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OP-ED: Constitutional Convention: An Unnecessary Cost

October 25th, 2014 · No Comments

By RI Rep. Donald J. Lally Jr.

 At first blush, the idea of a Constitutional Convention seems in keeping with the democratic principle of citizen participation in government.

 In actuality, a Constitutional Convention is an unnecessary expenditure of taxpayer dollars and a potential vehicle for special interest groups to accomplish their goals at the expense of all other citizens.

 During a recent public appearance by a number of delegates to the state’s last Constitutional Convention, former Rhode Island Senate Minority Leader Lila Sapinsley said she was “sorely disappointed” by the process and outcome of that 1986 session. It is unnecessary to spend $1 million to $2 million on a convention, she said, “when we have a General Assembly that’s perfectly capable of making constitutional changes.”

 I agree wholeheartedly, although I would like to point out that the current estimated cost of a convention is closer to $2.5 million. In a difficult economy, at a time when every dollar spent on a Constitutional Convention is money that cannot be spent on other pressing budgetary needs – such as education and infrastructure – cost is a very relevant objection to holding a convention.

 More importantly, though, no other state holds a Constitutional Convention. The last convention anywhere in our nation was held in Rhode Island in 1986 – nearly 30 years ago.

 I am also concerned that special interests – one group, several groups, a small collection of strident individuals – could hijack the convention and call for changes to the Rhode Island Constitution that actually weaken the rights of the citizens of our state. The executive director of the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union has expressed concern that a Constitutional Convention – depending on its makeup – could place before voters issues that could put civil rights at risk.

 I do not disagree that, on occasion, good ideas about constitutional changes arise. Separation of Powers was one such idea. Yet that important constitutional change was presented to voters not as a result of a convention but through the normal legislative process of discussion and debate and vote by the individuals the citizens of Rhode Island had elected to represent them. That normal process of governance – by a duly elected body chosen by voters – can bring about constitutional change in a far more open process than through a special convention of delegates. And whether by the legislature or a convention, any proposed changes will still require passage by the state’s voters.

 If voters are unhappy with the legislature, they have the opportunity every two years to make changes to that body. Former State Sen. Thomas Izzo, who was also a delegate to the 1986 convention, said citizens are better served by putting their efforts into electing members of the General Assembly who support good government laws.

 Supporters of a Constitutional Convention, who tend to also be detractors of the General Assembly, express concern about the likelihood of the legislature accomplishing any good for the citizens of the state. In a recently publisher opinion piece, H. Philip West, formerly of Common Cause, urged people who are fed up with the General Assembly to vote for a Constitutional Convention because, he suggests, the legislature hasn’t fixed any issues of concern to the citizens. I disagree. In addition to the aforementioned Separation of Powers matter, the General Assembly has eliminated the “master level” from future state ballots. The legislature also, a number of years ago, undid voter passage of an issue generated by the 1986 convention – regarding voting rights of prisoners. Said the ACLU director, “It took 20 years to undo the damage to voting rights.”

 Mr. West also pointed out, in his opinion piece, that a Constitutional Convention is necessary because the General Assembly has failed to restore Ethics Commission power over the legislature. In fact, legislation that would have done exactly that was on the cusp of passage earlier this year. It was the recalcitrance of one special interest group, Common Cause, which derailed enactment of that bill simply because the group would not accept any language other than precisely what they, alone, demanded.

 I think it is clear that Rhode Island does not need to spend $2.5 million to bring constitutional issues before voters when that can be done by the elected members of the General Assembly who are beholden not to one particular agenda but rather to all the voters in their district. I urge Rhode Islanders to vote NO on Question Three.

 (Donald J. Lally Jr. is the Democratic State Representative from District 33, Narragansett, North Kingstown, and was a member of the Constitutional Convention Preparatory Commission.)

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RIDOT NAMES GABRIELLE ABBATE NEW CHIEF OF HIGHWAY SAFETY

October 25th, 2014 · No Comments

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) today announced that it has hired Gabrielle Abbate as its new Chief of Highway Safety, effective November 3, 2014. Most recently the Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Rhode Island, she has more than two decades of experience developing programs focused on preventing roadway tragedies.

 “Gaby brings a wealth of experience to this role and is already a valued partner in our efforts to promote safe driving practices and decrease fatalities and serious injuries on our roadways,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “Safety is RIDOT’s top priority, and we’re thrilled to have Gaby, who’s been an outspoken advocate for highway safety, on our team as we move forward.”

Abbate joined MADD in 1991 and served as Executive Director since 1995. In her new role, Abbate will lead RIDOT’s Office on Highway Safety, which is responsible for implementing federally funded safety projects and campaigns throughout Rhode Island. To learn more about safety programs in Rhode Island, visit

www.dot.ri.gov/safety.

