Monthly Archives: May, 2010

Steve Stycos on Markets, Land Deals, and Happenings in Cranston

School Committee member Steve Stycos provided the following update through his e-newsletter:

MARKET GROWS

Alan and Bob Fratantuono of Moosup River Farm attended the market last week, selling asparagus and Ingrid Fratantuono’s preserves. Other vendors, including Warwick beekeeper Bernie Bieder, will join the market during the next month. Last week, Richard Duquette, who in past years sold “hens and chicks,” spiraea and other plants, stopped by the market to say he is recovering from major surgery, but may return in the fall.

If you would like to help promote the market, we need people to ask local businesses to display our attractive poster in their shop windows. The poster was designed by Juan Cano. If you want to help put up posters, please respond to this email.

The market accepts EBT cards for recipients of SNAP/food stamps and debit cards. All transactions start at the recycling table.

BIRD WALK

Saturday’s market (May 22) will feature a bird walk along the Pawtuxet River, guided by Mike Kieron, assistant curator of the Roger Williams Park Museum of Natural History. Please bring binoculars, but not dogs. Children are welcome, but should be at least seven years old. The walk begins at 8 AM in the lower Rhodes on the Pawtuxet parking lot.

HORSHOE CRAB WALK

Edgewood’s Wenley Ferguson, Save The Bay’s habitat restoration coordinator, will lead a salt marsh walk at Cranston’s Stillhouse Cove May 25. The short walk starts at 6:30 PM in hopes of viewing horseshoe crab mating during a spring moon tide. Wenley will also discuss the Stillhouse Cove restoration efforts. The walk will start at the cove’s southern end, at the junction of Ocean Avenue and Narragansett Boulevard. All welcome. Rain date is May 26.

ANOTHER CRANSTON LAND DEAL

A controversial proposal to change zoning to allow more development in western Cranston will be considered by the Cranston City Council Monday Mat 22. The amendment, which was approved by the Ordinance Committee May 13, would rezone 95 acres near the junction of Pippin Orchard Road and Laten Knight Road to allow quarter acre lots.

Mayor Fung and City Planner Peter Lapolla oppose the proposal which they estimate could cost the city $3.1 million more in school, road and public safety costs than it would raise in tax revenue. Potentially, Lapolla told the council, the change could allow 155 new housing lots. City Council President John Lanni, Ward 2 Councilman Emilio Navarro and Ward 4 Councilman Robert Pelletier defended the change as a way to promote economic growth and allow middle class people to purchase homes. The landowner, Albert Scaralia, is a major contributor to the Cranston Democratic Party and city officials, including Navarro and Fung.

Several speakers, including Rachel McNally of Save Cranston’s Open Space, Katie King and Steve Stycos of the West Bay Land Trust and residents Mary Genco and Dale Saccocio urged the council to reconsider the environmental and financial costs of the change to the proposed city comprehensive plan. The Ordinance Committee (with Ordinance Committee chair Anthony Lupino absent), however, voted unanimously to send the amended comprehensive plan to the full council.

Earlier this year the council approved a zone change, proposed by Ward 5 Councilman Richard Santamaria, to allow Stop & Shop to build a supermarket on Warwick Avenue. Since then Stop & Shop developer Richard Baccari has been implicated in a scheme to bribe four members of the North Providence City Council to receive a zone change for another Stop & Shop building.

If you are opposed to subsidizing development in western Cranston or support keeping part of our city rural, contact your city councilman. The meeting Monday May 24 begins at 7 PM at City Hall.

EVENTS AT HALL LIBRARY

May 24th, 6 PM: Sam Brusco on renovating a home without spending a fortune. Sam will share his knowledge about permits, architects and construction for homeowners who are considering a renovation project.

May 19th, 6:30 PM: Rhode Island Civil War Round Table.

May 19th, 6:30 PM: Reading in the Hall. The William Hall Library Book Group will discuss Sue Miller’s The Senator’s Wife. This is a searing novel of infidelity and politics at the highest level. Call or email to register.

