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The Hummel Report Mid-Year Update

The Hummel ReportAs we reach the mid-point of 2013, The Hummel Report has significant developments on investigations since the beginning of the year.

The Tax Man Calleth – Under the category of “Be careful what you ask for,” now-former Somerset Selectman Arastou Mahjoory challenged the town to speed up a revaluation that has been taking place the past year.

“The Board of Assessors needs to get their valuation people out there quicker. If they increase the assessment, no problem,” he said in a May interview with The Hummel Report.

We raised questions about the legality of a 1,500-square-foot in-law apartment on his property assessed at only $17,000.

Mahjoory said the former garage had electricity and water when he moved in at 497 Chace Street, even though relatives of the previous owner contradicted his story. We found no permits at town hall to convert the space into living quarters.

In repeated interviews with us over several weeks, Mahjoory challenged the town to come look at the property, but the town’s assessor tells The Hummel Report that when she arrived he refused to let her inside, saying his mother-in-law had a heart attack. The town increased the assessment anyway and last week sent him a supplemental tax bill for $1,000 that is due later this month. That’s in addition to the $4,200 he pays now for a total bill of $5,200 going forward.

Mahjoory, who was up for re-election to the Board of Selectman, lost his seat four days after our story ran. The margin was just 83 votes.

Wrong Way – In February we reported on a blocked right-of-way to the water in East Providence. The homeowner insisted she had an agreement with the city to put a fence in front of the path and threatened to sue us over our story. Last month the city told her to take it down.

Retired Providence police officer Tabitha Glavin put a fence across the city right-of-way shortly after moving to 61 White Avenue in Riverside in 2009. We interviewed two neighbors who wanted to know why years had gone by and the city had not forced Glavin to remove the fence.

The day after our story ran, Glavin’s attorney threatened to sue us – and the neighbors we interviewed – saying we had “false and misleading information” in our report, adding, “The matter that you reported has been resolved with the City of East Providence.” But she never provided us any documentation about an agreement or that the city council had approved it. The attorney maintains the city has not produced any evidence that East Providence owns the land.

The Hummel Report has obtained documents issued earlier this month by the city’s director of public works and harbormaster, who ordered Glavin to take down the fence by July 8. But her attorney went to court to block the city and a judge will hear the case later this month.

An Eye on the Water – The Bristol Town Council last month chose a new harbormaster, surprising many in town when it bypassed the in-house candidate for the job.

We reported that the former harbormaster, Joe Cabral, retired last fall under pressure after town officials discovered hundreds of calls had gone unanswered at his office last summer. Cabral’s son-in-law, Matt Calouro, who served as the assistant harbormaster, applied to replace Cabral, but lost out to Greg Marsili, head of the Coast Guard station in Bristol. Marsili officially took over in late June.

Calouro initially agreed to stay on until Marsili arrived, but then told Town Administrator Antonio Teixeira he was going out for medical reasons.

Meanwhile, Mike Marshall, a resident who has been pushing for answers about the harbormaster’s office, has asked for a forensic audit of the department. Teixeira told The Hummel Report this week he decided to do a full forensic audit on a department that handles hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

All Fired Up – Hundreds of people turned out to a meeting in Exeter in March, upset by the council’s decision to try to get the process for obtaining a gun permit shifted from local control to the state. Council members who supported the proposal are now facing a recall effort.

Exeter is the only community in Rhode Island without a police department, which means the issuance of gun permits falls to the town clerk and town sergeant. Four members of the council voted to ask the local legislative delegation to put in a bill to have that responsibility shifted to the attorney general.

Gun rights activists packed a school cafeteria to voice their displeasure before and after the vote.

Exeter resident Lance Edwards said that night he would work to recall the four council members, and last month was true to his word by filing a petition for a recall at Town Hall. The town clerk tells The Hummel Report the group has 120 days to get 496 signatures. If they are successful, the recall election would be held within 60 days.

hummelPot for Pain – And finally, the state’s second marijuana distribution center opened in Portsmouth at the beginning of June. And so far, the owners report doing a robust business.

