I'll be doing the feature performance at the Sandywoods Center for the Arts in Tiverton, RI, on Tuesday, April 25 at the open mic hosted by Gary Fish. My 40-minute set starts at 8pm (doors open at 7). No cover, BYOB/BYOF (pass the hat). And here's a new song I'll be doing that I wrote for the Rhode Island Songwriters Association (RISA) Songwriters in the Round. It's called (Time to) Face Facts, And it doesn't even invoke Kellyanne Conway (until the fourth verse...) Enjoy!
The Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) has rescheduled its 2017 Newport County Legislative Forum. Previously scheduled for March 15 but postponed due to weather, the event will be held Thursday, April 27, from 8:30 – 10 a.m.
The 2017 forum is AIPC’s second annual legislative forum and part of its ongoing “Smart Island” series of public events. The event is free and open to the public; however, space is limited and registration is required. Anyone registered for the original event date must re-register. Tickets are available through AIPC’s website, www.aquidneckplanning.org.
More info in prior post here.
Editorial note: Written from a news release.
The Rhode Island Foundation is offering local libraries, schools, municipal agencies and nonprofit groups grants of up to $10,000 to fund proposals that bring people together as a community, the group announced in a release.
“We believe that community is created at the intersection of people, places and traditions. Our goal is to make unique and important things happen that will enliven their communities,” said Jessica David, the Foundation’s senior vice president of strategy and community investments.
Potential uses include improvements to parks and other public spaces, the creative use of art in public spaces and staging programming that invites people to experience community in public spaces.
Priority will be given to proposals that include community support such as matching grants, the participation of volunteers and donated space or other forms of in-kind contributions.
While new initiatives as well as enhancements to ongoing projects are eligible, the grants are intended to support one-time costs and expenses. Projects will not be eligible for renewed support in future years. The deadline to apply is March 31.
This is the second consecutive year the Foundation has offered the Community Grants program. In 2016, the organization awarded grants for bike lanes, walking tours, community gardens and public artwork and historical markers among other projects.
Last year, the Town of Portsmouth received $10,000 to create a dog park in a 2-acre section of Melville Park. An estimated 1,600 dogs are licensed in town.
The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2016, the Foundation awarded a record $45 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information about the Community Grants program, visit rifoundation.org.
Editorial note: Written from a news release.
The Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) has scheduled its 2017 Newport County Legislative Forum, to be held on Wednesday, March 15, from 8 – 10 a.m., in the auditorium of the Community College of Rhode Island in Newport, RI.
The 2017 forum is AIPC’s second annual legislative forum and part of its ongoing “Smart Island” series of public events. The event is free and open to the public; however, space is limited and registration is required. Tickets are available through AIPC’s website, www.aquidneckplanning.org
“We’re delighted to host this event for the second year in a row,” said AIPC’s Chairman, Richard P. “Dick” Adams. “It’s one of many ways that AIPC facilitates communication between state and local leaders, and members of the public here on Aquidneck Island.”
More than half of the state’s Newport County delegation will participate in the forum, including Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, Sen. James A. Seveney, Rep. Marvin Abney, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, Rep. Lauren Carson, and Rep. Susan R. Donovan. The event is expected to draw 150-200 people, and will provide an opportunity for questions from the public.
The event will be moderated this year by Neil Steinberg, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, the state’s largest charitable foundation. “Community engagement is a positive force for change. State lawmakers, the Planning Commission and local stakeholders deserve credit for coming together to share their vision for moving the area forward,” said Steinberg.
2017 is shaping up to be an active legislative session, while the state faces added uncertainty presented by the new administration in Washington. The forum will provide an opportunity to discuss how new state initiatives may affect Aquidneck Island.
For more information about AIPC and the 2017 Newport County Legislative Forum, see www.aquidneckplanning.org
Editorial note: Written from a news release.
|Committee meeting at the fire station.|
Last night's meeting of the Portsmouth "Citizens Interested in the Comprehensive Planning Process Committee" saw members of this ad-hoc group voice a desire to wrest control of drafting the Town's revised comprehensive plan from Town Planner Gary Crosby.
For much of the 90-minute meeting at the conference room in the fire station, members of the 16-person committee, which was created last April by the Town Council solely to "provide comments and/or input to the Planning Board, Town Planner and the Town Council," expressed frustration at what they perceived as the slow pace of the process and the level of input they were allowed to provide.