May 26th, 6 PM: Cranston High School East Jazz Band and Jazz Combo will perform on the lawn. Directed by Mark Collozzi, the Jazz Band will perform standards as well as some contemporary pieces. Join us for the opening concert of the 2010 season. The rain date is May 27.

June 9th, 12:30 PM: This month’s Brown Bag Poetry will feature local author and poet John Long. John will be reading from “Seaward Edge” and his latest collection of poetry. Bring your lunch to this free program.

See you Saturday at the market.

Somewhere in America

Risking Their Lives

Lest we forget, it was not so long ago that Americans risked their lives to defend our dignity  and help to undo the curse of racial segregation.

I googled ‘lunch counter’ and got a number of these images. This is from the Smithsonian, and I don’t know the names of the young men or the exact place or year, but surely it was the South in the 1960′s.

Sometimes the accumulation of small indignities can become unbearable. Especially when the threat of major harm, and even death, is always in the background.  The men in the picture risked all for equal rights.

Politicians like to re-write the past. Because we have more social freedom, and we find it good, it’s comfortable to believe it was always this way– that reasonable people would always act so. But close to the time and place of this photo a 14 year old boy was tortured to death by grown men for stepping out of line. No mercy.

We love the Martin Luther King who had a dream. But look at the grim faces of these men, and remember that Dr.King faced threats to himself and his family every day, faced prison, and finally was murdered.

What we have now is hard won, and not guaranteed. Many living today remember segregation. Sometimes citizens need the government to step in when the rights of the individual are threatened.  The level playing field only exists in the ideal. Here on earth people need protection and justice.

FAMILY STORY: ten years ago I attended the Green family reunion in Montgomery, Alabama. It was my first visit to the deep South. Montgomery had a museum dedicated to the history of Rosa Parks and the bus boycott. My mother in law said, ‘It takes me back.’

She lived this history. Many Americans lived it and remember.

HISTORICAL VIEW:  An argument that libertarianism without strong legal protections for individuals is a pathway to re-segregation.

Be Very Afraid

Rand Paul in Kentucky. When the Repubs go totally over the edge the hope of a two-party system with a real debate recedes.

Is this significant, a measure of the tone of the debate?

HEBRON, Ky. — After winning Kentucky’s Republican primary Tuesday night, Bowling Green ophthalmologist Rand Paul refused to take the call of congratulations from opponent Trey Grayson, according to Grayson’s campaign manager Nate Hodson.
Hodson did not elaborate, except to say “it happened.”
“This is truly a classless act in politics,” said Marc Wilson, a Republican lobbyist and friend of Trey Grayson.

Six months is a long time.

OUTSIDE AGITATORS: If you grew up in the sixties, it’s very weird to hear Rand Paul vs ‘the establishment’. This link follows the money, most of it was not raised in the Bluegrass state.

ON RACE: Well, you can make an argument, as here via Taylor Marsh, that restaurants should be able to refuse service to any racial or other groups the management doesn’t like, and the public will so abhor this disgraceful prejudice that such business will get no customers. That’s how it worked through most of American history, right? No one ever got ahead by pouring hell and humiliation on a minority. And Martin Luther King had a dream.
Rand Paul repeats the same line on Rachel Maddow.

SPEAKING THE SAME LANGUAGE: That would be, ‘Weasel’. Sarah Palin’s endorsement was warmly received by the Paul campaign. Don’t think either of them is inarticulate. They are actually highly skilled in the faux-sincere techniques of appearing to say something while preserving deniability. I’d look out for ‘dog-whistles’ too since both of them pal around with groups that they wouldn’t want to be seen with on the national stage. Palin and Paul are both very smart people and have cash and influence behind them. Don’t underestimate.

CALLING HIM OUT: Rand Paul is already doing damage control over his convoluted non-support for the laws that banned racial discrimination.

On Thursday Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) an iconic figure of the Civil Rights movement seemed visibly angered when discussing Paul’s comments on MSNBC.
“I do believe he is not good for this country going forward,” the South Carolina Democrat declared.

