Motif TV for May 9
Tattoos, plays and festivals happening over the next few days…
MotifTV April 24 Edition
The Hummel Report: Spotlight on Project Night Vision
Editor’s note: This is the latest Hummel Spotlight, a feature focusing on people and organizations making a difference in the community.
It is a Wednesday night just after dark.
And while the Madeline Rogers Recreation Center off Chalkstone Avenue in Providence looks quiet from the outside, it is anything but on the inside, as hundreds of teens gather to play pickup basketball, air hockey, foosball, or pool. It’s all part of a program called Project Night Vision, launched several years ago for at-risk teens.
Right in the middle of it all is the program’s founder, Kobi Dennis, who volunteers his time six nights a week in three different locations across the city.
“The first thing out of a young person’s mouth from kids in these impoverished neighborhoods is ‘You don’t know what I go through. You don’t know what it’s like.’ Time and time again I tell them, ‘But I do.’”
That’s because Dennis, now 40, married and a father of three, grew up in South Providence in a single-parent household. The program’s name was inspired by a stint Dennis did in the United States Navy before coming back to Rhode Island.
“We would look out for mines in the Persian Gulf. I would stand out at the tip of the ship with night vision goggles and I would see everything,” he said.
Dennis says steep reductions in State and City funding have left kids ages 12 to 18 without some of the services that used to be available. His goal is to get them off the streets and channel their energy in a positive direction.
“You know, Latchkey kids are just going in the house by themselves at 13. In our day, it probably would have been okay because it’s three channels – there’s not much to do; you’re staring at the fish tank and maybe you go out and throw a ball or something. But now, you have all the tablets, cable television… a 13-year-old can get into some big trouble.”
Project Night Vision – funded primarily through grants and donations – runs on staggered nights, Monday through Saturday at the Rogers Rec Center, the Joslin Center off Manton Avenue and at Sackett Street in South Providence.
Dennis, who works part-time at the Rhode Island Training School and for a social service agency during the day, runs a tight ship in the evening. Everyone who comes through the door has to register and he has kicked out kids who don’t follow the rules or respect the program.
Dennis has also has brought in programs you might not expect for an inner-city crowd like a yoga class on Tuesdays that has that has attracted some of the teens’ parents. Dennis has also recruited a lacrosse player from East Greenwich High to teach kids the fundamentals of a sport that most have only seen on television.
On many nights there are sandwiches and a snack for the kids as they arrive at the front door.
It is no accident that you see Dennis in a suit – even when he’s playing flag football in the gym. Like every other part of the program, the wardrobe sends a message.
“You can still be the same person,” he said. “You can be from this neighborhood, you can be a good person, you can care about them, be where they’re from and still dress well. They believe in their minds that people that dress like this are against them. They’re the other side, the teacher that doesn’t like me. I want them to associate the dressing with positivity.”
A couple of years ago, Dennis approached Providence Recreation Director Beth Charlebois about using some of the city’s recreation centers.
“I gave him the facility and he was self-sufficient from there, which was pretty amazing that he wasn’t depending on us and our resources in order to run,” said Charlebois. The good news is, as the economy improves, Project Night Vision is likely to get some help. Mayor Angel Taveras and Public Safety Commissioner Steve Pare are big supporters, along with Rhode Island State Police Supt. Steven O’Donnell.
“We’re in tight times now, but that’s cyclical,” said Charlebois. “We’re not always going to be in such tight times. I foresee us offering resources, more resources, and trying to help expand the programs.”
If you know of a person or organization that deserves “the spotlight” send an email to email@example.com.
The Hummel Report: Greenleaf Compassion Center
If you drive along West Main Road in Portsmouth there’s a good chance you might miss it.
But later this month, a nondescript, converted auto body shop will become Rhode Island’s newest dispensary for patients authorized to purchase medical marijuana.
The Greenleaf Compassion Center becomes the second of three authorized by the Rhode Island Department of Health in what has been a stop-and-go process over the past several years.
Dr. Seth Bock is a Middletown acupuncturist and partner in Greenleaf, which beat out more than a dozen other applicants and will be the sole compassion center in the East Bay. The other two are in Warwick and Providence.
Bock and his partners are putting a total of $600,000 into the venture, and expect to eventually serve several hundred patients after it opens May 31. Given the product is being sold and grown at the Greenleaf building, the owners are investing heavily in security. A bulletproof glass foyer will eventually greet customers when they are buzzed in after showing identification.
“We take security very, very seriously,” Bock tells The Hummel Report. “From my perspective, aside from providing the best medicine we can to people that need it, security is right up there with it.”
