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.”


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.

02871, Localblogging, PCC, Elections

PCC leader Fitzmorris axed from Charter Committee: Patch

The Portsmouth Town Council on Monday night approved the removal of three members of the sitting Charter Review Committee (CRC) for missing multiple meetings, including Portsmouth Concerned Citizens (PCC) President Larry Fitzmorris, according to reporting in Portsmouth Patch.

In addition to his role on the PCC, a members-only group advocating "limited and moderate property tax increases," Fitzmorris also serves on the board of the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition (RISC), according to a listing on their web site.

The other two members removed were Stephen Larsen and Kevin Gavin, in a 4-2 vote that crossed party lines, with Republicans Liz Pedro and Paul Kesson in the minority. All three of those removed had reportedly missed at least five consecutive monthly meetings.

The Council's action was ironic because it was Mr. Fitzmorris and the PCC who proposed a set of Town Charter amendments in 2010, prompting the Council to form the review committee.

If there is a bright spot for Mr. Fitzmorris, it is that he did have the chance attend the most recent meeting of the CRC to advocate those amendments to the two-dozen-member group. However, of the four proposals — A fixed timetable for Charter reviews, elimination of partisan elections (which was, confusingly, titled "elimination of the straight party lever"), recall of local elected officials, and two-year terms for the school committee — only the timetable was approved. The CRC recommendations will go to the Council later this year for possible inclusion on the November ballot.

"We believe that an individual voice is rarely heard in our government," Mr. Fitzmorris says in a post attributed to him on the PCC web site.

Indeed. Especially if that individual isn't, well, there. As a well-known political figure in Portsmouth once said, "Democracy is decided by those who show up."

Full disclosure: I also serve on the CRC, and I admit that because of work schedules, I missed a couple of meetings. Also relevant: In 2007, I was denied membership in the PCC by a secret vote. bortaS bIr jablu'DI' reH QaQqu' nay'

Localblogging, 02871, PCC, CRC

Fall River Herald: PCC "waiting to learn more" before calling for Gordon resignation

A story in the Fall River Herald quotes PCC President Larry Fitzmorris who has not yet decided whether to call for the resignation of embattled Rep. Dan Gordon (R-71).

“He has some very serious problems, but it’s so murky,” Fitzmorris said.

Murky? Wow. That's not the word I would have chosen. The article cites Portsmouth Republican Town Committee Chair, Jeff Plumb, unequivocally calling for Gordon to step aside. “Regardless of whether they’re Republican or Democrat, it’s ‘he should resign,’" Plumb is quoted as saying.

I'm glad that the PCC shows such devotion to the candidates they endorse. Hopefully the voters of Portsmouth will remember this next year.

02871, PCC, Dan Gordon, lcoalblogging

A vision in a dream: finally seeing the TRUTH

I've been wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. I finally woke up this morning, April 1, with a clear picture of our everyday life in America, and why things have gotten so far off the rails.

I had a dream last night, and the PCC's Larry Fitzmorris and RISC's Harry Staley appeared to me in a vision wearing spandex superhero costumes (nothing gay; Dan Gordon was right there watching to make sure nothing "sexed up" was going on) and they handed me NEWSLETTERS containing wisdom, whose nuggets of TRUTH magically appeared, in the dream, throughout the day on talk radio, in the ProJo, and on Facebook posts by DINOs.

And the scales fell from my eyes.

The problem in America is not that giant corporations with two initials pay no taxes, it's that working people like teachers and cops have gold-plated benefits. Benefits that we the taxpayers fund, contrary to anything those whiners say about benefits being a portion of total compensation.

The problem is not aimless wars draining trillions from the economy, it's entitlement programs. Seriously, do you really think the cost of ten years of military misadventure begins to come close to what we pay in unemployment or RIteCare? Do the math. (I tried to, in the dream, but when they handed me a calculator, it kept saying 2+2=5.)

The problem with our education system is not that we don't attract, develop, and retain excellent teachers, it's that unions keep us from firing those few bad apples that insidiously (and magically) destroy the effectiveness of everyone. Everyone. And everything. In the dream, I discovered that my toaster was broken. "It's because of the unions," said the Voice of RISC. And I looked in the toaster, and there was Pat Crowley. And he was smiling.

The problem is not regressive tax schemes that put the burden on homeowners, it's that business, the engine of our economy, is being taxed out of the state (along with the wealthy, who I saw stomping haughtily off when a strange, sibilant voice hissed the magic phrase, "To whomever much is given, of them will much be required.") In the dream, the newspapers of the state rose up as one, and cast aside the canons of journalism to offer voice to the businesses who were being taxed to oblivion. (That's how I knew it was a dream; in real life, the fourth-estate guardians of the public trust, the last line of defense the people have against being manipulated, would never do such a thing.)

