URI Today: Kingston Fire District, federal, state, URI officials celebrate $204,000 in grants

URI Today: Kingston Fire District, federal, state, URI officials celebrate $204,000 in grants

SOURCE: URI Today

KINGSTON, R.I. — The Kingston Fire District is bolstering its efforts to attract more University of Rhode Island students to its ranks and provide new firefighters with protective pants and coats thanks to $204,100 in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The district, which operates the Kingston Volunteer Fire Department, celebrated the grant awards recently with U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Congressman Jim Langevin, FEMA officials, various state elected officials, fire district and department leaders and URI administrators. The University is in the Kingston Fire Department’s jurisdiction and works closely with district officials to ensure that the department has the critical equipment necessary to protect the Kingston Campus’ 1,200 acres and 222 buildings.

Last year, the district was awarded a four-year, $168,100 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant to attract more University students to the volunteer force. The first year of the grant resulted in an increase from two to six recruits. The grant provides up to $5,000 a year per firefighter for tuition and other educational expenses reimbursement. Students who become members of the fire department are also provided a room at the firehouse at no cost.

Ina Sciabarrasi, vice president of the Kingston Fire Department Board of Wardens and Chief Nate Barrington present a plaque to J. Vernon Wyman, URI assistant vice president for business services for his decades of work with the department to ensure that it is well equipped. The department presented the award as Wyman prepares to retire from the University after 40 years of service. URI photo by Randy Osga.

The newest funding, from a $36,000 Assistance to Firefighters Grant, will enable the district to purchase turnout gear, coats and pants with thermal protection for new firefighters. The protective coats and hats are among the most expensive pieces of equipment for an individual firefighter. The grant amount includes a $2,000 match from the district.

Reed thanked Kingston Fire Chief Nate Barrington, the Kingston Fire District, and all of its members and their supportive families. “Protecting the community, fighting fires, doing what they do, is not only about great individual firefighters but also their families,” Reed said.

He thanked the Kingston Fire District Board of Wardens, FEMA and URI representatives for their critical roles in helping the Kingston Fire Department stay equipped with cutting edge apparatus and gear. At the event, he praised Dave Parr, a regional fire program specialist for FEMA and Lance Harbour, regional fire program specialist, for their hard work in helping fire departments across Rhode Island secure grants for equipment and training.

While addressing the grant for the turnout gear, Reed said, “The chief will tell you how critical specialized gear is. You cannot send firefighters into a hazardous condition without this gear. You have to have it, but it’s very expensive.”

“Again, let me commend the department, because these are competitive grants. This department has done especially well under Chief Barrington,” Reed said.

He said all of Rhode Island has benefited strongly from the FEMA program, and that “during its 16 years, our departments in Rhode Island have received almost $90 million.”

Langevin said he was especially proud to be with the firefighters who do the job day in and day out. “This is very dangerous work. Jack had it right when he said we all go home at night and rest easy, knowing that there are first responders who when the call comes, they are going to be there to answer it. Thank you for that.”

[Langevin] said the grants will go a long way to keeping the URI community safe. “The equipment you see behind me is absolutely vital for the firefighters safety and effectiveness.”

“This was a great celebration for the district, our wardens and firefighters, and our partners from Congress, the University, FEMA, state government and our families and friends,” Barrington said. “We are grateful to everyone who participated in the event for their commitment to keeping the Kingston Fire Department a top-flight emergency responder. Knowing that so many people support our mission boosts the morale of our firefighters, and it reminds them of our connections to the community. Thank you to everyone.”

The speaking program ended with the presentation of a plaque from the fire district to J. Vernon Wyman, assistant vice president for business services at URI, who is retiring after 40 years of service to the University. Over the decades, he has worked closely with the fire district to help it secure funding for essential equipment.

NextGov: DHS and Pentagon Memo Details Future Cyber Cooperation

NextGov: DHS and Pentagon Memo Details Future Cyber Cooperation

By Joseph Marks

The Pentagon and Homeland Security Department have established a memorandum of understanding that details how the departments will work together on cybersecurity in the future, a Homeland Security official confirmed Wednesday.