The original plan called for the center to be located on the back side of the Portsmouth Business Park, sandwiched in between a row of businesses. But Bock said the landlord got cold feet and there were odor concerns since marijuana will be cultivated on site. The new location is more visible and close to a bus stop.
But not everyone is happy about pot for pain.
Larry Fitzmorris, who heads a local citizens watchdog group, says the state totally bypassed the community in the application and citing approval process. “This was a local decision that the state made,” he said.
Bock insists that Greenleaf has worked with local officials, including the building inspector and the police and fire chiefs. “We follow all of the same in-town regulatory requirements as any other business here. It just so happens that we met those requirements. We met with the building inspector and zoning officer and he went through the normal process. Not every business needs to get a zoning variance.”
“I think maybe some people feel like it should have gone to the whole town for a referendum. But at the end of the day, I think it would have passed by a large majority. It’s very clear that for medical marijuana specifically, 83 percent of people in the country believe it should be available to people that need it.”
Fitzmorris disagrees: “If, in my judgment, it had been placed before the people for a vote here, it would have failed. We would have launched a rather substantial opposition to it.”
Bock, who has a master’s degree in Chinese herbal medicine, says he feels strongly about the use of medicinal marijuana.
“I watched two of my aunts die of cancer – they had cancer for long periods of time,” he said. “And I watched them use this medicine. It kept them alive for a long time because they were able to complete their chemotherapy regimens. I think some people have the feeling that the entire topic of medical marijuana being a medicine is a sham. And that it’s all about us just making a lot of money and getting it to whoever wants it regardless of health parameters.”
Then there’s the issue of the Federal Government. In the past, US Attorney Peter Neronha has warned large-scale growers about potential prosecution. A spokesman declined our request for a comment about the compassion centers.
We asked if Bock had concerns about the Federal Government.
“You know, I definitely have concerns about it,” he said. “I’m a dad, I’m a husband, I’m a community member, I’m a family member. Most of the time I’m a pretty good person. I’m in this for the right reason. I’ve worked with people that are desperate and have benefitted from this. It’s a program built on compassion; I have every intention of following that mission. This is not legalization for the masses. We’re not putting this medicine into the hands of children, it’s not going into the black market. From every logical standpoint, this model is the best model probably in the country.”
The Hummel Report is a 501 3C non-profit organization. If you have a story idea or want make a donation to the Hummel Report, go to www.hummelreport.com. Or mail Jim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get Inked: The Rhode Island Tattoo Expo returns to Providence
The dastardly veil of winter has finally rolled back, and the arrival of long, warm and sunny days means many different things to Rhode Islanders. For some, it means the start of numerous lazy hours spent on the beaches of Newport and Narragansett. For others, backyard barbeques and games of corn hole. But for many of us, the long awaited arrival of spring brings with it the return of the Rhode Island Tattoo Expo to the Convention Center for its second year.
Little Rhody has long been heralded as a haven for both the arts and the counterculture scene. And nowhere do these two worlds collide better than a tattoo convention. I had the privilege to attend last year’s inaugural RITE as a counterculture journalist, and was very much impressed with the quality of exhibits, talents of the featured artists, and the fun events like burlesque shows.
The 2013 lineup is on track to blow away anyone expecting a simple repeat of last year. As event organizer Peter Brouillette says, “The size and scope is considerably larger than 2012: three times the amount of space, a huge increase in production value, and close to 140 booths featuring some 250-plus artists all lend themselves to making 2013 a huge step forward.” But what sets the Rhode Island Tattoo Expo apart from all the rest in New England – Boston, Live Free or Die, Massachusetts Tattoo & Arts Festival, etc.? “On its face, a huge mix of international, national, local, celebrity, award-winning and industry recognized tattoo artists,” he says confidently. “Add in nationally touring bands (such as Death Before Dishonor and B. Dolan), an art gallery, the Tattoo Nation Premiere, our official hostess, local alternative model Jeselyn Online, an art fusion presentation and a fashion show all set us apart – certainly from a New England standpoint.”
Long a staple of the fringe, tattooing has forged its way into 21st century mainstream America through tattoo reality shows and the popularity of celebrity tattooists. One such celebrity being featured at the 2013 expo is Rhode Island native Steven Tefft, winner of season 2 of Spike TV’s Ink Master, a wildly popular tattoo reality show. In addition to meeting fans and showcasing some of his amazing work, Tefft has also launched a portrait tattoo giveaway, worth over $1,000, for anyone affected by the events of the tragic 2003 Station Nightclub fire. To enter, hopefuls must upload an 8×10 portrait to his Facebook fan page, along with their story. The entry with the most votes will be tattooed during the expo weekend. I had the opportunity to ask Tefft a few questions while he was in between customers at his popular CT shop, 12 Tattoos.
