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Testimony for RI House Judiciary on H5555

H5555 — Support

I urge the Committee to support H5555 as a parent and a member of the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence, an organization representing more than 100 groups and 120,000 Rhode Islanders.

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 2015 (the last year for which data is available) there were 17,311 reported unintentional gunshot injuries. That’s 47 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. 

The argument you will hear from gun advocates that this is a solution to a problem that does not exist. No incidents have happened in schools, they say, therefore, this bill is unnecessary. Imagine that you are one of the airlines flying the Boeing 737 Max. Before the two fatal crashes, there was no felt need to train pilots on the particulars of its flight control system. It flew without incident for two years, during which time, supporters could point to the safety record and argue that no action was necessary. But there was, always, a lurking flaw that required the right combination of events to prove fatal. I urge the committee: please, do not make the same mistake. Please do not wait for a tragic accident to expose this inherent flaw; close this loophole now.

Because, ultimately, it is the General Assembly which 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 Constitutionally mandated 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 put an item on the agenda for the whole Council to consider, it would get a vote. I simply ask this committee to do the same. 

John McDaid
Portsmouth

References
CDC data https://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/nfirates.html
Rand study via Time Magazine: http://nation.time.com/2013/09/16/ready-fire-aim-the-science-behind-police-shooting-bystanders/
DC v. Heller: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf see p. 54

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA, RICAGV

COX OUTAGE TAKES PORTSMOUTH OFFLINE (updates)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: John McDaid 401 662-3198
Feb 16, 2021

COX OUTAGE TAKES PORTSMOUTH OFFLINE

PORTSMOUTH, RI — For more than two weeks, scores of Portsmouth residents have suffered internet service interruptions due to an outage at Cox Communications. In conversations with customers, Cox has acknowledged the outage, but has offered no explanation and "no estimated time when service will be restored."

"People can't work from home, shop safely, or keep in touch with loved ones," said John McDaid, who uses Zoom to teach his college classes. "This is the middle of a pandemic, with new, more-contagious viral strains circulating, and Cox is making it more difficult for me and my neighbors to stay safe."

"This is a major utility outage," said McDaid, "And should be treated with the same sense of urgency as the 2019 gas outage in Newport."

The problems began, residents say, around two weeks ago, when they began to see extremely slow internet speeds and intermittent time-outs and failures. Several have been performing speed tests on their connections, and although they have contracted for 50-200 megabits of download, some are seeing 1-2 megabits, with some upload speeds under 200 kilobits. According to Zoom's support page, the minimum speed required for a multi-person conference is 1 megabit up.

Portsmouth residents like Holly Delanoy of Common Fence Point and Keith Brown of Island Park have been complaining on the Facebook group "All Things Portsmouth" and on the Nextdoor site devoted to Common Fence Point in the northern part of town. Multiple residents have reported the inability to work or teach from home. Erin w. from Newport said, "I can’t get anything beyond “our technicians are working on it, sorry for the inconvenience” - no idea when I’ll be able to do my job properly again. About to head into a 1.5hour meeting using my mobile data."

Updated to add following paragraph
Jess Worby, from Island Park, said, "I am a teacher working from home in Island Park, paying for the 150 Mb basic plan. With this plan, you can generally expect–and this is straight from a Cox rep–50 to 100 Mb/s in download speed. For the last couple weeks, it has been hanging between 0 and 20, usually on the lower end. My students say I drop out every third word on Zoom, so it is impacting their education. Calls my wife and I make in the house drop unless we turn off Wifi on our phones. I have talked to a cox rep 4+ times about connection issues, upgraded our modem, moved the router, had the ground wires checked, etc., and still we are having these issues."

Barbara Gee, from the Bristol Ferry Road area, said, "We lose the internet at least once a day - we unplug, re-plug, unplug... you know the routine. We even got a new router from them because I was so unhappy. We pay for the "fastest" internet but it is consistently "unstable."

Susan Tunak, who lives in the Common Fence Point said, "I work at home and everything has been extra slow every day. I also use a headset through my computer and I’m often told that I keep cutting in and out, so not only is work production affected, so is communication. It is very difficult to work under these conditions."

Multiple residents have reported the issue both to Cox and the RI Public Utilities Commission. Cox representatives have also resisted calls to adjust all customers bills, saying that people must call one-on-one.

"If this were any other utility," said McDaid, "There would be news coverage and political pressure to resolve the issue and deliver the services for which Cox has a local monopoly."

