NEWS

Turchetta resigns from School Committee

Posted 8/18/21

Turchetta resigns from School Committee Vincent Turchetta has resigned from the Ward 4 seat on the School Committee. "I think it's a good time to take a break . Really, it's just scheduling," he said late last week. He added that he has taken on "a

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NEWS

Turchetta resigns from School Committee

Posted

Vincent Turchetta has resigned from the Ward 4 seat on the School Committee.

“I think it’s a good time to take a break … Really, it’s just scheduling,” he said late last week.

He added that he has taken on “a little bit more” of a workload at the Community College of Rhode Island, where he teaches classes on education. He is also a teacher at Coventry High School.

Turchetta’s resignation was announced during the Aug. 10 work session of the School Committee. He was first elected to the committee in 2016, winning reelection in 2018 and 2020.

“I’m going to miss it,” he said of his time on the committee. “There’s some good people. The administration are great to work with. The School Committee’s good people, volunteering their time. It was a difficult decision, believe me.”

He added: “The Cranston school system’s in good hands with … I’ve been there long enough now, that’s the true. She knows what she’s doing.”

Turchetta also indicated he may seek to return to public service at some point.

“I hope someday in the future to be involved, to help, on a larger scale,” he said.

Turchetta’s resignation is the third from the School Committee in recent years. In late 2019, Stephanie Culhane and Janice Ruggieri stepped down from the ward 2 and 5 seats, respectively, just months apart.

Prior to those departures, the committee had gone without a resignation for a number of years. As a result, a new appointment process involving the submission of resumes and public interviews was developed, ultimately resulting in the appointment of Kristen Haroian to the Ward 2 seat and David Alden Sears to the Ward 5 seat. Both won full two-year terms in November 2020.

Reached Aug. 13, Dan Wall, the School Committee’s chairman, said the committee will “go through the same procedure” in filling the Ward 4 vacancy. He planned to make a public announcement at the Aug. 16 meeting inviting interested candidates to submit letters of intent and resumes, and he hopes the committee can interview finalists and vote on an appointment during its September meeting.

Wall described he and Turchetta as “close friends,” and he called Turchetta a “great asset to the School Committee.”

“As a friend and a colleague, I have nothing but the highest admiration for him,” he said. “He will truly be missed on the School Committee. But Vinny’s got to do what’s right for him at this point in time … On a personal note, I’ll miss him.”

Driver killed in fiery single-car crash

One person was killed after a vehicle struck a tree and caught fire on Laten Knight Road on the morning of Aug. 12, according to Cranston Police.

A statement from police indicates officers responded to the area of 504 Laten Knight Road just after 8 a.m. following reports of a single-car crash.

“The callers reported hearing what sounded like a car traveling at a rate of speed,” the statement reads, “then a crash and explosion.”

Officers arriving at the scene found a 2010 Chevy Cobalt SS against a tree with “extensive front-end damage.”

“The driver was lying next to the vehicle, which was fully engulfed in flames,” according to police. Fire Department personnel extinguished the blaze and declared the driver – who was the sole occupant of the vehicle – dead at the scene.

“Based on a preliminary investigation, it appears the vehicle was traveling south on Laten Knight Road at a high rate of speed,” the statement reads. “Once the car approached a sharp bend, it exited the roadway and struck a tree head-on. Investigators did not observe skid marks or other evidence indicating the driver attempted to slow down at the curve before leaving the road.”

As of late last week, police had not identified the driver. The Medical examiner’s office was providing assistance.

City drops tickets from 2017 panhandling ordinance protest

The city has dropped charges against six people who were cited during a demonstration against a now-defunct ordinance aimed at curbing roadside solicitation.

The $85 tickets, issued in March 2017 for violations of that ordinance, were formally dismissed during a Municipal Court hearing on Aug. 12.

In a statement, the Rhode Island Homeless Bill of Rights Defense Committee touted the development as a “major victory.”

“This outcome represents a significant success in ensuring that people can exercise their free speech rights to meet their survival needs,” Megan Smith, a social worker with the House of Hope and one of the defendants whose ticket was dismissed. “I hope that this outcome – and the monetary cost associated with it – dissuades other municipalities from enacting measures like this one, which are cruel, short-sighted, and based on stereotypes and political rhetoric, not facts. Instead of trying to criminalize those who are very poor, we should be focused on creating affordable housing and building diverse and inclusive communities.”

