Portsmouth HS post-prom party could use your support

This note was sent to PHS parents by principal Bob Littlefield, and if you are able to help out (either as a volunteer, or with a donation of food or cash, I know that would be most appreciated. This is a fun event that helps keep our students safe. Please pitch in if you can. Thanks.

The post Prom Party is less then one-week away. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has donated and volunteered for this exciting night. I wish to make one final appeal for a last minute cash donation, last call for volunteers, and call for food donations.

The Senior Post Prom Party aims to keep students safe on this memorable night. To do so we have Door Prizes and special Senior Prizes. We culminate the night with a Grand Prize. The night takes a lot of donations from many to be successful. If you have not had the time to donate, we can still can use your support. Online donations are being accepted at http://phs2015postprom.weebly.com. Please help us today with a donation.

We still need volunteers for the Post Prom Party on Wednesday, June 3rd. Please contact Liz Stack or Katie Heffernan if you are interested in helping out. Katie Heffernan: kheff1@cox.net , or Liz Stack: cstack6@cox.net.

Volunteers should remain flexible in their assignments and will be used as needed Wednesday evening.

And, finally, a last minute call for food donations. We expect over 200 students at the event, which requires quite a bit of food. Please go to http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0a4aaba82aa4ff2-post1 to sign-up to donate something today.

This is an exciting week for our Seniors. We want them to remember these events for years to come. Your help today helps us with positive outcomes and healthy choices for our Seniors and their guests.

Editorial note: Written from a PHS email.

Portsmouth public hearing on bikeway plan tomorrow

The Aquidneck Island Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing to receive comments on the Draft Aquidneck Island Bikeway Design Study Report (DSR) for the Town of Portsmouth on Thursday, May 28, 2015, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

A presentation on the DSR will begin at 6 PM. The hearing will be held in the Town Council Chambers, Town Hall, 2200 East Main Road.

Copies of the draft DSR are available for review at the Portsmouth Town Hall (2200 E. Main Rd.), the Portsmouth Free Public Library (2658 E. Main Rd.), and the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (437 Broadway, Newport). The DSR is also available in electronic format at: www.aquidneckplanning.org

Written comments on the draft DSR may be submitted through June 19, 2015 to aipccomment@gmail.com or to the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission, 437 Broadway, Newport, RI 02840. Commenters are requested to include their name and place of residence with all comments submitted.

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

Tiverton Town Councilor appears to plagiarize harddeadlines [Update: text removed] Update 2: Sousa apologizes

In a story about the kerfuffle over a gun being displayed at the Financial Referendum in Tiverton last week, Town Council member Joe Sousa appears to have used, without permission, a paragraph of my text as his own in communicating with the East Bay Newspapers. The paper attributes and quotes him like this: "As Mr. Sousa later told the story, writing about his actions in the manner of a news release," and what follows is a paragraph from my news report about the event.

Here's the paragraph attributed to Mr. Sousa from East Bay Newspapers

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 9.21.55 AM.png

Compare this to the paragraph from my story published last Saturday night:
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I call Mr. Sousa's attention to this web site's Terms of Service, which clearly assert my intellectual property rights in all content. I have sent a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice to the East Bay Newspapers, and I demand an explanation and apology from Town Councilor Joe Sousa.

Update: In a comment, East Bay Newspapers publisher Scott Pickering notes that the paragraph was deleted in the story and explains, "In response to Mr. McDaid’s concern, and because the information in the cited paragraph was mostly redundant, we have removed it." Have not heard anything back from Sousa in response to my request for an explanation and apology.

Update 5/25: In postings on the East Bay Newspaper site and Facebook, Tiverton Town Councilor Joe Sousa apologized to the editor of harddeadlines and explained the apparent plagiarism as a "misunderstanding."


Vern Gorton

verngorton.jpgPortsmouth's Vern Gorton, 59, passed away this week and our town will, literally, never be the same.

He wasn't just a brilliant attorney — although he was that — or a devoted husband and dad, or the heart and soul of the Portsmouth Democratic party. He was a truly wonderful human being and I will miss him terribly.

I met Vern when I got involved with Portsmouth politics about ten years ago. I don't remember what the topic was, but I recall the first time I saw him take the podium at a Town Council meeting and thinking, wow, am I ever glad to be on the same side of that issue.

