John McDaid's blog

Portsmouth seeks citizen input on revenue options

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 11.44.55 AM.pngAccording to a post on the town web site, Portsmouth is soliciting resident input on ideas for revenue sources to offset the town's extensive reliance on property taxes. Here's the lead in from the quick, four-question survey.

Portsmouth is a great place to live, but our FY15 budget (7/1/14 – 6/30/15) is funded 85% by property taxes. Most other RI municipalities are at 75%, with 25% coming from fee-for-service revenues. Clearly, other revenue sources need to be explored, such as charging increased (or new) fees for certain services.We need new revenue solutions, as well as continuing the cost cutting measures already started, to keep our economic future bright. 

How do user fees differ from a tax? There are two important distinctions. A fee approach provides residents an option to pay, or do without the service, while Increasing property taxes offers no option… lean times or good, you have to pay. Secondly, the cost of services are borne by the actual users, not subsidized by non-users.

This survey asks your opinion on some potential user fees under consideration.

If you have a few minutes, why not pop on over to the survey and offer your thoughts.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Town of Portsmouth

DEM demands immediate action on Portsmouth landfill cap

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 10.12.50 AM.pngThe RI Dept. of Environmental Management has issued a response to a plea for more time from the company capping Portsmouth's former town dump, and while they have granted the request for a one-year extension, they stress that this is "final" and have required immediate action to complete the finished sections, according to documents released by DEM today.

In the letter to Arthur Palmer Enterprise, DEM Principal Environmental Scientist Mark Dennen advises APE that although they are granting the extension to the governing agreement, the Beneficial Use Determination Approval, DEM "feels it is necessary to add two conditions."

First, that there will be no further extensions "Upon its expiration on September 20, 2015, the BUDA will no longer be subject to renewal." Dennen notes that any additional request for an extension "will be considered a new application and subject to public notice and public hearing." (The significance of that sentence will not be lost on the APE team, who, like DEM, had to sit through many uncomfortable meetings at the Portsmouth Town Hall over the last few years.)

Second, DEM is requiring immediate work to bring the already completed sections of the site up to final condition with residential soil and grass cover. "Beginning on or before September 20, 2014 and ending November 30, 2014 APE shall cover and seed the eastern slope of the property that abuts residences in the area." This is a rebuke to APE, who had responded to DEM's prior request for immediate action with a proposal to begin the final cover work in six months.

Read the full DEM letter

In addition to the response, DEM also distributed a letter written by the president of the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens, Larry Fitzmorris, and a letter and petition with 58 signatures from former Town Council president Joe Robicheau. Both complain of alleged health risks and other impacts on the neighborhood and urge the DEM to reject the extension.

DEM responded with a by-now familiar correction of several misstatements which you can read here.

Editorial note: Sure seems like someone thinks they can wring another election cycle's worth of Island Park anger out of this issue. I, personally, remain unconvinced. But in the interests of full disclosure, long time readers may recall that Mr. Robicheau and I had a significant disagreement about the responsibilities of the Town in communicating with residents of our uniquely fragile neighborhood in the runup to superstorm Sandy.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Landfill capping, landfill

DA drops criminal charges against Brayton blockaders

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Bristol County DA Sam Sutter holds a copy of Bill McKibben's article. Photo credit: Peter Bowden.

In one of the most delightfully unexpected twists in a US courtroom since Miracle on 34th Street, the Bristol County District Attorney, Sam Sutter, dropped criminal charges against two men who had used a lobster boat to block a coal shipment at the Brayton Point power station and promised to join them at the People's Climate March in New York in two weeks.

"Political leadership on this issue has been gravely lacking," Sutter said, in video taken at the press conference this morning outside the Fall River District Court where he announced the deal which dropped the criminal charges in favor of civil infractions with restitution to the towns affected. Sutter went on to say that he was pleased to have reached an agreement that "symbolizes our commitment at the Bristol County District Attorney's office to take a leadership role on this issue."

"I certainly will be in New York in two weeks," he said. He showed the assembled media a copy of Rolling Stone featuring an article by climate activist Bill McKibben urging people to attend the People's Climate March on September 21.

This afternoon, the Better Future Project, which had been organizing support for the two climate activists through the web site Lobster Boat Blockade.org, sent a release to media with the background and responses from the two men.

