02871

"Little Shop" offers big fun at Contemporary Theater

Seymour (Dean Hernandez) feeds Audrey IIA crew of iconic characters (Seymour, the ne'er-do-well attendant, Audrey, his put-upon co-worker, her sadistic dentist boyfriend Dr. Scrivello, and store owner Mr. Mushnik) are in for a strange ride as a total eclipse brings a rapidly growing, talking, (and hungry) alien plant to a skid row florist.

It's all for laughs in this Little Shop of Horrors, a classic Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid) musical, based on the 1960 Roger Corman cult film about a carnivorous plant with a taste for humans.

The Contemporary Theater Company has mounted a deliciously dark, toe-tapping production that careens gleefully from parody to pathos with fine acting, brisk staging, and excellent voices that make the show sparkle. And the plant puppets, wow, those plant puppets are spectacular.

Dean Hernandez is spot-on as the hapless Seymour, torn between conscience and his dream of impressing Audrey as his alien plant, dubbed the Audrey II, lures the world to their flower shop. The three skid-row urchins Ronnette (Morayo Akande), Chiffon (Alijah Ileana Dickinson), and Crystal (Jess Ring) who serve as the show's narrators and "Greek chorus" bring captivating presence and beautiful harmonies. And Sophie Pearson shines in her turn as the meek, tragic Audrey with a powerful show-tune-perfect voice ("Somewhere That's Green" is a standout number.) Jeffrey Oulette plays Mushnik with bluster and empathy, and Brad Kirton's over-the-top dentist join a solid ensemble in bringing the show to life.

Chris Simpson's direction, as always, is brisk and inviting, often threading the cast out through the audience in a stylish, effective  use of the Contemporary's space. Musical director Jean Maxon-Carpenter has coaxed excellent vocal performances, and the pit band does a fine job.
 
Special mention needs to go to Rebecca Magnotta, who both designed and runs the Audrey II puppets, from the table-top potted plant to the human-eating critter at the end. The centerpiece of the show, these are intricately beautiful and flawlessly functional. This is no mean feat when (without too many spoilers) several of the characters end up as, well, plant food. Magnotta's energetic puppetry combines with Jason Quinn's charming, chilling, off-stage voice to bring Audrey II to life.
 
Little Shop of Horrors performances Thurs-Sat evenings Nov 3, 8-10, 15-17 at 7pm, Sunday matinees Nov 11, 18 at 2pm. Tickets ($25/$15 student) available on www.contemporarytheatercompany.com or by calling the box office at 401-218-0282.

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02871, Localblogging, Theater reviews

Portsmouth remembers Marines lost in 1983 Beirut bombing

Beirut Memorial wreath laying This morning, about 100 family members, civic leaders, veterans, and residents gathered at the Portsmouth Historical Society for the Beirut Memorial ceremony, honoring the nine Marines killed in the barracks bombing 35 years ago. A speaking program was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the stone memorial on the grounds of the Historical Society.

Sen. Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. David Cicilline all spoke, and RI Office of Veterans Affairs Director Kasim Yarn read a proclamation from Gov. Gina Raimondo. State Senators Felag and Seveney, and Reps. Mendonca and Azzinaro were in attendance, as was Town Council member Linda Ujifusa and school committee members Terri Cortvriend and Andrew Kelly.

The speakers remembered the nine fallen Rhode Island Marines: Sgt. Timothy Giblin (Providence), Cpl. Rick Crudale (West Warwick), Cpl. David Mass (Warren), Cpl. Thomas Shipp (Woonsocket), Cpl. Edward Shares, Jr. (Tiverton), Cpl. James Silvia (Middletown), Cpl. Stephen Spencer (Portsmouth), and Lance Cpl. Thomas Julian (Portsmouth) and the other 232 Marines and sailors lost in the terrorist attack during the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.

"They gave their last full measure of devotion in defense of others, in defense of our nation," said Sen. Reed. "Let us rededicate ourselves to their mission of selfless service and being part of something greater than ourselves."

"We come together every year," said Sen. Whitehouse, "To commemorate these lives and the tradition of service that these nine Rhode Islanders and the United States Marine Corps represent."

Said Rep. Cicilline, "As a nation we must pledge to support the families of those who lost that day as well as the veterans of all of our country's wars. Those who risk everything for our country deserve the thanks and support of a grateful nation."

The morning's main speaker, USMC Lt. Col. Jonathan Kenney, delivered an impassioned remembrance that drew on poetry, his time serving in the same battalion, and the memorial to the fallen at Camp Lejeune. "When I was stationed in Camp Lejeune North Carolina," said Kenney, "Every day I drove along Highway 24 to and from work. And I would pass the Bradford Pear trees that line the median of the Freedom Highway. And each of those trees were planted to represent every life that was taken on the 23rd of October. As I pass each one of those trees, it's hard, not to see in every one of those, the extent of loss that was suffered on that fateful day. Every tree represented a Marine with a family. With a mother. With a father. With a girlfriend, with a fiancee, with a wife, brothers sisters. They each had different ambitions. Each of those Marines. But they served with a common purpose and tragically, we lost them in the blink of an eye."

A full transcript of his remarks is here, but this was his powerful summation.

"If you've ever heard the Marines Hymn," said Kenney, "You'll know that the last line says,"When the Army and the Navy look on Heaven's scenes/They will find the streets are guarded/ By United States Marines." I would submit and we know, we're confident here in this room, that while Marines may be guarding those heavenly streets, it's the Rhode Island Nine who are standing in front of those heavenly formations looking out for us. And so it's important again that we respect the sacrifices they made and be grateful. May God bless each one of those fallen heroes. May God bless the families, each one of you still suffering with their loss. We offer you our support as you continue to struggle. And may God bless the United States of America."

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02871, Localblogging, beirut

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.

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02871, Localblogging, PCC, Elections

​​​​​​​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.

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02871, Localblogging, Prudence Island

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.

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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.

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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.

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02871, Localblogging, pwfd

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.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, LTE

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.

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02871, Localblogging, Elections

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