A Pascoag resident, Abbate attended the University of Rhode Island and is currently enrolled in the Leadership Development program at Providence College. She has numerous professional certifications in prevention, victim advocacy, leadership, capacity building, budget development, management, public policy, and ethics and confidentiality.

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EXIT 3B OFF ROUTE 10 SOUTH TO CLOSE PERMANENTLY NEXT WEEK

October 24th, 2014 · No Comments

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All traffic will be directed to newly designed Exit 3A

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) next week will permanently close Exit 3B off Route 10 South to Reservoir Avenue (Route 2) in Cranston. The closure is schedule to take place on Wednesday, October 29 at approximately 9 a.m.

 Motorists will be directed to the next off-ramp, Exit 3A, which has been updated to allow left and right turns onto Reservoir Avenue. A map showing this new traffic pattern is available at

www.dot.ri.gov/detourmaps.

RIDOT also has installed a new traffic signal at this intersection, including a pedestrian crossing signal.

 This change was prompted by a high occurrence of rear-end and broadside crashes at Exit 3B. The end of the off-ramp offers limited field of vision and a short distance for merging, which makes it difficult for motorists to safely merge onto Reservoir Avenue.

 The improvements are being made as a part of a $2.4 million project for safety upgrades at four intersections in Cranston. These include new turning lanes, signal improvements and pedestrian-crossing improvements. In addition to the Route 10/Reservoir Avenue interchange, RIDOT is working on the intersections of Reservoir Avenue and Route 12 (Park Avenue), Reservoir Avenue and Aqueduct Road, and Route 12 (Scituate Avenue) and Route 51 (Phenix Avenue). All improvements are scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

 For more information, visit us online at

www.dot.ri.gov

or on Facebook at

www.facebook.com/RIDOTNews

For real-time traffic updates, subscribe to our Twitter feed at

www.twitter.com/RIDOTNews.

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Family Movie Night

October 24th, 2014 · No Comments

Pawtucket Library

13 Summer Street
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
6:00pm
Campbell Auditorium

Come and watch a beloved animated Disney classic at the Pawtucket Public Library for Family Movie Night on Wednesday, November 5th at 6:00pm.

After an evil spell at birth from the fairy Maleficent, the beautiful Aurora falls into a deep sleep that can only be broken by true love’s kiss. The 1959 G-rated movie will be shown in the library’s Campbell
Auditorium.

Families are welcome to bring their own snacks and drinks.

Children 10 and older may attend without a caregiver.

The program is free and no registration is required.

For more information, call 401-725-3714, ext. 209, or e-mail childrens@pawtucketlibrary.org.

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Governor Chafee to Unveil Korean War Veterans Plaque in Bell Area of the State House

October 24th, 2014 · No Comments

10:00 AM on Saturday, October 25, 2014 

Providence, R.I. – Governor Lincoln D. Chafee will host a Korean War Veterans Plaque Dedication Ceremony in the Bell Area of the State House at 10:00 AM on Saturday, October 25, 2014.  Music will be provided by the 88th Army Band beginning at 9:00 AM and throughout the event.  Vintage military vehicles will be on display for the public’s viewing on the Smith Street side of the State House.

Governor Lincoln Chafee; Senator Jack Reed; Senator Walter S. Felag Jr., Chairman, Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs; Representative Raymond E. Gallison Jr., Chair, House Committee on Finance; Representative Jan P. Malik, Chair, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee; Korean War Veterans Association of Rhode Island Chapters 1, 2, and 3

Bell Area (1st Floor City Side), State House, Providence, RI

Saturday, October 25, 2014 at 10:00 AM. 

Doors open at 9:00 AM.

Parking available in the lower lots.

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Attention Employers And Job Seekers

October 23rd, 2014 · No Comments

Quonset Job Fair Set for November 5th

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A Job Fair will be held at the Quonset Business Park on Wednesday, November 5. The Business Workforce Center of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (RI DLT), the Workforce Partnership of Greater RI, and the Workforce Solutions of Providence and Cranston are organizing the event, and partnering with the Quonset Development Corporation (QDC) to host the fair. The event will be held from 10am to 12pm at the QDC Annex building on 95 Cripe Street in North Kingstown.

 All interested employers may attend free of charge, and each will be provided with a table and two chairs to setup a reception area. There is no minimum number of job openings required to participate in the fair, however, registration is required. Employers interested in participating should 

click here

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Pawtucket Library

October 23rd, 2014 · No Comments

Day of the Dead Workshop / Taller del Día de los Muertos @ the Pawtucket
Library

Saturday, November 1, 2014
11:00-12:00 pm
Children’s Caidin Activity Room

Children and their families are invited to a Day of the Dead workshop. The celebration of the Day of the Dead is one of love, honor and memory.