And the two superheroes flew me around the state, pointing out all the problems that were caused by the divisive ex-Republican Governor, the flood of illegal immigrants, the master lever, collective bargaining, George Caruolo, ObamaCare, unfunded mandates, the death tax, ACORN, SEIU, the NLRB, teacher tenure, same-sex marriage, the ACLU, public employee pensions, unemployment benefits, business taxes, public sector unions, wind turbines, wastewater regulations, and arsenic. And in the dream, everything was in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS to prove that it was TRUE.

And I woke up, and it was April 1, so I just had to PASS ALONG THE TRUTH TO YOU.

And I placed a top on the table, and spun it. And it spun, and spun, and spun.


Localblogging, 02871, RI, PCC, Dan Gordon

Portsmouth charter review begins amid (PCC) partisan rancor

The first meeting of the Portsmouth Charter Review Committee last night was marked by partisan accusations and suggestions for culling the membership from the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens (PCC).

It was purely an organizational meeting, with the only actions being the setting of the first working meeting for Wednesday, Jan 19, and the selection of a temporary moderator, George Easley. But that didn't keep the PCC faction from objecting.

Kathy Melvin, who was a director of the PCC in 2009, according to corporate records at the RI Secretary of State, complained, early in the meeting, about so many "Democrats" on the committee.

Current PCC director Joe Lorenz asked the interim moderator, Town Administrator Bob Driscoll, about Tiverton's charter review committee. When told it only had nine members, he questioned the possible effectiveness of the size of Portsmouth's group. "When the world is telling us something..." he said, referring to Tiverton's committee.

Questions were also raised by PCC members about the remit of the committee. While it is possible to construe these as good-faith questions, the context might lead one to infer that they will attempt to steer the group in the direction of the five proposed charter changes their president, Larry Fitzmorris, brought to the council.

For a organization which yells so loudly about the will of the people, such distrust of the good intentions of a group of volunteers was, to this observer, offensive, if not entirely surprising.

Anyway, it was helpful to discover that the PCC considers Tiverton to be "the world." Now we know just how far they cast their nets for information.

Full disclosure: I am an appointed member of the Charter Review Committee and a Democrat.

Localblogging, 02871, PCC, Charter Review

New Portsmouth Council begins slogging through wastewater, tiptoes up to Open Meetings quagmire

PCC President confers with Council President
PCC President Larry Fitzmorris confers with Town Council President Joe Robicheau just before the Council meeting.

With over 30 residents in the chamber, the newly elected Portsmouth Town Council began their inaugural meeting on an auspicious note — five minutes before the meeting started, PCC President Larry Fitzmorris caucused with Council President Joe Robicheau as he sat on the dais. Anyone not get the picture yet?

And it just got better and better.

President Joe Robicheau established a new tradition of having the Town Clerk, Kathy Viera-Beaudoin, read each and every vote into the record. "The motion passed, unanimously." It may sound like transparancy, but halfway through the meeting, it was already beginning to feel like the new Council drinking game. (With carbonated non-adult beverages, of course; no suggestion or endorsement of excessive consumption is implied, nor should it be inferred.)

The first test was the reappointment of the Town Solicitor, Andre D'Andrea and the Town Prosecutor, Cort Chappel. Dame Judi Staven began to stake out her position as the Tailgunner "just vote no" replacenik by suggesting that it should go out to be advertised. "Chappell and D'Andrea can reapply," she said.

Although D'Andrea had been appointed by the previous Republican Council, it was the Democrats who came to his defense. "This is not a time to be changing players," said Mike Buddemeyer. "There are pressing legal matters ahead of us." Jim Seveney concurred. "Past practice has been to advertise the position only if there was an intention to replace," he said, stressing, "We have some unique challenges facing us." By a vote of 5-2 with Staven and Liz Pedro in the minority, both were rehired.

The Town Clerk read the result of the vote into the record. Take two sips.

Then the Council ground through the necessary liaison reappointments to various boards and committees. By the time they got to the Juvenile Hearing Board, the new "vote announcing" process had already gotten unwieldy. The Town Clerk announced the vote as unanimous, then the Council voted. Any time the Clerk gets the vote wrong, chug one soft drink.

And all that was before the REAL business began.

Sitting on the docket was scheduling interviews for the new Wastewater Management Commission, punted by the prior Council.

"I am not comfortable doing this as this time," said Staven. "I have a million questions." She expressed concern that she was unsure they were following the right course of action. "We may want to change the [wastewater] ordinance, who knows."

If there was any doubt about the Council's intent to delay and generally screw up the wastewater situation further, this should make their plan crystal clear.

