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Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising, November 3



Hello everyone and welcome to my weekly rundown of important/interesting news. I’ve decided on a name for the column, and it’s not “that Ted Nesi/Ian Donnis thing.” I’m calling it The Uprising, for reasons that should be clear in item #1.

1. Week two away from RIFuture finds me at my new blog, If you’re reading this that means you found me here too. All my reporting (and other writers as well, I hope) will be presented here. The blog will develop and change for a while until it finds its voice and its mission, so hang tight (and consider supporting it financially.) Okay, real news now:

2. Rhode island Governor Gina Raimondo was positively enthusiastic about signing a bill that hopes to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. She saw it as the beginning of more robust legislation to come. “Let’s take this and have national common sense gun reform. Let’s take this and ban military style weapons, like many of our neighbors have done,” said the governor to applause, as Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello sat silent.

Mattiello, who earns top marks every year from the NRA, said he doesn’t “view this as a gun bill. I view this as a domestic violence bill that gives law enforcement the tools to protect people that are in very vulnerable situations.”

By that logic couldn’t an assault weapon ban be a bill “that gives law enforcement the tools to protect people that are in very vulnerable situations” as well?

3. Last week, Scott Pruitt’s Environmental Protection Agency cancelled presentations from three of its scientists that were to take place at Save the Bay. This week Rhode Island’s congressional delegation joined with other New England legislators to demand an explanation. It is assumed that Pruitt doesn’t want his agency to promote the science of climate change for ideological reasons.

4. While we’re on energy and climate change, let’s talk about Invenergy‘s “bombshell.” Invenergy is the company aiming a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant at the forests of northwest Rhode Island. They claim the power from this plant is so needed that the environmental damage done will be worth it.

On Wednesday Invenergy admitted that the second of its two proposed turbines will not be allowed to enter the Forward Capacity Auction (FCA-12) to be held in February. FCA-12 will determine energy prices and sourcing for the 2021-2022 season.

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Invenergy says their proposed power plant is needed. Conservation Law Foundation Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer says that ISO-New England, which runs the auction, disputes the need for the plant, with the strong evidence provided by Invenergy’s bombshell.

CLF has issued a motion asking to further delay the licensing proceedings in the Energy Facilities Siting Board to provide the time needed to analyze ISO-New England’s decision.

5. The ACLU of Rhode Island is suing the Rhode Island State Police for allegedly attempting to coerce a woman into becoming an informant.

“The coercive practices exercised by the State Police against Ms. Lacoste are deeply troubling,” said ACLU of Rhode Island Executive Director Steven Brown. “This raw abuse of police power to punish a person guilty of no crime should offend any fair-minded person. We are hopeful that a court will correct the injustice that has been done to her.”

6. National Grid’s laggard response in fixing downed powers lines in the aftermath of a powerful windstorm that left thousands of Rhode Islanders without power for days spurred Governor Gina Raimondo to direct the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers to conduct a comprehensive review of Grid’s “preparation for and response to this storm.”

Candidate for Lieutenant Governor, State Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence), says the answer is a publicly owned grid, and he’s introducing legislation to make that possible.

Taking public control of our electrical utilities is an idea many have been exploring. The Providence Democratic Socialists of America and the George Wiley Center have an event planned around this on Saturday.

7. U.S. District Judge William Smith has appointed Deming Sherman as Special Master to “oversee the resolution of the State’s ongoing problems with UHIP.”

UHIP, which was to be a state of the art social services delivery system has instead become a Kafka-esque nightmare for those most in need. Last week it was revealed that thousands of SNAP benefit applications had gone unprocessed. This kind of failure results in potentially hungry kids.

8. “The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) will honor those who served our country by providing free rides to veterans all day and night on Saturday, November 4, 2017 in celebration of the WaterFire Salute to Veterans, and also on Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11, 2017. In order to ride for free, Veterans just need to show an active or retiree veterans identification card, or a Rhode Island driver’s license with veterans designation,” says a RIPTA press release.

9. First Unitarian Church of Providence is the state’s first Sanctuary Congregation. The congregation was awarded for their efforts at the Heroes of Faith Breakfast Thursday morning.

“The church voted in April to become a Sanctuary Congregation, meaning that we are preparing ourselves to be a place that an individual or a family [who is undocumented and at risk of deportation] will be able to stay inside the church and be safe,” said Reverend Liz Lerner Maclay, on Latino Public Radio Tuesday morning.

Those under threat from Immigration and Customs Enforcement could conceivably be protected from deportation in Sanctuary Churches, but even “if every single church in Rhode Island said they were going to take in a family or an individual who is undocumented, that would not meet the need. That wouldn’t come close to meeting the need,” said Lerner Maclay.

10. “There are several reasons to consider the opposite of the GOP approach, [and] instead returning the [estate] tax to earlier levels,” say researchers at the Brookings Institute. “We could use the funds to provide working-class America a pay raise that could help restore their share of income to 1970s levels. That would relink rewards to work rather than inheritance and put a big dent in inequality.”

11. Staying in state finances, the Economic Progress Institute has completed a thorough financial analysis of the proposed “Ballpark at Slater Mill” and fines some troubling numbers. Declines in attendance and the hidden nature of the franchise’s finances are potential “red flags.”

12. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has established a Municipal ID Program by executive order. Municipal IDs are identification cards that will allow all city residents, “regardless of whether they have other state or federally issued identification” to access City services and programs.

The IDs could be of use to immigrants, students, the homeless and members of the LGBTQ community who want to avail themselves of city services or prove their identity to law enforcement says Elorza.

13. The Democratic Party is trying to reconnect with its labor roots by proposing a series of proposals to strengthen worker and union bargaining power. Representative David Cicilline is championing the proposal.  A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future would “safeguard workers’ freedom to negotiate with employers, penalize companies that violate workers’ rights, protect the freedom of workers to organize, and more. The new proposal comes as Republicans in Congress and powerful special interests are looking to roll back worker protections in order to maximize corporate profits.”

14. The Woman Project, “where art meets activism” has an interview with Vimala Phongsavanh, policy director at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

Phongsavanh’s advice for aspiring activists: “I would recommend that you find a community that you really love and want to change for the better. It can be your hometown, your new hometown, the Southeast Asian community, the education community… Get rooted in that community; listen to the members of that community; work with stakeholders in that community; show up for that community—and most importantly, be patient, stay humble and realize that this is not about you. Respect the movements; they don’t happen because of one person or overnight—they are a result of years of advocacy by community activists, and broad coalitions and partnerships.

15. Picture of the week:

Tireless Muslim advocate Dr Wendy Ibrahim accepting the Interfaith Award at RISCC’s Heroes of Faith Breakfast.

16. That’s it. I’m off to see Thor: Ragnorok.

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.