2016-10-20 / Opinion

EDITORIAL

Forum for the People


In light of the high volume of letters this week, we are dedicating this space – typically reserved for our editorial – to the letter-writers, who clearly wish to be heard. Their efforts express an array of opinions. That, in itself, makes for a powerful editorial. Bravo, Newporters!

A Fresh Vision

To the Editor: I am a proud Newport senior, and I am supporting Independent candidate Michael Smith for House District 75.

Our costs for housing, food, prescriptions, and other needed items continue to rise each year. When it comes to seniors, politicians always come begging for our vote, with a pocketful of promises, and then forget us. Public transportation is hardly available to us anymore. Sadly, Rhode Island is still taxing Medicare benefits, and taxes military retirees. It’s unconscionable!

I recently read that Rhode Island is ranked the 50th worst state to retire in America. Is anyone embarrassed by this fact?

Yet, we keep re-electing the same group of politicians that have put our state in the mess!

The group of seniors here at our home and I have met with Michael Smith numerous times. He understands what we are going through, as his mother is having to deal with many of the issues we are facing as well. His opponent lives in our neighborhood, and we’ve never seen her once.

We need Michael Smith’s fresh vision on election day. He will work for us, and make thing happen!

Dara Walsh
Newport

A Hard Worker

To the Editor: The 12th Senatorial District has an outstanding senator, Lou DiPalma, who has represented the district for the past eight years. During that time, he has been one of the hardest workers in the Senate, concentrating on issues important to all of us, such as finance, health, education, defense, and much more. The four years he served on the Middletown Town Council gave him a real understanding of municipal government, which he brings to bear on statewide issues. And the experience, knowledge and seniority he has achieved make him an exceptionally effective legislator. Re-electing Lou DiPalma assures more of that same diligent representation.

Gladys B. Lavine
Middletown

Park Resolution a Big Deal

To the Editor: “Keep Out,” “No Admittance,” and “Private Property,” as most Newporters know, are just some of the signs that may be found at different spots along the Newport waterfront. Therefore, it was impressive when the City Council at their meeting on Sept. 28, approved a resolution stating that when and if the City of Newport acquires the Navy Hospital property, a waterfront park with public access will be guaranteed up front. This is a big deal.

In point of fact, every City Council over the past 20 years has resolved that a harbor walk with public access should be supported and advanced whenever possible. But, this time, the city resolution is out in front of any planning for this site, which may very well bring significant development with condos or a hotel or a business park or some variation thereof when the deal is finalized.

Councilor McLaughlin, who brought forward the resolution, and Councilor Neville, who cosponsored it, deserve our thanks and applause. In turn, the City Council also deserves our thanks for supporting it unanimously. This resolution ensures that this beautiful piece of property will also be enjoyed by the public with access and waterfront activity, including boating and water transportation. A big deal indeed, well done!

Dave Wixted
Newport

Your Vote Counts

To the Editor: Amid the noise of this ongoing election season, it is important to stay focused on local and state elections, where our votes can truly make a difference. When I cast my own attention on the local candidates for Smith Hill offices, I find Sen. Louis DiPalma (District 12) worthy of my vote. Lou is knowledgeable, open minded, polite, and accessible to all his constituents, a democrat in the profound sense, inviting all to participate.

Dennis August Almeida
Little Compton

Gross Inefficiency?

To the Editor: As a Newport taxpayer, here are a few questions you should be asking yourself.

Newport recently spent $28 million to build the brand new Claiborne Pell Elementary School. So why is it left empty for three months during the summer? No business would operate so inefficiently; why does the City of Newport?

The quick answer, which really isn’t a good answer, is that the current school schedule has been inherited from the 1700s, when most schools were rural and the children were needed to help work the family farm during the summer. That need evaporated 100 years ago with the advent of the technological revolution.

A far better answer is to move to a longer school year so the building would be empty for only 30 days, not 90. Our children would benefit tremendously from having more education to prepare them for entry into a world facing accelerated technological change and uncertainty.