As I drifted into the local Democratic party, I would run into him at meetings. He was always level-headed, it seemed always smiling, and always able to put into words what everyone was thinking — and doing it in with a turn of phrase and a sense of humor. In all those years, I don't think I ever saw him lose his composure.

Over several campaigns, I had the great good fortune to work with Vern, and it was a masterclass in local politics, taught with wry wit and a clear, uncompromising eye. He had no patience for fools and called things as he saw them, but he unfailingly counseled taking the high road. Not that he was above slugging it out with the opposition — he was a person of deep convictions and he would not yield an inch — but he was always a gentleman.

He believed in the people and the Town of Portsmouth, and he encouraged the candidates he coached to serve the best interests of the community with intelligence and common sense. He was a wonderful mentor, and having his guidance during the election I ran for school committee was a truly special time. I learned a hell of a lot, and, I think, even more important, wanted to emulate what I came to see as his deep commitment to public service.

Vern was an inspirational leader, but one who led by doing. When I was looking around for a photo, I realized that there weren't many. Vern was always too busy working. When the local Democrats would be running our yearly clambake and all the candidates would be out shaking hands with Jack Reed, or David Cicilline, or Gina Raimondo, Vern would be back in the kitchen calmly making chowder. In our monthly town committee meetings, he'd usually be sitting in the back, listening, and only speaking up to say something that either made us all laugh or kept us from doing something stupid.

Portsmouth is a better place because of all that Vern did, and we will all miss his wisdom, judgment, and deep humanity. My heart goes out to family and friends, whose loss is even more immense. There are no words of consolation for a loss this great; only the comforting memory of someone who truly left everything he touched in better shape than he found it.

Links
Obituarty
Memorial page

Portsmouth Water elections to be held June 10

The Portsmouth Water and Fire District holds its annual election of officers on Wednesday, June 10 at the District main office at 1944 East Main Road, and everyone who is a ratepayer in the district can vote. Polls open at 7am and close at 8pm.

This year, four positions are up for election -- one Tax Collector, one Treasurer, and two Tax Assessors. All four races are uncontested, with incumbents running for re-election.

For Tax Collector, Fred Faerber is seeking re-election, incumbent Treasurer Allen Shers is seeking another term, and Tax Assessors Ted Czech and Michael Nott are also running for re-election.

As I remind people every year, this is one of those rare elections where write-ins can (and, in the past, have) resulted in upsets, so I urge everyone to take a few minutes out of your day to stop by and vote. I'll remind you.

Editorial note: Written substantially from a press release.

Tiverton passes reduced budget in Financial Town Referendum

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Tiverton Town Council President Denise deMedeiros watches as election workers post vote totals.

By a wide margin, Tiverton voters passed a voter-initiated alternative town budget restricting the increase on the tax levy to 0.9% rather than the 2.9% proposed by the Town Budget Committee. The unofficial vote was 1,535 (59%) for budget #2, a double-digit lead over budget #1 which received 1,066 (41%). Officials said the vote will be certified next week.

According to a document provided to voters, the new 0.9% budget reduces the tax rate to $18.99 per thousand (rather than the Budget Committee's proposed $19.38 per thousand) by cutting $126K from the school committee, $150K from the Town Council's "Future Needs" account, eliminating the Town Planner and withdrawing $360K from the General Fund, among other changes.

Supporters of both budgets had spent much of the day outside Tiverton High School, where voting was taking place. (1,526 residents voted today, compared to 1,075 who took advantage of early voting or mail ballots; the winning margins were similar in both tallies.)

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Budget #2 truck and motorcycle, minus toy rifle.

There was a bit of excitement in the late afternoon when Tiverton police responded to a report that someone had a replica of a rifle on display next to a truck decorated with Budget #2 posters. A post circulated on Facebook showed an olive-drab replica of what appeared to be an M-1 propped against a motorcycle near the entrance to the polling station.

"I just brought it to get people's attention," said Town Council member Joe Sousa, saying that the police had asked him to remove it. Sousa and a group of the budget #2 supporters, including Justin Katz, who originated the petition, stood near the entrance holding signs and vocally urging voters to consider their budget as they entered the building.

"Without a doubt," one voter shouted back.

Another of the budget #2 supporters, Jim O'Dell, thought that the distribution of revaluation notices this week had an impact on voters. "It couldn't have been better for us," he said. "People knew how much they were being socked -- that's why so many people are here." He claimed that some residents had seen valuation changes in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Town Council President Denise deMedeiros, who was with a group of budget #1 supporters in the parking lot, agreed that the revaluation notice was "untimely." "It was supposed to come out a few weeks ago," she said, noting that the reval was done by a contractor and they did not have control of the timing. "If it came out tomorrow, they would have said that we did it on purpose."

