Localblogging

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.

Commentary
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.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, pwfd, Elections

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.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, PTW

Raimondo urges increase in mimumum wage during Portsmouth Senior Center visit

17may17_gina_sc.jpg
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.

17may17_gina_silveria.jpg
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.

17may17_silveria_family.jpg
Edmund Silveria with his family.
17may17_gina_seniors.jpg
Gov. Raimondo speaks with attendees.
17may17_gina_group.jpg
Gov. Raimondo with senior center staff and elected officials.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Raimondo

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.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, AIPC

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

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Schools, PHS, civil liberties

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.

A message from 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.

Sincerely,

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.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Schools, PHS, civil liberties

RI ACLU opposes PHS drug-sniffing dog plan

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 3.17.16 PM.png
Click for full document.

In a tweet this afternoon, the RI ACLU announced it had sent a letter to the Portsmouth schools "strongly urging" PHS to reconsider their plan to use drug-sniffing dogs. The letter says that the use of police dogs "casts a pall over the entire educational experience and the values that schools should be instilling in students." From the letter:

The use of drug-sniffing dogs in the school setting is extremely troubling for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it treats students like criminal suspects instead of as teenagers who should be learning the value of human rights.

While you cite the “proliferation of illegal substances” among young people, we are not aware of any data that confirms such a proliferation, particularly while at school. In any event, as adults we would be appalled if our employer brought in drug-sniffing dogs because drug use was said to be “proliferating” among adults. It is no more appropriate to do it to captive teenagers in the school setting.

As you are undoubtedly aware, one day just last month, K-9 searches were conducted at Middletown High School as part of a “training exercise.” As is almost always the case with these these types of “exercises,” no drugs were found in the school. Since your plan does not appear to be prompted by any actual reports of widespread illicit drug activity at the school either, it remains abundantly clear that these searches are not really about rooting out drug problems; they are just blatant displays of raw police power and intimidation.

One of the documents I submitted in my complaint filed with the ACLU was the most recent "Portsmouth Youth Substance Abuse Needs Assessment," posted on the school district's own web site, which shows a decline in drug use. Here's the relevant page (annotations are mine; click to embiggen).

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 3.29.07 PM.png

I'm encouraged to know that I'm not the only parent who reported this to the ACLU, but I'm not surprised. At a meeting of the PHS Parent Advisory Board on Monday evening, 2 out of the 3 parents attending expressed their opposition to the plan. (Yes, I was one of them.) At that meeting, Principal Amaral disclosed that the plan was to have the dogs sniff not only lockers, but backpacks as well, which I find particularly problematic.

Links
ACLU letter
Portsmouth Drug Use survey

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Schools, PHS, civil liberties

Portsmouth High School to call in drug sniffing dogs

In an email dropped on a Friday afternoon during school break, buried in the fifth paragraph of what starts as an innocuous and boring memo, PHS principal Joseph Amaral announced the school would be "coordinating with the Portsmouth Police Department and other local police departments, including K-9 units, to sweep the high school to make sure that marijuana/or controlled substances are not present on campus."

While the goal of maintaining a drug-free school may be laudable, I have concerns about turning our educational institution into a space patrolled by multiple police forces and K-9 units. It seems disruptive and not conducive to the environment of collaboration and trust that our Portsmouth PD had worked so hard to achieve. I can accept the notion of a school resource officer, but this feels like it goes way beyond that.

A message from PORTSMOUTH HIGH SCHOOL

Dear Parents/Guardians and Students:

Portsmouth High School consists of a community of learners who attain 21st century skills and prepare for career and college. We have the fastest growing number of students who select rigorous Advanced Placement courses while also balancing the whole student by offering a plethora of athletic and club activities for students to explore. Our students are well served with a dedicated faculty who continue their professional development in numerous curriculum areas throughout the school year as well as in the summer.

Several members of our faculty have spent time engaging in profession
A message from PORTSMOUTH HIGH SCHOOL [Repitition in original -- Editor]

Dear Parents/Guardians and Students:

Portsmouth High School consists of a community of learners who attain 21st century skills and prepare for career and college. We have the fastest growing number of students who select rigorous Advanced Placement courses while also balancing the whole student by offering a plethora of athletic and club activities for students to explore. Our students are well served with a dedicated faculty who continue their professional development in numerous curriculum areas throughout the school year as well as in the summer.

Several members of our faculty have spent time engaging in professional development with students as part of Patriots Committed. This group of students and adults provide chemical free activities and ongoing substance abuse prevention and health information to our students and community in hopes of students gaining optimal performance in all that they do. Our school continues to implement a positive behavior intervention program called MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support). Our MTSS committee has organized several programs to reward students for making good choices that contribute to a positive learning community. “Pride Bucks” have been implemented as recognition, by their teachers, for students demonstrating these behaviors. Teachers also recommend students as “Students of the Month” to the Principal for a celebratory breakfast. We continue to reflect and revamp our discipline code to support a balanced approach to respect and appropriate behavior.