As of Tuesday, 2/16, Cox customers are still being told, "Our technicians continue to work to resolve the problem in your neighborhood. Currently, there is no estimated time for when service will be restored"

- 30 -

Attachments:
1 Speed test performed 8:06 am on 2/16, using an iMac directly connected via ethernet. Reported speed: 1.18Mbit down, .05Mbit up.

2 Speed te4st performed 10:45am on 2/16 using iPad over wifi. Reported speed 5.6Mbit down, 0.3Mbit up.

UPDATE 2/18 #1
Complaint filed on 2/18 with RI Attorney General consumer protection division and the FCC

First level reps simply rebooted devices to no effect. Second level, Northeast Executive Resolution CSR "Mary" said on 2/16 that she could see no issue, and refused a request to issue a blanket reimbursement. Her explanation was that because everyone has a different plan, they were unable to issue any kind of general reimbursement. Her manager, Carol Lisi, said on 2/16 that the issue was most likely equipment in houses, and wanted to send a technician to check. I explained that this started suddenly, two weeks ago, and therefore this didn't make sense. She also reiterated Mary's position on a general refund.

A review of posts from around the country on the online discussion board Reddit reveals that this is a common pattern, where Cox makes changes in their networks (which sometimes break the existing devices they have provisioned customers with), puts consumers through slowdowns and outages, blames their home setup, sends technicians out to do cosmetic changes that fail to do anything, and only acts when pushed by local PUCs or the FCC. This is a problem in need of a systemic solution on behalf of Rhode Island consumers.

More info at:
Reddit
and
Ars Technica

UPDATE 2/18 #2
Here in Island Park, Cox internet went out totally for five minutes at around 11pm last night, and when it came back up, we are now seeing 80-90Mbits down/10Mbits up in speed tests. On Nextdoor, one user reports being contacted by a rep from the Northeast Executive Resolution group who said that an issue had been fixed early this morning. This would clearly point to a change in their network -- despite several Cox reps telling people it was the equipment in their houses.

UPDATE 2/18 #3
Update #3 4:52pm
Yesterday, Carol Lisi from Northeast Executive Resolution gave me her mobile phone number to call her any time. I left a message this morning to ask about the discrepancy between the messaging yesterday. Her direct report Mary said that she didn't see anything wrong, and implied that it was my "old" modem, which hadn't been replaced for years. Ms. Lisis insistence that a "home health check" was necessary to look into what might be wrong with the wiring or set up inside the house. The fact that a change to the network after 10pm last night suddenly fixed the issue proves that it was not related to anything in our house. I was also going to ask her about issuing blanket refunds. Mary explained that it was impossible because -- and she took a *lot* longer to say this -- everyone has a different level of service at different prices. I was going to ask how difficult it is to divide everyone's bill's by two, since we've had these issues for half of February. But she never called me back. I did raise these issues in an email exchange with the RI AGs office. Not sure if they rise to an offense under RI General Law §6-13.1-2, but we'll see.

UPDATE 2/19


With Cox internet solidly up for over 24 hours (and even their automated text notification system reporting "Your outage has been resolved,") we can all hopefully relax a little and focus on the bigger picture. That's what I've tried to do in this letter to the editors of our local papers, sent this morning.

To the editors:
At around 10 p.m. on Wednesday 2/17, Rhode Island Cox engineers reset internet access for customers across Newport county. They fixed something. Scores of residents who, for almost three weeks, had been suffering with unacceptably slow service -- 10 megabits downstream and less than 600 kilobits up -- suddenly had full 90/10 mbit speed restored.

Normally, this would be a cause for celebration.

But the question is why Cox customer service -- all the way up to Northeast Executive Resolution -- continued gaslighting customers when they knew a there was a network issue. Multiple customers were told that the problem was with aging modems and internal wiring. Cox refused to acknowledge an issue on their side and urged that technicians be dispatched for "home health checks" in the middle of a pandemic.

It was only after multiple residents had filed complaints with the RI Public Utilities Commission, the RI Attorney General, and the FCC, that Cox suddenly discovered a way to fix their system. Then they refused to issue blanket refunds to everyone affected, requiring instead that people call in one-by-one. This is no way to run a railroad.

Being threatened by both fiber and satellite, the impulse for existing cable internet providers is to retrench and wring every last marginal dollar from the customer, seeking lock-in through bundling phone, tv, and home automation at the expense of focused service delivery.

A bill just introduced in the RI House, H5148, would create a broadband council tasked with developing a strategic plan for providing reliable, 21st-century internet access. This incident with Cox provides ample evidence for the measure's necessity, and I urge folks to contact our legislators and urge their support.

