VOTE TODAY! Portsmouth Water board election [IUpdated]

13may24_vote.jpgThe Portsmouth Water and Fire District election is today, June 14, at the District office at 1944 East Main Road. Polls are open until 8:00pm.

UPDATE: Daniela Abbott told a reporter today that she is encouraging write-in votes for the position of Clerk. This reporter voted for her.

The positions of Clerk and Water Commissioner are up for election.

Running for the position of Clerk is incumbent Philip T. Driscoll of 169 Immokolee Drive.

Running for the position of Water Commissioner is Andrew V. Kelly of 33 Pine St.

As required by the recent change in State Law, voters will be required to show identification to vote in the District’s election.

Just because you only see one candidate for each position, please don't assume that these races will be uncontested -- with turnout sometimes in the mid-double-digits, a write-in can surprise everyone in this race.

Testimony on guns in schools at Senate Judiciary

17jun06_senate_judiciary.jpgThanks to all the folks at the Senate hearing last night who testified with such passion, intelligence, and empathy on all the gun safety bills. I'm glad to have been able to contribute a few words.

Thank you Madam Chair, members of the committee. I’m John McDaid from Portsmouth, urging the Committee to support S0187 as a parent and a member of the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence, an organization representing more than 90 groups and 120,000 Rhode Islanders. That number is significant.

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 2013 there were 16,864 reported unintentional gunshot injuries. That’s 46 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.

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 duty to consider this bill. I may not know much about how things work at the State House, but back home in Portsmouth, if a group of concerned citizens representing 10 percent of the town asked to have something put on the agenda for the whole Council to consider, it would get a vote. I ask that this committee do the same. Thank you.

CDC data
Rand study via Time Magazine
DC v. Heller see p. 54

Portsmouth Community Theater auditions next week

Auditions will be held for the Portsmouth Community Theater season on June 5th and 6th at 4PM at the Aquidneck Island Christian Academy. PCT hopes to cast for "You Can't Take It With You" for production in August as well as for events at the Portsmouth Historical Society, a new historical drama now being researched and written and, pending rights approval, a production of "Love, Loss and What I Wore" in the Spring.


(click to embiggen)

Protect Portsmouth kids at Town Council Monday night [Update]

stopsign.jpgMonday night, May 22, the Portsmouth Town Council will hear two agenda items that bear on the safety of children in town: speeding in Island Park and concealed weapons in our schools.

A group of Island Park residents have raised concerns about speeding on Cottage Avenue in Island Park, and have circulated a petition with 30 signatures (including Portsmouth Police Chief Thomas Lee) requesting the Council implement traffic slowing measures and increased enforcement.

"We have 16 children that live on our street," says an e-mail to the Council from organizer Jennifer Weiffenbach, "The posted speed limit is 15 miles per hour. Yet we regularly see divers going both directions from 25 to 45 mph and higher." The petition asks the Council to consider speed bumps or stop signs at the (currently uncontrolled) cross streets.

Also on the agenda is a request for a resolution in support of the bills currently before the General Assembly that would close the concealed-carry loophole on school grounds. (H5345/S0187)

This legislation — which was supported by the Portsmouth School Committee in March — clarifies a conflict in state law. Although there is currently a "no guns in schools" law on the books (RIGL 11-47-60) there is language in the state's concealed carry provision which appears to contradict this exclusion (RIGL 11-47-11).

Monday night would be a good time to show up at the Council for our kids.

Update: Both measures were approved by the Council. Councilors heard a presentation from three Island Park kids, questioned the PD and DPW, and decided on stop signs at Walnut and Chestnut streets. The resolution supporting the NGIS bills was passed after a statement from School Committee chair Terri Cortvriend and a few words from this reporter.

Portsmouth Water District election June 14

13may24_vote.jpgThe Portsmouth Water and Fire District will hold its annual election of officers on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 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) Clerk and (1) Water Commissioner are up for election.

Running for the position of Clerk is incumbent Philip T. Driscoll of 169 Immokolee Drive.

Running for the position of Water Commissioner is Andrew V. Kelly of 33 Pine St.

As required by the recent change in State Law, voters will be required to show identification to vote in the District’s election.

Just because you only see one candidate for each position, please don't assume that these races will be uncontested. Turnout is typically very low (in recent years, candidates have won with 64 votes. Not by 64 votes. With a total of 64 votes) for these elections (to a quasi-governmental body with taxing power) and it is possible for undeclared candidates to succeed on a write in. In fact, this has actually happened in Portsmouth Water Board elections. If you're a ratepayer in the District, I urge you to get out to the polls on June 14. Don't worry -- I'll remind you :)

Editorial note: The section before the commentary is written from a news release.

Gov. Raimondo talks tax credits for local manufacturing with Portsmouth This Week

During her visit to the Portsmouth Senior Center yesterday, Gov. Gina Raimondo sat down for a 7-minute video interview with Doug Smith of Portsmouth This Week to talk about manufacturing tax incentives, the line item veto, and her college tuition plan.

Portsmouth This Week, produced for cable access by volunteers and focusing on local issues, recently taped its 200th episode. Past shows can be found on their YouTube channel.