The roadside solicitation issue – more commonly referred to as panhandling – and its related legal cases date back several years.

In 2015, the ACLU of Rhode Island filed suit against the city, challenging the constitutionality of an ordinance barring panhandling. That case was settled in 2016, with the city barred from enforcing the ordinance.

Then, in 2017, a new ordinance was adopted. It sought to prohibit the passing of money or other items between the occupants of vehicles and people within roadways. Supporters argued it was necessary as a roadway safety measure.

A new legal challenge supported by the ACLU followed soon after. U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the measure’s enforcement as the case proceeded.

Earlier this year, after Mayor Ken Hopkins assumed office, the city recently settled the legal challenge to the 2017 ordinance, agreeing to pay $140,000 to cover costs and attorney fees for the plaintiffs, including the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project and the ACLU. Additionally, under the terms of the consent judgment approved by Smith, the city is “permanently enjoined” from enforcing the ordinance.

The tickets dismissed last week were issued on March 27, 2017, when advocates gathered at the intersection of New London Avenue and Sockanosset Cross Road “to protest the new ordinance and to stand in solidarity with those who panhandle to survive,” according to the Defense Committee’s statement.

The statement includes the following quote from one of those ticketed, Duff Morton: “It felt surreal to watch numerous police cars respond to a few people handing out flyers. There were more officers than I could count. They stopped us from talking to drivers, and they very politely gave us tickets. One of the longest traditions in this nation is the protection of each person’s right to speak in public, whether or not someone else likes what that person has to say. You don’t give up that right just because you’re poor. You don’t give up that right for any reason at all.”

Bucci named to state’s redistricting panel

Maria Bucci, chair of the Cranston Democratic City Committee and the party’s 2020 nominee for mayor, has been selected to serve on the panel that will oversee the drawing of new congressional and state legislative districts.

Bucci, who also previously served on the Cranston City Council, was appointed to the special reapportionment commission by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).

The reapportionment commission will be made up of 18 members, including six each from the state Senate and House of Representatives. Bucci is among the three members of the general public appointed by Ruggerio. House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) also has three appointments from the public.

The panel, created through legislation passed earlier this year, will be tasked with developing a redistricting plan based on the 2020 Census results. Its report is due for submission to the General Assembly by Jan. 15, 2022.

Granular Census data used in the drawing of congressional and state legislative maps – as well as local ward and district lines – was released Aug. 12.

Ultimately, the General Assembly will approve a redistricting plan and send it to Gov. Dan McKee for his approval or veto. The new districts are required to be in place ahead of the 2022 election.

In addition to Bucci, Ruggerio’s appointments from the public include Harold Metts, a former state senator, and Alvin Reyes, an organizer with IBEW Local 99.

The Senate president also appointed state Sens. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston), Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), Jessica de la Cruz (R-Dist. 23, Burrillville, Glocester, North Smithfield) and Gordon E. Rogers (R-Dist. 21, Foster, Coventry, Scituate, West Greenwich) to the panel.

Shekarchi’s public appointments include Antonio Lopes, CEO and founder of TILT Communications; real estate agent Kaprece Ransaw; and former state Rep. Stephen Ucci, who served as chair of the reappointment panel following the 2010 Census.

From the House, Shekarchi appointed Reps. Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence), Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence), Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence), Brian C. Newberry (R-Dist. 48, North Smithfield, Burrillville), Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland) and David J. Place (R-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester).

“Redistricting is an important and often challenging task that needs to be done in a fair and transparent way,” Shekarchi said in a statement. “I’m confident that the pool of talent, experience and professionalism that we’ve gathered together on this commission will come up with a fair and equitable process based on the census data.”

“It’s time once again to reapportion our General Assembly and congressional districts, and we went to great lengths to ensure it’s done in the most transparent way possible,” Ruggerio said in the statement. “This commission will conduct public hearings and give members of the public access to the technical software used for district mapping.”

-- Daniel Kittredge

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