Read Rep. Clyburn’s point by point dismantling of Rand Paul’s argument here.

Nominal Purity

I’m posting this for a laugh before work. A blogger reports on a plan to remove all Spanish place names from Arizona. He’s an academic. His name is Professor Smart—. Do you think this might be satire?

Wages o’ Sin

Bristol Palin is on the fast track to financial success with a new career as a public speaker. She’s said to be charging $30,000 for a few hours of lecturing on chastity and abstinence.

All over this great nation of ours, there are young Christians who have kept their virginity pledge. And no one is paying them to talk about it. They are on their feet for twelve hours at a time, wearing paper hats and asking, ‘do you want fries with that?’

I was just talking to a woman around Bristol’s age. She is also a single mother, and she makes about $10/hr. One night’s work at Bristol’s pay grade would be more than she makes in a year.

And let us consider the Sunday School teachers, who instruct and inspire our young people, and are paid in cupcakes.

On the other hand, by entertainer standards Bristol Palin’s fee is just mid-range. If she’s selling notoriety then she’s right to get it out before it gets stale.

Evangelicals are pros at staging extravaganzas, going back to the tent revivals. That’s why they build megachurches. Look out for a megachurch to be Bristol Palin’s natural venue. You heard it here first.

Preaching to the Terrorized — An Allegory

[Seeing that Reverend Wright has emerged for more media time, I'd like to run this post again. The Good Lord spoke in parables, and so does Ninjanurse, when she manages not to forget the point halfway through]

It was a lovely day for a wedding at the Full Word of God Church, the church that takes the Bible literally. The bride and groom were both pure and uncompromised. Both home-schooled, and graduated with honors from Bible College. He was already making a good living selling Amway, and she looked forward to being a full-time Christian mother.

A guy with a guitar played that Paul Stookey wedding song, and then the guest preacher got up to say a few words to the happy couple. The Pastor, sadly, was in the hospital with a kidney stone. At the last minute they were able to get Reverend Ezekiel Bright.

Rev. Bright said a few words about the importance of faithfulness, and then launched with a thundering voice into these verses from the Bible…

“Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother:

And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity.

… And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoredom, and she was polluted with them, and her mind was alienated from them.

So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister.

Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt.

For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses.” Ezekiel 23

The Reverend was winding up to share some more of the Holy Word, and elaborate on the ‘issue of horses’ but he never got the chance. Someone tripped over the microphone cord, and in that moment the choir director signaled the start of the Alleluia Chorus while the Ladies Guild surrounded Rev. Bright and hustled him to the back of the church.

The wedding went on with great festivity, and the Ladies plied him with cake until he fell asleep from sugar overload. He woke up in an empty church with a headache and a raging thirst, and a conviction that he had been greatly disrespected. ‘Tripped over the mike’ indeed. That was no accident.

“Lord!” he cried, “Why have they forsaken me?”

“What have I done, but tried to share your sacred word?”

“Have you not told us to be urgent in season and out of season, as St. Paul said?”

Tears filmed his eyes as he stared into the darkness of the empty church, and lo– the Lord appeared to him. Jesus walked up close to Rev. Bright and whupped him on the side of the head.

“Haven’t you ever heard of ‘context’”, asked the Lord. “How can you expect to reach people’s hearts and minds when you’re throwing a holy hand grenade at them?”

“But St. Paul said…”, Rev. Bright stuttered…

“Don’t start with me!”, growled St. Paul, materializing at Jesus’ right hand. “I was a Jew to the Jews and a Roman to the Romans. Give me credit for knowing a few things about politics.”

Jesus and St. Paul then stood on each side of Rev. Bright. St. Paul whupped him on the other side of his head and then they rose in a celestial cloud and vanished.

Rev. Bright pondered long and hard after that, but he never figured out what the Lord meant by ‘context’. It sounded too much like ‘compromise’. He ended up in a church that shared his vision, with a small congregation in a compound in Idaho.

