The Daily Press The Woonsocket Call | AP iAtom feed Copyright The Daily Press 2012-01-17T00:43:54+00:00 guts vacant house2011-08-23T22:18:06+00:002011-08-23T22:18:06+00:00Copyright 2010 Woonsocket CallPolice said William A. Paul III was treated at Landmark Medical Center for lacerations to his hand after punching through a window.There's no way Paul could have known, but no one was inside the three-story, four-family residence when he happened upon the fire during a late-night bicycle ride.“It was vacant,” said Lt. Michael Morin of the Woonsocket Fire Department. “It looked like the whole house was going through a rehab.”Paul, 18, told police he was riding though the neighborhood about 1:40 a.m. when he smelled smoke. As he got closer to the house, located next door to the Providence Street fire station, he could see an “orange glow” behind the windows on the second floor.Paul told police he dialed 911 and watched as the flames burst through the outer walls of the gray clapboard while he was still on the phone with the dispatcher.After hanging up, Paul said he ran over to the house and started pounding his fists on doors and windows to alert anyone who might still be inside. He said he accidentally punched through one of the windows.The fire was extinguished in less than an hour, said Morin, but it caused heavy damage to the first story and the second, where it is believed to have originated. The fire left a blackened scorch mark on the exterior of the house that looked like a thick stripe running the entire length of the facade.A police report says the house is owned by Lone Star Realty. A representative of the company identified as Robert Wittier of Providence told police the house has been undergoing renovations for at least a year.While there was electrical service on the ground floor of the house, Wittier told police power had been shut off on the second floor.Wittier said he was the last person in the house before the fire, when he delivered a load of floor tiles to the first floor during the day on Monday. The house was secure when he left, he said.Morin said the cause of the fire is undetermined and remains under investigation by the state fire marshal, the Woonsocket fire department and the city police.Woonsocket, RIRUSS OLIVOFire guts vacant houseWoonsocket Luther King Jr. honored on traffic island2012-01-17T00:43:54+00:002012-01-17T00:43:54+00:00Copyright 2010 Woonsocket CallOver 150 people braved a bone-chilling morning to take part in the ceremony, across the street from St. James Baptist Church, the city’s largest African-American congregation, which commissioned the steel-plate, multi-colored silhouettes of Dr. King preaching to a half-dozen followers, young and old.Mayor Leo Fontaine, one of a slew of dignitaries who attended the affair at the meet-up of Mason and South Main streets, proclaimed the work “a symbol of what great people can do when they work together.”Only plywood mockups were used for the ceremony, because the final product isn’t finished yet. Brad Fesmire, a project manager with RiverzEdge Arts who designed the silhouettes, says more money needs to be raised to complete the work. Citizens Bank Foundation has provided enough money to erect perhaps half the figures by spring, but about $6,000 more is needed.Leaders from St. James Baptist Church, members of the City Council, the legislature, local civic organizations, social service agencies and non-profits were among those who took part in the ceremony, punctuated by spirited performances of gospel songs and prayers. Anne Pitts’ voice washed over the crowd like a warm, silky blanket with her soulful rendition of “Precious Lord.” “That was one of Dr. King’s favorite songs,” said Tom Gray, a deacon from St. James who served as the master of ceremonies.The event featured some special guests, including Jurisdictional Bishop Harvey L. Lewis of the All Nations Church of God in Christ, with his wife, Gloria, who came all the way from their hometown of Washington, D.C., to marvel at the display and offer prayers. A branch of All Nations Church of God is located in the Fairmount section, and its pastor, Eugene Kinslow, was also on hand for the event. Another highpoint came courtesy of U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who brought a message of support directly from the Oval Office.Quoting from a letter written by President Obama, Cicilline praised the organizers of a banquet at Savini’s Friday where the silhouettes were shown for the first time and backers described them as a lasting tribute to King’s dream of a racially harmonious society. “Events like the St. James banquet commemorate this proud legacy and remind us of our responsibility to build a brighter tomorrow for the next generation,” the president wrote. “As you gather on this special occasion I wish you continued well-being in the year ahead.”Gunned down in April 1968, King would have turned 83 years old Sunday and, despite the passage of time, his themes of non-violent protest, inclusivity and tolerance still reverberate today. But Cicilline said that even though many revere King as a potent catalyst for the civil rights movement or winning the Nobel Peace Prize, it’s important to remember that the equality King was fighting for was also economic.“In the final hours of his life he was marching with sanitation workers, men who picked up trash for a living who were fighting for better living conditions and better wages,” the congressman said.Along with the morale-booster from Obama, there were a few other surprises at the event, among them, a public pledge from State Rep. Jon Brien and State Rep. Lisa Baldelli Hunt to find state funds to cover the balance of the production costs for creating the silhouette figures.And Fontaine said the triangle of turf marking the intersection of Mason and South Main streets won’t be a no-name traffic island much longer. With help from City Council President John Ward and council members Chris Beauchamp, Bob Moreau and Dan Gendron, it will soon be officially christened “Dr. Martin Luther King Square.”The patch of earth will be entirely re-landscaped in preparation for the permanent King display, creating a visual spectacle the mayor said he hopes will “draw people in” and make them think about the meaning of King’s life.The mayor, who appointed Police Chief Tom Carey to work with a committee that helped design the tribute, said it evolved into the sculpture-like silhouettes partly because the one thing he didn’t want was another lifeless monument in stone.Fesmire got it. A “granite plaque” or a mute, “dead statue” wouldn’t cut it. He was looking for “something vibrant” that no one would forget after driving by.