Teachers also would benefit, because when we demand a longer school year with longer 9-to-5 school days, they should be paid a higher salary. That would correct the fact that they are currently underpaid. They have one of the most important responsibilities in our society, but are not compensated accordingly. Why is that?

Also, Newport pays about $100,000 annually to Middletown to school our pre-kindergarten students because the Pell School wasn’t designed with space to accommodate them. And we are in the midst of spending $3 million to put a new roof on Rogers High School, which is about 60 years old and located in the south of the city when most students live on the north side.

So who is responsible for all of this inefficient so-called “management” of Newport’s school system? There’s no need to engage in a lot of finger-pointing, because we’ll have an opportunity to make changes in the voting booth on Nov. 8.

Think about all of this, and vote responsibly. It’s your money.

Don Dery
Newport

Council Videos Are Telling

To the Editor: The Portsmouth Town Council is in need of serious overhaul. This council’s lack of evaluating issues correctly has discounted the importance of making fair decisions in the best interest of all citizens of the community.

There have been too many issues decided by this council that have not been handled amicably and that were completely biased. Whether this council is going up for re-election or candidacy in other public office, change is paramount!

Before candidates exceed expectations and earn a vote, candidates must first meet expectations, which is consistently questionable with Town Council.

I urge each and every voter to review video of the Town Council meetings on the Town of Portsmouth website and come to your own conclusions before going to the polls.

Tarn Waring
Portsmouth

Ruggiero Champions Small Business

To the Editor: I have come to know Rep. Deb Ruggiero over the past eight years as a successful businesswoman and as an acknowledged community leader. Over these years Ruggiero and I have discussed the problems that face our state and what needs to be done to create a thriving business climate. In this regard, Ruggiero has a clear and consistent record of supporting policies and initiatives that help small business.

As chair of the Middletown Economic Development Advisory Committee, I can tell you that Ruggiero has attended many of the committee’s meetings where she listened and provided solid advice regarding my community’s business concerns. I consider her to be one of the hardest working legislators at the Statehouse and she is a woman of action as is evidenced by her support of the Micro Business Act, which directs the state to provide assistance to very small companies.

As a small business owner herself, Ruggiero has been a champion in the effort to eliminate regulations on small business. As a member of the House Finance Committee, she helped restructure the unemployment insurance tax paid by employers, saving Rhode Island business owners $30 million next year. She championed the legislation to repeal the sales tax on original works of art to help small business. She supported the legislation to assist local breweries and distilleries so they can grow their business. She voted to cut the corporate tax from 9 percent to 7 percent, the lowest rate of any New England state.

As a result of Ruggiero's legislative work, Rhode Island businesses no longer pay a sales tax on their utility bills, which means they can hire more employees or put the money toward their bottom line. Ruggiero's Renewable Energy Growth Law has created over 90 commercial solar projects in 28 Rhode Island communities, including Middletown, Jamestown and Newport. The solar panels you see on the Newport Animal Hospital, Lucy's Hearth and Newport Vineyards are a result of Ruggiero’s efforts which save these businesses thousands of dollars a year in electricity costs.

Ruggiero is extremely well-respected among her colleagues at the Statehouse, as well as in Rhode Island’s business community. When we elect her in November, she will be able to assume her new role as the chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business.

Middletown and Jamestown are fortunate to have someone of her integrity and leadership working on behalf of small business at the Statehouse. She's a listener, a collaborator and has a wonderful reputation for getting things done. Please join me in voting for Deb Ruggiero for State Representative, District 74, Jamestown/Middletown.

Robert M. Silva, Esq.
Middletown

Educational Investments for Defense Economy

To the Editor:

I have previously written that the defense economy is vital and critically important to Aquidneck Island, Newport County, Rhode Island and our national defense. The Tebaldi Report prepared for the Defense Economy Commission, which I co-chair, stated that in 2013 the defense sector, which includes the military defense infrastructure and the private defense industry, supported approximately 33,000 jobs. That equates to 6.2 percent of the state’s total employment. Our defense economy added approximately $3.7 billion to the state’s economic output. And, it generates approximately $105 million annually in tax revenues for the state, including $47 million in personal income tax revenues and $58 million in other tax revenues.

