The eyes of UConn are upon you. Or apparently, they one day could be, should you happen onto the University of Connecticut campus. UConn, The Journal recently learned, was the only New England institution among 81 entities that (so far) have applied for federal permission to fly drones. But as the small, unmanned craft show increasing promise as surveillance tools, that list is certain to grow.
In a pair of fascinating but chilling stories published on Sept. 22, Journal staff writers G. Wayne Miller and Paul Edward Parker charted the promise and perils of civilian drone use. Though the technology is still in its early stages, an industry trade group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, predicts that drones will add $9.1 billion to the economy over the next decade. Drones could be used to enhance news and weather coverage, survey land, manage disasters, locate missing people and corner criminals.
The drawback, of course, is that they pose a profound new threat to privacy. Experimenting with a small “hobby” drone purchased for $300 at the Wrentham Premium Outlets, Messrs. Miller and Parker were able to record surprisingly clear images of a state representative, Teresa Tanzi, as she moved about her backyard. Privacy fencing was no real obstacle for the drone; it even gazed through sliding glass doors to capture a detailed image of Ms. Tanzi’s bedroom.
A Democrat representing South Kingstown, Representative Tanzi had supplied permission for the experiment, to dramatize the need for laws restricting drone use. But even she was surprised at how disquieting the experience was. Last year, Ms. Tanzi sponsored a drone bill that never reached a vote. She expects to reintroduce this year. Two state senators, Nicholas Kettle (R-Coventry) and Dawson Hodgson (R-North Kingstown) introduced similar legislation.
These legislators are on the right track. A legal framework for the use of this rapidly evolving technology is badly needed. Certainly, drones can become an invaluable tool for law enforcement. But, as with wiretaps, warrants should generally be required. Other steps can be taken to minimize government intrusion, as well as private mischief.
During the next General Assembly session, Rhode Islanders should add their voices to the debate, and ensure that a good balance is struck between individual privacy and the public interest.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – As thousands of students across the state prepare to take the NECAP exam, parents, educators and elected officials gathered Monday to again call for state officials to scrap the controversial graduation requirement that ties a high school diploma to performance on the standardized test.
More than 40 adults attended a two-hour forum at Rhode Island College, largely beating the drum on some of the most common critiques of the NECAP component of the state’s graduation requirements:
The test is unfair to English language learners and students with learning disabilities; students aren’t being adequately prepared in earlier grades; and the graduation requirement forces educators to “teach to the test,” eliminating the opportunity for students to receive a well-rounded education.
“Test scores shouldn’t bring teachers to tears, parents to tears or students to tears,” Julie Motta, the director of education in East Providence schools, told the crowd.
The NECAP - which is also administered in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire - is given to students grades 3 through 8 and again in 11th grade. Beginning with the class of 2014, students must score "partially proficient" on the math and English portions of the test or show growth when they retake the exam in order to earn a diploma.
The test begins statewide Tuesday.
As it stands now, approximately 4,000 students – roughly 40% of 12th graders - must improve their scores on the NECAP in order to be eligible to graduate. In Providence, more than 80% of students at four high schools—Alvarez, Central, Hope and Mount Pleasant—have to retake the test.
“It hurts me to think about my friends not being able to continue on and do what they want to do just because this test says so,” Hector Perea, a member of the Providence Student Union, said during the forum.
Monday’s forum was organized by several members of the R.I. House of Representatives, including Providence Rep. Maria Cimini, Warwick Democrats Eileen Naughton and Frank Ferri and Teresa Tanzi of Narragansett. The legislators did not invite anyone from the state Department of Education to attend the event, according to a spokeswoman for Education Commissioner Deborah Gist.
Cimini, a Democrat serving her second term in the legislature, indicated she favors testing, but not as a graduation requirement. She acknowledged that there was no clear goal for the forum, and warned that education policy is largely overseen by the state’s 11-member Board of Education, not the General Assembly.
But that hasn’t stopped legislative leaders and other prominent politicians – including Providence Mayor Angel Taveras – from calling on state officials to back away from the graduation requirement, at least for the class of 2014. In one of its final acts of the 2013 legislative session, the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a joint resolution urging the Board of Education to reconsider the mandate.