“We want people to interact with this for years to come,” Fesmire said. “Woonsocket can be proud to have a really cool, really innovative Martin Luther King Memorial, so bring your kids, bring your school and interact with this.”Though others give most of the credit for the design to Fesmire, he called himself a “small part of a really big project.” He singled out Margaux Morisseau of NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, the mayor and Chief Carey, and Deacon Gray for helping pull it all together.Though Morisseau declined an invitation to speak at the ceremony, she issued a statement explaining the genesis of the work, and why it’s to be erected at the chosen site.Woonsocket, RIRUSS OLIVOMartin Luther King Jr. honored on traffic islandWoonsocket starting to breed contempt2010-10-17T20:42:22+00:002010-10-17T20:42:22+00:00Copyright 2010 Woonsocket CallThose answers were trotted out once again Thursday at Brown University in response to questions posed by political science Professor Marion Orr before a mostly student audience that filled one of the school’s lecture halls.Democrat Frank Caprio talked about getting each of the state’s small businesses to hire one person, and told the tale of the family sitting around their kitchen table deciding which bills to pay and which to put off for another month.Independent Lincoln Chafee once again boasted about his “vision” in planning to locate a train station next to Green Airport – the closest Amtrak station to a major airport in the country and his work in the Senate to get the funding to make it a reality. Republican John Robitaille reminded everyone once again that Rhode Island doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem and needs to cut spending and lower taxes,Moderate Ken Block told of the billion dollars his computer software firm saved the state of Texas and how that success could be repeated here and how the Economic Development Corporation’s loan guarantee deal with Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios “is not economic development, it’s economic desperation.” But all that familiarity of appearing together behind lecterns several times a week may now be breeding contempt.Block, who perhaps has the least to lose because he is still mired in the single digits in the polls, but who needs to get at least 5 percent of the vote on November 2 to keep his fledgling party alive, is the one of the Fab Four – Independent candidates Joseph Lusi, Todd Giroux and Ronald Algieri, while they will appear on the ballot, seldom get invited to these events -- who most freely throws elbows at his opponents.At the Brown forum, Block derided Caprio’s line that he would “put wind at the back of small businesses as “meaningless drivel,” saying that as a small businessman it does not give him the incentive to hire one employee. He ridiculed Chafee for proposing a 1 percent increase in the sales tax that would raise almost $100 million, then saying he would use it to cover several hundred million dollars worth of various programs. He questioned whether Chafee would use it to send illegal aliens to college when a question came up about allowing undocumented students who graduate from Rhode Island high schools top pay lower in-state tuition at state colleges. Block said, “John Robitaille says he is going to slash and burn the budget, but he won’t tell us exactly what he is going to do.”Chafee blew an opportunity for an easy applause line during opening statements when, after Block appealed to the student audience not to hate him because he graduate from Ivy League rival Dartmouth College and Caprio made reference to attending Harvard, Chafee failed to appeal to the hometown crowd by saying he graduated from Brown. Robitaille attended Providence College. All four candidates agreed that they do not favor the proposed constitutional amendment to change the official state name, dropping the “and Providence Plantations” and just keeping State of Rhode Island. While some minority groups say the word plantations is offensive because of its associations with antebellum slavery in the Old Confederacy, Robitaille said, “prejudice is in the heart, not on a piece of paper. Chafee noted that “the very important word Providence is in there as well.” Chafee also contends that because the U.S. Constitution makes reference to Rhode Island and Providence Plantations as one of the original 13 states, that document would have to be amended as well.The candidates for the most part said they favor all three of the bond issues that will be on the November ballot as well, one for transportation funding, one to construct and refurbish buildings at the University of Rhode Island and Rode Island College, and a third to purchase open space at the former Rocky Point and on the Providence waterfront as well as to make improvements to Fort Adams in Newport.Chafee, Caprio and Block all reaffirmed their support for same-sex marriage, but Robitaille, while he favors civil unions, says he would stop at extending the term marriage beyond the relationship between one man and one woman.On immigration, Chafee and Caprio clashed, with Chafee saying one of his first acts as governor would be to repeal Gov. Donald Carcieri’s executive order requiring state vendors to use the federal E-Verify system to ensure that all their employees are eligible to work in this country and having State Police and corrections officers work with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to identify and deport illegal aliens who are arrested in Rhode Island. Caprio said he would continue the order.Robitaille said he would continue the executive order but modify it to make it similar to a Florida law that “contains significant deterrents to profiling.”Block says he supports E-Verify, but is “against any policy that would encourage ethnic or racial profiling.”Chafee would grant in-state tuition to undocumented students who graduate high school here. Caprio said he would prefer to see the same goal accomplished through federal legislation called “the DREAM Act.” Robitaille and Block both opposed the notion.Robitaille said “While we have veterans living under bridges and children still going to bed hungry and people living in substandard housing, I don’t think directing resources to people who should not be here makes sense.” He called it a case of “screwed-up priorities.”“We can’t be the educators of the world’s children,” Block said. “We just can’t afford it.” Woonsocket, RIJim BaronDebates starting to breed contemptWoonsocket at root of river debate2010-10-17T20:49:25+00:002010-10-17T20:49:25+00:00Copyright 2010 Woonsocket CallThe Army Corps of Engineers says they must be chopped down and, in many cases, uprooted altogether to protect low-lying portions of the city from flooding. But some champions of recreational tourism and economic development say the government should rethink the plan.