That agreement “reflects the commitment of both departments in collaborating to improve the protection and defense of the U.S. homeland from strategic cyber threats,” according to written testimony from Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Jeanette Manfra.

It also “clarifies roles and responsibilities between DOD and DHS to enhance U.S. government readiness to respond to cyber threats and establish coordinated lines of efforts to secure, protect, and defend the homeland,” according to the statement delivered to a joint hearing of the cyber panels of the House Homeland Security and Armed Services committees.

A Homeland Security official confirmed the agreement is completed but did not provide additional details.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., described the agreement in broad terms during the hearing. Richmond, who is the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security panel, said he has not read the memorandum yet.

The civilian-military agreement comes as the government is trying to ramp up civilian and military cooperation in cyberspace, especially when it comes to protecting election systems and other critical infrastructure such as banks, hospitals and airports.

In advance of last week’s midterm elections, 11 Pentagon cyber officials came over to Homeland Security’s cyber operations center as liaisons, Manfra told lawmakers during the hearing.

Those liaison officers were there to pave the way for their colleagues in case an election cyber threat popped up that state and local officials couldn’t handle on their own with Homeland Security’s support and the military needed to help out, Manfra said.

Though the departments were prepared, that threat didn’t materialize.

Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., the ranking member on the Armed Services panel, praised the Pentagon and Homeland Security for removing legal and bureaucratic barriers to cooperation in advance of the election.

In the future, it will be critical for the two departments to work together on cyber threats, he said.

“While Congress has been abundantly clear about DHS’ primacy in defending civilian networks in the United States, coordination, collaboration and information sharing with the DOD will be critical to the defense of the homeland,” [Rep. Langevin] said.
Congress officially authorized the Defense Department to send those detailees to Homeland Security in August in a pilot program included in the most recent version of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense policy bill.

The mammoth policy bill also mandated other Defense Department efforts to help the civilian government and critical infrastructure providers, such as banks and hospitals, repel cyberattacks if called upon.

The bill also mandated a study on whether to create cyber components in the military reserves that could assist states during a cyber emergency.

Overall, in the months leading up to the election, Homeland Security, the Pentagon and FBI made more progress on sharing cyber threat information and developing a common cyber operations picture than in the prior decade, Manfra told lawmakers.

Cranston Herald: Ceremony shines spotlight on ‘unsung hero’ caregivers

Cranston Herald: Ceremony shines spotlight on ‘unsung hero’ caregivers

By Ethan Hartley

PROVIDENCE, R.I.– The Family Caregiver Alliance of Rhode Island, in partnership with the state Division of Elderly Affairs, held its annual caregiver awards from the State Room of the Rhode Island State House Thursday, honoring those who put themselves second to care for their aging, disabled or otherwise in-need loved ones.

Among the recipients were Warwick resident and facilitator for the Parent Information Network (RIPIN) Tara Townsend-Hayes for caregiver of the year and, fittingly enough, Tara’s mother, Mary Townsend, who introduced Tara and received her own award for her work as head coach of the Warwick Superstars, a unified athletics team affiliated through the Special Olympics of Rhode Island.

The ceremony came during early November, which the state has recognized as Family Caregivers Month through a declaration from Governor Gina Raimondo. State officials and family care advocates from various organizations were on hand to congratulate the caregivers and provide some contextual information into how truly valuable – in more ways than one – family caregivers are.

“There are many caregivers in the room today,” said Michelle Szylin, acting director of the Division of Elderly Affairs. “Through your selfless action, you provide loved ones with support and comfort as they age, combat illness or live with disabilities. Your extraordinary efforts not only allow your loved ones to remain independent and living at home, but also have a significant impact on the Rhode Island economy.”

Congressman Jim Langevin, a longtime advocate for the Caregiver Alliance, put in perspective just how valuable family caregivers are to the state and to the country, who he said provides approximately 80 percent of long-term care to the chronically ill or disabled.

