For the first time in centuries (not a term I get to use very often), fish will have access to Rhode Island’s largest freshwater pond thanks to the completion of three dam projects on the upper portion of the Pawcatuck River. Now, that might not mean much to most people, but Save the Bay and the Wood Pawcatuck River Watershed Association could not be happier about this breakthrough. The impact on our state’s fisheries, recreational resources, and even our economy, is significant. The project provides additional food supply for fish, mitigates flooding, improves the water quality and is part of an ongoing revitalization of the historic village surrounding that portion of the Pawcatuck. By extension, that impacts tourism and benefits businesses in the area.
The Pawcatuck River fish passage restoration has been a labor of love for Save the Bay and the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association, and it was great to tour the sites along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the RI Coastal Resources Management Council. Congratulations to all of the partners who made this project possible, and I will continue to support projects and funding that improve our fisheries – an economic cornerstone of the Ocean State.
Putting Out Fires
Flames lick the window pane as smoke rises toward the ceiling. The room is dark except for the orange glow reflected on the faces that look on as the fire builds. Then, suddenly, white foam sprays from the ceiling and the flames quickly subside, the room betraying little evidence of the blaze that had just nearly consumed it.
On the other side of the flame resistant, shatter-proof window, the lights kick on and Tyco employees explain what just took place.
Based in Cranston, Tyco produces fire protection products for the global market. They have offices across the country and beyond, from Honk Kong to Mexico and France to India. They operate in nearly 50 countries, and sell products in 200 countries, all thanks to their network of 69,000 employees. Read through their website and some of the statistics will astonish you. Eighty percent of the world’s top 200 retailers use Tyco products, as do more than one million firefighters and 90 percent of the top 50 oil and gas companies. Tyco fire suppression systems can be found in 300 international airports, more than 100 major stadiums worldwide and in more than 200 hospitals. Altogether, Tyco has nearly three million customers.
All this, centered right in Rhode Island.
I have done quite a bit of work on fire safety, and our country has taken tremendous steps forward in making businesses and homes safer. I introduced the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act over the course of multiple Congresses, and will continue to advocate for stronger protections. After the tragic Station Nightclub Fire, we in Rhode Island especially learned just how important fire safety is, and businesses across the globe are shopping at Tyco to get some of the best products out there. It was so interesting to see the systems at work, and I can’t thank the team at Tyco enough for letting me see firsthand the power of a top-notch fire suppression system.
RIPTA Speeds Up
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) plays a key role in providing Rhode Islanders access to transportation throughout the state. The buses have become especially important for passengers getting to and from work, but at times they face long commutes due to traffic and multiple stops. In response to this challenge and to help users get where they’re going faster, RIPTA has introduced a new Rapid Bus line.
It was an honor for me to help celebrate the official launch of RIPTA’s first Rapid Bus line, the R-Line. I was joined by Senators Reed and Whitehouse, Congressman Cicilline, Governor Chafee, Mayor Taveras, and officials from both RIPTA and the Federal Transit Administration to acknowledge this great achievement, which will improve commute times by up to 12 percent within the seven mile corridor.
The R-Line converts two of the most traveled bus routes in the state (Routes 11 and 99) into a single Rapid Bus route, providing a faster and higher-quality service. These two routes alone are estimated to have a combined total of nearly 11,000 passengers daily. With this representing 20 percent of overall RIPTA ridership, I applaud RIPTA, CEO Raymond Studley and Mayor Scott Avedisian, board chair, for thinking outside the box to find a more efficient solution.
Along with this increase in efficiency, RIPTA and the City of Providence have teamed up to install bus stop, streetscape, and public art enhancements along the North Main and Broad Street corridors to help beautify the area. I’m so impressed by the efforts RIPTA has undertaken to engage local artists and showcase some of Providence’s rich and diverse heritage.
RIPTA provides an essential public service that connects Rhode Islanders with jobs, health care, education and community resources, and I am hopeful that their continued efforts to improve the ridership experience will encourage more people to turn to public transit.
Ramping Up Galilee
It’s always great to see an idea come to fruition, or the finished product resulting from a grant I helped to acquire. So when DEM Director Janet Coit opened up the Galilee Boat Ramp ribbon cutting event, it was wonderful to have Rhode Islanders backing their boats into the water just feet from where the podium stood. Some of the license plates were from out of state, too, demonstrating in real time just how important Galilee and the boat ramp are to tourism in South County.