“I'm not sure it's a great idea,” says Robert Billington, director of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council. “That river is becoming highly recreationalized and it really adds to the character of the river to have those trees in place.”At issue is a two-pronged plan to shore up the neglected Woonsocket Flood Reduction Project, using some $5 million in money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project includes the Woonsocket Falls Dam and over two miles of earthen levees, concrete flood walls and pressure conduits along the banks of three rivers, all built by the Corps between 1956 and 1960 after epic floods decimated parts of the Social Flatlands, causing some $22 million in damages.The improvement plan consists of two phases, including refurbishing the “tainter gates” above the Woonsocket Falls Dam which are used to control the level of the river. This phase of the project, which will include the repainting of the dam and the catwalk, began about a month ago and will cost approximately $3.5 million.The second phase involves the trees and is expected to begin any day, in the vicinity of Kennedy Manor, according to Tim Rezendes, the project engineer. The Corps envisions removing all “heavy wooded vegetation” along the slopes of some 9,000 linear feet of earthen levees and concrete walls along the Blackstone, Mill and Peters rivers. Trees with trunks greater than four inches in diameter will be uprooted altogether and the levees backfilled with fresh earth.The Corps has already awarded two contracts worth about $1.5 million to remove and dispose of the vegetation to the Upton, Mass.-based firm, Jennifer M. Cook, Inc.While the friction over the tree-trimming plan is new, the Corps' plan isn't. The agency began reviewing the integrity of its levee systems around the country since storm surge from Hurricane Katrina all but obliterated parts of New Orleans five years ago, crashing through man-made levees – essentially earthen berms – not very different from those that gird the Blackstone.“The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina has brought the issue of levee safety to the forefront of public debate in recent years,” the Corps said in a statement announcing the project recently. “The findings of subsequent Corps investigations into the performance of the flood damage reduction systems such as those at Woonsocket clearly point to a need for a periodic, comprehensive and risk-informed approach to levee safety.”The concern, Corps officials say, is that trees will serve to destablilize the levees in hurricane-like conditions, catching the wind like umbrellas and causing them to topple over, rootball and all. Floodwaters are also more likely to find a path through berms that are already crisscrossed by underground root systems.This “one time major vegetation” eradication will include the spraying of herbicide to tamp down growth after the initial cutting, the Corps says. After that, the Corps plans to return to the levees on an annual basis to keep the greenery in check.Billington said he doesn't think local conservation and tourism advocates know more about flood protection than the Corps, but he says the community has begun to look at the Blackstone in “a new way” in a recent years. The river has become a mini-engine of recreational-based tourism, and the trees that line the banks are among the things that make it attractive.Albert Valliere, chairman of the Main Street Riverfront Initiative, agrees.He says members of the panel are worried that the Corps will “denude” the banks of the river as it flows through the downtown area, where the next leg of the popular Blackstone River Bikeway will soon be built.“The Main Street Riverfront Initiative wants to sit with the Corps of Engineers and talk about this,” he says. “Unless they can convince me it's an engineering thing that's necessary for the welfare of the public, I would say 'Can't we do something that's a little less aggressive?'”Tim Dugan, spokesman for the Corps' New England District, says the agency is aware of the concerns about the trees, but the Corps does not intend to curtail any of the cutting.“Our primary goal is not aesthetic,” said Dugan. “We want to have a sound engineering project. That's the bottom line. Anything else is secondary.”Dugan said the trees and other vegetation were supposed to have been removed from the levees on a regular basis, but the work never took place. Dugan did not say so, but the city has owned the levees for most of the time they've existed.The Woonsocket Flood Reduction Project was turned over to the city shortly after it was built. But Hurricane Katrina, in addition to raising concerns about the integrity of such projects, laid bare the difficulties Woonsocket and other cities were having in financing the proper maintenance of such infrastructure.About two years ago, U.S. Senator Jack Reed spearheaded a bill in Congress to restore ownership of the project, as well as the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier in Providence, to the Army Corps of Engineers.The Corps' review of the Woonsocket Flood Control Project also prompted another agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to redefine the flood zone in the Social Flatlands. The move drew dozens of commercial and residential property owners into the zone for the first time, forcing them to purchase flood insurance, which generally costs about $350 a year on the open market.“The Woonsocket project was decertified under the National Flood Insurance Program administered by FEMA in May 2007 because the agency determined the project no longer provides projection from the base flood level,” Dugan said. “As a result, property owners behind the project are now paying for flood insurance.”Dugan said FEMA may revert to the old maps once both phases of the project are complete, relieving those property owners from the burden of carrying extra flood insurance.Meanwhile, Rezendez, the project engineer, said crews are hoping to finish the first phase by January. The work is plainly visible to all passersby through Market Square, who can see an orange crane, with a boom three stories tall, sitting on a barge-like deck floating just north of Woonsocket Falls Dam.Workers are presently cleaning the tainter gates and will later replace their rubber seals to prevent them from leaking. Crews will build a steel cofferdam to reroute the river around each of the gates before the heavy-duty maintenance begins.But passersby won't be able to see crews at work much longer. Within several weeks, the entire dam will be encased in “a cocoon” of canvas while the dam is sandblasted and repainted, Rezendes said. The enclosure is designed to prevent polluting paint dust from getting into the river.The Corps awarded Watermark Environmental Inc. a $3.45 million contract for this phase of the work in August. The R. Zoppo Corp., a subcontractor, will be in charge of installing the cofferdam.Woonsocket, RIRuss OlivoTrees at root of river debateWoonsocket and aide suspended in Blackstone2010-10-21T18:26:45+00:002010-10-19T04:00:00+00:00Copyright 2010 Woonsocket CallBLACKSTONE — A special needs teacher and an aide employed by the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District have