He still feels hurt that the Full Word of God church would not hear his message about marital faithfulness, so biblical and appropriate to a wedding.

But sometimes it’s not what you say — it’s how you say it.

One Born Every Minute

I remember the days when there was nothing to drink except the socialist government nanny-state fluid that came out of the tap. For us Providence residents, that’s from the Scituate Reservoir, where fish swim around and poop. Back then we didn’t have the modern luxury of water packed by friendly non-profit family businesses like Coca-Cola, kept in plastic bottles for months or years, and blessed by magical names and claims that this drink is far superior to ordinary H2O.

It gets better than that. Sometimes this water gains potency by being shipped from distant countries in shipping containers big enough to live in at who knows what carbon cost.

Even your humble correspondent, who is working all day while waiting for the MacArthur Genius Grant to show up in the mail, has it figured out. Since I don’t have time to write a book, I’ll link to this…

Peter Gleick, a freshwater expert, is the author of Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.

The growth of the bottled water industry is a story about twenty-first-century controversies and contradictions: poverty versus glitterati; perception versus reality; private gain versus public loss. Today people visit luxury water “bars” stocked with bottles of water shipped in from every corner of the world. Water “sommeliers” at fancy restaurants push premium bottled water to satisfy demand and boost profits. Airport travelers have no choice but to buy bottled water at exorbitant prices because their own personal water is considered a security risk. Celebrities tout their current favorite brands of bottled water to fans. People with too much money and too little sense pay $50 or more for plain water in a fancy glass bottle covered in fake gems, or for “premium” water supposedly bottled in some exotic place or treated with some magical process.

A rather scary chapter from the book involves a college president justifying the decision to build a sports stadium with no public water fountains, resulting in scores of fans getting sick from dehydration when the $3/bottle water at the concession stands ran out.

We actually have spring water sources right here in the state, but for rigorous testing and accountability you’re best off with what comes out of your faucet. I still shake my head that we have not only been sold on paying for something that is inferior to what we can get for free, but also persuaded to dismantle a public good so basic and necessary we could get to take it for granted– until it dries up.

We Are All Arizonians

Or is it Arizonans? Arizonites? Whatever Sarah Palin said.

If you get caught jaywalking in Arizona, you’d better be prepared to SHOW YOUR PAPERS. Unless you can say who won the World Series in ’73, or remember the words to the theme from Gilligan’s Island. Okay, I’m just speculating on quick and easy ways to prove your citizenship.

If a law that targets one group of people makes you uneasy for your own civil rights and liberties then you are thinking a few steps ahead. What goes around comes around.

You think it can’t happen here? This is from ProJo.com.

CENTRAL FALL, R.I. — Central Falls Police Chief Joseph P. Moran III has launched an internal investigation into a Guatemalan man’s allegation that a desk-duty officer refused to let him report a beating, because – as the officer allegedly said – the man “is Spanish” and therefore presumed he must be “an illegal immigrant.”

The accuser, Mario Ortega, of Central Falls, speaking through an interpreter, said the officer told him that “because of his [assumed] immigration status, he can’t file a police report.” Ortega said the officer also said that “his [the officer's] tax money doesn’t cover his [Ortega's] being in the hospital” as a result of his injuries.

If this story is true, then a police officer didn’t bother to pursue a couple of thugs who beat a man so badly that his bone was sticking out of his leg. Just leave them on the street. They won’t bother anyone.

I’m proud that the minister of my church will be in Arizona this month, standing against racism, against profiling, and for justice. Immigration reform and fair enforcement are badly needed, compromising civil rights is not the answer.

Just Give It Up For Adoption

More in today’s papers about the debate over legal abortion. I want to post a link to a column in last week’s New York Times, written by a woman who chose to have a baby and release him for adoption.