In May 2013, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara used a small white lobster boat, the Henry David T, to block a shipment of 40,000 tons of coal to the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, MA, the largest coal plant in New England. They were charged with conspiracy, disturbing the peace and motor vessel violations and faced up to several years in jail.

Ken and Jay had sought to become the first American climate activists to use a “necessity defense”, arguing that the blockade was necessary in light of the imminent threat of climate change. They had planned to call former NASA climatologist James Hansen and environmentalist Bill McKibben to the stand as expert witnesses.

“The truth is that taking these sorts of actions is necessary in light of the drastic news that continues to be described by the science. This decision by the District Attorney is an admission that the political and economic system isn’t taking the climate crisis seriously, and that it falls to ordinary citizens, especially people of faith, to stand up and take action to avert catastrophe,” said Jay O'Hara, a Quaker.

“By dropping the criminal charges against us and stating that ‘political leadership on this [climate] issue has been gravely lacking,’ DA Sutter in effect accepted our necessity defense. The climate crisis is so terrible and so fast that it overwhelms ordinary political avenues. Even now, as the West Antarctic ice shelf is in unstoppable collapse, the Brayton Point plant is increasing the amount of coal it burns. Protest works, indeed protest maybe the only thing that can save us,” said Ken Ward.

Ken and Jay’s blockade sparked a summer of action at the Brayton Point, including the arrest of 44 people at the gates of the plant in July 2013. Last fall, the owners announced the closure of Brayton Point in 2017.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, climate change

Portsmouth water exceeds TTHM standard

Water supplied to Portsmouth residents has exceeded the federal EPA standard for trihalomethanes (TTHMs) for the past year, according to a statement released to media today by the Portsmouth Water and Fire District (PWFD). The EPA standard is 80 parts per billion (ppb) for an annual running average, and the Portsmouth water came in at 89.2 ppb.

TTHMs, according to the EPA web site, are "a group of four chemicals that are formed along with other disinfection byproducts when chlorine or other disinfectants used to control microbial contaminants in drinking water react with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter in water."

According to PWFD, the level does not constitute an emergency and no action by customers is required, but it has triggered a notification requirement. PWFD customers will receive notice by mail from the district within the next month.

The new water treatment plant under construction on West Main Road will incorporate advanced processes to ensure compliance with drinking water standards, the PWFD said, and is scheduled to become operational before the end of the year.

Read more about TTHMs on the EPA site, or download the full press release here.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, pwfd

"We need net neutrality," Reed tells group

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Photo: Reed.Senate.gov

In a meeting at his Cranston office this afternoon, RI Sen. Jack Reed expressed unequivocal support for net neutrality to a group organized by Demand Progress.

"We need net neutrality," Reed said to the half-dozen constituents from around the state.

Reed first invited the group to share their perspectives, and the common theme was a concern that the FCC needs to take action once the period for comments on their proposed rule making ends on Sept. 10. Attendees included a librarian, an educator, a technology consultant, a musician, an activist, and a journalist, and everyone had a personal story about how the Rhode Islanders they work with would be impacted by a two-tiered Internet — the so-called "Fast Lanes" for access that could result if this year's Verizon v. FCC ruling prevents strong FCC regulation.

Reed acknowledged their concerns, and reiterated several times during the meeting that for him, "The objective is net neutrality." He compared the risk of pay-to-play fast lanes to the informational advantages sought by traders on Wall Street described in Michael Lewis's recent book Flash Boys.

Reed deferred judgement on the correct approach to achieve a level playing field — whether to push the FCC to reclassify broadband as a common carrie under Title II or see if they could craft rules under Section 706 that would survive the kind of legal challenge Verizon mounted. The regulatory issues, he noted, are complex. "We owe it to get the analysis on the table," he said, "and then make a judgement."

"They [the FCC] might even come back to us for legislation," he said.