PCC apparatchik Kathy Melvin took to the podium to warn the Council,"This is another move that's going to lock you into the situation." Then she raised questions about the qualifications of the applicants. "Thirteen people applied," she said. "We haven't had that many people come to meetings. I only heard of two — one qualified, other moderately qualified."

Let's leave aside for a moment whether Kathy Melvin is qualified to judge who is qualified. Was this laying the groundwork for the PCC bloc to launch preemptory challenges of all the applicants? We'll see. And what's this sudden concern about people who "come to meetings?" Where was this requirement when the PCC was endorsing candidates in the last election?

Despite Dame Judi's objections, the interviews were scheduled for December 13 at 6pm. The vote was 6-1 with Judi Staven opposed. One sip.

The next hour was a full-on grilling of engineer Pio Lombardo and attorney Christopher D'Ovidio, the team representing Portsmouth in the matter of the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Notice of Violation (NOV), the action in which the town was fined and could be required to install sewers. Let's remember, the previous Council hemmed and hawed on this for two full years, which finally brought the DEM action down on the Town. The new Council has already shown themselves to be capable of the same brave level of churning inaction.

Attorney D'Ovidio provided an update on the recent status confeerence with DEM, where the wastewater management plan, prepared by Lombardo as an alternative to sewers, was rejected, which means that the action moves into the discovery phase in preparation for a full hearing. The process is very much like a civil trial, with these pre-hearing conferences being opportunities for the two sides to attempt to reach agreement, and the DEM rejection of the plan amounted to them declining a settlement offer, according to D'Ovidio. But he remained hopeful, he said, that things could change if the town could present something with more detail.

"We're trying to provide a credible alternative to sewers," he said, showing the binder containing the work done by Lombardo. "At this juncture, they are not interested in considering this plan at this level of detail until there is something more for them to sink their teeth into."

So how did the Council support the team mounting our defense against DEM?

"If they're not going to consider this, why are we moving forward with it," asked Dame Judi.

"In order for us to be able to prevail, we need to have competent evidence that says to the DEM, 'You're wrong," said D'Ovidio. "We have a competent expert who has done a granular examination of every lot. That's why we need to proceed."

"Are we going down a path that's going to fail anyway," Judi continued.

The price of failure, D'Ovidio noted, would be a $60M sewer system.

Lombardo stressed that their work would provide a body of facts that the DEM did not have based on their reliance on a study from 2003. "We're going to provide lot by lot detail," he said. "What we're going to be doing, for all practical purposes, is the 10% design level. And the difference between 10 years ago and now, there are more tools in the toolbox."

Meaty, important questions. What did new Councilor Paul Kesson want to ask?

"What have we spent with you, Mr. D'Ovidio," said Kesson. (He didn't know offhand.)

Liz Pedro had a similar "gotcha" question. "Mr. D'Ovidio,when did you get the DEM file?" When he replied October 12, Pedro pounced. "But we hired you in April!"

"I wasn't retained to look at the file," he replied.

This kind of nitpicking is fine when you're a PCC partisan sniping from the sidelines, but is this really the level of engagement with the core issues we expect from a sitting Town Council?

Then Pedro went after stormwater, citing a memo from DEM. "Over and over, I see stormwater, stormwater, stormwater," she said. "It's a stormwater issue that they're hanging their hat on. why have we not followed through with stormwater ordinance that we already have. Shouldn't we start with the obvious — the tie ins we already know exist."

Lombardo said that the work was in fact proceeding on both tracks, stormwater and individual septic systems analysis, and he pointed out that the two were connected.

"Stormwater is the smoking gun," said Lombardo, "The conduit for malfunctioning septic systems."

But Pedro had a better idea. "Why are we not starting with what we know — storm drains." And, she continued, there was a list of some addresses with suspected connections, and the existing stormwater ordinance gives the Department of Public Works authority in that area. "Why are we not focusing on that."

"We don't believe the issue can be resolved by either one independently," said Lombardo.

Then the PCC bloc got to the nut of their argument.

"We're going to spend a lot of money and find out it's just illicit hookups and animal waste," said Dame Judi.

Town Administrator Bob Driscoll tried a note of rationality. "The problem is that stormwater drains pick up everything that flows into them. The stormwater system may be working perfectly, but will fail because (household) systems are not containing the waste. We can't go to 13 houses and pull a tap and solve our problem. Until we fix the ISDSs, we're not going to have clean stormwater."

Councilor Buddemeyer pointed out the obvious. "We've hired experts to defend us. The longer we wrangle with them, the less they're defending us."

And then...and then... PCC President Larry Fitzmorris himself took to the podium.