been placed on administrative leave pending a criminal investigation into allegations they were responsible for physically abusing four children in their classroom who suffer from severe developmental disabilities. The mother of one of the children at the center of the probe, who asked not to be identified, named the teacher as Michele F. Sherwin, 58, of Franklin. Another parent identified the aide as Tonya Morin, a woman from Millville. All four children are between seven and 10 years old, the parents say.The mother said the allegations are that her child's hands and feet were restrained for up to a half-hour at a time as punishment for the child's nose-picking. Other allegations are that the child was slapped, shoved or poked with excessive force, sometimes as an inducement to walk more quickly.In past school years, the woman said her child had come home from Sherwin's class with clothing reeking of dried urine or unexplained bruises. Like all four children in Sherwin's tiny class, her child either cannot speak or has severely impaired short-term memory, so she was unable to question her child effectively about the cause of the problems. But she always gave Sherwin and her aides the benefit of the doubt, thinking it was best not to make waves in the school system.“I think my big mistake looking back now is that I never went over her head,” the woman said. “I tried to keep the peace with that teacher because I thought it was the best thing for my child.”The Call also learned of the probe from the parent of another child in Sherwin's classroom who may have been abused. This parent, who also asked to remain anonymous, said that what allegedly happened to the child was “a pretty disturbed” act involving the way the child was restrained. The parent declined to elaborate, however, saying it might serve to identify the youngster.The parent said the child might have suffered pain as a result of what was done, but it's difficult to know for sure because the child is incapable of speaking.“It's sad and it's scary,” this parent said. “These kids are non-verbal and defenseless. They can't say anything.”Schools Supt. Kimberly Shaver-Hood declined comment on the situation, saying it was a confidential personnel matter. Lawyer Harold Gould Jr., the School Committee's legal counsel, and Charles Singleton, chairman of the Blackstone-Millville Regional School Committee, followed suit.“It's the state law, I can't say anything about it,” said Singleton. “I'm not happy about it. I don't want it to look like we're hiding something, but it's the law.”But the first parent interviewed by The Call said she received a letter from Shaver-Hood on Sept. 30 indicating that new classroom arrangements had been made for her child. The letter says the “duties and responsibilities of your child's teacher and one of her aides will be performed by other personnel” at the JFK Maloney Complex.The letter did not identify the teacher or the aide in question or explain any of the circumstances for their apparent removal. The woman said the letter did little but confuse and alarm her, so she called Shaver-Hood to ask for details, but the superintendent declined to provide them.The parent says she does not know whether the allegations are true, but the silent treatment from administrators upset her deeply because Shaver-Hood appeared “to be protecting that teacher, not the children.”About a day after she spoke to Shaver-Hood, the parent said Detective Wayne Mowry of the Blackstone Police Department told her by phone that a police investigation was under way into allegations of abuse and neglect involving Sherwin and Morin. It was the first time anyone gave her a reason for the personnel shuffle in her child's classroom and the parent says, “I have to tell you, my heart sank a little. I was appalled...”A couple of days later, Michael Thurston, an investigator with the state Department for Children and Families, came to her home and gave her details of allegations Sherwin and the aide were facing in connection with her child.Thurston could not be reached Monday, but the woman said the investigator told her DCF was looking into other allegations of abuse and neglect involving all four children in Sherwin's classroom.The four children had been with Sherwin and the same three aides for several years at the Millville Elementary School, on Berthelette Way in Millville, according to the parent. This year, she said, the whole class was transferred to the JFK Maloney Complex in Blackstone. Sherwin was still the teacher, but two of the aides were replaced at the beginning of the school year.The woman, who said she has since been in contact with the parents of all the other children involved in the probe, say the allegations are believed to have begun with the new aides.The woman said she does not know the specific allegations involving the other children, whom she declined to identify. She said, however, the children in the class are all profoundly developmentally impaired. One suffers from autism, another from Down Syndrome. One was injured as a child, another has a rare genetic disorder. One is in a wheelchair.Because some of the allegations date back to Sherwin's days at Millville Elementary School, the woman said the police departments in both Blackstone and Millville are running parallel investigations. Blackstone's Detective Mowry did not return telephone calls yesterday, but Millville Police Chief Ronald Landry confirmed that his department launched an abuse investigation this week.Landry declined to identify the target of the investigation, but he said, “The Millville police did receive information from the Blackstone-Milllville school administration regarding a possible incident.”Landry said the police are currently not at liberty to release details, but he said, “We're going to conduct a thorough investigation to see whether there was any criminal misconduct, and if there was that's what we're going to report.”The Call left a message for Sherwin on her telephone answering machine yesterday, but she did not return the call. Efforts to locate Morin were not successful.Woonsocket, RIRuss OlivoTeacher and aide suspended in BlackstoneThe grenade ends standoff2010-10-20T00:39:17+00:002010-10-20T00:39:17+00:00Copyright 2010 Woonsocket CallMembers of a State Police response team set off a “flash bang” device at 6:32 p.m. before rushing Anthony Daignault, 53, in his pick-up truck and taking him into custody without further incident.Blackstone Police Lt. Greg Gilmore said the incident had begun earlier in the day with a domestic incident on Seventh Avenue in Woonsocket. Daignault was reported to have fled a later confrontation with police and was being sought by Woonsocket when a Farm Street resident spotted his pickup truck off the road on an abandoned railroad embankment on Farm Street. Unconfirmed reports that the subject may have had a weapon led police to call for the special response team before seeking to take Daignault into custody.Daignault did not respond to repeated commands from police at the scene, leading them to use the flash device to end the stand-off.Police Chief Ross A. Atstupenas, who also responded to the scene, said later that he was pleased the incident had ended without anyone being hurt. “It went down that way for his safety, the safety of the public and the safety of the officers involved,” Atstupenas said.Gilmore said Daignault was transported to Landmark Medical Center for evaluation. No charges were brought against him in Blackstone and Woonsocket Police were still investigating what charges might be lodged over the domestic incident and later confrontation with police officers in that community.