AS: As a New Englander and a native Rhode Islander, how does it feel to be a part of the 2013 Rhode Island Tattoo Expo?
ST: I’m really excited about going to the expo this year; sadly I wasn’t able to attend last year. Going to the expo will be great, and with it being in my home state, I had to show some support and attend.
AS: What motivated you to do the tattoo giveaway for the Station Nightclub fire? Do you have a personal connection to the tragedy?
ST: I do indeed have a personal connection. I had a couple of friends that were in the fire – fortunately I didn’t lose any. I was supposed to be there that night as well… I know the portrait won’t change what happened, but at least it can bring a piece of a loved one back for someone.
AS: How can fans expect to interact with you as a celebrity tattooist at the expo? Does this illustrious title change how you interact with clients or fans?
ST: They can bring me drinks! Don’t they know I was famous before I was famous? No, honestly they can just stop by and say hi. It’s awesome to meet fans of my work and meet new people in general.
Attending a tattoo convention is always a unique experience, whether you’re an industry pro, a veteran collector or a curious onlooker. The myriad alternative art, counterculture personalities, great music, amazing performances, celebrity tattooists and pure raw energy of people coming together in a celebration of art has put the 2013 Rhode Island Tattoo Expo on track to be a memorable event that’s not to be missed.
2013 Rhode Island Tattoo Expo
May 10, 11 & 12
Rhode Island Convention Center
1 Sabin Street
The Class of 2013 Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame Members Make History
Rhode Island may be small, but there’s no doubt it’s big on talent. To honor and preserve that talent, the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame (RIMHOF) was formed in 2011. “Rhode Island has produced an inordinately large number of truly great, successful and important artists,” says RIMHOF Vice Chair and Archive Director, Rick Bellaire. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that world-acclaimed artists have roots right here.” The RIMHOF aims to make it impossible to forget that fact.
This is the organization’s second year honoring Rhode Island-based musicians with an induction, and it expects this year’s ceremony and concert to rival last year’s sold-out show. The 2013 inductees include The Cowsills, made up of six siblings and their mother, who raised her chart-topping brood in Newport; George M. Cohen, who had his start in Fox Point; Sissieretta Jones, who managed her astounding opera career from Providence’s East Side; Bill Flanagan, who started in Rhode Island and headed to the top, promoting music from his home state all the way; Jimmie Crane, who maintained a Providence-based jewelry manufacturing company while huge stars like Doris Day and Elvis crooned the songs he wrote; Federal Hill-born Bobby Hacket, who grew up to be one of the best jazz improvisers ever seen; Eddie Zack & The Hayloft Jamboree, a band known for bringing country and western music to the Northeast; and Paul Geremia, who grew up in Silver Lake to become a world-acclaimed acoustic musician. The final inductee is Steve Smith & The Nakeds, who is celebrating its 40th anniversary, putting out a new album titled Under the Covers, and planning a full tour schedule. But that doesn’t mean the band doesn’t have time to honor its roots by joining The Cowsills in a special concert that follows the induction ceremony.
To allow more fans to be part of the action, this year’s ceremonies, which will be held on April 28, will be split into two events. Afternoon inductions and performances will be held from 2 to 4 pm, and the evening inductions and performances will begin at 7 pm at The Met. If you’re attending both sessions and are looking for something to do between them, head to the RIHOF museum space in the Hope Artiste Village at 4:30 pm to see the unveiling of nine new displays honoring the 2013 inductees. As theorganization grows, the museum will hold over 100 inductee displays, as well as Rhode Island music memorabilia, complete with interactive components. According to Bellaire, the museum space is just one of the RIHOF tools that will allow the organization to showcase the best musical talent in Rhode Island.
To purchase tickets to the events or view the day’s schedule, go to http://www.rhodeislandmusichalloffame.com.
The Hummel Spotlight: Mobile Loaves and Fishes
That’s because week-in and week-out, volunteers have come with food and clothes for those who need it the most. Social Park is the first of what will be four stops, along with a church a few blocks over, a women’s shelter near downtown and a housing project in the city’s north end.
“They know we’re coming. They’re waiting for us,” says Debbie Robertson, who coordinates the truck runs for her church, Barrington United Methodist. It has partnered with six other churches from Bristol to Providence to form the Rhode Island operation of a national program out of Texas that’s called Mobile Loaves and Fishes and was founded more than a decade ago. Barrington United Methodist Church, like most of its counterparts, covers three runs during its rotation: not only to Woonsocket on Saturdays, but to Burnside Park and several other locations in Providence on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday nights.