Full disclosure: This reporter ran for Town Council against members of this committee (Harding, Kesson, Staven), which voted 11-1 to remove "all references to sea level rise projections" from the first two sections of the comp plan. That they later agreed to revisit that every five years to assess "if sea level is decreasing, increasing, or remains at the predicted level" is not something I find at all reassuring.
The committee's limitations were explicitly laid out during its creation in the minutes of the April 11, 2016 Town Council meeting: "President Hamilton stated that this is a committee to take what Mr. Crosby has drafted, review and they can report back to Mr. Crosby as a group or they can report back to the Planning Board as a group. But again, they do not have any more input that any individual citizen."
Last night, the committee ended up settling for a resolution to send several members to complain to the Town Administrator about what they see as a lack of progress, but their rhetoric during much of the meeting was significantly more grandiose.
Town Councilor and committee member Paul Kesson said, "We haven't got Gary's attention on this one, but three people [could go and] tell him. We want to take this over on our own." Kesson was clear that he understood this was not within the committee's remit: "Way it [this committee] was chartered by Town Council was to review what Gary wrote. You're talking about a coup."
Arguably, Kesson was using a figure of speech, but the positions advanced by other members during the discussion were clearly in line with the desire for a takeover. Currently, they receive the updated document a section at a time and then provide feedback to the Planning Board, which they felt did not offer them enough control over the end product.
"All we can do [now] is comment on the plan," said committee member Fred Marano. "We do not have any authority to say, 'This you haven't touched on.'"
"[We should] Take Gary's outline, go section by section, mark it up however we want. Then hire a consultant," said committee member Conni Harding. "If Gary doesn't have a section ready, we just take charge."
"I almost think we should consider starting over," said member Ann Fiore. "This group should take three comp plans we really like, and maybe we would be best suited to starting something like that."
A comprehensive, or "comp," plan is the overarching framework that controls land use, resource management, and development within a community -- as well as interactions with the State -- and the update of the document is required periodically. While citizen input is encouraged -- in fact, required -- responsibility for creating a town's comp plan is governed by RI General Law 45-22.2-8 (a)(1): "A local planning board or commission has the sole responsibility for performing all those acts necessary to prepare a comprehensive plan for a municipality."
Chair Judi Steven acknowledged "State law says it's the Planning Board's baby," but noted that there was nothing stopping the group from taking action on their own. "We're a citizens' group, we really don't have to go by any pattern," said Staven, "It's not out of the realm of possibility that we would just take the old comp plan and go through it. As a group, we have the right to go before the Planning Board and tell them how we want this to be."
After more than an hour of discussion, the group voted to empower a 4-person working party to "express our dissatisfaction with the current state of the comp plan" to Town Administrator Rich Rainer. They attempted to vote on this in principle and have one of the members provide the language to the chair later via e-mail, but took the time to draft the actual text after a reporter queried about a potential Open Meetings violation.
While the revised comp plan is unlikely to be ready in time to meet the state deadline set for all municipalities — July 1 — Town Planner Gary Crosby said in an e-mail that he believes many towns are in similar situations and that the statewide planning department is most interested in seeing progress toward delivery. As to the pace of the effort, Crosby noted that he and the Planning Board decided to tackle the three most difficult sections first: Services and Facilities, Economic Development, and Housing.
"The first two sections were 'camera ready' with charts and graphs, ready to go to the State," Crosby told harddeadlines. "Housing will be [done in a simpler fashion with] all the recommended elements, stripped down, so we can get them out a little quicker and stay on schedule."
"Housing will be published [for review] this Friday," said Crosby, "And then we'll aim to be back on schedule."
There are two items on the Portsmouth Town Council agenda this evening that could use the support of folks who want to promote a progressive agenda. Back to back items for consideration are a request by the Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT) to help conserve the Spruce Acres Farm, and a plea from the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) for the Town to pay up on their support.
The ALT proposal is $300K (to be split over two years) to enable purchase and conservation of 22.6 acres of farmland on the Portsmouth/Middletown line. This is not just good for environmental reasons (although it does help protect our watershed), it also makes good sense economically, since a subdivision at this location would add to town infrastructure costs.