The Galilee Boat Ramp improvement project was funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration program and Rhode Island’s Salt Water Fishing License receipts, and the project involved partners from DEM, the Nature Conservancy and the Fish & Wildlife Service. I am proud to be part of a Congressional delegation that values environmental stewardship and tourism – both of which are helped through projects such as this – and it is always great to work alongside the advocates and leaders from the Conservancy and DEM. Together, we can ensure that our state’s natural resources are protected, preserved and promoted for public use.
Best of all, the improvements to the Galilee Boat Ramp increase public access for fishing, boating and other recreation to the benefit of Rhode Islanders and tourists visiting our beautiful coastline. What’s more, the newly renovated ramps are now accessible, opening up new possibilities for boaters and visitors with disabilities. I know I enjoyed my time down in Galilee, and I am so glad that many more of my friends and neighbors will now have the opportunity to enjoy the area too.
Seniors in Summer
After returning home from Washington D.C., I was excited to learn that one of the first items on my schedule was a visit to the Cranston Senior Center. Though I have been there a number of times before, I am always happy to return to their beautiful facility to hear from the dozens of workers, volunteers, and seniors who spend time at the Center every day.
From the moment they walk in to the moment they leave, seniors who visit the Cranston Senior Center stay busy in a number of activities that range from crafts and fitness to watching movies in their new theater or playing pool on recently added billiards tables. I arrived right after the seniors had been seated in the cafeterias for lunch. After saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing happy birthday to the Senior Center’s wonderful cook, Ron, I had the chance to speak to the seniors in the cafeteria and in the adult daycare area. I also talked with the many volunteers who work so hard to keep the Cranston Senior Center a clean, healthy and engaging place.
As I was saying my goodbyes, I was told by Sue Stenhouse, the Executive Director of Cranston Senior Services, that in the next decade, the senior population in Cranston is expected to increase by 80 percent. With that in mind, I am comforted by the fact that Cranston seniors have an excellent place to spend their days staying active and socializing with friends and neighbors.
I want to thank everyone at the Cranston Senior Center for giving me the opportunity to visit you. I look forward to seeing you all again!
Summer is finally here, and I could think of no better way to celebrate than to head to one of my favorite restaurants – Twin Willows – in one of Rhode Island’s top summer destinations – Narragansett. Add to that a great group of constituents, and you’ve got a recipe for a wonderful Saturday afternoon.
The Lunch with Langevin program started in March as a way for me to talk one-on-one with constituents and to provide Second District residents the opportunity to ask me questions or share their concerns. The event is akin to open office hours, with the added bonus of visiting a vibrant Rhode Island business like Twin Willows. I plan to host Lunch with Langevin sessions once a quarter, rotating to different cities and towns within the district. Narragansett made for a great summer backdrop, and I had the chance to meet several Rhode Islanders who needed help from my office. My director of constituent affairs, Nancy Beattie, was on hand, as well as several other team members, poised and ready to answer questions or take down contact information so they could speak with individuals in private and connect them with the resources they need. It is always great to see government in action in that way, and I am grateful to have such a hardworking team around me.
Thanks to all of the constituents who came to Lunch with Langevin, and, of course, to Twin Willows for hosting us this time around. The next Lunch with Langevin is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, September 20, from 12 to 2 p.m., in the northern area of the Second District, so put it on your calendar!
Meet Jim Langevin
This isn’t an easy blog post to write. It’s difficult to put into words what transpired at Pleasant View Elementary School, but I can say without hesitation that it was a truly great day, and a huge reminder of why I pursued public office in the first place. It didn’t have anything to do with accolades or politics. There was neither debate nor grandstanding. On paper, in fact, it sounded like a quick, ordinary school visit on my way to the airport.
It was anything but ordinary for me.
My office received an e-mail from two Pleasant View teachers, Tracy Dixon and Kelley Stanton, telling us about the fourth grade’s Living Wax Museum. The end-of-year project challenged the students to pick a public figure, dead or alive, research his or her life and come to school dressed in character, ready to give a presentation on their accomplishments. There were professional athletes, human rights pioneers, war heroes and former presidents.
And then, sitting among these legendary characters, there was a fourth grade version of me.