“It was great that nobody got hurt and he was brought to medical facility to be treated,” Gilmore said.Woonsocket, RIJoseph B. NadeauStun grenade ends standoffWoonsocket robbery suspect captured on bus2010-10-20T01:24:48+00:002010-10-20T01:24:48+00:00Copyright 2010 Woonsocket CallHoward Nightingale, 46, of East School St., was apprehended on a Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority bus at Park Square after police received information he was on the vehicle, Police Lt. Eugene Jalette said Tuesday evening.“The bus was stopped by North Smithfield police and officers were able to get him off the bus and place him under arrest,” Jalette said. Nightingale is alleged to have entered the bank branch at 9:45 a.m. and approached a teller. He made a demand for cash and was given an unspecified amount of money before fleeing the bank property on foot, Jalette said. No weapon was shown in the incident and no one was reported injured, Jalette said. After responding to the bank alarm, police began a search of the surrounding area and local businesses for information on the robber.Jalette said a surveillance photograph of Nightingale was obtained and shown to contacts in the area as the investigation continued.Staff at the Woonsocket Probation Office on Pond Street assisted the department in obtaining Nightingale’s identity and a warrant was obtained for his arrest, Jalette said. “We started looking for him and went to locations in the city where he might be,” he said. Police then learned that Nightingale may have taken a RIPTA bus out of the city and traveled to Providence in an attempt to locate him. Providence Police also joined the investigation and at about 6:30 p.m. local detectives learned of Nightingale’s location on the bus headed to North Smithfield, Jalette said. Nightingale was charged with second degree robbery after his arrest and was being held at the station Tuesday night pending his arraignment on the charge in District Court, Providence, on Wednesday. The case remains under investigation, Jalette said. Jalette thanked Providence Police, North Smithfield Police, RIPTA and the Woonsocket Probation Office for their assistance in the quick arrest of a suspect in the robbery.The robbery follows the tragic killing of David Main of Lincoln outside the Citizens Bank on Diamond Hill Road where he went to make a deposit on Sept. 20. Three people have been arrested and charged Main’s robbery and murder.“We are just very happy to get this done quickly and give some peace to mind to people in the city in light of what happened earlier at Citizens Bank,” Jalette said. Woonsocket, RIJoseph B. NadeauBank robbery suspect captured on busWoonsocket, Loughlin slug it out over issues2010-10-20T02:36:47+00:002010-10-20T02:36:47+00:00Copyright 2010 Woonsocket CallThe two main candidates vying to succeed Democrat Patrick Kennedy as the congressman in the 1st District argued almost every issue vehemently, frequently trying to talk over each other and occasionally they had to be reined in by moderator Tim White of WPRI. Cicilline once again accused Loughlin of advocating that Social Security be privatized by “taking younger workers out of the Social Security System and putting them in the private stock market,” and of referring to Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme,” which Cicilline defined as a “fraudulent, deceitful, criminal act.”Loughlin retorted that he is “100 percent committed to making sure Social Security remains in effect for our seniors who depend on Social Security.” He allowed that he thinks younger workers should have “the option to divert a portion of their payroll taxes into private accounts,” but contents it is “unfair” to characterize that as privatizing Social Security.The Republican noted that Social Security “provides a 0.65 rate of return” while the average return on the stock market over the last 25 years is 11.98.” He said it is congressional overspending that puts Social Security at risk because the Social Security trust fund was abandoned by Democrats in the 1960s and the program was made part of the budget. “It seems to me almost criminal to condemn younger workers to have their life’s work be only valued at 0.65, why not let them have a little bit of a return so they can live a better life as seniors.”“If you think about what happened in the stock market over the last several years,” the Providence mayor argued, “if we put the security of our seniors or people who are relying on Social Security at risk because it has to rely on the fluctuations of the market, that’s dangerous.” Cicilline pointed out that Social Security relies on current workers to pay into the system to provide the funds that people collect. He said Loughlin’s plan would destabilize the system and “put the program at risk.”In one of their few areas of agreement during the entire 90-minute event, both Loughlin and Cicilline said Congress should make an allowance to give Social Security beneficiaries a cost of living increase for next year, or, as proposed, a one-time, $250 increase to offset rising costs. Social Security recipients are not scheduled to get a cost of living increase next year because the cost of living, as measured, did not increase enough to warrant one.Loughlin suggested that Social Security use a different index of inflation that better reflects the costs faced by older Americans. When the two started to delve deeply into the details of Social Security, White cut them off, saying, “we have now entered the land of the wonky.”Loughlin used a question about Cicilline’s record as mayor of Providence to blast what he called his opponent’s “breaches of integrity,” including using his city car and driver to travel to and from campaign appearances earlier in the year, improperly taking more than $20,000 in salary increases over five years above what city ordinances allowed, awarding “excessive” vacation time to department heads and other top officials, and raising taxes in the city after promising not to.The mayor responded he is “proud of the integrity that I have brought to city government.” He boasted that he “completely restored public confidence in city government” after the Plunder Dome scandals of the Cianci administration. Each candidate was asked to name an issue on which he differed with the leadership of his party. Republican Loughlin said his party is “far too weak in protecting the environment.”Democrat Cicilline first noted his opposition to the war in Afghanistan and when pressed further said the bank bailouts that benefitted large financial institutions but did not require them to loan out capital to small businesses.Cicilline said he would support making the Bush-era tax cuts for middle class taxpayers permanent but said also extending them for “millionaires and billionaires” is not necessary and would increase the budget deficit by $750 billion over 10 years But Loughln said, “It is absolutely the wrong thing to do to raise anybody’s taxes in the middle of a recession. When you are able to provide tax relief for businesses to grow, you actually end up with more revenue into the general treasury.”Ending the tax cuts for those with incomes over $250,000, Loughlin said, “would raise taxes on 900,000 small businesses.