For AIPC, the case is even simpler: the town has been withholding its promised annual payments to the island-wide planning group, demanding an audit. Voices on the right have objected to the AIPC on tin-foil-hat conspiracy grounds (basically, anything that smacks of "planning" triggers these folks). The AIPC has been responsible for bringing in over $2.5M in government and private funding for island planning efforts over the last two years, and yet the Republican-led Portsmouth town council has been stiffing them for $36,000.
You can read the briefs linked above, and if you can make it to the meeting to support these items, it will make a big difference for our town.
If you can't make it, you can always drop an e-mail to our Town Council. Here's a sample you could copy and paste to get you started.
Please support ALT and AIPC
Dear Town Council members:
As a resident and taxpayer in the Town of Portsmouth, I'm writing to urge you to support the requests by the Aquidneck Land Trust and Aquidneck Island Planning Commission scheduled to be heard on Monday, February 27.
The ALT proposal would be a valuable addition to the conserved properties in Portsmouth, and would help to maintain the character of our town.
The AIPC has done great work supporting all the communities on Aquidneck Island, and deserves our support. Now that they have provided audited financial statements, there is no reason not to release their funding.
Thanks very much for your support of these important efforts.
Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Ken Wagner released the following statement this morning in response to the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind federal protections that allowed transgender students to use school bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity:
“Yesterday, the federal government rescinded guidance that was previously issued regarding transgender and gender nonconforming students. The rescinding of this federal guidance does not change our policy – there is no room for discrimination in our schools, and we will continue to protect all students, including transgender and gender nonconforming students, from any type of bias. Rhode Island has a strong history of encouraging safe and supportive learning environments, and we intend to continue that practice. It is imperative that all education professionals continue to be strong role models and advocates for the safety and well-being of the children entrusted to their care.”
As a result, it will continue to be the Rhode Island Department of Education’s expectation that all schools and school districts will:
- Foster an education environment that is safe and free from discrimination for all students, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression;
- Comply with all federal and state laws concerning bullying, harassment, and discrimination;
- Reduce the stigmatization of and improve the educational integration of transgender and nonconforming students, maintaining the privacy of all students, and fostering cultural competence and professional development for school staff; and
- Support healthy communication between educators and parent(s)/guardian(s) to further the successful educational development and well-being of every student.
For more information, please read the Guidance for Rhode Island Schools on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students [PDF].
President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-13, Newport, Jamestown) has appointed Sen. James A. Seveney (D-11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton) to serve on the Senate Finance, Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs, and Education committees for the 2017-18 legislative session, according to a release distributed today.
The Finance Committee handles all matters relating to revenue, appropriations and taxes, while the Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs Committee considers legislation on matters relating to veterans’ affairs, constitutional amendments, liquor laws, gaming issues, laws relating to domestic animals, license plates, and commissions and resolutions.
The Senate Education Committee is responsible for oversight of all matters pertaining to public education.
Senator Seveney is a retired Navy officer. He graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1972, earned a bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College in 1976, a master of science degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1990, and an MBA from Salve Regina University in 2005. His father, Gardiner F. Seveney, served four terms in the Rhode Island Senate, from 1979 to 1986.
He resides in Portsmouth with his wife, Valerie. They are the parents of two children, Sarah and Matthew.
Editorial note: Written from a State House news release.
The Rhode Islanders I know are doers—successful business owners, technology entrepreneurs, community advocates, and passionate educators. They know technology is part of our everyday life—online banking, GPS, email, Skype, search engines, even online dating. Every business, large or small, has a website, email, and a digital footprint. It’s how we do business.
Over the past three years, jobs have been unfolding in Rhode Island in technology, advanced manufacturing, Information Technology, nursing, healthcare, digital graphics, and computer science. These are STEAM jobs (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math).
In five years, Rhode Island will have more than 4,000 jobs in computer science alone. So, let’s get our kids excited about jobs in the digital world. Rhode Island is the only state in the country to fund computer science (CS4RI) classes in grades K-12.
SENEDIA (Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance) is doing it. They’ve partnered with Real Jobs RI to develop internship programs for cybersecurity and undersea technology. They’ve developed an intensive cybersecurity training program with CCRI in Newport and this is an on-ramp to in-demand jobs in cybersecurity.
As co-chair of the Defense Economy Planning Commission, I’ll continue to support the Defense Sector. It generates $105 million in tax revenues for the state every year. In fact, the Defense Industry is the highest paying sector, with jobs averaging $94,000- $110,000. Recently, a public-private partnership at URI, Johnson & Wales, RIC and Bryant launched web development minors to prepare students for high paying jobs in software development.