“You have this group of people that now you’re in a relationship with – they’re expecting you to be there,” said Pastor Andrew Simon of St. James Lutheran Church in Barrington, another participant. “They’ve come to expect the truck will show up at a certain time and they really need what we have on the truck and that’s really powerful. The landscape of the cities we visit changes after you’re involved with Mobile Loaves and Fishes and you start to look at places like Burnside Park or Kennedy Plaza in a different way.” The program has a basic formula, but each church has flexibility with the details.
At Barrington United Methodist, which we followed for its rotation last month, some of the 40 volunteers arrive to make sandwiches and organize food that will be distributed on site. One Saturday morning, volunteer Bob Sheldon made a huge pot of beef stew, which was kept warm in containers at the back of the truck, along with piping hot coffee and hot chocolate. On the other side were clothes and toiletries, some donated, some purchased.
Robertson estimates it costs about $200 a run, or $600 a month, for the church. They rely on donations and hold an annual fundraiser.
“We could bag up food and hand it to somebody and just go down the line and be out of there in half an hour,” Pastor Simon said. “But the relationship part of it is important. So instead of doing that, one-on-one we meet people at the truck and then we go through and ask them what they like. ‘Would you like a sandwich?’ or ‘What kind of sandwich would you like?’
“The heart of ministry is meeting people, sharing resources and going beyond the boundaries of these walls. There are things we can do with this truck and people we can meet that we’ll never meet just planning worship services or looking at budgets.” The stop at Morin Heights in Woonsocket, which draws mostly children, is perhaps the most poignant. “This one little girl on Saturday morning came, and her mom brought her, she had two girls,” Robertson recalled. “One girl had a really nice winter coat and the other one had a little hoodie. She didn’t even own a winter coat. And we said, `We’ve got a brand new one for you.’ So it had a coat and the mitten attached still and we put her in it and zipped her up. And her mother said, `That’s the first winter coat she’s ever had.’ And she was two and-a-half.”
“Some of these people who are wanting to pass what we have on the truck on to others are people who you know are hungry,” said Pastor Simon. “And I think that’s the spirit of giving and it’s not something that always comes through in the way homeless people or families with low incomes are portrayed in the mainstream media. We often hear that they’re there by choice or because they don’t want to work or because they’re lazy or because it’s easy to be in that position. You meet these people and it’s just not the case.”
If you have a story idea or want make a donation to the Hummel Report, go to www.hummelreport.com or mail Jim directly at email@example.com.
Rockin’ New Health Care Measures
Musicians – listen up. If you didn’t attend the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame’s event last week, you need to read this now. It’s time to Tune In & Tune Up, the newest Hall of Fame initiative. Board member Donald “D.C.” Culp describes the basic philosophy of the program with one of his favorite quotes: “He who has health has hope, he who has hope has everything.”
Board member Russell Gusetti describes why the initiative was launched: “I think musicians feel the health care dilemma the hardest… It’s very confusing and very daunting at times, and we hope to make this a simple matter and see that there are alternatives and that a lot of this really needs to be preventative care. It’s getting ahead of the curve and doing something right away.” Culp says of the program: “Our objective is to get people to tune in a little bit more to their health and do some preventative things.” One of the spurs for the idea came when Ken Lyons was inducted in 2012 and said that the best thing the Hall of Fame could do would be to approach the idea of affordable health care for musicians.
Any professional musician or industry professional in Rhode Island is eligible to sign up for the free membership card. The card will give members discounts on certain health- related services and products at participating stores. The card also will provide access to ongoing workshops with medical professionals such as Dr. Stephanie Hansen, psychologist, and Dr. Mark Andreozzi, ENT, both of whom were on the event panel. Plus, there will be a dedicated website for health and wellness issues. All of the above are part of the free Tune In & Tune Up Program.
The event also spotlighted Dr. Zaheer Shah’s Access Basic Health Care Initiative (ABC Initiative), which is open to anyone – not just musicians. After 13 years in his medical practice, Dr. Shah decided to go to law school, which brought about a change in his perspective. “There are just too many Americans who are left outside looking in on health care,” he says. “The truth of the matter is that in America, our health care system does a lip service to that notion [of preventative care].” He even began noticing patients with insurance not taking preventative measures because of the high associated costs.
Shah and his colleagues designed a program that they felt could provide affordable, quality preventative care here in Rhode Island. “I almost jokingly said health care, basic health care, should be about as expensive as a cup of coffee. So let’s try to make it that if they can afford that, they should be able to afford basic health care.” And so they set out to make a plan that costs $1.50 per day.