“It’s all about a sense of entitlement to other people’s money,” Loughlin asserted. “Why shouldn’t people be allowed to be successful in the United States of America.”The pair also diverged on the issue of climate change.“I believe global climate change is real,” Cicilline said, adding that “there is broad scientific consensus on that point. But he said his opponent “mocks it” during campaign appearances.“It’s not something you believe in,” Loughlin taunted, “it’s not like the Easter Bunny. It’s science and the scientific consensus is not there. Loughlin acknowledges the planet is warming, but he says scientists don’t agree about whether it is caused by human activity.In a series of yes or no questions, both Loughlin and Cicilline said they would not support raising the Social Security retirement age to 70.Cicilline would favor removing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals serving in the armed forces while Loughlin would not.Loughlin answered he would “absolutely” support term limits for members of Congress, Ciciline said he would not.Woonsocket, RIJim BaronCicilline, Loughlin slug it out over issuesWoonsocket's message comes to Lincoln High School2010-10-21T01:27:23+00:002010-10-21T01:27:23+00:00Copyright 2010 Woonsocket CallAbout five hours later, Taylor admitted she had texted her mom several times, promising she was sorry for her behavior and understood Tammy's stance on the matter.Jutras explained her 180-degree spin in attitude came about after she and approximately 1,000 other LHS students had spent an hour listening to Craig Scott's emotional, tear-evoking soliloquy/video presentation entitled “Rachel's Challenge” at the Community College of Rhode Island/Flanagan campus' fieldhouse.During the assembly, Scott spoke about his sister, Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first student killed in the tragic Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo. on April 20, 1999. Craig himself had been in the library that fateful day, when two students consumed by hatred gunned down 12 schoolmates and a teacher before committing suicide.Immediately after the tragedy, Darrell Scott — the teens' dad — began speaking around the country, using Rachel's diaries and drawings to illustrate not only his daughter's love but also the need for everyone to create a kinder, gentler, more compassionate nation.Pure and simple, Craig stated, the Rachel's Challenge mission is “to inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture change in their school, business and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.”“I cried this morning, and what Craig said hit me so hard, I wanted to come back (Tuesday night),” said Taylor Jutras, who joined her parents, John and Tammy, at the third and final session – for community members and parents – inside the packed high school auditorium. “I cried again here.“It was so powerful, so moving, so uplifting. You notice a lot about yourself, and see how everything you say and do can impact someone, whether it's negative or positive … The fact Craig was there at Columbine that day, and now wants to carry Rachel's message, it's so real. I mean, anyone can come to a school and talk about things they know about but didn't experience, but he was there. I mean, his emotion gets into your head. You can't help but think about how to be a better person.“I think if people (enact) what Craig said about being compassionate, I believe there's going to be a much better vibe within this school. I think people will be happier, and get along better … Honestly, when we took the bus back to (LHS) at noon, everyone was so cool! The kids were like a great big family. We all connected.“People I didn't even know came up to me and said, 'Hi!' and people were hugging others. And you know what? I didn't see anyone sitting alone at lunch.”Offered seventh-grader Taylor Meyerjack, who took in with her middle schoolmates Craig's second session Tuesday afternoon: “When we left (CCRI), everyone was going up to each other, crying and hugging. They were saying, 'I'm really sorry if I was ever mean to you. I won't do it anymore.' It was so nice. That's the way everyone should be – all the time.”**Last year, a friend of Superintendent of School Georgia Fortunato told her about Rachel's Challenge appearing at his school, Shepard Hill Regional High in Dudley, Mass. – so she researched the subject.She became so enthralled with the message, she contacted Rachel's Challenge officials and asked if someone would deliver it in Lincoln. On Aug. 25, Craig Scott traveled to LHS to speak to teachers and support staff, and “there wasn't a dry eye in the house,” she said.“We started the chain reaction here on Aug. 25, and now everyone from sixth grade and up have experienced this beautiful message,” Fortunato noted Tuesday night. “I attended all three today. In fact, I've had my calendar cleared for two months. As soon as I found out Craig had an opening on Oct. 19, we booked it.“We're the first school system in Rhode Island to have Rachel's Challenge, and I think it's terrific. We need to be a kinder and gentler people, so I'm thrilled. It was so heart-warming to see this audience (of about 700) so enraptured by it. This is the best gift the parents and community could have given me, their support. Our chain reaction has begun.”Since the program's inception, approximately 30 of Rachel's family and friends have visited approximately 3,300 schools, excluding events at large venues/stadiums in all 50 states and six countries. Over 11 million people worldwide have heard their message, and – because of it – seven documented school shootings or violence averted, not to mention hundreds of suicides. **Craig opened with his remembrances of Rachel, who lived with the notion she wouldn't live to be very old, but did believe she would have an impact on millions.He also revealed, two weeks before her murder, she had written a two-page school paper she called “My Ethics, My Code of Life.” While the two killers had stated in a video they wanted to start a chain reaction of terror and violence, she wrote, “If one person will show kindness and compassion, it will start a chain reaction” and “People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”“Those two young people used exactly the same phrase, but they were full of anger and hatred,” Craig said. “Why did they do what they did? In their video, they didn't want to get close to anyone, and chose to follow negative influences in their lives, through the media, movies and music. It was all the negatives that they dwelled upon.