We got a tour of the Greenleaf Compassion Center a month before it opened, when the building on West Main Road was still undergoing renovations. It officially opened at the beginning of June. Its co-owner, Dr. Seth Bock, tells us that 125 cardholders have already come in to purchase marijuana. He projects 300 by the end of the year.

 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 jim@hummelreport.com.




Semi-live from San Diego Comic-Con!

Hey Motif-ers!

Tune in from July 18th through the 21st to catch Motif’s own Nick Iandolo coming to you live from San Diego Comic-Con!

Nick will be on the scene in the heart of the grandest of comic book/sci-fi/fantasy/film/cosplay conventions of all filming, interviewing, blogging, and live-Tweeting!

If you can’t be at Comic-Con yourself, then following Nick’s amazing coverage for Motif is the next best thing!

Stay tuned you don’t want to miss a beat of this epic adventure!

Follow him this week on twitter @MotifMagRI 

 

 




Gasoline and Testosterone: Cruise Night 2013

Cruisers 2

Transport yourself back to a simpler time: where people were friendlier, hemlines were higher, mom and pop hardware stores were as ubiquitous as Starbucks and McDonalds, soda was sold specially at the corner drug store, mother’s didn’t drive minivans (and didn’t need them), and even the ugly cars had more style than a GQ magazine. Sans seatbelts, naturally. But what fun would it be driving a car if there was no danger of having all of your teeth knocked out on the solid steel dashboard?

At the now annual Cruise Night, hosted by the Steelyard in Providence, motorheads, petro-junkies, and classic car aficionados joined together in celebration of automotive history.  Fords, Dodges, Chevrolets, Plymouths and Buicks may have ruled the show in terms of numbers, but few cars matched the uniqueness or rareness of a 1955 BMW Isetta, (restored to?) perfect condition save for the fact that it only had three wheels, or the metallic mint green 1964 Buick Skylark convertible that was seen driving away from the Sac-O-Suds laundro… Oh. Wait. That was a plot line from My Cousin Vinny.

BMW

Sure, there was occasional 1980’s shitbox Ford Mustang, or the occasional 1994 Chevy 1500 pickup truck. But there was also a 1939 Ford Model A, a 1950’s Studebaker Silver Hawk, and a hydrogen fuel cell car built entirely by local high school science students. (If high school students can build one, what’s preventing major car manufacturers? Lookin’ at you, Honda.) While the hydro-car only gets an estimated 50-60 miles on a tank of hydrogen, that is more than enough for driving to and from work in Rhode Island – hell, even Boston is only 50 miles or so. And for just pennies, a tank of hydrogen is infinitely cheaper than a gallon of gasoline.

From hicks living way down in Westerly (I could probably count their total number of teeth on 2 hands), to hipsters, to tattooed muscle-building, wife-beater wearing garage heads; all types of people were represented.  One woman, wearing little more than a skimpy halloween costume, high heels, stockings and tattoos sold raffle tickets. There was even a woman dressed for a Great Gatsby-esque ball – heavily powdered with makeup and complete with a knee-length, three-quarter-sleeved dress and a parasol (note: the weather on July 12th was anything but sunny).

With all of the testosterone and gasoline in the air, the only thing that would have made the night more manly were beer, and a visit from the Governator – and there were plenty of beer-drinkers.

Sure, the next Cruise Night might be a year away – but I, for one, will most definitely be returning to the Steel Yard. As for you, you have 365 days to prepare. So soup-up that 1991 Honda Civic, put an engine into your Radio Flyer, do whatever it takes – but do NOT miss the 2014 Steel Yard Cruise Night.

STAY TUNED FOR PICTURES/VIDEO!!




Motif TV July 1-8




Saving the Animals, One Pint at a Time

grilled Che-eseThree of my favorite “P” words: Providence, Puppies, and Pints. Separately, all are good; combine them, and… well, you get Pints for Paws (and a whole lot of alliteration). On Saturday June 29th, the Providence Animal Rescue League hosted their annual fundraiser at Nick-A-Nees Bar. Self-labeled beer connoisseurs appeared in bulk, bringing their dogs for a day of revelry – all for a good cause.