As you may know, we have invited many organizations and groups to provide knowledge and guidance to our students on how to be safe and drug free. The State Attorney General’s program has come to our school to share with students real life stories and how we can help those who are afflicted with drug abuse. In addition, we recently hosted the F.A.C.T. program (Fostering Alternative Choices & Thinking) through the Department of Corrections for all of the Freshmen and Sophomore students in an effort to help them reflect about the best choices for themselves and how substance use/abuse will impact their life choices. We have also held assemblies and events to give students the tools to prevent bullying and intolerant behavior. This effort requires the support of the entire community including parents, teachers and students.

We are concerned with the proliferation of illegal substances, such as marijuana and other controlled substances among young people. In order to maintain a substance-free high school, we are coordinating with the Portsmouth Police Department and other local police departments, including K-9 units, to sweep the high school to make sure that marijuana/or controlled substances are not present on campus. These fully trained K-9 units will be used to do periodic searches throughout the remainder of the school year. K-9 units will not engage with students.

Finally, if you have concerns about your child regarding substance abuse, our Student Assistance Counselor, Kelly O’Loughlin, is available to provide additional support options. Her email contact information is oloughlink@portsmouthschoolsri.org . Working together we can make PHS an even better learning community.

Sincerely,

Joseph N. Amaral
Principal - Portsmouth High School

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Schools, PHS, civil liberties

My testimony against Rep. Mendonca's sub-minimum wage bill

mcdaid_house_labor_041317_sq.jpg
What it looks like when I testify. Photo courtesy Sen. Jeanine Calkin

Just got back from the State House where I testified before the House Labor Committee on Rep. Ken Mendonca's bill H5594 which would freeze the minimum wage for those under 20 at $9.65/hr, no matter what the general assembly does this session. He complained that people were "lighting up his twitter feed," so if any of his Portsmouth constituents are inclined to tweet at @ElectKenRI and provide feedback, you definitely should.

Here's what I said to the committee this evening:

Chair Craven, members of the committee. I’m John McDaid, a retired parent of a 17-year-old from Portsmouth. I’ve worked since I was my son’s age, and a fair minimum wage is important to me and my neighbors in Island Park, an area that committee member Jay Edwards represents.

I speak in opposition to H5594, which would limit employees under 20 years of age to the current minimum wage, no matter what increases other workers receive. This is grossly unfair. I believe in equal pay for equal work. If a 19-year-old is doing the same work as someone just a year older, they deserve to be paid the same rate. I oppose H6052 for similar reasons. The narrow purpose these bills is to deny equal compensation based solely on age. If the general assembly decides to raise the minimum wage, why would it not extend young Rhode Islanders equal protection?

Representative Mendonca’s concern trolling about the impact on jobs is disingenuous. Anyone who has studied the data should know the correlation between minimum wage increases and job loss is tenuous and inconclusive. Included in my written testimony is a study conducted by the National Employment Law Project analyzing 75 years worth of data. Quote: “basic economic indicators show no correlation between federal minimum-wage increases and lower employment levels, even in the industries that are most impacted by higher minimum wages.” I urge the committee to consider all the facts.

As a semi-senior-citizen, I also urge the committee to consider the impact on older workers. This bill tacitly encourages age discrimination. If employers are as motivated by the bottom line as Rep. Mendonca suggests, why wouldn’t they always choose younger workers to get a lower rate?

And as a parent of a child approaching college age, I can tell you I want my kid to get every penny he deserves at his jobs. This committee understands paying for college is no picnic. I want any member of the general assembly who supports for this bill to look my son in the eye and tell him “An hour of your life is worth less than an hour of mine. And I think that is fair.” If this bill passes out of committee, I promise to bring him back and introduce him to you all so you can tell him that personally.

Honestly, I am ashamed that a representative from Portsmouth sponsored this bill, and I urge this committee to treat it with the contempt it deserves. As my 17-year-old would say, “kill it with fire.”

References
National Employment Law Project Summary
National Employment Law ProjectFull report (pdf)

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA

Rep. Canario announces State House joins Hasbro ‘Good Night Lights’ tomorrow

canario.jpgRep. Dennis M. Canario (D-71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) is pleased to announce that the Rhode Island State House will be participating in the “Good Night Lights” program this Wednesday night through Friday night. The program involves businesses, buildings, and groups within the sightline of Hasbro Children’s Hospital whom blink their lights on and off for one minute at 8:30 p.m. every night. Often, blinking room lights can be seen in the hospital as reciprocation to the nightly ritual.

“This is truly a heartwarming gesture that so many have become involved in over the past year and I would like to thank Governor Raimondo and her administration for allowing the State House to hopefully brighten the spirits of the children in Hasbro,” said Rep. Canario.

Representative Canario had written to Governor Raimondo and the Department of Administration about the possibility of the State House joining the other buildings, businesses, and groups who are in view of Hasbro Children’s Hospital and participate in the nightly gesture to the children residing in the hospital. The Department of Administration informed Representative Canario that the State House will be flashing its lights at the children in the hospital for three nights starting tomorrow, April 12.

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA, Dennis Canario

Pages