John McDaid
Portsmouth

Text of H5148 available here.

UPDATE 3/1
For completists, here's the final pdf testimony package delivered to the committee:

McDaid written testimony on H5148 delivered to the Innovation, Internet, & Technology Committee, 2/23/21

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Cox

Evil, Pure and Simple, from the Eighth Dimension (a poem)

[Listen on Bandcamp]

As writers, we were warned:
Never make villains too evil
Or no one will believe them.
After all, Hitler loved dogs
Nero was a patron of the arts
Ayn Rand once gave an orphan
An ice cream cone.
Okay, I lied about that one
But you get the point.

This is America
Everyone gets a redemption arc:
Henry Kissinger is an elder statesman
Ollie North has a talk show
Aaron Burr was...complicated.

So we had left our culture helpless,
Unvaccinated,
When there appeared a man
Right out of melodrama:
Made for television evil
Snidely Whiplash evil
Stephen King monsterclown evil.
And because our noble novels
Told us one-note evil
Did not exist
We elected him.

He will grow into the office
We said
He doesn't mean what he says
We said
Oh, no, he would never do that
We said
Right up until the moment
He stood on the Ellipse
And sent his flying monkeys
To occupy the Capitol

And everyone
Playing asides on the oboe
Was surprised.

But you know who wasn't?
Folks with pure villains:
Good and Evil
Democracy and Socialism
White and Black
They knew all along
Obama was Kenyan.
Hillary hated America.
And the deep state was run by pedophiles
With a taste
For pizza.

Sounds crazy when you say it out loud
But the power of simple stories Is that they fit inside heads
Shrunken
To the size of dank memes

So, whenever you're admonished
Not to make your villain that evil—
To walk a mile in their shoes
To remember that the jackal is a lion in their own neighborhood—
Spare a thought for
The procrustean crania
And the Faustian fustian of 4chan
And paint it black.
Go big.
Chew a little scenery.
Kick a starving kitten.
Light up your evil with targeting lasers
And nuke it from orbit.
Put a stake through the heart
Of your one-note Nosferatu
Because evil does exist
And next time
We need to see it coming.

[Written at the Jan '21 Newport MFA residency.]

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, poetry

LTE: Urgent action needed to serve adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities

By Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown)

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hardest the areas and populations that were already struggling, since they had the fewest resources for adaptation and safety. We’ve seen the outsized effects on the poor and on minorities. Another group that it has been disproportionately hurt is adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Here in Rhode Island, adults with I/DD have not been provided adequate resources for many years. In recent days, a federal judge issued an order requiring the state to quickly craft a plan to address 16 barriers that are preventing decent services, after years of failure to meet the terms of a previous consent decree to improve. The pandemic has made a bad situation far worse, shutting down most day programs and employment opportunities, leaving this very vulnerable population without critical supports. Residents and underpaid staff at group homes have been at risk for illness, and those living at home face isolation and a reduction or loss of in-home support services. Agencies that serve them, which have mostly operated on the financial brink for years, are in danger of going under permanently.

The challenges of the pandemic and recovery from it threaten the already sub-par progress the state has made toward fixing this system. A Senate task force led by my colleague and fellow Aquidneck Islander, Sen. Louis DiPalma, has been shedding light on the obstacles, which include a fee-for-service structure that discourages innovation and integration.

Rhode Island must do better for its residents with I/DD. Every individual served is a deserving person whose needs include meaningful activities that support their personal goals and a valued role in their communities. 

I urge my colleagues in the House to get on board with the Senate, where Sen. DiPalma has long worked to call attention to the need for better funding and a more workable system of supports for adults with I/DD. We need to join him in fully recognizing and supporting the importance of the work that must be done to provide enriching and effective services to Rhode Islanders with I/DD. We may be deeply ashamed of our state’s history – from the not so distant past – of “dumping” people with I/DD at the notorious Ladd School, but have we really come very far if we are not providing them with the means they need to have a fulfilling life in the community?

Chief Judge John J. McConnell  Jr. of the U.S. District Court has issued an order requiring drastic changes. We must break out of the old way of funding services based on congregate care. Undoubtedly, it will initially take additional support to make the changes in the short term. But it may save money in the long term, enabling more people to leave congregate care settings and lead meaningful, productive lives within their community.&nbsp

I look forward to ensuring that this need is given the attention it deserves in the House.