“The other New England states do not use the NECAP for the purpose Rhode Island is using it for,” Naughton told the crowd.
Students who fail to earn a qualifying score in the 11th grade have the opportunity to retake the exam twice during their senior year and are eligible to use scores from other tests – such as an AP exam, the SAT or the Accuplacer – in order to meet the requirement. Students only need to show improvement when they take the NECAP exam in 12th grade – meaning they could still graduate without showing partial proficiency on the test.
In addition to the NECAP component of the graduation requirements, students are also required to complete course work, as well as performance assessments such as a portfolio or senior project, to prove they are qualified to receive a diploma.
“I believe we need to have a measure that we judge our work by, I believe that public education is our legacy” Rep. Lisa Tomasso, D-Coventry, said. Tomasso acknowledged she was one of the few NECAP supporters at the forum.
Board of Education Chairwoman Eva-Marie Mancuso and Gist, the education commissioner, have both pledged their support for standardized testing to be one component of the state’s graduation requirements. In September, Mancuso said she wants to wait until the current year’s NECAP scores are returned before making a decision on whether to keep the requirement in place for the class of 2014.
Rhode Island will phase out the NECAP exam and begin administering the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam during the 2014-15 school year. That test will be taken in 22 states.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — After last year's shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., Kim Ziegelmayer and several other Rhode Island women decided it was time to push for tougher gun laws in Rhode Island. Despite support from virtually all the state's top leaders, their efforts failed.
Now, in the wake of a deadly shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, Ziegelmayer hopes to try again — but she's realistic about her chances, even in a state where Democrats control state government and where calls to ban semi-automatic firearms won the support of the governor, the mayor of Providence, top state lawmakers and the state's attorney general.
"These awful things continue to happen and nothing changes," said Ziegelmayer, a mother of two from Smithfield. "I really believe that gun violence has become so normalized in our society. It's become: 'Oh, those things happen.'"
Similar proposals were introduced in statehouses around the country last year, and lawmakers in Colorado, New York and Connecticut enacted tougher gun laws following mass shootings last year at a suburban Denver movie theater and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
But most of the gun control measures around the nation didn't pass, and supporters of those that did in New York and Colorado faced a backlash. This month, two Colorado lawmakers who backed stricter gun measures were ousted by voters.
Critics of the proposals say their failures show that lawmakers — and much of the public — recognize that new laws restricting gun ownership won't prevent mass shootings. State Rep. Michael Chippendale notes the Navy Yard shooting occurred in a city that has some of the nation's toughest gun laws.
"None of the bills that were proposed would have prevented anything like a Newtown or anything like this Washington episode," said Chippendale, R-Foster. "These bills were not aimed at the problem."
Legislators are now focusing on ways to prevent people with potentially violent mental illnesses from accessing firearms. A state task force will soon begin reviewing the use of mental health records in gun background checks. Rhode Island doesn't share its mental health records with the federal background check system used to screen prospective gun buyers.
The task force was one of the few gun-related bills to pass the General Assembly this year, along with legislation that increased jail time for carrying a stolen firearm while committing a violent crime and prohibited the possession of a gun with a destroyed serial number.
State leaders had wanted to go a lot further. Early in the session, House Speaker Gordon Fox, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin — all Democrats — unveiled the proposed ban on semi-automatics as well as proposals to ban high-capacity magazines.
The proposals never made it to a vote following large gatherings of gun-rights supporters at the Statehouse.
Those who would like to see more significant changes to state gun laws said they'll try again when the General Assembly convenes in January. Rep. Teresa Tanzi, D-South Kingstown, said she'd like lawmakers to look at ways to track the illegal flow of weapons.
"We need to look at this as we would some other epidemic," she said. "If there was an outbreak of flu, the Department of Health would be monitoring its spread. We should do something similar for gun violence. We can't keep putting Band-Aids on the problem."
The fate of legislation that would require property owners to get rid of cesspools within one year of the property purchase remains uncertain.
The bill is still being held for further study in the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, but State Rep. Teresa Tanzi, its sponsor, and Chairman Arthur Handy, said Tuesday that they are still optimistic it could be passed.
A day earlier, Save the Bay called on the General Assembly to pass the legislation to help improve water quality by replacing antiquated cesspools with modern septic systems or sewer tie-ins.