Not every son or daughter is going to go to college. We also need electricians, plumbers and contractors to build things and get it done—on time and on budget. That’s why the PTECH (Pathways in Technology) pilot programs are so innovative pairing classroom work with real-world experience to succeed in a specific industry. On Aquidneck Island, SENEDIA (Defense Industry Trade Association) partners with Rogers High School on cybersecurity. In Westerly, Electric Boat teaches high school students to be welders and boat builders. EB has 1,000 jobs each year for the next several as Rhode Island builds submarines for the US Navy.
Let’s continue to educate and train our workforce so they can cash those paychecks earned (and spent) here in Rhode Island. Johnson & Johnson, a Fortune 25 company specializing in information technology and data analytics, plans to open its new health technology center in Rhode Island with 75 high-skilled positions. Wexford Innovation Center is creating jobs in our state from construction to computer science. Virgin Pulse, which recently bought a Rhode Island company ShapeUp, is expanding its operations in Rhode Island creating 300 jobs.
Rhode Island has always been, and will continue to be, a state of innovators and doers—from the spinning wheels at Slater Mill to the spinning turbines off Block Island. This country’s first off-shore wind farm, the Block Island Wind Farm, is a powerful example of the state’s long-standing commitment to innovation and getting things done.
Rhode Island is home to world-class beaches, parks, and trails, but Rhode Island must also be home for innovators, entrepreneurs, and just plain doers. So, let’s get it done.
Representative Deborah Ruggiero- District 74 Jamestown/Middletown, is chairwoman of House Committee on Small Business and serves on House Finance.
The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America announced their opposition to the potential water sale from Woonsocket to Invenergy, a Chicago based company proposing to build a fracked gas power plant known as the Clear River Energy Center. In a statement released late Wednesday, RIPDA also called for all RI Progressive Democrats to oppose the sale of water to Invenergy and to ask the Woonsocket City Council to oppose the pending sale as well.
The RIPDA Executive Board unanimously approved the opposition stating that the project is “not in the best interest of Woonsocket, northern Rhode Island, the state or the region. The potential sale of water to Invenergy will provide little to no benefit to the state or the region and may exacerbate existing drought conditions, produce higher potable water treatment costs, as well as increase health issues for those residents in the all along the Blackstone River watershed. Environmental injustice burdens small towns that don’t have the financial means to fight against well financed companies like Invenergy.” RIPDA also believes that the potential sale of water would reduce water flow and harm the existing and growing interest in the development of hydro systems which depend on a steady flow of water.
“In a time where alternative energy production sources are flourishing, to add a fracked gas power plant, destroy over 200 acres of second growth forest in an area hailed by environmentalists from all over New England is unconscionable. There is no substitute for clean drinking water or environmental diversity. This one power plant, according to Invenergy’s application submitted to the RI Energy Facility Siting Board on October 29, 2015, will use up to “one-million gallons of water” every day for the forty year life span of the power plant. Recent claims by Invenergy reduce the water consumption to as little as twenty-five thousand gallons per day. So we really don’t know how much water will be used by the power plant,” said Lauren Niedel, Deputy State Coordinator for RIPDA.
It is estimated that nearly 2 tanker trucks would cross the 17 miles every 6 minutes during a 12 hour time period, creating extra fiscal and environmental burdens on the region, a degradation of Woonsocket’s and North Smithfield’s roads, an increase of air and noise pollution and traffic congestion. The increase in particulate matter from both the fossil fuel power plant and the diesel fuel tanker trucks would worsen existing high asthma and other respiratory illnesses in the region. Woonsocket is one of four “core cities” defined by the Rhode Island Department of Health where hospitalizations for asthma occur higher than state averages.
In addition RIPDA is in full support of the resolution by the Burrillville Town Council opposing the siting of the power plant. The town already is home to a fossil fuel burning power plant - Ocean State Power - a gas compressor station owned by Enbridge Energy formally Spectra Energy and additional fossil fuel infrastructure. “This is a regional issue spilling over into Thompson, CT, Uxbridge, MA and elsewhere in those two states,” says Niedel.
RIPDA points to the Resilient Rhode Island Act and views the proposed fracked gas power plant as a direct contradiction to this 2014 Rhode Island law.
Editorial note: Written from a news release.