It is a bit of a surreal experience, watching someone dressed as you, surrounded by photos of you, sharing your life story. Surreal, but incredibly humbling. Tracy and Kelley invited me not only because I was featured in the presentation, but also because they thought the young man who researched my life would appreciate the gesture. Cristian Chivalan has spina bifida and, like myself, uses a wheelchair. His teachers tell me that Cristian has struggled to imagine his future, because he does not know what careers he might pursue without the use of his legs. They shared with him a long list of people with disabilities who have overcome adversity – men and women much more influential than I – but my story struck a chord with him. His research was impressive, and he came to school in full business attire, ready to impress his classmates. His teachers told him I might stop by, but he wasn’t sure if it would pan out. When I came around the corner, he looked a little shocked, but his face lit up, and so did mine. It was such a happy moment for me, and for several of the Pleasant View staff, who stood nearby, crying. I wasn’t about to let Cristian off the hook, so he did his full presentation and nailed every last detail. I, too, had tears in my eyes. Afterwards, I was grateful for the chance to spend some time with him, talking about the challenges we have both faced, but more importantly, about our determination to overcome them.
Cristian is a strong, brave young man, and despite his doubts, I know that he will go on to do great things. He has already impacted the lives of the people around him, and even in our brief meeting, he impacted my life, too.
A Warwick Tradition
As a native of Warwick, I can’t imagine my hometown without Gaspee Days. From the arts and crafts festival to the burning of the Gaspee to the annual parade, it’s a rite of passage for Warwick kids, and one that I continue to look forward to year after year. It’s such a source of pride for our state – not just the impressive calendar of events, but the fact that Rhode Island played such an integral role in the American Revolution. As the Gaspee Days Committee motto reminds us, the burning of the HMS Gaspee in 1772 was truly the “first blow for freedom.”
The clouds cleared just in time for the parade to begin this year, and I was proud to participate alongside Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, among many other elected and public officials. I want to especially thank the Gaspee Days Committee and their President, Erin Flynn, who do an exceptional job organizing a wonderful parade with a cross-section of some of the most talented and entertaining Rhode Islanders – from Warwick and far beyond. The parade’s reputation speaks for itself, and it’s no wonder that so many organizations, schools and bands want to participate.
Gaspee Days is as Warwick as it gets, and this hometown boy can’t get enough of it.
Neither Snow Nor Rain...
The rain was pouring down outside the U.S. Post Office in Providence, a stark reminder of the conditions that postal workers nationwide face day in and day out. They trudge through snow, walk through puddles and brace themselves against harsh winds to deliver the mail. It is not an easy job, and the work often goes unrecognized.
I visited the Providence facility to see those postal workers who work hard to collect, sort, organize and deliver millions of pieces of mail for Rhode Island each week. I enjoyed a tour of the facility, where I learned about the complex process that every piece of mail goes through in order to bring it to its destination quickly and efficiently. The finances of the Postal Service continue to pose a challenge at the local and national level, but that has not hampered the commitment of employees here in Rhode Island. Plant managers were happy to report that the Providence Post Office is now number one in the country for collecting and delivering priority mail. I also learned that the Providence facility was recently reorganized under a new mail processing system that has increased efficiency, created a better work environment and decreased overtime from 30% to just 2%.
I look forward to hearing more about the changes that are being made at the U.S. Postal Service here in Rhode Island and about the employees who work 24 hours a day to process and deliver our mail. Thank you to all who made my visit so informative and enjoyable!
Time for Training
I had the privilege of helping CCRI celebrate the $2.5 million federal grant it was recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor. This grant will benefit the CCRI manufacturing program by expanding skills training and strengthening the relationship between CCRI and employers. I was joined by Senators Whitehouse and Reed, Congressman Cicilline, Rhode Island Board of Education Chairwoman Eva-Marie Mancuso and Governor Chafee to acknowledge the accomplishment and discuss how job and skills training can benefit our economy. It was an exciting day for CCRI and the Rhode Island workforce!
The grant is significant because foreign trade, while critical to the American economy, has made Trade Adjustment Assistance an unfortunate necessity in Rhode Island. When Rhode Islanders lose their jobs as a result of increased imports and shifts in production, TAA helps retrain them and provide them with the skills necessary to succeed in other in-demand jobs. Without effective career training programs, businesses looking to hire often struggle to find workers with the appropriate skillsets. The skills gap is a frustrating reality that holds back economic growth in our state and nation, but this grant will help Rhode Islanders close that gap by strengthening CCRI’s career training programs.
Modern manufacturing careers require advanced and specific training. By providing Rhode Islanders with the skills necessary to perform these advanced manufacturing jobs, we make our state a more attractive place for businesses to relocate. In this regard, the grant aids our statewide economy while improving the lives and career prospects of individual workers.
Again, I offer my sincere and heartfelt congratulations to President Ray Di Pasquale and the entire CCRI community!
My office had been working for a few weeks to set up a meeting at Ponaganset Middle School. The principal there, Patricia Marcotte, had been named Rhode Island’s 2014 Middle School Principal of the Year. That’s quite an accomplishment, and certainly one that deserves recognition. I wanted to stop by to congratulate Patricia in person.