From 3pm until midnight, the day was cordoned off into segments. From 3:00 to 5:00, activities coordinated by PARL invited guests to meet adoptable dogs from local shelters at the YELP! sponsored adoption tent, where pet goodie-bags and give-a-ways for owners were handed out. For just $15, owners could microchip their pets, making it easy to find lost animals. I arrived a little late to take part in this, but I did arrive early enough to take part in a raffle, where gift baskets revolved around certain recurring themes (as I expected, the two most recurring themes were beer and animal care). I even won one of the prizes – I cannot tell you exactly what I won, but mainly because I have not had time to pick it up. But hey, I won!

Starting at 5:00pm brewers, both local and national, invited guests to partake in a two-hour-long beer tasting. As long as supplies lasted, unlimited samples of craft brews were poured for the first 100 guests who signed up. Most brewers brought some form of India pale ale – not exactly my favorite style of beer, but who turns down beer when it is offered? – some supplied stouts (including a very interesting Mexican-style stout, blending chocolate with ancho chili peppers from Clown Shoes Beer). Brewers included Lagunitas, Stone Brewing, Uinta Brewing, Trinity, Revival, Six Point Craft Ales, Green Flash, Crabbies, Narragansett, and of course, the aforementioned Clown Shoes.

Perhaps reading my partially inebriated mind, two local food trucks rolled into the parking lot next door to Nick-A-Nees right as the beer tasting began. Poco-Loco and FanCHEEZical opened up, selling the ultimate drunk-foods: burritos and grilled cheese. Naturally, I had both. For scientific purposes, of course.

From 7:30 to 11, local bands rocked the stage as OC45, SOURPUNCH, Northern Lands and The Rice Cakes each played 45-minute long sets.

        In all, it was a wonderful day, with fantastic dogs, incredible music, and phenomenal beers. I leave you with this picture of a bulldog on a motor-cycle. Yes. He is wearing a helmet. And goggles.

Bulldog




Open/Closed

The secret is out – Doherty’s Ale House officially opened its new location at the old Bugaboo Creek in Warwick. With 124 taps, beer is dohertysoozing from every pore (or … pour). Midtown Oyster Bar arrived on Thames Street in Newport just in time for the flocking of the tourists. It features “the largest raw bar in Newport,” or you can head upstairs and get cooked in the sun (in the best way possible) at the open-air bar. If you prefer your raw seafood wrapped in rice, Asia One Bistro in Fall River offers another Asian-fusion option to the area (a fancy term for Chinese and Japanese grub on the same menu). If your international taste buds are looking for something a little more Central-American, Budare Grille opened in Central Falls, serving up dishes like Venezuelan style chicken salad with Spanish shredded cheese and avocado.

Cranstonians now have two fewer watering holes with the closing of Fitzpatrick’s on Park Ave and the Cranston Tavern on Pontiac. And, sadly, the Locals in North Providence, a nexus for Americana music, has closed its curtains.




Sprinklers Man 65

For Jason Denton, there is particular significance in being a part of the sprinkler installation team for Machester 65. Jay had tickets to the Station the night of the fire – luckily, he got delayed and missed the tragic show. It makes working on the sprinkler system for a West Warwick music venue especially poignant.65manchester2

“You know, there are things the codes require, and then there are more things you can do. This owner really went above and beyond. You can see why he would want to – both for safety, and because of the historical significance of being the first live music venue to open in West Warwick in at least 10 years.”

Ten years ago, of course, is when the tragic fire claimed 100 lives at the Station nightclub in West Warwick. The shadow of that event has blanketed venues throughout the state. On the one hand, it’s resulted in much greater fire code care and enforcement throughout the state. But the associations from that night are still particularly strong for those in West Warwick.

The owner has exceeded requirements in many ways – for example, the code requires sprinkler heads every 14 feet. He brought them in closer, and asked for extra heads. That costs more – nobody ever asks for that,” says Denton, who works at Rhode Island Fire Protection Systems, where he recently attained his Masters license for RI and Massachusetts. He’s been working in the field for 21 years – but the events of 10 years ago gave him a heightened awareness of importance of his career.

“It’s not like we’re firemen – we don’t do the dangerous part or run into burning buildings. But if something like that does happen, our trade helps them do their job and save lives.” The standards are understandably higher for West Warwick. “The fire department was all over the place on this job, leaving no stone unturned. No one wants anything like that nightmare on their hands.”