“If we had to come up with money to pay for those caregivers, it would be a value of $470 billion annually. That was more than the total federal and state Medicaid spending was in 2013,” he said. “That’s just a sobering figure if you reflect on that.”

In Rhode Island alone, Langevin said, an estimated 148,000 caregivers provide the equivalent of $142 million in care for their loved ones. Most of the time, he said, these caregivers do so at their own expense despite having busy lives, even full-time jobs, as there is simply no other option to ensure their loved one is being properly taken care of.

“You’re unsung heroes and often go unrecognized for your extraordinary commitment to your loved ones,” Langevin said, recalling when he first became paralyzed after a tragic incident when he was 16 years old as a member of the Warwick Explorer’s police cadet program.

“This issue is very personal for me and I understand in a very real way what family caregivers go through,” he said. “Without my family’s care and support that I had at that time, and throughout my life, I certainly would not be where I am today. I know it was not always easy on them, as it is not always easy on you.”

Langevin spoke about helping to author and champion both the original bill and the reauthorization of the Lifespan and Respite Care Act, which provides grant funding through the federal government to states in order to provide respite services to caregivers – essentially giving them resources to be able to better take care of their loved ones while also being able to maintain their own health.

Langevin was happy to report that the Respite Act funding had achieved its highest level of funding yet, with $1.1 million in grants to be made available in 2019. He also mentioned a separate bill, the VA Mission Act, which in addition to expanding benefits to veterans also makes additional services available to caregivers of disabled veterans from pre- and post-9/11 wars.

“We all know that caring for a loved one certainly can be personally rewarding – that’s what family is all about,” said Langevin. “We also know it can be emotionally, physically and financially draining and taxing. So, we thank you and salute the ones who provide this type of care.”

Local residents honored

Tara Townsend-Hayes was nominated for caregiver of the year for her work with RIPIN and her role in caring for her own son, Andrew, who was born with a rare congenital neuromuscular disorder that medical experts thought would take his life within days of being born.

“They told us he may not live three days,” said Mary Townsend in her speech introducing her daughter. “So, we’re here to say that faith, hope and perseverance are a part of everyone’s journey because Andrew is now 10 years old and in the fifth grade.”

Tara welled up with tears as she embraced with her mother and the large audience burst into applause. Although Tara has been the primary caregiver to Andrew his entire life, and will continue to do so throughout the entirety of his life, Tara considers every day with her family a gift – and has extended her benevolence to work with other parents in need of assistance with their own challenges.

“She [her mother] did teach me from a young age that people have different abilities and those that are able to help others need to be there for the others when they are facing difficulties and challenges,” she said. “Every day I am thankful for all that God has brought to me and I can only hope that I will leave a legacy that my family and community will be proud of. I know we’ve come a long way but we’ve got far to go as well. We just have to keep the faith.”

Also receiving an award for caregiving organization of the year was Mary Townsend, receiving on behalf of the Warwick Superstars unified athletics team.

The Superstars are separate from the Warwick public school system and compete in the Special Olympics in bowling and track and field. Still, they are composed of about 15 staff members from Warwick Public Schools that volunteer to help coach 60 athletes at this time and are provided outdoor and indoor space at Lippitt Elementary School to practice, according to Mary Townsend, who is the current head coach and has been involved with the group for about 30 years.

The Superstars practice each fall at Meadowbrook Lanes on a weekly basis, and then get into running shape through track and field activities in the spring. Townsend said it has been incredibly rewarding to work with the team, alongside longtime fellow volunteers and coaches.

“It’s a joy. Our older athletes are in their 20s now and Steve [Deloreto] and I started out with them when they were really little. It’s so special to see how far they’ve come,” she said.

Although Townsend was nominated for the award, she deflected credit onto others who help her with the Superstars, including Deloreto, Melissa Sicco, Christine Paquin, Kaitlyn Rachiele, Peg Alexander, Ann Pendergast – the Superstar’s longest participating coach – Shirlee Allenson, Paul Swanton and Laurie Maroney.