"I have a question about the NOV," he said, noting that it contained an allegation of a violation at XX Foo Avenue. Unlike Larry, I'm not going to mention the address; if you want to know, go listen to the tape. "I have received a copy of a letter from homeowner saying that the water running off the lot is from the sump pump. Is there any evidence that DEM sampled water, has town ever sampled water?"

Attorney D'Ovidio replied. "Generally speaking, each and every factual assertion in the NOV we are challenging," he said. "We're making DEM support every fact. Including proof that XX Foo Ave was discharging. Rest assured, as my client, that we're challenging each factual allegation. In addition, we're gathering our own evidence."

But that didn't satisfy the PCC President. "My question was whether the place was sampled or not. Nobody in the town has sampled the water yet. XX Foo Ave is the principal charge, he said. "We should sample the water immediately."

D'Ovidio disagreed. "It's not the principal charge," he said. And then, he went on to put a giant stake through Larry's heart. "Why would we test it? It's their burden of proof. Follow me?"

Larry sat down.

What a rookie mistake. Ordering the Council to collect a piece of evidence that can be demanded during discovery? Boy, I thought the PCC were supposed to be experts with giant brains?

And in one final note, the Council decided to create a "Joint Health Care Review Commission" with the school committee to study health care costs.

"Jonathan Harris has a lot of background in this," said Robicheau, and asked him to speak. People looked around, but Harris had already left.

Resident Andrew Kelly asked the Council if the meetings would be open.

"It's a commission," said Dame Judi. "The majority would be two. It's four people," she said, including participation from the Council and school committee and the two finance directors. She was concerned that if it fell under open meetings that two people couldn't talk.

"In a commission of four, quorum would be three," Town Solicitor D'Andrea pointed out, adding that in a prior Council they had posted meetings for a group of only three.

"I'm not trying to get around the Open Meetings Law," said Staven.

That was the point at which I got up and went to the podium. Robicheau, however, quickly said that the meetings would be posted and called for a vote before I was recognized. Then he asked me if I had a question. Since the question had already been voted on, I declined.

And anyway, I did not have a question. I had an observation: When your PCC bloc runs on "transparancy" and in your first meeting, your vice-president begins a sentence "I'm not trying to get around the Open Meetings Law," you are not, in my opinion, getting off to a very good start.

Localblogging, 02871, Town Council, PCC

PCC wins cable award for Perrotti interview

The Portsmouth Concerned Citizens (PCC) received an award from the RI Public, Education, and Government (PEG) public access authority for an interview with Portsmouth school committee member Cynthia Perrotti, according to a statement in today's Rhode Island Statewide Coalition (RISC) newsletter.

The release bylined by Larry Fitzmorris and slugged "PCC Newswire" which seems pretty grandiose to me, but hey, whatever. Take a look:

PCC Newswire – November 18, 2010 (Larry Fitzmorris) – The Portsmouth Concerned Citizens cable access program “Inside Portsmouth” has received a Special Recognition award in the category for Talk and or Variety Programs. The program submitted was the session we recorded with School Committee member Cynthia Perrotti on the Portsmouth School Budget referendum.
RISC Newsletter

The release goes on to identify the producer of the segment as recently elected school committee member Tom Vadney, and identifies other members of the production staff as "other" PCC members, including newly elected Council vice-president Judi Staven. The article continues, "We have also had a long list of members join our on air program panels."

I will admit that I missed this little gem on Channel 18, but will be requesting the opportunity to view this tape. I'll be most interested to see what Ms. Perrotti had to say to the PCC about the referendum.

Localblogging, 02871, School Committee, PCC

PCC touts Robicheau, omits others in RISC newsletter

Transparancy is the new objectivaty.

In today's newsletter from the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition (RISC), the state-wide anti-tax group with which the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens (PCC) is affiliated, a story by Larry Fitzmorris on the recent election as Council President of Joe Robicheau highlights his PCC membership, while the affiliations of other Councilors with the PCC goes unmentioned.

Robicheau is described as "a long time member of the PCC and the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition." However, the rest of the bloc which elected him is described only as "Republicans."

I find this interesting, given that all four of them acknowledged their sometime affiliation with the PCC during the candidate forum prior to the election, as reported in Portsmouth Patch (there were two sessions, so the links below go to two stories)

By a show of hands, have any of you ever been or currently involved with the PCC?
Staven and Robicheau raised their hands.

Audience question: Just by show of hands, have you ever been affiliated or are currently affiliated with the PCC?
Both Pedro and Kesson raised their hands.

The PCC endorsed all four of these Councilors. Why on earth wouldn't they mention that in their puff piece for the RISC newsletter?

Is this the kind of transparancy [sic] we can expect from our new Council majority?

Localblogging, 02871, Town Council, PCC