“Rachel paid attention to positive things,” he continued. “I don't know who I'd be today without all of the positive influences in my life … She even wrote, 'I will have an impact on the world,' and – you know – she has.”Craig, now 27 and living in Los Angeles to chase his dream of producing and directing motion pictures that inspire anything positive, then asked the audience to embrace five challenges dear to Rachel's heart.At the top of the list, he exhibited via slide the phrase “Choose positive influences; input equals output.” He then caused thunderous laughter when he revealed a video depicting an unexpecting toddler being hugged by a monkey.“I ask you to take off any negative labels you may have for others, and look for the positive,” he stated.Second, he asked all to “Dare to dream – Set goals and keep a journal.” Craig noted his sister wanted someday to bungee-jump, and did for her 16th birthday. She wanted to sky dive at 18, “but she was killed at 17,” he said sadly.Among the other challenges: “Use kind words; small acts of kindness equal huge impact;” “Eliminate prejudice;” and “Start a chain reaction – Tell people how much you love and appreciate them.”**Craig talked of his father meeting a man at her gravesite one day. Austin explained to Darrell Scott how Rachel approached him during one of the worst days of his life, but she listened to him, and asked him to ponder the amazing things in his life.“Austin went home that night, took his wife out to dinner and they had a great time,” Craig said. “Two weeks later, he opened up the Denver Post and saw Rachel's name (as one of the victims).”In short, Austin decided at her funeral he would make changes in his life, stop dwelling on the negatives.“He now shovels out elderly people's driveways, and stops on the highway to help those with flat tires,” Craig offered. “Later, he and his wife had a baby, and they named her Rachel Joy … That little girl can grow up and have kids of her own, and she can tell them she was named after a girl who helped her father.”Craig mentioned how Rachel impacted the life of a boy whose books had been knocked from his arms by some rather large individuals, but she stood up to them with both fists cocked, saying if they didn't stop, “You'll have to deal with me!”“Those guys were huge, so I'm sure they were really scared of my tiny sister,” he grinned, evoking laughter. “The boy told her he didn't feel like he was a part of anything, and he thought about taking his own life. Rachel prevented him from doing that because she showed him kindness, gave him hope.”He read a portion of an undated letter she had composed to her cousin. It stated, “Don't let your character change color with your environment. Find out who you are and let it stay its true color.”That's when he exhibited a TV commercial created by The Foundation For a Better Life, and one fashioned after Rachel's beliefs. In it, a high school boy sees another one being bullied in a hallway, but helps them as his abusers laugh in the background.The advertisement had been set to Bill Withers' 1970s' hit, “Lean On Me.”Craig asked the LHS audience to stand, place their arms around their neighbors' shoulders and sway to the song. When it ended, he mentioned he heard some singing the lyrics, but not all, so “Let's try it again! And I want to hear you this time!”The audience obliged, then applauded and cheered so loudly, it may have been heard by patrons of the nearby public library.**Craig informed the crowd of what April 20, 1999 was like for him.“I haven't been the same since that day,” he said solemnly. “It changed my life. I was 16, and went to the school library. I was on the wrestling team, and I was one who would at times put people down. I heard some popping noises outside, but I thought it was a senior prank. A teacher frantically came in … screaming to kids outside the school. She was in such terror, but I couldn't understand what she was saying.”He jumped under a desk with his buddy Matt, and – seconds later – a bullet-riddled student fell through the door. Another friend, an African-American boy named Isaiah, had crawled under the desk with them.“A few minutes later, the gunshots got closer to the library, and (the gunmen) started firing,” he continued. “I heard them yelling to each other, and that's when we knew it was very serious. They walked up to Isaiah and began making fun of him for being black. The last thing Isaiah said was 'I want to see my mother.' They blew off Isaiah's face, then shot Matt.“Because of Isaiah, I ask you to eliminate prejudice. I've never been racially prejudiced, but I have been prejudiced. If we knew each person's story, we'd have compassion for that person. We'd understand. Rachel said you can eliminate prejudice by looking for the best in people.“I literally felt my heart stop beating under that table, and I thought all I could do was pray. I heard God tell me to get out of there. I was the first student to stand up, and I saw one girl had her shoulder blown off, and kids crying. I just said, 'Let's get outta here!'”He picked up the injured girl and escaped with others. Soon after, someone pointed to a girl laying on the grass. It was Rachel.**Craig admitted he had fought with his sister over songs on the radio en route to school that morning, and had slammed the car door upon arrival.“I had no idea that would be the last time I'd see her,” he stated. “The next time I did, it was in a casket. I was really angry with myself; sometimes I hated myself, but forgiving yourself is so important to pick up the pieces and move on. I was angry at the two boys, who had no right to kill my sister.“I started taking the anger out on those closest to me, but I finally was able to forgive myself, and now I feel free.”Doug Dame, a parent of two high schoolers, claimed afterward he understood Craig's feelings.“I had a sister who passed away because of suicide, and I still hold anger toward her, which I shouldn't,” he said. “It still eats away at my insides. I consider what she did as selfish, but I'm not looking at it from her point of view. She needed to rid herself of that pain.“I believe this Rachel's Challenge has helped me,” he added. “I'll look at things a little differently now.”LHS senior Cody Phillips witnessed the event at CCRI that morning, but just had to see it again. Before it started, he asked his father, Scott, if he would go with him, and he happily obliged.