“We’re really a family,” Townsend said. “We grow together, the parents and the athletes. We all work together like a family.”

Both Tara and her mother Mary were nominated by Cristina Amedeo, Managing Director of the Rhode Island United Way 2-1-1 program, whose son has been an athlete on the Superstars for 10 years and, according to an emotional Amedeo, has gone from being totally nonverbal to making real progress thanks to being part of the team.

“They have become such an important part of our family,” she said. “When I think back to when he first started, he has grown so much and met so many friends…Nicholas really looks forward to every spring and every fall when he gets to compete. When I asked him what he liked the most about the Special Olympics, he said participating and having fun. That’s what it’s all about.”

Brown Daily Herald: R.I. elected officials talk future of Dem. Party

Brown Daily Herald: R.I. elected officials talk future of Dem. Party

By Alex Reice

PROVIDENCE, R.I.– After the midterm elections turned the House of Representatives blue, Rhode Island’s Democratic Congressmen say they are hopeful that their party is positioned for success in 2020. Recently re-elected officials Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse D-R.I., Rep. David Cicilline ’83 D-R.I. and Rep. Jim Langevin D-R.I. in addition to Sen. Jack Reed D-R.I., who was not up for re-election Nov. 6, spoke to The Herald about their hopes for the future of the country and the Democratic Party.

“We had extraordinary candidates running for Congress all across the country, and I think Democrats, including me, ran on a very specific agenda that really focused on the issues that are important to the American people,” Cicilline said.

Among the most pressing issues for Rhode Island’s elected officials is affordable healthcare. Whitehouse plans to prioritize healthcare by changing the industry’s incentives — rewarding doctors for having healthy patients rather than for the number of procedures they perform, he said. 

The congressmen also said they are ramping up efforts to improve economic conditions for middle-class families in the state. Cicilline hopes Congress takes action “on a number of proposals to help raise incomes and really address the economic consolidation in this country,” he said. “People need to earn a living wage,” and “nobody should be working 40 hours a week and living below the poverty level,” Langevin added.

Rhode Island representatives and senators alike expressed the importance of bipartisanship in addressing the issues most important to them. With the Senate and the presidency still in Republican hands, the only way to pass legislation in Congress is to work together “wherever possible,” Langevin said, adding that there is potential for bipartisan cooperation when it comes to infrastructure. Trump campaigned on a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure package, but getting that through Congress is something that will take both Democrats and Republicans, Langevin added.

While they plan to work across the aisle in Congress, Rhode Island’s elected officials see the election results as a sign of Americans’ dissatisfaction with Washington’s current Republican leadership. “There are a number of issues where I think the Democrats better reflect the concerns and wishes of the American public,” Whitehouse said. Americans are “voting for change, and they’re voting for Democrats,” Langevin said.

The Democratic majority in the House will also likely focus on checking the presidency, Cicilline said. “We’re going to be able to conduct real oversight,” he added. Democrats’ success sends a signal that Americans want to see “real accountability in Washington,” Reed said.

“Once there’s another power sector in Washington that he has to deal with, I think that the conversation will move much towards the middle,” Whitehouse said.

Rhode Island’s congressmen are also concerned about Trump’s recent firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In place of Sessions, Trump selected Matthew Whitaker as interim Attorney General, circumventing the normal line of succession which calls on the Deputy Attorney General to serve. “Why would you bring in somebody who isn’t in the ordinary line of succession and has not been confirmed by the Senate, unless you have some ulterior motive?” Whitehouse said. If it were just an ordinary president, “there’s nothing to get too excited about,” he added.

Now that the midterms are over, the Democrats voted into office are ready to show their constituents that they can accomplish real change. According to Langevin, Democrats have been running on an economic message prioritizing the working and middle class for years, and with newfound control of the House, “hopefully that is the message that we can deliver on. … We have two years before the next election to earn our message with the bills that we pass and the work that we do,” Whitehouse said, emphasizing the importance of running on policy rather than relying on political messaging to win over voters.