School Committee chair Sally Black held a poster noting that budget #1 had been approved by the budget committee, the town council, and the school committee, and included all-day Kindergarten while holding the school budget to just a 1% increase.

"We're fighting over $78 a year on a $200,000 house," said deMedeiros. "Our budget keeps everything and doesn't take anything from the general fund." She noted the areas that budget #2 cuts included the town planner, at a time when Tiverton is confronting major issues like the plans for the industrial park and the proposed casino. It cut the allocation for legal fees in half while at the same urging the council to "play hardball" in contract negotiations. And it zeroed the "future needs" account which the council uses to cover contract increases without tipping their hand in negotiations by earmarking specific amounts.

"If it wins, we'll have to deal with it, "said deMedeiros. "We're going to have to make some cuts, and they're not going to be the cuts they suggested."

Correction: Updated to correct the spelling of the first name of the school committee chair.

Miller, Edwards op-ed: Safer medicines will protect Rhode Islanders and save money

By Senator Joshua Miller & Representative John Edwards

It has often been said that Rhode Island is like one big family.   Because Rhode Island is a close-knit community, there are few of us who haven’t seen a family member, neighbor, or friend touched by the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
 
According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in our state.  In fact “prescription medications are now the most commonly abused drugs among 12- to 13-year-olds because they are so easy for kids to access, often in the medicine cabinet,” according to Marcia Lee Taylor from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. The partnership goes on to say their “...research shows two-thirds of teens who abused pain relievers say they got them from family and friends.”  Prescription drug abuse affects every community, economic class, race, and age. Simply put, it is just not an inner city problem but a statewide issue.  Every year opioids abuse costs Rhode Islanders $108 million in health care costs.  In fighting this epidemic, we must look at every available solution.  

As lawmakers, we must step up to the challenge and identify practical solutions to keep another family from the heartbreak of losing a loved one. Simultaneously, we must acknowledge that there is a legitimate use for opioid pain medications, and not block access for patients in need of pain relief due to their individual medical situations.   That is why we have introduced legislation this session that helps to strike that balance by increasing access to opioid pain medicine with abuse deterrent formulations (ADFs). 

ADFs are manufactured in a manner that makes it difficult for them to be crushed, cooked or altered  —which is what drug addicts do to these pills in order to snort or inject them for an immediate high.  In a recent hearing, it was demonstrated just how different these new medications are—in some cases, that they are nearly unbreakable.  Despite efforts with a hammer, the ADF pills could not be crushed, in contrast to the traditional medications that smash easily and are therefore easily abused.  It was not difficult to see why someone looking to alter medications for a high would have difficulty achieving this with ADF pills. 

Simply put, ADF medications have the ability to stop addicts from their abusive methods. The opioid market is flooded with cheap, non-abuse-deterrent opioids.  Only two-percent of prescribed opioids have any abuse-deterrence.  And every day, hundreds of prescriptions for abuse-deterrent formulations are being switched for the non-abuse-deterrent.  We have to do better and this legislation enables us to do just that.  

Our legislation would ensure that patients get the medicine that their doctors prescribe.  Our legislation also guarantees insurance parity to ADF medications, so that no additional out of pocket costs would be required by those patients who need them to manage their chronic pain.  This would mean that doctors won’t have to take a patient’s financial situation into account when prescribing pain medication. Rather, the most appropriate and safe medication can be given, based on the doctor’s medical opinion.

The FDA continues to approve more and more of these safer medications and ADF medications will become more accessible for consumers, but only if we can keep the doctor/patient relationship primary in care delivery.   We have introduced House bill 5219 and Senate bill 167 to make certain that Rhode Islanders benefit from this advancement in medicine formulation.  We want to make sure that ADFs are available and affordable to patients for their treatment and care and to make it clear that we have to take every precaution to minimize this problem of prescription opioid abuse.  We would be naïve to think that this problem has one solution.  In talking to counselors and drug treatment experts in our state who deal with substance abuse issues every day, we know that the issue of prescription drug addiction is multi-faceted.  As a community, we need to put every available option on the table to start to chip away at the problem.  We urge our fellow lawmakers to join us in supporting this legislation and take one step forward in curbing the prescription.