Critical to ensuring this most important sector of the state’s economy remains strong, sustained and growing, is targeted investments in education, from pre-K to 16, specifically in the STEM (science, technology, education and mathematics) subjects. These continued targeted investments in education are needed now more than ever.

Over the last two years, the General Assembly, in collaboration with Gov. Raimondo and the Executive Branch, has begun the process of targeted investments in education. Some of these targeted investments include the following:

. Continued funding of our pre- K-12 education funding formula, including increased funding for all District 12 school districts in FY ’17.

. Free PSAT and SAT for all 11th- and 12th-graders.

. The Prepare RI program, offering free college courses for students while they’re in high school;

. The Pathways in Technology Early College High (P-TECH) School Initiative, affording students the ability to earn a high school diploma and associate degree, ultimately leading to an initial job.

. The RI Promise Scholarship program, making it more affordable for Rhode Islanders to pursue a postsecondary degree or credential.

. The Wavemaker Fellowship program, offering tax credits to defray student loans to college graduates who live and work in Rhode Island.

. The Computer Science for Rhode Island (CS4RI) Initiative, making computer science education available to every student in all Rhode Island schools by the end of 2017.

. The National Mathematics and Science Initiative, “… improving how STEM subjects are taught and fostering student interest in math and science.”

. Enactment of a performance-based funding formula for higher education career readiness for all Rhode Island students.

It is paramount we remain vigilant in our oversight of these investments, ensuring the expected outcomes and making appropriate course corrections to address any negative unintended consequences that may manifest themselves.

As the first vice chair of the Senate Committee on Finance and a member of the Senate Committee on Education, I plan to remain vigilant in ensuring we achieve the desired results.

Sen. Louis P. DiPalma
District 12, Middletown

Candidate Statement

To the Editor:

I am a candidate for the Newport School Committee for a number of reasons, but most importantly I hope to increase the achievement and success of all our children. My wife, Brigid, and I have followed our five children through the Newport Schools over the past 20 years. Our youngest son is at Rogers High School. I have taken a collaborative open approach over the past 20 years as I’ve served on PTO boards, school improvement teams, teacher interview committees, school subcommittees and the Rogers Athletics Booster Club as my children made their way through the school system. I look forward to putting this experience to work as a member of the Newport School Committee.

My first step toward greater achievement would be to ensure that the emerging strategic plan is implemented and utilized as the framework to take our schools into the future. I have been frustrated by the current School Committee’s lack of vision for the future achievement of our schools. It is vital for the Strategic Plan to succeed that we include all stakeholders, students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community and business leaders who have a stake in making our schools the best that they can and should be.

I believe that there are many steps to achieving success of the plan. These steps follow a path from early childhood education to stem/steam education access through elementary school up through high school. After following these steps to high school we should be able to determine the likely path for the student, whether career or continuing on to college. If the steps are followed, we should be able to reach our goals and set our children up to succeed in life. I believe that we all achieve when our children achieve.

I hope that you will consider me when you vote on Nov. 8.

Raymond Gomes
Candidate for Newport School
Committee

Support Campaign Finance Reform

To the Editor:

After examining the most recent campaign filings at the Board of Elections, I was shocked to see Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed accepted over a quarter million dollars in campaign contributions from outside our district, just since the last election in 2014.

Additionally, a detailed analysis of her pattern of fundraising event schedules reveals a strategy that profits from In-Session solicitations from special interests, lobbyists and PACs to attend events held in Providence and not in our home district of Newport and Jamestown where fundraising is weak.

Starting in 2009, when she become Senate president, the data clearly shows an overwhelming amount of campaign contributions were received while the General Assembly was in session when compared to out-of-session proceeds.

In 2015, just after being elected for the twelfth time, the in-session fundraising events preparing for her next race two years away raised $146,000 compared to a paltry $2,800 during the six months after the session ended.