The question of how best to implement rules that strike the appropriate balance between regulatory burden and public interest is one of the central questions in the FCC's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

A group of online activist organizations, including Demand Progress, are planning an online day of action on Sept. 10, where web sites will put up simulated "loading" images to show the possible impact of a two-tiered Internet. Major sites — including Etsy, Kickstarter, Foursquare, Wordpress, Vimeo, reddit, Mozilla, Imgur, Meetup, Cheezburger, Namecheap, Bittorrent, Gandi.net, StartPage, BoingBoing, and Dwolla — will be among those displaying the dreaded spinning load icon, according to a press release from the organizers.

Full disclosure: As is probably apparent, I was the journalist at the meeting, and want to thank Sen. Reed for meeting with us and for his support of an open Internet. Oh, and come next Wednesday, you'll see that spinning icon on this site too.

Tags: 
02871, localblgging, Net Neutrality, Sen. Jack Reed

WMO features future weather forecasts in runup to Climate Summit

The World Meteorological Organization, to help build awareness of the local impacts of climate change, solicited fictional weather reports from the year 2050 from around the globe, and will be hosting the videos on their YouTube channel all month, according to a post on their web site. Here's the teaser:

The Climate Summit will take place at the United Nations on Sept. 23.

The weekend before, on Sunday, Sept. 21, several hundred thousand people are expected to participate in the People's Climate March in New York, calling on the world leaders attending the Summit to take action.

If you're interested in participating, buses will be running from Rhode Island to the event.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, climate change

Portsmouth Dems share auction list for Clam Boil

clamboil14_thumb.jpgThe Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee hosts their annual Clam Boil next Sunday, and they've shared a list of the awesome auction bargains that will be available during the event. You can find out more and buy tickets online at portsmouthdemocrats.com.

Check out these awesome auction items that will be available.

15 Point Road restaurant, Portsmouth, $25 gift card 
Ace Hardware, Portsmouth, gift certificate, value $25 
Allen's Wine and Spirits, various items
Ann Carleton Cleaning, certificate for 2-hour general house cleaning, value $60
Anthony's Seafood, Middletown, $25 gift card
Aquidneck Pools and Spas, $25 gift certificate
Becky's Barbecue, Middletown, Dinner for Two, value $25
Blue Plate Diner, Middletown, $25 gift card (two available)
Car care basket, donated by a friend
Carlone’s Florist (to come)
Chase Deli & Pizza $25 gift card
Cindy's Country Cafe of Portsmouth, breakfast for two (two available)
Classic Pizza, Tiverton, gift certificate for large cheese pizza 
Domina's Agway, birdfeeder and birdseed, value $35
Deborah Winthrop Lingerie, $25 gift certificate 
Dunkin Donuts (to come)
Ferrera's package store, gift baskets 
Foodworks, $25 gift certificate
Framed pictures, donated by Val and Jim Seveney
Frosty Freeze, $5 gift certificate (two available) 
The Green Grocer, Portsmouth, Gift Bag of Natural Goodies 
Good Spirits, Middletown, Cinnamon Tequila, value $30
Green Vale Vineyards, Portsmouth, Skipping Stones Wine (one case as separate prizes)
Green Valley Country Club, Portsmouth, gift certificate for a foursome with carts, value $100
Hampton Inn & Suites, Providence, one night stay, donated by Michael Buddemeyer
High Point Salon and Spa, gift certificate for Spa Facial, value $75
Irving's Shoes, $10 gift certificate 
Island Books, Middletown, $40. gift card 
Island Garden Shop (to come)
Joe Matose, framed artwork,  value $30, and several pieces of unframed art
K-Cup Coffee Holder, value $30, donated by Marge Levesque and Rich Gottlieb
Kiwi Burst, $10 gift card 
Lacerda Farms, bag of potatoes (three available)
Leisure Limousine, $100 gift certificate
Leo's Ristorante, Bristol, $15 gift card (two available)
Margarita gift set, value $30, donated by Sylvia Wedge
Martino's Pizza, Portsmouth, $20 gift certificate
Mizu Japanese Cuisine, Middletown, $10 gift certificate (two available) 
Newport Athletic Club, one month free membership, value $100
Newport County Dinner Club, $25 membership book
Newport Grand Slots, $25 gift cards (four available)
Newport Playhouse, dinner and show for two
Newport Vineyards, Tour and Tasting for four
North End Pizzeria, $15 gift card 
Peak Fitness (to come)
Paradise Cleaning and Restoration, Middletown, gift certificate one any size area rug cleaning
Patriot Petroleum, $25 gas gift certificate (two available)
Portsmouth Publick House, $10 gift card (four available)
Quic-Kutz, Middletown $15 haircut certificate (two available)
Rose Perfect Nails, Middletown, manicure gift certificate, value $30
Sakonnet Grooming & Pet Wellness, $20 gift certificate
Scampi restaurant, $20 gift card (two available)
Schultzy’s Snack Shack, $20 gift certificate 
Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, Rhode Island State Flag (two available)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, autographed Tiffany plate
Stage Door Dance Studio, $25 gift certificate
Steve's Famous Pizza, $15 gift certificate
Stone Bridge Seafood, two 1.25-pound lobsters 
Stop & Shop, Middletown, $25 gift card (two available)
Supercuts, 15 haircut gift certificate (two available) 
Tennis Hall of Fame, two tickets to matches next summer with passes to museum
Therapeutic Massage (1/2 hour), Kay Kriger, Diane Myers, Beverly Peirson, value $40 (three available)
Travers Plumbing and Heating, one septic pump out, value $215; one service call, value $75
Vallari's Martial Arts, Middletown, two private lessons, 1 Month of classes, uniform, value $200 (two available)
Valley Inn, Portsmouth, $50.00 gift certificate 