The Rhode Island Association of Realtors, which has opposed similar bills in the past, said the state should not link the desirable goal of phasing out cesspools with property sales. It's an arbitrary system that could leave some cesspools in place for many years, said Monica Staaf, the association's government affairs director.
Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced that the first repair contract for road damage caused by Hurricane Sandy is scheduled to begin tomorrow, Saturday, November 3, 2012 – just five days after the storm hit Rhode Island.
Workers from J.H. Lynch and Sons of Cumberland are expected to mobilize for repairs on a portion of Ocean Road in Narragansett damaged by the storm. The $1.2 million contract includes replacement of 3,800 feet of sidewalk from State Pier No. 5 near South Pier Road to the area of Narragansett Town Beach. The contract also includes replacement of more than 200 feet of seawall, repair of any undermined areas, inspection and repair of drainage systems, and other minor repairs as needed.
Eighty percent of the project costs are funded from $3 million of quick release emergency relief funds provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday.
“It was exciting to learn that Rhode Island had received a quick response to its request for funds for initial repairs to our roads, and even more so to learn that actual repairs could begin less than a week after the storm,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. “This is a credit to all involved in helping Rhode Island get back on its feet as quickly as possible.”
“Our team at RIDOT has been working long and hard to evaluate the damage caused by this storm and put a plan in place to fix it,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “We are especially appreciative of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s rapid response to our funding request so we could make this happen.”
RIDOT is putting together design plans for repairs to damaged roadway segments along Rhode Island’s coastline, including severely undermined roads on Block Island. The goal is to have repairs begin in the next few weeks and conclude the projects by the end of 2012.
The very first thing to do to get your claim started is to call your local EMA Director: Narragansett EMA Judy Christofaro, Assistant 789-1000 firstname.lastname@example.org South Kingstown EMA Stephen Alfred, Director 789-9331 ext.1201
The second is to call the United Way at 211 (like 411, or 911, but for RI assistance information). They will help offer services and track total numbers of claims to provide to FEMA, which ultimately helps the state get adequate federal funds released. Don't forget, you will also need to file with your own private insurance company. Document all the lost and damaged items. Be as precise as possible, better to have more information than find out you did not have enough. All questions should be directed to 211.
2-1-1 Call Center
Way 2-1-1 in Rhode Islandis working closely with federal, state and local
individuals and organizations to help Rhode Islanders affected by Hurricane
2-1-1 is the fastest and easiest
way to get information when you need it, especially during a natural disaster
such as Hurricane Sandy. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This service will give
you access to resources across your community, whether you need to get help -
for you, for a family member or for a friend - or want to help and you will be
connected to the services or information you need. This service is confidential, free, and
available in multiple languages.
Information is also available online at www.211ri.org.
For individuals needing food, shelter,
transportation, or other human service needs, Rhode Islanders are encouraged to
call 2-1-1. For businesses, it is
important to call 2-1-1 to report any damage to your business to assist in the
process of applying for federal relief funds.
If you are able to volunteer to assist others or
offer resources, you are also encouraged to dial 2-1-1. For situations involving any immediate threat
to the health and welfare of residents, individuals should immediately call
South Kingstown has 27% of households (3,942 out of 14,413 customers) without power, down from nearly 6,000 this AM, and 10,000 at the height of the storm. Main problem areas are Tuckertown Road and Ministerial Road.
Narragansett has 7% of households (775 out of 10,486 customers) without power.
As of 11 am this morning, there are 2 teams of FEMA officials in South Kingstown assessing the damage, with one team focusing on public assets and the other on private property. The town will then file it's application for declaration to be joined with others from the state and a decision will be provided by the federal government for the state as a whole. There will likely be several offices opening throughout the state (concentrated where the most damage has occurred) in the coming week or two where businesses and individuals can file their own application for assistance. The first step will be for the claimant to apply to their private insurance and keep close documentation on the damage. This is an important step to facilitate the federal assistance.
As I get more information, I will continue to share it and update often. I will also continue to visit businesses in the district to help answer any questions as best as I can, and direct people to the resources necessary to recover. I understand people are losing patience, and I will continue to fight for the resources South County needs to recover from this storm.