In preparation for a competitive presidential election in 2020, Cicilline sees issues centered around lowering healthcare costs, protecting retirement security and ensuring economic security for all as “the heart and soul of the Democratic Party,” he said. “I have no doubt that we’re going to have a very strong candidate to run against Trump, if he’s a candidate in 2020,” he added.

WJAR: Cicilline, Langevin weigh in on divided Congress

WJAR: Cicilline, Langevin weigh in on divided Congress

By Michelle San Miguel

The midterm election left the country with a divided Congress — Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans picked up more seats in the Senate.

Rhode Island Democratic Congressmen David Cicilline and Jim Langevin, who both won their bid for re-election, are optimistic Democrats and Republicans can find common ground.

“I hope right away we take up an infrastructure bill,” Langevin said. “The president had campaigned on infrastructure and the promise of a perhaps one-trillion dollar infrastructure package. Democrats welcome that.”

With Democrats in control of the House for the first time since 2010, Cicilline is seeking a leadership position. If Cicilline becomes the assistant Democratic leader, it would make him the fourth ranking Democrat in the House.

“I hope that the work that I did as a member of the House Democratic leadership in helping to bring us into the majority will be valued by my colleagues,” Cicilline said.

Cicilline and Langevin welcome the checks and balances that Democrats will have now that they’re in control of one of the two chambers.

NBC 10 political analyst Wendy Schiller cautions that Democrats should pick their battles wisely.

“Democrats should not spend all their time investigating Trump. That’s a no win for the voters. They don’t want to see that. They want to see the Democrats worrying about healthcare, education, security,” Schiller said.

Cicilline said, “I think there’s an enormous amount of work that have to do with respect to our oversight responsibilities that have nothing to do Mr. Mueller’s investigation — that have to do with administration policies, child separation policies, the Department of Justice’s policies. I mean there are a whole range of issues that require immediate review from this administration.”

As for whether House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should be named House Speaker once again, Schiller said, “At this point in time, the Democrats need an experienced politician who can go toe to toe with Trump, who knows Washington, who knows how to deal with McConnell. The very person that is – is Nancy Pelosi.”

Cicilline said he’ll support Pelosi for the speaker position.

When NBC 10 asked Langevin if he would vote for Pelosi, he said, “I think all options are on the table right now. I’m not announcing my support for anyone just yet to be the next speaker. I’m excited that it’s going to be a Democrat.”

WJAR: Beyond the Podium- Congressman Jim Langevin

1. What differentiates you from your opponent(s)?

  • It is my experience working for middle class Rhode Islanders that differentiates me from my opponent. I have fought tirelessly for our state’s working class families. All families deserve a fair shot at achieving the American dream, and that means quality and affordable healthcare, good jobs with good pay, and quality education.
    I am proud of my record fighting for Rhode Island seniors and people with disabilities against Republican efforts to privatize Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I also continue to work on policies and funding to improve our nation’s career & technical education programs so workers have the skills to succeed in 21st Century jobs.
    I have nearly two decades of experience fighting for Rhode Islanders, and I know how to be their champion in Washington.

2. Explain what you see as the most important issue facing the state, and how you believe it should be addressed.

  • Rhode Island’s economy is on the rise, but in order to see sustained, long-term growth, we need to do a better job of closing our skills gap and aligning what is taught in the classroom with the skills our local businesses need. Our hardworking students deserve good-paying jobs and Rhode Island’s businesses need workers who are ready to work on day one. I was proud to fight for increased career and technical education funding to address this skills gap, but there is still more work to do. I remain committed to fighting for the necessary resources at the federal level to ensure all Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to succeed with 21st-century skills, in the 21st-century economy.

3. RI is scheduled to expand tractor trailer tolling along I-95. Do you agree with those expansion plans?

  • This is a state issue that will be determined by the General Assembly and Governor.

4. Are the current gun laws in Rhode Island too strict, too weak, or just right? If not just right, what needs to be changed? Should teachers and/or other school employees who are not law enforcement officers be armed?