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Portsmouth Democrats

Tiverton's Bistro 524 to close

14aug30_524.pngIn an e-mail sent to patrons last night, owner Karen DeLeo announced that the popular Tiverton restaurant Bistro 524 will be closing on September 20. The restaurant, which opened in 2012, was run by DeLeo and co-owner and chef, Steven Osman who passed away earlier this year.

In the e-mail, DeLeo describes a "difficult journey" that began with the passing of her partner Osman, and thanks everyone who supported the restaurant.

Our family has loved Bistro 524 from the first time we visited, especially our son, Jack, who firmly believes that they make the best Mac & Cheese in the world (on the menu, it's Lobster Mac & Cheese, but they always make it for him without the lobster.) I'm a big fan of their Lemon and Pea Risotto.

We'll certainly be stopping by for dinner a few times over the next weeks, and I hope some of our friends and neighbors will do the same. Our thoughts go out to Ms. DeLeo, the wonderful staff of Bistro 524, and the family and friends of Mr. Osman.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging

Consultant, neighbors respond to DEM on Portsmouth landfill extension

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Response from APE.

Two weeks ago, the RI Dept. of Environmental Management responded to a request for a time extension by the company conducting capping operations at Portsmouth's former town dump, and yesterday they released two replies, one from the firm's environmental consultant, and the other from the so-called "Landfill Committee." Both letters address DEM's additional conditions for an extension, a commitment to an end date, and immediate action on final cover for areas already capped.

The consultant, Tim O'Connor & Company, responding on behalf of Arthur Palmer Enterprise, seeks to justify the extension and offers guarantees on timing. O'Connor reiterates their contention that a "lack of active construction projects" contributed to their ability to source fill material, and expands on their assertion about uncertainty of approvals from the CRMC to address additional areas discovered at the edge of the site. "Those series of events created a lack of predictability" which, they say, "hindered Mr. Peter's [the site manager] ability to negotiate with contractors."

"With these events now behind us," the letter continues, "APE and Mr. Peter are willing to commit that the project will complete accepting impacted soils above the residential Direct Exposure Criteria within the next twelve months. It may still be necessary to accept residential soils to finish the cap after that period."

Responding to the second request by DEM, for quick action on finishing and seeding the eastern, already capped part of the site, O'Connor says, "APE understands RIDEM's concerns and proposes to continue final capping activities along the residential boundary as a stipulation of RIDEM approving the final BUDA renewal. APE will complete these capping activities within six months of RIDEM's BUDA approval."

The response from the "Landfill Committee," signed by Debra Cardoza, is a four-page reiteration of previous complaints about the site, and is copied to the Town Council and state legislators. "We will strongly encourage the Council to use this opportunity to object to a further expansion of this project that was initially presented as a one year effort. It is long past time that this deposit of contaminated soils in Island Park comes to an end."

Read the consultant response and the letter from the Landfill Committee.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Landfill capping, landfill

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