Raimondo urges increase in mimumum wage during Portsmouth Senior Center visit

Gov. Gina Raimondo speaks at Portsmouth Senior Center.

During a visit to the Portsmouth Senior Center this afternoon, RI Gov. Gina Raimondo spent 45 minutes talking with more than 30 seniors and presented an award to one of the center's volunteers. She also had some advice for the the Senate Finance and Labor committees taking up her proposed minimum wage increase at a hearing later today (H5175/Article 20).

"I'd say pass it," Raimmondo told harddeadlines. "Last year, I called on the Assembly to raise the minimum wage, and they didn't, and I think we missed an opportunity, because folks in Massachusetts and Connecticut got a raise. They both increased; our people deserve a raise too. You shouldn't be in poverty if you work full time and I think it's the right thing to do."

Raimondo spoke briefly to the members before spending the bulk of her time sitting at each table to talk with attendees individually. In her remarks, she noted that her past three budgets had recommended increases in funding for senior centers, Meals on Wheels, and tax breaks on Social Security income." "You guys have earned it, and you deserve it," she said.

Gov. Raimondo presents award to Edmund Silveria.

Raimondo presented long-time volunteer Edmund B. Silveria with a certificate "In recognition of extraordinary commitment to community service." Silveria, who said he'd been volunteering at the center since he retired in 1984 called the award a "big surprise," as he posed proudly with his family.

Local elected officials were in attendance as well. Raimondo introduced Sen. Jim Seveney (D-11) as "one of the best guys up at the State House," and talked with Rep. Susan Donovan (D-69) and Portsmouth Town Councilor Linda Ujifusa.

Edmund Silveria with his family.
Gov. Raimondo speaks with attendees.
Gov. Raimondo with senior center staff and elected officials.

Support the AIPC at Town Council on Monday night

Screen Shot 2016-09-12 at 12.27.46 PM.pngOn Monday, May 8, the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) is being hauled before the Portsmouth Town Council yet again for an inquisition into their activities. The Town Council has been stiffing AIPC on their yearly contribution ($18K) despite the fact that the organization is delivering impact at a high multiple of that number.

You can take a look at the AIPC's most recent activities in the budget request and letter they submitted to the Council for Monday's meeting: they developed an island-wide storm water management program (that specifically benefits Portsmouth), are working on transportation (specifically, an island bike path), supporting planning and grant-seeking efforts for coastal resilience, and serving as convenor for community conversations like the recent Newport County Legislative Forum, among other projects.

You would think that the Town Council would be delighted to have a partner working on these issues. It allows Town government to be more lean, and helps combine our voice with the other two Aquidneck Island municipalities to advocate for funding and attention. But there are forces in the community who react negatively to anything that has the word "planning" in it, since it conjures up images of black helicopters and Agenda 21 commandos coming to take away all private property. Oh, and there may be a few people with specific axes to grind that are never disclosed. Just saying'.

If you have some time on Monday night, you might want to stop by Town Hall and say a few words in support of the AIPC. You can read more about their work here.

If you can't make it, you could drop a note to the Town Council indicating that you support the AIPC and would like them to support and work with the AIPC for the benefit of all Aquidneck Islanders.

Click here to create an email with all Town Council addresses filled in.

Letter to the editor: Drug-sniffing dogs in our schools

This letter appears in the Portsmouth Times and Portsmouth Press this week:

To the editor:
Last Friday, for the first time anyone can recall, drug-sniffing dogs were deployed at Portsmouth High School. For half an hour, students huddled in lockdown while the dogs prowled the halls. The administration has promised to continue this practice through the remainder of the year.

To me, this is yet another incursion on civil liberties that is tolerated in the name of security. We've grown accustomed to NSA wiretaps, taking our shoes off at airports, and ubiquitous surveillance. Now, we are willing to teach our children -- literally teach our children, in school -- that the state can send in dogs to sniff their belongings at any time, with no warrant.

But does Portsmouth have a reason to send in the dogs? According to the 2016 Portsmouth Substance Abuse Needs Assessment survey conducted by the Portsmouth Prevention Coalition, "Significant drops were reported in use rates for alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs over the past two years at the high school for all grades."

Security versus civil liberty is an area where reasonable people and courts can (and do) disagree. Whatever position you take, I think we can agree that it affects the character of our schools and is worthy of a community discussion. The Portsmouth School Committee will be taking up this issue at their meeting on Tuesday, May 9, and I encourage parents and residents to share their views.

John G. McDaid

PHS proceeds with K-9 sweep over ACLU objection

In an e-mail message just sent to parents, principal Joseph Amaral announced that a K-9 drug sweep had been conducted this morning at Portsmouth High School.


Today, April 28, 2017 Portsmouth High School, in collaboration with the RI Working Dogs Association, had a pre-planned lock down and sweep. The building initially went into lock down and then students and teachers continued with instruction while the building sweep continued in the parking lot. The event began at 9:22 am and the building was cleared before 9:38am. We commend our students and staff for their cooperation throughout the process. We want to reassure you that we are doing all we can to keep our students and staff safe.


Joseph N. Amaral

I have written to Supt. Ana Riley and School Committee chair Terri Cortvriend to register my extreme dissatisfaction with Principal Amaral's decision to proceed with this diminution of our students' civil liberties.