There’s happiness and sorrow in the story. It’s not a simple story, and not finished until everyone’s life has run its course. There’s an ad campaign out with the slogan ‘abortion changes you’. Usually it does, as does childbirth, motherhood, adoption and other life events. It’s easy to judge what other people ‘should’ do or ‘should’ feel when you bear none of the consequences. But each woman has her own individual story.

Let me give an example. I was spending an afternoon in a health clinic to learn some nursing skills and a patient in her 40′s came in to be checked out for missed menstrual periods. A simple urine test provided the answer. ‘Should I tell her?’ asked the nurse.
The woman went into the exam room with the doctor. She emerged radiant.

She was as thrilled as if she had won the lottery. She and her boyfriend had given up on the hope of being parents and this was an unexpected blessing.

It’s just to say, you can’t assume how such an event will affect a woman and her family.

An unexpected pregnancy can be a blessing, or a responsibility that a woman accepts. An unwanted pregnancy is a crisis. There’s no way out that won’t change you. That’s why I love the phrase ‘responsible sexual behavior’. We should have more of that.

I think that Americans don’t really want to make abortion illegal, or even more restrictive when it’s themselves or a friend in special personal circumstances that is not like the rest. It’s always that, you know. I think that then they want it to be safe, legal and dignified.

I do think that Americans want some public acknowledgment that matters of abortion, pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood are profound decisions. Americans want responsible sexual behavior. We don’t want abortion to be the primary method of birth control as if we were some destitute country without access to contraceptives.

We are yet to find a meeting place for people of good will to work together to reduce unwanted pregnancies and provide real support to women in making their decisions.

I think a place to start would be offering more support to adoption. A tax break is not enough. Sentimentalism is not enough. As long as American children remain in institutional care for lack of adoptive parents we are not doing enough. Releasing a child for adoption is not a simple choice without consequences, pretending otherwise is dishonest. Birth mothers deserve recognition.

And such a choice should not, as it has been in the past, be coerced. The choice to continue a pregnancy at all should not be coerced. It’s a complex and life-changing decision. Respect the woman herself to make that decision.

Don’t Take it Personal

I’m having a rather depressed weekend, a good time to read Bill McKibben’s ‘Eaarth’. This book outlines the folly of making exponential and infinite growth the basis for human civilization. Jeeze, I took math in high school and even I can see that he’s right. It’s all in the numbers.

McKibben paints a very grim picture of the less gentle planet we are already living on, and will hand down to our children as irreversible changes to air and water leave us in a hotter, drier world with fewer resources and more extreme weather.

Ironically, damage to our economy, as much as it causes dire hardship to those who can least afford it, slows the rate of fuel consumption and carbon release. If we could institute some sane and moderate changes perhaps we could save a better portion of the old earth to live on. Or maybe not. The New York Times has an article about a building boom in Las Vegas, mini-mansions going up as acres of new houses stand empty. One reason for this craziness is that speculators are moving in like vultures, buying houses by the hundreds and outbidding people who simply want a house to live in. Another reason is that there are those who would no sooner buy a used house than used underwear…

And many Americans will always believe the latest model of something is their only option, an attitude builders are doing their utmost to reinforce.

In Phoenix, a billboard for Fulton Homes summed up the builders’ marketing approach. “Does your foreclosure have tenants?” it asks, next to a picture of a mammoth cockroach.

Isn’t that lovely? And I’m looking at the photos of the new houses, grand mansions on flat land without a tree anywhere. What will they do without government water and sewage, out there in the desert? What will they do without government highways to commute to work?

As posted below, there’s a trend for young whites to move back into the cities, where you can find a decent cup of coffee and intelligent conversation. But clearly there is also a trend to push out into less and less hospitable places, to stake out that lawn you can call your own.

This doesn’t make sense on Earth, not to mention Eaarth. I don’t even totally blame the consumers. They are often following the course of least resistance in a corrupt financial system that is still looking for the next bubble. Still, that ‘cockroach’ thing is really nasty. Hard not to see it as a class slam against renters. It’s not that I’m prejudice, but when the next crash comes, I hope whoever put up that billboard doesn’t move next door to me.

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