Sen. Miller is the Democratic State Senator from District 28, Cranston, Warwick. Now serving his fifth term, he is Chair of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services and is a member of the Senate Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government. Rep. Edwards is the Democratic State Representative from District 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth. The House Majority Whip, he is serving his fourth term and is a member of the House Committee on Labor, the House Committee on Judiciary, the House Committee on Oversight and the House Committee on Small Business.)

Editorial note: written from a state house news release.

It's Teacher Appreciation Day -- #ThankATeacher

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Image courtesy of NEA.

First and foremost, I want to thank all the teachers and staff at Portsmouth High School who have been working with our son, Jack, over the past couple of months as he's been having some health issues; the support and concern has been truly amazing.

Our whole family thanks Mr. Arsenault, Ms. Guerreiro, Mr. Holstein, Ms. Johnsen, Mr. Barker, Ms. Richards, Ms. Riesen, Ms. Valente, Mr. Betres, and Mr. Forgue, as well as Ms. Bellotti in Guidance and school nurse Ms. Hickey.

We feel very lucky to have such a great team working with us. Portsmouth has amazing teachers. Thank you all.

What I said to the RI House Judiciary committee about guns in schools

Thursday night, the RI House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on two pieces of gun legislation, H5861, which would close the loophole allowing concealed-carry permit holders to carry on school premises, and H5190, which would make permit renewal automatic without any requirement for requalification. Both measures were "held for further study," which is usually the way bills are quietly killed.

My 15-year-old son and I had signed up to testify, but at 7pm, with more than 30 people still on the list ahead of us, we had to leave. He made an argument, from a student perspective, about the hypocrisy of zero-tolerance for weapons (to the point of censoring t-shirts and language) while adults in the building could be armed. This morning, we both sent our testimony to all the members of the Judiciary Committee. Here's what I said...

I’m John McDaid, from Portsmouth, and I’m here as a parent and a member of the Humanists of Rhode Island to support bill H5861 and oppose H5190.

Here’s my nightmare. Imagine you’re picking up your kid at school. As you get buzzed in by the office, a guy standing in the lobby with you holds open the door for you. His jacket opens slightly and you see the distinctive slide of a Glock G42, what the NRA’s magazine calls an “an easy-to-carry, close-range defensive tool,” tucked into his waistband. He notices your gaze and says, “Don’t worry, I’ve got a permit.” What could you do or say? Right now, in Rhode Island, the answer is “nothing.” You can ask him, “Are you a good guy with a gun or a bad guy with a gun?” You can see if he reminds you of Adam Lanza or Seung-Hui Cho, but in those tenths of a second you have to make a decision, how do you tell a friendly neighbor from a sociopath? You’re standing there, and a guy with a gun is about to enter your child’s school. What do you do?

Fortunately, the General Assembly, in its wisdom, understood the challenges of this situation when they wisely crafted 11-47-60 to ban concealed weapons on school grounds. All H5861 would do is reconcile the language of this existing legislation with the possibly conflicting language in 11-47-9 and 11-47-18.

There are two reasons I feel concealed carry is a problem on school property.

First, the mere presence of a loaded weapon creates the possibility for potentially fatal accidents and incidents. According to the CDC, in 2013, the last year for which data is available, there were 16,864 reportable unintentional gunshot injuries. That’s 46 firearm accidents every day. To pick a recent data point: just this Easter Sunday, a man in Altoona, PA shot himself in the leg during Mass when the trigger of his pistol caught in his pocket. Concealed weapons present a constant unmitigateable risk of unintended discharge. If this were to take place in a classroom, the results could be catastrophic. And the possibility of a child — either innocently or maliciously — using an improperly secured weapon is equally grim. These are unforced errors that can be avoided by maintaining gun-free schools.

My wife lost her 12-year-old cousin in a shooting accident — a couple of innocent kids looking at guns in a friend’s house. When our son was younger, we were reluctant to have him play at a friend’s house where we knew there were guns, because kids are curious and accidents do happen. Without H5861, parents are forced to send their children into a school environment with the same potential dangers.

Second, relying on permit holders be able to protect students and staff in a school shooting situation is, to put it bluntly, delusional. To get a concealed carry permit in Rhode Island, applicants only need to demonstrate minimum accuracy on a range (putting 30 rounds in a 14-inch target at 25 yards) every four years (It should go without saying that reducing the qualification requirement, as H5190 does, is a step in the wrong direction). There is no requirement that a permit holder have training in decision-making, real-world tactical scenarios, or even drawing from concealment. Nor, more to the point, how to de-escalate dangerous situations. In short, there is no evidence that permit holders would have *any* of the requisite training to deal with the complex, high-stress situation of an active shooter. Attached is a link to a video done by ABC News showing how average armed citizens were able to respond in a simulated school shooting situation. Spoiler: they all would have died.