In this workshop you will make a memory box to remember a deceased loved one. Materials will be provided including the boxes, which are about the size of a shoe box.

All you have to do is bring a picture of a deceased loved one, someone you wish to honor and anything else that is descriptive of that person.

We can scan and make a copy so you can use it on the Memory Box.

Class size is limited so register early.

For more information, please call 401-725-3714 x209 or register online at

www.rilatinoarts.org/RILatinoArtsCommunityActivities.html

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Tax Credit Expansion Ballot Question

October 22nd, 2014 · No Comments

Stadium Theatre to potentially benefit from tax credit expansion, ballot question

 STATE HOUSE – The Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket is poised for significant improvements under legislation passed by the General Assembly this year, and a separate ballot question legislators put on the Nov. 4 ballot.

 The General Assembly this year approved legislation (2014-H 8246, 2014-S 3130) sponsored by Rep. Michael Morin and Sen. Roger A. Picard and cosponsored by Sen. Marc A. Cote, Rep. Stephen Casey and Rep. Robert Phillips to make the Stadium more attractive as a venue for large-scale theatrical tours and productions by expanding the state’s Musical and Theatrical Production Tax Credit program from 1,500 seat venues to 1,000 seat venues, therefore now including the 1088-seat Stadium.

 The credit is designed to attract tours, pre and post-Broadway productions and to create a local industry of designers, creators of costumes, scenery, props, technicians, caterers and more.

“We should encourage economic development in all communities, and this is one way we could do that for Woonsocket and any other community with theaters this size. The Stadium Theatre is beautifully restored, and would be a terrific place for these types of productions. Most Broadway theaters hold less than 1,500 seats – they tend to be closer to the number of seats at the Stadium,” said Representative Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket).

Said Senator Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland), “Rhode Island has some clear advantages that make us attractive to producers looking for a location to develop Broadway shows and tours. We’re easy to reach from New York, but the costs here are so much lower. They’d have the access they need, but would save significantly if they developed their shows here instead. This tax credit has resulted in several national tours developing in Providence, so expanding it will receive more attention from the industry and spread the benefits to other parts of the state, like Woonsocket.”

In 2008, Liza Minelli used the Stadium Theatre to perfect “Liza’s at the Palace…” which she performed there for four out-of-town tryout performances before its run later that year at the Palace Theatre in New York. Representative Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket/Cumberland) said, “a production like that, is exactly the kind of activity they are hoping this change will attract.”

 Boosting the Stadium’s potential also contributes to the economic possibilities for the rest of the community, said the legislators.

“The Stadium Theatre is a vital economic engine for Woonsocket. This legislation has created another incentive for professional Broadway touring companies to perform at the Stadium. The attraction of a Broadway touring company will bring more patrons to the theatre and into our city to enjoy the restaurants and other venues that Woonsocket has to offer,” said Representative Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket).

 Said Senator Cote (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield), “The Stadium Theatre is a valuable resource to our community, contributing both by supporting arts and culture organizations that enrich life in Woonsocket and through all the economic activity it generates. It brings visitors to downtown from all over, and they spend money in the local restaurants and shops before and after the events. Strengthening the Stadium makes the economic potential of our city greater.”

The Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Center also stands to receive $2.1 million for a major expansion if voters statewide approve Question 5 on the Nov. 4 ballot. The ballot question would allow $35 million in bonds for arts and cultural organizations as well as preservation of cultural and historic sites.

If voters approve the question, the Stadium plans to use the money to renovate the Stadium Office Building next door to the theater – originally built in conjunction with the theater – into space for performance, rehearsal, set construction, costume design, recording, instruction and office use. The Stadium already owns the building and uses parts of it, but it needs renovations to reach its potential.

Among the plans is converting the basement, now used for costume and props storage, into an intimate black box theater, as well as additional dressing room space, which is cramped in the theater itself. The first floor would remain in its current use for set design, but its storefronts would be used to provide passersby a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the latest productions, and part would become a café and gift shop. 

 The plan, which is expected to take about four years, would transform the office building’s second floor into badly needed rehearsal space, and the third floor into a costume shop with enough capacity to craft and lease costumes to other theatrical organizations. The theater’s administrative offices, now sharing space in the box office, would move to the fourth floor, where there would also be a recording studio for musicians.

 For more information on the Stadium, visit

www.stadiumtheatre.com.

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2014 Sustainable Schools Summit

October 22nd, 2014 · No Comments

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Rhode Island College, Student Union Building

The 2014 Sustainable Schools Summit, presented by the Apeiron Institute for Sustainable Living and hosted by Rhode Island College, takes place on November 7, 2014. With the theme “Cultivating Partnerships for Success,” the Summit will focus on the importance of collaboration in combating the diverse environmental challenges that our communities face. The day will open with a Keynote address by nationally-known environmental educator Akiima Price. In her talk, she will share her insights into innovative strategies that consider ways to connect environmental outcomes with issues of concern to low-income communities.