  • Many federal laws affect gun safety for Rhode Island residents. While I support the second amendment, I believe in common sense gun safety laws. I support universal background checks, and closing the “gun show loophole”. I am also strongly opposed to efforts to impose “concealed carry reciprocity,” which would invalidate state laws relating to carrying a concealed handgun and instead allow most people to carry automatically. I am also fighting for federal support for strong child access protection laws that hold parents accountable when their child accesses an unsecured gun. As someone who was injured, albeit accidentally, at the hands of well-trained professionals, I reject the notion that arming teachers will keep our kids safer, and help reduce risks in schools.

5. Under what circumstances would you support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Rhode Island?

  • I support the rights of states to develop medical marijuana rules, and I hope more research will be conducted into its medical uses. To that end, I have voted for legislation that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. However, marijuana remains a restricted drug at the federal level, and, absent further research, I do not support changing that designation for recreational purposes.

6. Are you satisfied with the way sports betting is being implemented in Rhode Island?

  • Sports betting was regulated at the federal level until a Supreme Court decision earlier this year. Because the ruling was so recent, it is too early to say whether Congress should step in again and introduce new laws relating to sports betting or whether it should be left to the states. I will continue to monitor this issue as new state approaches emerge.

7. Is the minimum wage in Rhode Island too high, too low, or just right? If not just right, what should it be?

  • I believe the minimum wage in Rhode Island is too low, which is why I support federal legislation to increase the minimum wage for all states to $15 per hour by 2025. I don’t think anyone should work a 40-hour workweek and still live below the poverty level. Hardworking Americans should be able to support their families with fair compensation.

8. What are your thoughts about the ongoing opiate crisis? Are current local and national policies appropriately addressing it?

  • I have been devastated by stories I’ve heard from Rhode Islanders who have been personally affected by the opioid overdose epidemic. Addiction is a public health crisis that we must use a comprehensive approach to address, with a particular focus on treatment and counseling. I am proud to have worked with the federal delegation to support the opioids bills that have been signed into law over the past two years to bring millions of dollars to Rhode Island to help with prevention and recovery. I have also introduced legislation that would improve collaboration between local, state, and federal law enforcement when it comes to interdicting potent narcotics like fentanyl at the border.

9. What national issue or controversy do you believe resonates most deeply in Rhode Island?

  • Constituents across my district are deeply concerned about quality affordable healthcare. They are worried about rising costs and if they will be denied coverage if their preexisting conditions are no longer covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We must work together to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for all Rhode Islanders.

10. What is an example of a policy or issue you have changed your view on in the last 20 years?

  • I strongly oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, for much of my legislative career, I did not support same-sex marriage, believing instead that civil unions were sufficient. It was not until 2011, three years after I attended the commitment ceremony of one of my long-time staff members, that I finally understood that preventing same-sex couples from achieving full marriage equality was, in fact, a form of discrimination. Since then, I have proudly fought for full marriage equality.

BONUS ROUND – ANSWER ANY OR ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS:

1.  What has drawn you to public service?

  • I have always had a strong desire from an early age to serve my community. Growing up, I wanted to be a police officer, and perhaps going on to become an FBI agent. When my accident ended my law enforcement dream, the outpouring of support that I received from the community inspired me to give back and pursue a career in public service.

2.  Who is your political hero? Why?

  • I will list two: President Franklin Roosevelt and Senator Claiborne Pell. As President, FDR guided the nation through one of the most difficult, tumultuous times in our history, and he never let his disability get in the way. And Senator Pell was a champion of good public policy for Rhode Island and the nation. He didn’t care about taking credit and he always put his constituents first.

3.  Under what circumstances would you tell a lie?

  • As President George Washington said in one of my preferred fables, “I cannot tell a lie.” I think this a good philosophy for all of us to follow.

4.  What is the best advice you have ever gotten?

  • The best advice I have received is from the late and former State Representative Paul Sherlock, one of my oldest political mentors. He told me that the key to being successful in public service is to be “accessible, responsive, and to never embarrass your constituents.” I have taken this advice to heart, and it has been a guiding principle throughout my career in public service.