How does Senate President Paiva Weed expect us to believe that 100 percent of her efforts are focused on our district's needs when, not only has she taken on the responsibilities of running the Senate Chamber and overseeing 11 Senate Committees, she has to service the requests from hundreds of out-of-district donors, lobbyists, special interests and PAC’s that buy tickets to her events to be in her favor?

The money making machine she has in place gives her an enormous advantage over any potential opponent who could not have an in-session window to attract donors.

Tax free cash flow from campaign contributions, while legal, allows her to throw around tens of thousand on travel, dining out, and buying popularity with other legislators and non-profit organizations, in addition to employing one of the top campaign firms in the country.

The bottom line is people in District 13 think they have a choice when the Senator has an opponent on the ballot, when in reality they don’t. In-session fundraising allows her outrageous resources to convince constituents she’s doing it all for them.

We deserve to be represented, not by a career politician distracted by out-of-district special interests, but by someone who’s working 100 percent of the time for us.

Her explanation to Kathy Gregg’s ProJo inquiry was, "Fundraising is part of running for office and provides me with an opportunity to learn more about all the issues impacting my district.”

When her fundraising is almost all done in Providence, and 94 percent of the money she raised since the last election in 2014 ($252,998) has come from 779 out of district checks (85 from out of state), how do those contributors know anything about our issues, or even care? They want their own issues in her favor at the statehouse… not Newport’s or Jamestown’s.

Enough is enough! We need campaign finance reform to give us the choice of “the best of the best” as our founders intended.

To see the truth, visit SavForSenate.org and discover who’s behind the curtain of the senator’s campaign wealth.

Sav Rebecchi
Candidate for Senate District 13

Councilor Role Requires Skill and Experience

To the Editor:

The Middletown Town Council performs certain crucial functions that no other body can perform: representation, legislation, and oversight. If it fails to fill these roles adequately, Middletown loses.

Councilors deal with zoning and land-use laws: revising the Comprehensive Plan for an area or general reform of current ordinances. A councilor needs to have a grasp of the law, and an awareness of the risks and potential rewards of a change. The Law of Unintended Consequences is in full effect, and a bad decision can undermine years of hard work and thousands of dollars that homeowners and business owners have invested in their properties. A councilor must also be able to think "outside the box" – and needs to seek out and explore independent resources in their decision making process.

A good councilor needs to have an open, respectful and professional relationship with their colleagues, the town administrator, and the town staff. Unwarranted sarcasm has no place in sound professional government and is a distraction at best.

I have lived in Middletown for more than 52 years, am a graduate of the Middletown School system, and have served on the Town Council for eight years, having served as the president and past vice president and prior to that I was the chair of the Town Personnel Committee for six years. There are still many issues facing our town which I have been involved in, and I would like to see them through. This is a wonderful community whose citizens deserve patient, transparent and informed leadership, which I have advocated for.

My law enforcement background, having served as a Captain of Police and as a Deputy Attorney General for Law Enforcement, and my business experience as an owner and partner of a medium-size manufacturing facility for 18 years, clearly suggests that I possess the ethical, financial and business skills to serve Middletown.

Councilors should have the skill sets and experience to handle the complexity of issues that will challenge them, and the foresight and financial discipline to sustain a quality of life for every resident, not a select few.

I have always insisted on full transparency and I will continue to hold the line on accountability and sound budgeting practices. Of utmost importance are our continued and careful financial planning, taking efficient care of our roads, adequate funding for our schools, public safety, and setting aside dedicated funds for future downturns in the economy. An effective council must provide adequate funding, while being conscious of our taxpayers ability to pay.

I have been privileged to work with a number of dedicated councilors, town staffers and community members over the years, who have all worked together to create the vibrant community called Middletown. Serving Middletown as a public servant has been an honor, and I ask for your continued support on Election Day.

Robert J. Sylvia, President
Candidate for Middletown Council

Carson's Commitment Above and Beyond

To the Editor:

I read with dismay a recent letter from Mike Smith, Lauren Carson’s opponent, in which he criticized her for being an ineffective insider. Nothing could be further from the truth and I am compelled to reply to his groundless assessment.