Rep. Terri Cortvriend is a Democrat who represents District 72 in Portsmouth and Middletown.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA

LTE: Action needed to avoid an eviction crisis

By Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Jason Knight

Rep. Knight, Sen. EuerRhode Island is on the precipice of a cataclysmic housing disaster stemming from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. But swift, decisive action would avert this crisis.

On Monday, the courts will open and landlords may begin filing for evictions, although in some situations renters may have protections until July. With over 230,000 new unemployment claims since March 9, and a record 17-percent unemployment rate, vast numbers of Rhode Islanders are likely on the verge of losing their housing. When Virginia reopened its courts two weeks ago, it had over 800 eviction proceedings already scheduled. Rhode Island, with the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation, is likely to experience a similar avalanche.

Renters are more likely than homeowners to live paycheck to paycheck, at risk of financial ruin if their income stops. While the moratorium has protected them up to now, if they’ve been unable to pay rent for several months, it’s unlikely they can pay those months of back rent to avoid eviction.

Rhode Island can use a portion of its $1.25 billion federal COVID-19 response funding for emergency rent assistance. Quickly establishing an Eviction Diversion Court – really, just a special District Court calendar to handle evictions – would create a means to provide tenants legal counsel, require mediation and provide the financial assistance necessary to prevent eviction.

We appreciate the courts’ and the administration’s efforts in this arena so far, and urge them to act swiftly to save tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders from homelessness.

Sen. Dawn Euer (D-13) represents Newport and Jamestown, and Rep. Jason Knight (D-67) represents Barrington and Warren

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, LTE, GA

LTE: Rhode Island needs real environmental action in 2020

Reps Speakman, Donovan, Cassar, Cortvriend, Carson


By Rep. June S. Speakman, Rep. Susan R. Donovan, Rep. Liana Cassar, Rep. Terri Cortvriend and Rep. Lauren Carson

In virtually all the predictions of what will be hot in the 2020 General Assembly session, there has been little mention of environmental policy. It is imperative that we make progress in 2020 on several fronts including plastics pollution, sea level rise, renewable energy, sustaining a clean water supply and waste management.

The foundation of Rhode Island’s economy —tourism, small business, boating, fisheries — depends on its policymakers looking beyond the current budget cycle and providing a reliable funding stream for these efforts. We also have the opportunity to recognize the innovation, growth and job creation that will come to our state when we embrace these priorities.

Our coastlines are being threatened by sea level rise. The Coastal Resources Management Council provides Rhode Island with maps predicting a changed shoreline in every coastal community.  We must improve the capacity of local communities to respond to these changes by offering education, technical assistance and funding to support resilience and adaption. There is no need to spend any more time questioning the probability of sea level rise. It’s happening.

Off the coast of Rhode Island is a sustainable resource that is becoming a driver of economic growth: wind power. Policymakers must seize the opportunity to ensure that this green industry has the support it needs to grow in a way that respects the needs of those who use the waters for fishing and boating.  Governor Raimondo’s mention of this in her State of the State address is a good sign, as is her commitment to 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

Rhode Island’s water supply needs long-term planning and policymakers’ attention. From the reservoirs close to the beach in Newport County, to the cross-bay pipeline that serves the East Bay, to the PFAS-polluted wells in Burrillville, our drinking water faces continued risk. The General Assembly must join with the governor to study these risks and provide stable, long-term funding to address them.

As we all know, Rhode Island faces a grave waste-management problem. The Central Landfill is nearing capacity; the town of Johnston cannot be expected to bear the burden of significant expansion. There is an easy mid-term solution here: produce less waste.  At relatively low cost, the state can lead the nation in cutting our waste significantly by limiting the distribution of single-use plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam. We can also establish an aggressive statewide composting program to divert food waste and yard waste from the landfill to our renewed small-farming sector and our own home gardens.

All these issues require our policymakers’ immediate attention, stable funding and focused planning. If we are to protect our precious resources and secure a sustainable, healthy future for our beautiful state, the time to act is now.

Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Rep. Liana Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence), Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) and Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) all represent coastal communities and share deep concern for the environment.

 

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, environment, GA

Aquidneck Island Emergency Preparedness Fair Nov. 9

There will be an Emergency Preparedness Fair on Saturday, Nov 9 from 9am-noon at the Gaudet Middle School in Middletown with displays and representatives from local and state agencies to help answer questions and help plan for the unexpected. There will be emergency vehicles on hand for the kids, and representatives from all three island communities (including local emergency management organizations that are always seeking volunteers!)

Click image to embiggen.


Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, RIEMA