But while we were in the area, we figured we could stop by Ponaganset High School, too, where there is an exceptional alternative energy and STEM program. Coincidentally, it was announced earlier that week that Rhode Island’s 2015 Teacher of the Year, David Moscarelli, was also from Ponaganset. And the 2014 Superintendent of the Year, Michael Barnes? Also from Ponaganset.
So the Superintendent, Middle School Principal and Teacher of the Year all come from the same district.
I don’t know that congratulations quite cuts it. Clearly, Ponaganset has found a winning combination in the classroom.
After meeting Pat, Michael and David, I believe enthusiasm and passion have a lot to do with Ponaganset’s overwhelming success. These are educators and administrators who truly put kids first, and they go above and beyond the call of duty in order to support their fellow educators and to create an environment that fosters a love of learning.
I could have talked to this award-winning trio all day, but I was also glad to have the opportunity to tour the high school’s STEM Academy and Energy program lab facilities. They have an incredible sustainable energy program and it is evident that the staff at Ponaganset has adopted innovative methods of teaching in order to excite their students about the material. In January, the school hosted its first Women in STEM event. More recently, the class converted a 1923 Model-T into an electric car and then into a car that runs on fuel cells. These are the type of out-of-the-box projects that invigorate young people and get them interested in STEM careers down the road.
And Ponaganset’s commitment to energy education goes beyond the curriculum, too. Both the middle and high school use biomass heating systems and they have a solar panel array. They are stepping up to the plate when it comes to using clean and renewable energy. They are practicing what they preach, and that commitment to energy efficiency is not lost on the students.
It’s no surprise that Ponaganset has captured the attention of educators statewide, and that praise is certainly well deserved. They set the bar high, and I look forward to seeing how Ponaganset’s leadership in the classroom and in energy education trickles down to other schools across the state.
Great Day for Rhode Island
It is not every day that the First Lady of the United States comes to Rhode Island, and the excitement at Quonset was tangible. Electric Boat rolled out the red, white and blue carpet for Mrs. Obama, and the facility was spotless. Floors were washed, big screens brought in and the shell of a submarine draped in American flags. Everything looked perfect, and the backdrop was made even better as hundreds of hard-working Electric Boat employees filed into the space to applaud the First Lady as she took on the role of sponsor for the USS Illinois.
The name USS Illinois has a proud history going back to Newport News Shipbuilding in the late 19th century. That USS Illinois sailed as part of the Great White Fleet, rendering aid to victims of an earthquake and serving in the Atlantic during World War I. I know that the people of Illinois – including Michelle Obama – will be justifiably proud that a USS Illinois will once again fly the American flag on the high seas.
The keel laying ceremony for the USS Illinois was a testament to the hard work and excellence of our submarine industrial base and the men and women of General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding, who work so hard to provide those boats that keep our nation safe. The Virginia-class is a model shipbuilding program providing the finest submarines in the world, submarines coming from right here in Rhode Island. I wish the Illinois a long and distinguished service to our nation – it certainly has a sponsor to be proud of.
Atrion Grows Smart
Atrion was started in 1987 in a spare bedroom. It was just an idea back then – a labor of love for Charles Nault. Two years later, Tim Hebert came on as CEO. And now, more than two decades after that, Atrion has more than 250 employees and another 250+ clients.
Talk about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.
Atrion is an IT services provider that designs, deploys and manages business-driven information technology solutions. They have been in their Warwick facility for two years now, and their success continues to multiply. They are a Cisco Gold Partner, a Microsoft Gold Partner, a VAR500 recipient and have been one of Providence Business News’ Best Places to Work honorees for five consecutive years.
According to Hebert, who remains CEO of the company, Atrion has stayed in Rhode Island because of its advantageous proximity to larger markets like Boston and New York, and especially because of workforce development and training programs available here. That is wonderful to hear, because as the co-chair of the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus, workforce development has long been a priority of mine. Clearly, Atrion shares that passion, and they continue to offer world-class training opportunities to their employees. Atrion leadership believes that education is the key to success, so all new hires – including interns – are required to attend an “onboarding” process that trains them in company dynamics, operations and more. Their formal training program began in 2003 and has resulted both in a highly efficient staff and also a high level of customer satisfaction. I was so impressed by the leadership and by the employees, and especially by their emphasis on training. It is a good business model to have, and I firmly believe that Atrion sets the bar high for investing in their workforce. Invest in your employees and the investment will pay for itself – just ask Tim Hebert and his team at Atrion!