If the General Assembly wants to do something to address school safety in crisis situations, I’d encourage you to investigate the ALICE program being used in Massachusetts and some Rhode Island communities. More guns is not the answer. I respectfully urge the committee to close this loophole and support H5861. Thank you for your consideration.

References
CDC data
ABC News video
Easter church gun accident
ALICE

Why people leave town: thoughts on the Hugo nominations

A genuinely hilarious video (although perhaps not for the reasons intended), attributed to Vox Day.

I live in a small town, and have spent the last ten years or so involved in small town politics. I've learned a few lessons, some the hard way. Science fiction is a small town, and in this year's Hugo nominations — the awards voted on by members of World Science Fiction Convention — I'm seeing unfortunate echoes of the way local politics can be gamed and hijacked by a small but determined group.

You may need some context; if so, you can take a peek at these posts by The Slate, Mary Robinette Kowal, N.K. Jemisin, File 770, and George R. R. Martin.

Back in the oughts, my town of Portsmouth became one of the first battlegrounds for the anti-tax crowd in Rhode Island; proto-Tea Partiers before there was such a thing. In 2006, the local "Concerned Citizens" group managed to use a procedural technique — a referendum on the local budget colloquially referred to as a "tent meeting" — to slash the budget for Portsmouth's schools and town in what was the index year for all subsequent tax levy increases. By rallying ten percent of the town's electorate, they were able to override budgets crafted by the duly elected School Committee and Town Council.

In local politics, you learn that angry people show up to vote. And it's far easier to drum up an angry mob than to communicate nuanced positions on issues.

Folks in a small town expect local government to handle things without a lot of drama. They vote for people on the Council and School Committee without necessarily a whole lot of thought about party affiliation; it's not like national politics. You may know this gal from church, or that guy coached your kid's Little League team. There's a general sense that the people running for office all have the town's best interests at heart — I mean, they're stepping up to do a several-year stint for very little pay. That assumption of good will works to an attacker's advantage.

Local elections can be swung by a few hundred votes. If you can get a core group of even 50 people riled up about an issue — in local politics, taxes are always handy (as are sewers and arsenic) and each of them reaches out to their network, you've got enough votes to change the leadership of a Council or School Committee. Not that those people, once elected, will necessarily show a lot of interest in post-partisan governance (or even, in some cases, serving out their term). They are more interested in advancing an agenda, and they will take hold of the levers of local control for a couple of years and run things into the ditch. (I say this, admittedly, as a one-time candidate for school committee who got my ass handed to me by a couple of the darlings of the anti-tax faction, so, obviously, I am biased.)

The parallels to science fiction fandom should hopefully be obvious. Worldcon is effectively a small town, albeit a temporary and peripatetic one, as it re-creates itself in a new host city every year. The same attacker's advantages accrue in voting for the convention's awards. The total number of ballots cast for Hugo nominations this year, 2,122, is the kind of number you see in a small town election. That's the kind of number you can swing with the torch-and-pitchfork crowd. Get a few hundred folks riled up about an issue — and it can be as illusory as arsenic in a landfill — and they wield an influence all out of proportion to their actual numbers, because the people of good will may not even be aware of their activities and the strength of the majority is diluted.

These are the kinds of things that can make people throw up their hands and figuratively leave town by abandoning local politics. Some people — even those who are well-intentioned — see a false equivalence and blame "both" sides.

It doesn't have to be that way.

The cynics (λυπημένος κυνικός) may win in the short term. They have absolutely scored a major victory, both in the composition of the Hugo nominations and the amount of ink and angst generated over their actions. But they underestimate the true power of small-town politics: regression to the mean. There are many more citizens than cynics, and their votes can not be gamed. The collective notion of the genre has been moving, inexorably, in the direction of more progressive, inclusive science fiction. Those of us who share that vision need to speak out, generate recognition among the majority of people of good will, and show up at the polls. That's how you overcome reactionary extremists. That's how you turn things around in local politics.

In case you're so inclined, you can get a supporting membership to Worldcon here and vote on the Hugos.

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