Mayday hits $2M -- just five days left to reach $5M goal

mayday2m.jpgMayday.us announced today that they've hit $2M in pledges to the "SuperPAC to end all SuperPACs." This grassroots, kick-started experiment in restoring democracy is the brainchild of Harvard Law professor and activist Larry Lessig, and the goal is to raise enough citizen contributions to put some muscle into 2014 races as a proof of concept -- the concept that Americans care about campaign finance reform, and that Congress needs to treat this as a serious issue.

I'm asking you to pitch in if you can. You can pledge on my page at MAYDAY.US.

Still need some convincing? Listen to Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Remember -- Friday, July 4 is the deadline. Don't wait for the kick...)

02871, Localblogging, Mayday, Elections

Portsmouth Water District election June 11

13may24_vote.jpgThe Portsmouth Water and Fire District will hold its annual election of officers on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 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) Water Commissioner and one (1) Clerk are up for election.

Running for the position of Water Commissioner is incumbent Terri-Denise Cortvriend of 46 Mary Lane.

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

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 in the low hundreds 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 11. Don't worry -- I'll remind you.

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

02871, Localblogging, Elections, pwfd

Portsmouth swearing-in next Monday night

According to an e-mail this morning from the Town Clerk, the swearing in of Portsmouth's new Town Council and School Committee will take place next Monday, November 26 at 7pm in Town Hall.

The Portsmouth Girl Scouts will conduct the flag ceremony, followed by an invocation by Father Gray. The new elects will be sworn in by the Honorable J. Terence Houlihan, Jr., State of Rhode Island District Court Associate Justice.

Hope to see you there!

Localblogging, 02871, Town Council, School Committee, Elections

Pedro prevails by one vote in Portsmouth Town Council recount

RI Board of Elections review ballots as candidates Pedro and Katzman look on.

Today's three-hour recount process at the RI Board of Elections (BoE) left the results of the Portsmouth Town Council race unchanged, as Liz Pedro (R) maintained a one-vote lead over next place finisher Len Katzman (D). At the end of the day, Pedro won by a count of 3791 to 3790 for Katzman.

"I congratulate Ms. Pedro on a good race and wish her well on the council," Katzman said in a statement sent to media late this afternoon. "I want to thank all those who voted for me, and thanks are due as well to the Portsmouth Democratic Party for their support of my candidacy. I am exceptionally pleased that Portsmouth Democrats won a controlling number of seats on the Town Council and accomplished a complete sweep of the School Committee races. Although I had hoped to serve alongside them, I am very satisfied with the overall result of the Portsmouth election. I wish all newly-elected Portsmouth officeholders the best as they take on the challenges of government for the next two years."

The recount process went smoothly, as the Portsmouth Canvassing team, led by Madeline Pencak, were assisted by BoE staffers in referring ballots through a half-dozen readers. Machines conducted most of the tally, with a handful of ballots from each district that had to be reviewed by a two-member panel of the Board of Elections. The entire process was supervised by Executive Director Robert Kando, who was was called on in at least one case to review a ballot.

Notable in the recount process were the ballots rejected for overvotes in the 4-year School Committee race, where a number of voters had marked four names.

02871, Elections, Budget

Portsmouth Council candidate Katzman files recount request

Portsmouth Town Council candidate Leonard Katzman (D), who was edged out in Tuesday's election by 3 votes, has filed a recount request with the RI Board of Elections, according to a statement received this afternoon by harddeadlines:

"At about 1 p.m. today I filed a formal request for a recount in the Portsmouth Town Council race. As of the final tally of the race, including paper ballots, I trail the last winning candidate by only three votes.

I believe that our optical scanner voting system is very robust and accurate and therefore I do not expect the recount to result in any major change in outcome. Nonetheless, on occasion some variance does occur. I have been contacted by many Portsmouth citizens and they have urged me to seek a recount. I believe I owe it to my supporters to do so. This will allow Portsmouth voters to remain confident in the integrity of the election process.

Regardless of the outcome, I want to thank all who supported my candidacy. Thanks are also due to the Canvasser’s Office for a well-run election."

Full disclosure: I serve on the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections

Portsmouth election finals: Dems win big

The RI Board of Elections web site was finally updated with mail ballots from Tuesday's election and the good news has held for the Portsmouth Town Council and School Committee: a solid Democratic majority on both.

Town Council
John F. BLAESS (DEM) 4968 9.2%

Keith E. HAMILTON (REP) 4335 8.0%

Michael A. BUDDEMEYER (DEM) 4263 7.9%

James Arthur SEVENEY (DEM) 4238 7.8%

David M. GLEASON (IND) 3864 7.1%

Mary DONOHUE MAGEE (DEM) 3823 7.0%

Elizabeth A. PEDRO (REP) 3789 7.0%

School Committee (4-year)
Emily A. COPELAND (DEM) 6045 29.3%

Andrew V. KELLY (DEM) 5204 25.2%

Terri-Denise CORTVRIEND (DEM) 5044 24.4%

School committee (2-year)
John L. WOJICHOWSKI (DEM) 4490 54.4%

And congratulations to Linda Finn (72) (who beat Dan Reilly), Dennis Canario (71) and Ray Gallison (69) who were unopposed, and Jay Edwards (70)

Update: Corrected Canario district number.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections

A message from the Portsmouth Democrats


Depending on your district, you will also be able to vote for Democrats for State Representative: Linda Finn (72), Dennis Canario (71), Jay Edwards (70), and Ray Gallison (69).

You can check on your polling place and get a sample ballot at the Secretary of State's Voter Information Center.