 




DareMe: Love In Chains

I have despised love ever since my engagement was called off over four years ago. Any date, except in the name of DareMe, I declined. I didn’t even RSVP to wedding invitations – they ended up as kindle. Men were no more than hairier friends and the first and only woman I dated left me for a beautiful blonde bombshell with a killer nine to five. I was manifesting Steve Martin from Father of the Bride, pushing every single eligible bachelor from my life because no one was good enough. I was a perpetual child having a temper tantrum. Everyone was stupid, and love was even stupider. I accepted my fate of being alone forever.

I eventually had to end my anti-wedding streak and attend my first cousin’s wedding in South Boston. He and I were never close and I only saw him once a year at Chanukah, but he insisted I go and asked if I would be the wedding photographer at the after party because it was going to be “too wild” to hire a professional. I agreed, but only if he paid the $300 to fix my camera and under strict agreement that if there were too many “wasted bros slobbering on my lens” I was allowed to leave guilt free.

“Not every guy is a schmuck or a douchebag, and just cause my boys are from a fraternity, wear baseball caps, and pop their collahs doesn’t mean their bros, aight?”

I rolled my eyes. “Are you gonna have red plastic cups at your wedding too?”

He sighed, “Well, we wanted tah have ‘em, ya know? But Target was out of red, so we got blue.”

So, anyway, he agreed to get my camera fixed, but only if I went to his friend’s of a friend’s camera shop in North Attleboro based out of his home. I wanted to kill him, not because he was sending me to some strange man’s house, but to a strange man’s house in North Attleboro. My cousin gave me the number to his camera fixing friend of a friend, Jacob, and I called him to set up an appointment.

I arrived just on time to his small white house with the sickest porch set-up I had ever seen. It was like a 90s music festival was perpetually happening on his front deck. Comfy tables, awesome lighting set up, and 90s grunge posters of Alice and Chains, Candlebox, Soundgarden, and Temple of the Dog to name a few. Not my scene, but Jacob ended up being a really cool guy and his long brown hair and faded tattoos made me feel at ease. I ended up chilling at his house while he fixed my camera and eventually told him about the wedding that I didn’t want to go to, my love strike, and the DareMe I had to write. It had to stick to the theme of weddings, but I didn’t want to put my face into the cake or get onstage and flash my breasts to my extended Jewish and Evangelical Christian family to be. Jacob’s eyes lit up. “I dare you to go have a good time, and fortunately for me your camera is too broken to fix in time. You can borrow mine. You just have to bring it back. I dare you.”

Now, Jacob was totally not my type, but his eyes were kind and I found the way his wrinkles shaped his face endearing. “Thanks. I appreciate it and I promise I’ll try to have fun.”

He laughed, handed back my camera and said, “To quote Bob Marley, ‘Don’t analyze. Love hard when there is love to be had.’ Go have fun at the wedding. Maybe you will meet a nice Goyim,” he winked.

So, the wedding ended up being horrible. I’ll spare you the details, but I survived thanks to extra dirty martinis and my pack of pre-moistened cleaning wipes for when one of the bros vomited down my leg and into my shoes. I ended up leaving mid after party and on the way home I got a call from Jacob. “I had a feeling you wouldn’t make it through the wedding. I just started cooking dinner and would love for you to join me. Maybe afterward we could play beer pong?”

I dropped the cup of olives I stole from the bar while almost chocking on the three that were in my mouth “Beer pong?!”

“I’m just joking, silly!” Thank God. So far, I have had six dinners with Jacob and zero beer pong sessions. Maybe I am being too ambitious or maybe my brain has been reset from all of that heavy metal that I have been listening to, but I think my spell has been broken.

Yosefa Leora Kornwitz is a comedy writer born and bred in Rhode Island. She can be contacted at yomotif@gmail.com. Follow her at @goagnome on Twitter.

 

 

 

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Happily Unmarried

No one likes to think about it on their wedding day, but the fact remains that not every couple who dives happily into marriage will wish to remain married till death do they part. The tragedy of divorce is made more complex for same sex couples who cross state borders to make their vows or move away from a state where same sex marriage is legal to one where it isn’t. The recent DOMA decision will likely have lawmakers scrambling to make some laws consistent at a federal level, but for the moment, the rights given to a same-sex couple in one state will not follow them to another.