The plan starts with a $90 enrollment fee and then a monthly fee of $45. That cost covers your annual exam, blood work, EKG, x-rays, flu shots, urgent care visits, and unlimited sick visits. The initiative worked with Stop & Shop pharmacies to provide over 200 prescriptions with just a $10 co-pay. And, if you’re a member of Tune In & Tune Up, the $15 office visit co-pays will be waived.
Dr. Shah is clear that he doesn’t think this is the perfect solution or the only answer to the health care problems we face, but says, “We have to rely on good old fashioned American ingenuity and treat each other as a community. We have to begin to solve our problems at the small scale, the local community level.” He sees his program as one way to give back to the state of Rhode Island, which he says has been very good to him.
Both programs are set up to work with the needs of the people in the RI community to provide needed services. But perhaps Gusetti best summed up the spirit of the event: “Take care of yourself – that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Visit RhodeIslandMusicHallofFame.com or www.abciri.com for more information.
As the Stories Continue to Unfold This month: Major developments on a handful of our Hummel Report investigations.
In December we reported that the school superintendent in Portsmouth had been driving with an out-of-state license plate for more than a year, avoiding paying local property taxes – even though the school committee told Dr. Lynn Krizic last summer that she needed to switch out the Illinois vanity plates on her 2003 Saab and get registered in Rhode Island.
After we asked her about it, Krizic told us in a follow-up email several days later that because the car was jointly registered with her husband, who still lives in Illinois, she didn’t plan to register it in Rhode Island – something Krizic never mentioned in our interview. That didn’t fly with the police in Little Compton, where she lives. An officer stopped her on the way to work one day, issuing her a citation, and in February, after several trips to the Division of Motor Vehicles in Cranston, Krizic finally registered and got Rhode Island license plates – keeping a University of Illinois plate holder on her 2003 Saab.But the superintendent was still required to appear last month before a magistrate in traffic court, where she produced the registration.
The judge dismissed the charges, but she had to pay $35 in court costs. All of this 20 months after Krizic took the job in Rhode Island.
All Fired Up
Voters in Central Coventry told the leaders of their financially beleaguered fire district last month they’d had enough, overwhelmingly rejecting a budget that called for a tax increase of more than 35 percent.
A court-appointed special receiver said the next step would likely be liquidation of the fire district’s assets to pay off millions of dollars in debt that have accumulated over the past several years.“We’re in a crisis stage at this point,” said Receiver Richard Land, who has overseen the district since last fall. “I believe liquidation in some form is likely.” The vote was the culmination of what started out as a promising idea in 2006 to merge four fire districts. It was sold to voters at the time as a way to pool assets and save money. Instead, union contracts that guaranteed an increasing number of firefighters generous benefits – coupled with an initial $700,000 accounting error that was repeated three years in a row – put the fire district on fragile financial ground.
A Hummel Report investigation showed last summer that the district’s spending increased more than 60 percent in just five years. Federal money that paid for additional firefighters helped keep down tax increases, but the model proved to be unsustainable. And voters, angry that their tax bills had climbed steadily over the years, began to show up to district meetings that previously were sparsely attended. For hours on March 26, a steady stream of people – at one point the line snaked around Coventry High School as far as the eye could see -cast votes in two machines set up in the hallway just outside the auditorium. At 10:15 pm, shortly after the polls closed, the results were in: 1,357, or 74 percent, voted against the budget; 484 supported it.
Pawtucket’s fire marshal called it quits in December after we revealed that he had put his girlfriend’s daughter on his Blue Cross family plan. We asked Fire Marshal Steve Parent about it as he arrived for work in December. Parent, a 25-year veteran of the department, said the City gave him permission to add his girlfriend’s daughter to his Blue Cross family plan more than a year earlier because the couple planned to get married. They never did get married and he eventually took the girl off the plan 10 months later, after she cost the City nearly $3,000 in medical expenses. Parent’s explanation didn’t sit well with Mayor Donald Grebien, who ordered a police investigation.
While detectives decided no criminal charges were warranted, Parent reimbursed the City for the medical expenses, then decided to retire several weeks after our interview.
The Final Chapter
The sentencing and imprisonment last month of former Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau marked the final chapter of a Hummel Report investigation that began three years ago, prompting a state and federal investigation.
Moreau had been under state and federal investigation since our story in early 2010 revealed that he’d gotten a free furnace from a contractor. Moreau finally admitted his guilt in September. The former mayor reported to begin serving a two-year sentence in federal prison in Maryland earlier on March 4.