June 2017 In the Know

What to know about the East Side of Providence


What’s Next for Ward 3?

The overwhelming vote to recall Kevin Jackson now clears the way for the election of a new council member that by mandate must be held within 90 days. Mark Santow, who was active in the campaign, has already announced his interest in running. Marcus Mitchell, who came within 50 votes of winning as a write-in candidate two years ago and is married to the daughter of Danny Lopes, a former Ward 3 councilman himself, is certainly another obvious possibility. So too are Tricia Kammerer and Karina Wood, both of whom were leaders of the recall movement itself. Plus it’s certainly possible that new candidates will emerge. Given the activism that generated the recall in the first place, it would seem that a progressive candidate is best positioned to take over the spot.

As an interesting sidebar, “the Board of Elections has proposed legislation which would prohibit a declared candidate’s name from appearing on the ballot if he or she remains delinquent with his or her campaign finance reporting and fines after 14 days of notification,” according to Richard Thornton, director of campaign finance for the Board. The now recalled Jackson still owes some $36,000 in fines. Interestingly (but, since this is Providence, not surprisingly), City Council President Luis Aponte himself owes some $48,000. Just as we were going to press, Aponte was indicted for embezzlement, unlawful appropriation and two counts of personal use of campaign funds. And the beat goes on.

Prospects Improve at the Terrace

The efforts led by the College Hill Neighborhood Association to raise funds to help the City provide much-needed improvements to Prospect Terrace received a major boost with news that Councilman Sam Zurier will be earmarking his share of the infrastructure bill to help the park. The money, some $50,000, will be added to the initial $10,000 raised on Kickstarter by the neighbors. The initial plans by local landscape designer Sara Bradford will include long-awaited upgrades to worn-out benches, improved lighting and general landscaping. The hope is to raise additional funds to make the park handicapped-accessible and continue other design improvements. Interested in pitching in and maybe even sponsoring the additional improvements? Checks can be made out to the Partnership of Public Parks with a note indicating the contribution is for the Prospect Terrace improvement project and sent to either CHNA, PO Box 2442, Providence, RI 02906 or directly to the Partnership for Providence Parks, 11 West Drive, Providence, RI 02904.

A Man of Steele

F. Steele Blackall III, one of Rhode Island’s true icons and a longtime wine writer for our paper, passed away last month at the age of 91. A successful businessman, graduate of both Harvard and Yale, and dedicated philanthropist for many of our local causes, Steele still found time to write a witty, always informative wine column that ran in East Side Monthly for years, articulating his mantra that good wines need not be bad for your bank account. But it was his joie de vivre that made him so endearing to those who knew him. Attired in his old raccoon coat, he celebrated his 80th Harvard–Yale football game this past fall and was known for his colorful bow ties and Bermuda shorts as he summered in Westport. His living room there also housed a full set of drums that he played well into his late 80s and his skills as a raconteur were unmatched. His was a life well lived.

Keeping Up His Spirits

For over 40 years, Richard Backer has owned and operated the well-regarded East Side Prescription, now East Side Wine and Spirits, on the corner of Hope and Elgin streets. Despite the competition of national chains like CVS and Walgreens, his small store hung in there and survived. His secret? “Just hard work and a commitment to customer service,” he says. Another plus was that he was grandfathered in as one of only two drugstores in the state that was permitted to sell alcohol. But as prescription regulations became more onerous and costly for non-chain stores like his, Richard reluctantly closed down the pharmacy part of his operation and concentrated on selling beer, wine and spirits. Richard is confident that this new direction will produce results. Now a youthful 71 and working harder than ever, he reports that both he and his loyal customers are enjoying the challenge. With that in mind, here’s a toast to neighborhood institutions that continue to hang tough amidst the swirling wind that is modern retailing.