5.  Top item on your “bucket list?”

  • I’d love to visit the Egyptian pyramids.

Name:

  • the last live music concert you saw:
    • U2
  • the last movie you saw in a theater:
    • “Mission Impossible: Fallout”
  • the TV show you never miss, or the last one you binge-watched:
    • Game of Thrones
  • What sports team(s) (Pro, college, Little League) do you cheer the loudest for?:
    • Patriots
  • What question do you wish someone would ask you and what would your answer be?:
    • I would like to hear from someone who is considering entering public service and would like to know if it is worthwhile. I would them know that it certainly is. While the intensity of today’s political climate may be intimidating, it’s absolutely critical to get involved. We are in desperate need of good people in the public arena who are in public service for the right reasons.
WPRI: Ground broken on Pawtucket-Central Falls commuter rail, bus hub

WPRI: Ground broken on Pawtucket-Central Falls commuter rail, bus hub

By Bill Tomison

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — With the heft of shovels, Rhode Island leaders launched a transit center project Friday afternoon kicking around Pawtucket and Central Falls for years: a new commuter rail station that will incorporate the state’s public bus service.

The hub project is part of the RhodeWorks bridges and transportation infrastructure improvement initiative. Joining Gov. Gina Raimondo for the groundbreaking were the state’s congressional delegation; Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. Jim Langevin and Rep. David Cicilline all played roles in securing funding for the project.

On Pine Street at Goff Avenue, the new transit center will be situated in a wedge-shaped lot next to a neighborhood of industrial mill buildings – several redeveloped, or being redeveloped, into loft apartments and more – all part of the Conant Thread District straddling the two cities, which itself has lofty goals for development.

When the transit center’s commuter rail connection is finished, it’ll allow riders to connect to Providence, T.F. Green Airport’s InterLink, and Wickford Junction stations on the MBTA’s intercity rail system, as well as Boston and South Attleboro, and all the Massachusetts cities in between.

It’ll take over from Pawtucket’s current bus interchange on Roosevelt Avenue. The center will include an overpass over the train tracks, elevators, ramps and stairs. Early estimates figure 520 people will board transit at the hub each day.

The price tag for the project is $47 million, funded by federal grants known as TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery – now known as BUILD) grants, funding from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), as well as grants from the state and city.

The actual construction work starts immediately, according to RIDOT spokesperson Charles St. Martin, and the bulk of it will take about three years all told. The bus aspects are set to be completed by the end of 2020; train, late 2021, but train service won’t be expected to start until summer 2022 due to safety testing. Most of the work will be done during overnight hours, when Amtrak trains won’t be running on the rails that workers will have to build over and alongside.

ProJo: Rep. Langevin, seeking to restrain Trump, faces Caiozzo, GOP moderate and veteran

ProJo: Rep. Langevin, seeking to restrain Trump, faces Caiozzo, GOP moderate and veteran

By Mark Reynolds

PROVIDENCE, R.I. –

A 57-year-old West Greenwich man who served in the Army before he ran a plumbing business is the Republican candidate who hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin next month.

To continue his run in Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, which started in 2000, Langevin must vanquish Salvatore G. Caiozzo on Nov. 6.

Langevin has done this before. But the political landscape has changed since the 54-year-old Democrat beat Caiozzo in 2016.

This is not to say that Caiozzo, who ran as an independent that year, now represents himself as Rhode Island’s version of President Donald Trump.

“I am Sal,” Caiozzo says in the early moments of his interview. “Sal is a guy who has been out here with everybody else and knows exactly what everyone is going through. I have my own platform.”

“Yes, I am a Republican, because I stand by certain Republican values, but it doesn’t mean I stand by all of them,” adds Caiozzo, who describes his politics as moderate and not unlike those of a John F. Kennedy Democrat.

That said, here are a few things that Caiozzo and Trump agree on:

Like Trump, Caiozzo supports members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization spending more money on their own defense.

“I think we’ve been used long enough by NATO,” says the candidate, who won endorsement from the Republican Liberty Caucus, an association of the GOP’s libertarian-leaning activists.