There is a couple in Rhode Island who will soon have the dubious distinction of being involved in one of the first, if not the first, same-sex divorces in our state. The couple lived in Massachusetts and was married there before moving to Rhode Island and becoming not so blissfully wed, but they were stuck. Their state of residence didn’t recognize their marriage, and therefore, was unable to dissolve something that didn’t exist. On August 1, when same-sex couples in Rhode Island can finally be legally wed, this couple hopes that they’ll finally be able to divorce.

 

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How the State Budget Affects Your Beer Budget

Gentle readers, this is a sort of good news/bad news situation. The good news is that the sales tax on alcohol is going to go away. The bad news is that it won’t be until December 1 of this year, and until then, we’ll all be paying more.

In the 2014 budget that just passed, the sales tax on alcohol is slated to be removed, and the excise tax paid by distributors is expected to increase to compensate. I know, I know, this isn’t what you expect to see in the beer column, but believe me this is important. While the effect on beer is negligible, a mere 30 cent raise per gallon, the effect on wine and hard liquor is significantly greater. A 750 of wine will see its price go up about 16 cents at the distributor level, and hard liquor gets a whopping 33 cent increase for the same size. Again, this is at the distributor level.Britons holiday drinking

For those unfamiliar, distributors are the alcohol wholesalers in this country. By law, the sale of alcohol from production to the public has to go through these intermediaries. These distributors face increases that, while on the bottle level amount to less than a dollar on average, at the bulk level add up quickly. An extra $4 per case in a shipment of 100 cases starts to get expensive, especially for warehouse-type liquor stores that buy in large bulk. The distributors will almost certainly trickle the price increase down. Don’t look at them like that; they have to raise prices, it’s their business. When costs go up, prices go up. They’re not the villains here.

Neither are the liquor stores that will have to raise prices in order to maintain their revenue. Unfortunately, this passes the expense onto the customers.

So, who are the villains in this story? Well … it’s complicated.

The idea was born out of a long-standing movement to eliminate sales tax statewide to foster better competition with Massachusetts and Connecticut. Liquor stores on the border of the state are losing business to the cheaper stores across the line. This is the result of an experiment in order to see if it’s feasible to eliminate the sales tax entirely to give RI a competitive edge. The trial run is slated to run for 15 months starting December 1 of this year, however, the new excise tax is going into place already.

Here’s where things backfire. With the sales tax still in place, prices are just going to go up, driving more consumers into the already less expensive border states. For the next six months, people will be looking at higher costs. Then come December, hopefully, the sales tax will drop off and people will come flocking. Ultimately, it will eventually lower the amount you pay for alcohol. However, this is a tough industry already, and the price increase at struggling local packies could spell doom for the business.

At that point, we can look forward to more job losses, loss of tax revenue because we’ll have lost sales venues for the alcohol taxed at distributor level, and possibly businesses filing for bankruptcy.

Things could be even worse for struggling bars and restaurants. An already cutthroat industry at times could become even more treacherous. Glasses of wine at restaurants are already fairly expensive as it is.

So the state government – they’re the villains? Well, not really, no. The idea is well-intentioned, but the execution is going to force a hardship on a lot of local businesses, as well as alienate already disconnected consumers. Even with the elimination of the sales tax at the end of the year, this forces a price increase during tourist season, when a lot of beach-dependent businesses need that income.

Essentially, the largest flaw in this new budget is the six month delay. While it may generate more revenue for the state, it does so at a pretty terrific cost. Everyone would love to pay less in taxes, but the burden has to be borne by someone. This is what makes it such a complicated issue. While you can try to blame business, government, or the liquor industry, the real villain is poor planning.

So, what can anyone do about it?

To start with, talk to your local representatives. Maybe the budget can be amended, or the kinks in this trial system worked out while it’s in effect. While it’s supposed to be a study to determine the feasibility of eliminating the sales tax for good, this study could cost people their jobs or their livelihoods. There will be more on the Motif website as this story develops, so check it out and get involved!