“It was so inspiring, so touching, I had to come back; I normally never cry, but did today, and did again tonight.”Offered Scott: “It was awesome! The big thing I got out of it: When Craig mentioned building a person's character from the inside out. I agree with him 100 percent. Character comes from within, and everything else is secondary. What he was saying was Biblical in that there's a moral compass that people seem to have gotten away from.“I call it original intent, which is getting back to morality and Biblical principles. The way I look at it, love and compassion trumps all.”Afterward, Craig spent at least 45 minutes speaking with audience members who wanted to convey to him their thoughts. He even posed for pictures with students and parents. Taylor Jutras and Nicole Meyerjack promised they would become members of the new LHS' Friends of Rachel Club by signing the Rachel's Challenge banner hanging just outside the auditorium.“As an adult, this makes you think of when you were that age, and if you teased people, or if you were teased and how you felt,” noted Tammy Jutras. “You also think about if you've reached that point where you've forgiven yourself, or others, for you or they did. As an adult, I'm now thinking, 'Am I the best person I can be?'“When I spoke with Craig, I just told him, 'Thank you so much! I'm 48, but you've taught a semi-old lady a few things about myself, things I need to work on.'”With that, Taylor and Tammy Jutras walked up the ramp toward the exit, both smiling.Woonsocket, RIJon BakerRachel's message comes to Lincoln High SchoolWoonsocket Arts Project wins national award2010-10-21T01:29:15+00:002010-10-21T01:29:15+00:00Copyright 2010 Woonsocket CallHe was too busy being honored by first lady Michelle Obama in Washington, D.C.In a ceremony at the White House, the first lady bestowed the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards on 15 organizations, including RiverzEdge and the Providence-based Community Music Works.The 17-year-old city resident accepted the award on behalf of RiverzEdge along with Rebekah Greenwald-Speck, executive director of the non-profit arts and career training program for at-risk youth.“Standing with the First Lady of the United States at the White House and accepting this award was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I'll never forget,” said Williams. “It showed me people recognize and value the arts and their power to change kids' lives.”Williams said RiverzEdge is where he works and where “I make my life as an artist happen right now. I am really proud to be part of RiverzEdge and that RiverzEdge has won this award.”The recipients were chosen from a pool of some 450 nominees representing after-school and out-of-school enrichment programs across the nation. The awards are administered by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.With Greenwald-Speck and Williams standing on either side of the First Lady, Mrs. Obama draped an arm warmly across Williams' shoulders as the award was announced at the lectern by George Stevens Sr., co-chairman of the PCAH.Williams considered wearing one of the T-shirts he made at RiverzEdge to the occasion, but he ended up in a comparatively more ceremonious black shirt and sizzling pink tie. It turned about to be a great choice for a side-by-side with the First Lady, because she was wearing a dress that couldn't have matched Williams' neckwear more perfectly if it were scripted that way.The ceremony opened with high praise for the honorees from the First Lady, who said they deserved recognition for developing innovative programs to foster academic success by engaging young people in the arts and humanities.“These are experiences that will stick with our young people for the rest of their lives,” said Mrs. Obama. “You're also connecting them with mentors, college counselors. You're helping them become better people.”The ceremony was streamed live over the Web by the White House communications bureau.Brad Fesmire, the program director for RiverzEdge, said the non-profit program had the resources to fly just two representatives – Williams and Greenwald-Speck – to Washington, D.C. for the ceremony.“It's very, very exciting,” he said. “It's a great honor, nor just for RiverzEdge, but for all of Woonsocket.”The PCAH considers the humanities award the highest honor available to after-school enrichment programs in the nation, according to Fesmire. In addition to the national recognition, each of the recipients will receive a $10,000 stipend.Jamel, he said, works after school in the RiverzEdge screen print studio, making T-shirts for holiday fairs, craft exhibits and for-profit boutique shops. Such programs are a topic of lively discussion among advocates for education reform, who say they reinforce the lessons of the classroom and keep at-risk children busy when they're most likely to get in trouble with drugs, negative peer pressure and other distractions.RiverzEdge was founded in 2002 by youth development specialists, some of whom were associated with Boston's Artists for Humanity Program, said Fesmire. They were concerned with patterns of violence among “disaffected youth” and chose to launch a new program in Woonsocket because it was plagued with high rates of teen pregnancy, youth crime and high school dropout. The program was established with just five students, but this year more than 50 are enrolled in RiverzEdge's arts-based training. Most are from Woonsocket, but students from Burrillville, North Smithfield and Cumberland also take part, said Fesmire.Students are paid for the work they do at RiverzEdge, whose mission is to prepare them for careers in the arts with a blend of hands-on technical instruction and “entrepreneurship training,” according to Fesmire.Along with partner agencies and other supporters of RiverzEdge, Mayor Leo T. Fontaine took note of the group's honor yesterday.“By engaging and inspiring young people, RiverzEdge is giving them not just the vision but the skills to build a new and better life for themselves and their families, and for our community,” Fontaine said in a statement. “These are exactly the kinds of skills we want them to have to be able to succeed in school, in work and in life.”Amie Kershaw, a board member for RiverzEdge and the vice president for public affairs at Citizens Bank, said she hopes the award calls attention “to the documented fact that programs like ours are, in fact, changing lives for not only our young people, but our community at large.”On Friday, Fontaine is planning a big welcome home for the RiverzEdge honorees, starting with a press conference at 2 p.m. at The Depot, at the corner of Main and High streets. The formalities will be followed by a “Party for the Arts,” same location, from 5 to 7 p.m.Woonsocket, RIRuss OlivoRiverzEdge Arts Project wins national awardWoonsocket