While I first met Lauren when our sons attended school together, I didn’t get to know her until we served together on the Newport Energy and Environment Commission. I was immediately impressed by her “can do” enthusiasm, her thoroughness and attention to detail, and the way she could define, articulate and pursue solutions to a perceived problem. In our meetings with civic leaders, city councilors and community groups, she was rigorous in her preparation and follow-through. I wondered if she ever slept! She ran the recycling and composting at the Folk and Jazz festivals for several years, contributed to the Volvo Ocean Race Sustainability Plan, and spearheaded the NEEC campaign to require recycling at public events.

When she told me she was going to run for District 75 state representative, it seemed the most natural fit for channeling her passion for the environment and the economic and social well-being of our Newport community. My only regret was that she was not in my district!

Indeed, in just one year Lauren’s contributions in the Statehouse include:

Passing state legislation creating a House study commission on sea rise and flooding and then chairing that commission;

Passing state legislation designed to incentivize increased composting at R.I. institutions of higher learning;

Co-sponsoring successful legislation to phase out the 25,000 cesspools in R.I., protecting drinking water;

Creating a DEM Task Force to examine the creation of a residential and business flood audit program for R.I. to protect economic assets from flooding.

Most compelling, however, is what I see as her commitment to her constituents. Lauren has hosted a variety of public meetings over the past year to discuss Statehouse matters and other concerns, and all are welcome. I say her performance has gone above and beyond the call of duty.

Smith would do well to focus on issues instead of relentless negative smears. We’ve got enough of that going on in the presidential election.

Toni Wallace Ciany
Newport

A Man of Integrity

To the Editor:

During election season, I am often reminded of a quote by writer Dennis Prager: "Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people." As a staunch lifelong Republican and a former Republican candidate for state representative myself it is a rarity that I will actively campaign for and endorse a Democrat. I’ve only done so twice in my life. Once was for former State Rep. Peter Martin and the second is this year for Sen. Lou DiPalma. Both Sen. DiPalma and Martin share one quality. They are both men of honor and integrity.

I strongly believe in these tough economic times where many families are struggling we must put party label aside and vote for the best person for the job. To me, the choice is very clear for District 12. DiPalma is absolutely the only person in this race that has the knowledge, the skill, the thoughtfulness, the integrity and wherewithal to get citizens back to work. He can’t be bought. He reads every single bill thoroughly and he is not after power or trying to use this office as a stepping stone to a higher position. He is active in this community and will never put special interests ahead of his fellow citizens.

As a Republican, and most importantly as a citizen and active member of this community, I am proud to support this man of integrity I urge not only my fellow Republicans but all citizens of District 12 to stand with me in supporting and voting to re-elect Sen. Lou Di- Palma on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Anthony G. Spiratos
Newport

A Recognized Leader

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter to call attention to the outstanding record of service that Sen. Lou DiPalma (District 12) has developed in the Senate. In a time when political discussions have become intolerably partisan and unproductive, Lou is a light of nonpartisan data-driven decision-making. By working with him for five years in the Senate, I feel I can speak to his never-ending commitment to getting to the right answer, regardless of what party the idea originated from. He never once excluded me as a Republican from discussions and legislation. We had different viewpoints on several significant topics, but Lou’s decision process is always focused on data, facts, and doing the right thing for the right reason at the right time.

While many are questioning the ability of our national candidates to lead, I take satisfaction in knowing that by voting for Lou, I will be getting a senator who is respected by peers and so driven and responsible that he sits as the vice chair of the Finance Committee. He is a recognized leader, having passed multiple pieces of legislation to support effective care for the developmentally disabled members of our community. His work on the Municipal Shared Services Committee is ground-breaking in its attempts to be fiscally conservative with our tax dollars. He also chairs the Defense Economy Planning Commission, which is at the heart of our local economy. Let’s send him back to the Senate.

Christopher Ottiano, M.D.
Middletown

Editor’s Note: The last date for candidate statements or endorsements will be the Thursday, Oct. 27 edition. Letters in that issue cannot contain criticisms against opponents because there will be no time for rebuttal.

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