Hope to see you at the polls! (And remember to bring ID!)

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

Localblogging, 02871, Elections

Portsmouth School Committee Democrats need your support


Portsmouth school committee candidates Terri Cortvriend, John Wojichowski, Andrew Kelly, and Emily Copeland were at the Middle School this morning. Please support this team tomorrow -- they will be there for our schools *every* day.

Learn more at the Portsmouth Democrats school committee site.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections

Cicilline focuses on economy at RWU Town Hall

Rep. Cicilline speaks with RWU students.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-1) took questions from about 50 students and Twitter participants at a Town Hall session at Roger Williams University (RWU) this afternoon, and for this group of 20-somethings, most of the questions revolved around the economy.

"The issue that keeps me up at night," said Cicilline in response to a question, "Is getting our economy back on track." Budgets represent a nation's priorities, he said, and America should be investing in "Education, innovation, and infrastructure, ways of growing the economy from the middle class out."

He described talking with small businesses in Rhode Island and noted "Nine out of ten say they need more customers." That, he argued, was the problem with focusing on tax breaks for millionaires rather than middle-class consumers. "If we just asked this one question: 'Is it good for the middle class?' We'd always make the right decision."

Longer term, he argued for the importance of investment in education, especially Pell Grants "at a level that actually allows young people to afford to go to college." He argued against a narrow, short-term focus on purely functional skills. We need art, music, and the liberal arts, he said, because they contribute to creativity, entrepreneurship and problem solving. "We need to invest in the kind of economy that's based on ideas and entrepreneurship, because that's the kind that actually creates jobs."

In response to a question about protecting social security, Cicilline asked for a show of hands for how many believed the program would be there when they retired. Few, if any, raised their hands.

Expressing some surprise, Cicilline sought to reassure the students that social security did not contribute to the deficit and talked about simple measures to address long-term stability. The current system, he said, limits the amount of income considered for contribution to the first $110K, and adjusting that cap would be one straightforward way to extend the life of the program. "If you removed the cap completely, it would only impact 6% of Americans, and would extend the life of the program by 75 years."

The event was organized and moderated by RWU political science professor Dr. June Speakman, who estimated that about half the students were attending the event as part of classes in civics or journalism.

You can find the entire Twitter stream here.

Full disclosure: In case it's not obvious, I am a Democrat and supporter of Rep. Cicilline.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections

Whitehouse sticks up for middle class in RI Senate debate

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and challenger Barry Hinckley at WPRI debate.

In a one-hour debate heavy on substance and policies, RI Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse articulated his position as a reasonable legislator and champion of the middle class, while challenger Barry Hinckley staked out the turf of a tax-cutting free-marketeer. Moderator Tim White of WPRI was joined by panelists Ted Nesi and Providence Journal reporter Ed Fitzpatrick, and they kept the discussion moving and focused.

Hinckley ran out of time in his opening statement in his rush get in a snarky comment about his position on stage: "I'm little uncomfortable being to your left — I didn't think that was possible." He then spent the rest of his time attacking Obamacare as a "2000-page entitlement program" and saluting unrestrained capitalism.

The Roberts decision on Obamacare was the Supreme Court decision he mentioned when asked which one he'd like to overturn, and he identified his favorite justice as Clarence Thomas.

"The problem with Social Security," Hinckley said, "is that it's managed by the government, not actuaries." If it were turned over to actuaries, he argued, "It could be solved in an afternoon."

He totally dismissed public education. "The government has had a monopoly on primary and secondary education," and was doing such a poor job that he proposed vouchers, which he compared to Pell Grants. "If it's a grant for college, why wouldn't it be a grant [for elementary education]?"

Whitehouse, by contrast, reinforced the need to invest in American workers ("Innovation, manufacturing, and infrastructure — that's where I've put a lot of my work.") and protect middle-class families.

Rather than cutting Medicare benefits, Whitehouse stressed the importance of moderating the growth of health care costs. He noted progress by providers like Rhode Island's Coastal Medical, which recently became a participant in the Medicare Shared Savings program. Whitehouse warned about the effects of "extreme" Republican budgets like the Ryan plan that would impact Medicaare.

He chided Congressional Republicans for refusing to extend the Bush tax cuts for income less than $250K. "They're objecting to it because it lets the middle class 'get away.'" At the same time, he noted, local companies like CVS are paying a 35% tax rate, while corporations like Carnival Cruises, GE, and oil companies take advantage of loopholes. "We need a tax code that's fairer and simpler," he said, but stressed that any changes had to be done "in the context of the deficit."

When asked for a Supreme Court decision he would overturn, Whitehouse cited Citizens United, and he said he admired Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

While Hinckley closed with yet another business pitch ("Wipe away the labels D and R," he said. "I signed over 15k paychecks. I know what goes into a paycheck.") Whithouse reiterated his commitment to defend Medicare and Social Security and protect the middle class from "tax schemes." Said Whitehouse, "I will keep the faith with you on these issues."

Full disclosure: In case it's not obvious, I'm a Democrat and a supporter of Sen. Whitehouse. But despite my admitted Democratic blind spot, I just have no clue how anyone could equate Pell Grants with school vouchers. That is either ignorant of how education funding works, or calculatedly cynical. And turning social security over to unchecked market forces? "Solved in an afternoon?" Brrr. It really struck me, listening to Hinckley, just exactly how much government is *not* a business. I don't want my retirement security appearing as the highlighted cell of low-hanging fruit in some CFO's spreadsheet. I don't want a *boss,* I want a Senator.

Localblogging, 02871, Elections, Whitehouse