, a ban on bump stocks and other rapid-fire gun modifications and “red flag” legislation that allows courts to disarm individuals who are believed by law enforcement to represent a violent threat to themselves or others.

The bills will now go to the House, which has passed companion bills to each of them.

Senator Goodwin’s bill is known as a “red flag” law because it allows police to seek from Superior Court an “extreme risk protective order” that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms, based on threats and other warning signs that the person might commit violence.

Senator Seveney’s legislation (2018-S 2292A) would ban bump stocks, binary triggers or trigger cranks on semi-automatic weapons.

A bump stock is an attachment that allows the shooter to fire a semi-automatic weapon with great rapidity. It replaces a rifle’s standard stock, freeing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires.

“While federal law bans fully automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986,” explained Seveney, “the bump stock and other modifying devices do not technically make the weapon a fully automatic firearm, even though it allows a weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun. This law would effectively ban these horrific devices in Rhode Island.” 

In last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, 12 of the rifles in the gunman’s possession were modified with a bump stock, allowing the weapon to fire about 90 shots in 10 seconds — a much faster rate than the AR-15 style assault rifle used by the Orlando nightclub shooter, which fired about 24 shots in nine seconds.

The bill would make it unlawful to possess, transport, manufacture, ship or sell a bump stock, regardless of whether the person is in possession of a firearm. Those violating the provisions, would face imprisonment for up to 10 years, or a fine up to $10,000, or both. It would also make it unlawful and apply the same penalties for any person to modify any semi-automatic weapon to shoot full automatic fire with a single pull or hold of the trigger.

The legislation would also ban binary triggers, which is a device designed to fire one round on the pull of the trigger and another round upon release of the trigger, effectively doubling the weapon’s shooting capabilities; and trigger cranks, which attach to the trigger of a semi-automatic weapon and cause the weapon to fire by turning the crank handle.

The measure is cosponsored by Sens. Coyne, DiPalma, Pearson and Conley,. It now movesto the House, which has passed similar legislation (2018-H 7075Aaa) introduced by Rep. Robert Craven (D-32).

Both bills have the support of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.

“I applaud the Senate for taking an important step to enhance our gun safety laws public safety by establishing a legal process to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others,” said Kilmartin. “While there is no one answer to ending the epidemic of gun violence in our country, I believe measured approaches such as the red flag law and banning bump stocks will improve public safety while also protecting the rights of legal gun owners.”

Editorial note: Written from a news release,

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA, Jim Seveney

Seveney mental health primary care parity bill passes Senate

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation introduced by Sen.  Jim Seveney (D-11) that would require health insurers to include behavioral health counseling as a primary care visit.

Under the provisions of the bill (2018-S 2540Aaa) behavioral health counseling visits and medication maintenance visits would be included as primary care visits for patient cost-sharing requirements under the provisions of a health plan.

“There are certain constraints on the health care system when it comes to mental health,” said Seveney. “This legislation looks to improve mental illness prevention and intervention by ensuring parity of cost sharing as it pertains to behavioral counseling visits.”

The legislation would also require the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner to include in an annual report to the governor and General Assembly recommendations to ensure the health insurance coverage of behavioral health care under the same terms and conditions as other health care, and to integrate behavioral health parity requirements into the insurance oversight and health care transformation efforts.

“By making sure the foundation of mental health care is a solid one, we can build upon it to improve the health care needs of all Rhode Islanders,” said Seveney. “This is an important step in better integrating behavioral health and primary care.”

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2018-H 7806) has been introduced by Rep. Grace Diaz (D-11).

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA, Jim Seveney

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