But if the U.S. spends less money on its NATO commitments, Caiozzo says, the savings should benefit veterans.

Caiozzo, who says he was disabled by exposure to chemicals on an Alabama Army base in the 1980s, talks quite a bit about supporting veterans.

Like Trump, Caiozzo wants to change the nation’s health-care policy. But he says he would not abandon parts of the Affordable Care Act that provide coverage for preexisting conditions.

Schools and education decentralization are central to the Taunton, Massachusetts, native’s platform. He says he wants to improve education across the country and he believes education should be governed at the state and local levels, not by the federal government.

Neither Caiozzo nor Langevin brought up the probe being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

When prompted, Caiozzo says, “I haven’t really seen the Mueller investigation come up with anything.” He adds that he regards the probe as a “waste of money.”

Langevin said if he and other Democrats can control the House after the election, they can provide stronger checks and balances on Trump generally.

He is hopeful, he says, that even with the current Republican majority in the House, Congress will keep Trump from shutting down the investigation.

“I’m determined to let the truth come out and let the facts lead where they will,” Langevin says.

But taking control of the House would “certainly allow us to advocate for and put forth policies that are important to building a strong middle class in this country,” he says.

“We would end attempts to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act,” he says. “And we would hopefully work on ways to strengthen and improve health care, quality health care, in the country, and also work on growing good-paying jobs to further grow a strong middle class.”

The experienced politician has lots to say about how he would proceed if given the chance.

Langevin’s focus is on the middle class, improving the health-care system, launching infrastructure projects, protecting the country from cyberattacks and reducing gun violence.

“The country is at its best when we have a very strong middle class,” says the Warwick resident, who also says political leaders must do what’s possible to help Rhode Islanders gain the skills they need to find good-paying jobs.

Langevin, the first quadriplegic elected to Congress, was paralyzed when he was accidentally shot as a 16-year-old. He says he’s captivated by research that shows that a large proportion of all guns tied to crimes are funneled through a very small proportion of companies that supply guns.

“There is something wrong with that,” he says.

 

Salvatore G. Caiozzo

Age: 57

Residence: West Greenwich

Occupation: Retired from plumbing business, disabled veteran

Affiliation: Republican Party

Education: Monsignor Coyle & Cassidy High School, attended Labore Junior College and the University of Palermo

Previous elected office: None

Family: Single with two grown sons and one daughter

 

JAMES R. LANGEVIN

Age: 54

Residence: Warwick

Occupation: U.S. representative

Affiliation: Democrat

Education: Rhode Island College, Harvard University

Previous elected office: Rhode Island secretary of state, 1995-2000; state representative, 1989-1994

Family: Single

WPRO: RIPTA unveil 3 new zero-emissions buses

WPRO: RIPTA unveil 3 new zero-emissions buses

By The Associated Press and Tessa Roy, WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rhode Island’s public transportation agency has its first electric buses.

Gov. Gina Raimondo joined federal and state officials Monday to unveil the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s three new zero-emissions, electric buses. She called it a “major step toward a cleaner and greener future.”

“We bought three buses now, like the ones we just rode on, and over the next four years, we’re going to be replacing about one third of our fleet. So four years from now, we think we’ll have a third of our fleet to be electric,” she said.

A number of officials, including Rhode Island’s whole congressional delegation [including Congressman Langevin], took rides on the new buses on Monday. Senator Jack Reed said they will benefit not just the environment, but also public health.

“We have, particularly in urban areas, significant outbreaks of of asthma, chronic lung problems. One of the major contributing factors is transportation, cars, buses. Once we get those under control,  we’re going to have a situation with better health outcome,” he said.

The leased buses will be tested and staff will be trained in the maintenance and charging of the vehicles before they are put in service.

The $14.4 million plan includes replacement of aging diesel buses with the purchase of 16 to 20 electric buses starting in 2021, as well as installation of a charging infrastructure in the state for private electric vehicles.

The state’s portion of the settlement with Volkswagen over its emissions testing scandal will help pay for the program.