Sixteen workshops over two morning sessions cover a wide variety of topics relevant to multiple stakeholders in the Sustainable Schools movement, from builders and facilities workers to students and teachers, to the wider communities that support schools. Two key workshop themes are Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Education,  and Green and Healthy Buildings. Within each focus area, presenters highlight important issues and strategies for communities seeking to collaborate for a healthy and sustainable future. Workshops are built to engender actionable solutions for implementing meaningful change in work, communities, homes, and schools.

In the afternoon, attendees will attend “action groups,” where attendees network and collaborate towards building relationships and bringing strategies back to their home communities. Throughout the day art and music will be integrated into the Summit’s agenda to foster a creative learning environment for all attendees.

This year’s summit foregrounds the importance and power of youth voice and leadership in the work towards a sustainable future; the Summit will host youth-led and youth-friendly workshops which support young people in building and supporting the sustainability movement. Youth middle-school age and over are invited to attend and local businesses are sponsoring busses for classes to attend. There will also be a dedicated space for university and college student activists to meet and form alliances.

Registration to the 2014 Sustainable Schools Summit is pay-as-you-wish -  all are welcome to attend for free or visit the Summit’s Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, and be entered to win gift certificates from a dozen local businesses.

The 2014 Sustainable Schools Summit is possible due to major sponsorship from National Grid, and additional sponsorship from Aramark and Rhode Island College. In addition to The Apeiron Institute for Sustainable Living the Summit planning team includes representatives from the Rhode Island Environmental Education Association (RIEEA), Rhode Island Dept of Education (RIDE), The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (RI OER), Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), The Green Building Council, The office of the Honorable Sheldon Whitehouse, The STEM Center at Rhode Island College, The Greene School, and the URI Outreach Center.

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Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers Market Celebrates November Opening

October 21st, 2014 · No Comments

New England’s Largest Winter Farmers Market Announces 2014-2015 Season

 PAWTUCKET: On Saturday, November 1st, Farm Fresh Rhode Island celebrates the opening of the 8th season of the Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers Market. The market, which hosts over 70 vendors and occupies 16,000 square feet throughout the Hope Artiste Village, is the largest wintertime farmers market in New England.  The market is open every Saturday from November 1st through May 9th, 2015.

 The Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers Market expanded in 2013 to host more farmers, food artisans and prepared food vendors in both of the spacious main corridors and courtyard of the renovated Hope Webbing Company building. The expansion provided a more comfortable customer experience while still offering high-quality, locally-grown and sourced products in a festive, family-friendly atmosphere. 2014 promises to build on Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s track record for success!

 “Farm Fresh opened a winter market in 2007 with seven vendors in Downtown Providence at AS220,” said Farm Fresh Co-Executive Director Sheri Griffin. “Since then, increased support of farmers and local food in Rhode Island has resulted in more demand for local produce year-round.” Farmers that participate in the Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers Market have been able to meet this demand through incremental expansion of their businesses and by utilizing growing and storage techniques for cold-weather climates.

 As you stroll through the historic halls of the Hope Artiste Village each Saturday this winter, you can enjoy a diverse medley of local farms and vendors, listen to live music, sample fresh produce and enjoy lunch on the spot from prepared food vendors or some of Rhode Island’s favorite food trucks – located outside in the central courtyard of the building.

 Wintertime market-goers can expect a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables including: apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, onions, cranberries, mushrooms, greens, potatoes, radishes, winter squash, and more. Vendors will also be offering: locally-raised eggs, pork, chicken, beef, fish, charcuterie and shellfish; locally-produced applesauce, tomato sauce, jams, jellies, pickles and cheese; granola, bread, cupcakes, crepes, pies & baked treats and dog biscuits.

 The Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers Market is now easier to get to than ever before. The Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority’s (RIPTA) new R-Line bus route drops shoppers off right at the front door of the farmers market. For information on the R-Line’s stops and schedules, visit

www.ripta.com/r-line-.

For customers driving or biking to the market, it is located at both 999 and 1005 Main Street in Pawtucket. Parking lots are located around the perimeter of the building as well as street parking in the surrounding neighborhood. Bike racks are located in the central courtyard.

 About Farm Fresh Rhode Island

Farm Fresh Rhode Island is a non-profit organization dedicated to growing a local food system that values the environment, health, and quality of life of Rhode Island farmers and eaters. With this mission in mind, Farm Fresh seeks to preserve Rhode Island farmland, build healthier communities, support and strengthen community-based businesses in Rhode Island, increase access to fresh food, and improve the impact of food production and distribution on the environment. For more information, please visit

www.farmfreshri.org.

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