The Uprising, December 22, 2017

Congress passed a sweeping, comprehensive tax reform bill, a major victory for President Donald Trump, who, since winning the election last year, hasn’t had many victories. The bill was signed into law Friday. The United Nations condemned Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol, despite Trump’s threat that the United States might cut United Nations funding. “…this vote will

Rhode Island News: The Uprising, December 22, 2017

December 22, 2017, 12:54 pm

By Steve Ahlquist

Congress passed a sweeping, comprehensive tax reform bill, a major victory for President Donald Trump, who, since winning the election last year, hasn’t had many victories. The bill was signed into law Friday.

The United Nations condemned Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol, despite Trump’s threat that the United States might cut United Nations funding. “…this vote will be remembered,” said United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

This is the politics of threat and bluster, speaking of which:

Welcome to The Uprising for December 22, 2017. The Uprising is progressive Rhode Island’s weekly social, environmental and economic justice news wrap up.

1a. The Providence City Council “elected” a new City Council President, David Salvatore (Ward 14), Thursday night. WLVI/Channel 12’s Dan McGowan is the go to reporter for Providence politics, and he has terrific coverage that will explain almost all of it.

Rivals Salvatore and Igliozzi an unlikely pair to lead Providence City Council

David Salvatore elected Providence City Council president

Q&A: How David Salvatore plans to lead the Providence City Council

Though McGowan adroitly covers the politics there’s a dimension of race and class he only briefly touches upon. Only one of the city councilors who supported Salvatore’s presidency is a person of color, Wilbur Jennings (Ward 8). Only one of the five women city councilors, Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), supported Salvatore. Ryan is the only white woman on the Providence City Council.

“The City of Providence is not only for white, rich people,” said Providence City Councilor Carmen Castillo (Ward 9) to Salvatore, before the vote.

1b. Also present at the Providence City Council meeting were members of the STEP UP Coalition who were in the audience holding signs in support of the Community Safety Act (CSA) and Providence External Review Authority (PERA). PERA is an important component of the CSA, and delays in implementation of PERA means the CSA is being similarly delayed.

1c. One part of the McGowan interview with newly sworn in Providence City Council President David Salvatore that immediately caught the eye of environmentalists was about the sale or lease of Providence’s water supply.

“Do you support the concept of selling or leasing the water supply to improve the pension fund?” asked McGowan.

“If structured properly, I do,” replied Salvatore.

Get ready for a big battle if this idea moves forward.

2. Last Saturday over five dozen people rallied in support of Planned Parenthood and against a Christmas Caroling event arranged by the anti-choice groups Rhode Island Right to Life and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

This Thursday the TGI Network of Rhode Island challenged the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)’s open letter that declared transgender people don’t exist and suggested that the state should enforce gender norms.

“For any decent, compassionate, human being, this letter should be worrisome,” says the TGI Network response, written by the Reverend Doctor Gwendoline Howard. “While proclaiming ‘respect,’ it encourages disrespect. While asserting the dignity of all people, it actually declares that some are less worthy than others.”

Meanwhile Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, who denied a “moral responsibility” to the retirees and potential retirees from Our Lady of Fatima Hospital and the former Saint Joseph Hospital on the part of himself or his church for failure to keep up on mandated pension contributions, issued a call for Catholics to “pray for the forgiveness of Cardinal Law’s sins and eternal rest and peace for his immortal soul.”

Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, who died this week, kept secret the rape and abuse of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people at the hands of Roman Catholic priests in Boston, Massachusetts from 1984 to 2002.

3a. Right in the middle of trying to get the license for their $1 billion dollar fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant, Invenergy decided to sue National Grid and ISO New England. At issue is who should pay the hundreds of millions of dollars it will cost to connect the power plant, should it be built, to the grid. The current rule at ISO New England is that Invenergy should pay, but Invenergy wants to pass that cost on to ratepayers, namely you and me.

What does all this mean for the future of the proposed plant in Rhode Island? Jerry Elmer, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, explains.

3b. On Monday Fall River City Councilor Steven Camara took a crack at figuring out how Invenergy scored a water deal with his city without the city council ever being notified. What we learned is that Providence based lawyer Mark Russo has been working on behalf of Invenergy in Fall River since at least April. In emails secured by Fall River resident Erica Scott, there are indications that the controversial nature of the deal was a worry and efforts were taken to minimize public involvement and knowledge.

Under questioning from North Scituate, Rhode Island resident Alicia Ann Kelley, Attorney Russo, who identified himself as a lawyer representing Benn Water, the water hauler Invenergy contracted with to truck water from Fall River to Burrillville, admitted to be also representing Invenergy.

On Thursday Russo sent the Energy Facilities Siting Board notification that he will be representing Invenergy in the docket concerning National Grid connecting the proposed plant to the grid.

3c. The third meeting of Representative Cale Keable (Democrat, District 47, Burrillville, Glocester)’s Special Legislative Committee to Study the Energy Facilities Siting Act took public testimony. Ideas for improving the Energy Facilities Siting Act include giving greater weight to public input, increasing the size of the board beyond three members, automatically disallowing fossil fuel projects and mandating environmental impact statements, among many others.

I testified that not only should greater weight be given to public input, but that the public should have a final say, through a vote, on any large project such as this that affects their health, safety and finances.

4. The Economic Progress Institute has a new report, State of Working Rhode Island 2017: Paving the Way to Good Jobs with eight recommendations for improving Rhode Island’s workforce:

  1. Expand investments to meet the needs of adults with limited English proficiency and/or literacy and other foundational skills and support high quality and innovative programs.
  2. Promote and invest in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs.
  3. Expand Rhode Island Promise to Rhode Islanders who are not recent high school graduates and to cover costs in addition to tuition and fees.
  4. Expand programs designed to remove impediments to gainful employment and education, including child care assistance and transportation.
  5. Maintain programs that help working families make ends meet when earnings aren’t enough, including child care assistance, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  6. Protect, improve and expand programs that have improved job quality for Rhode Island workers, such as earned paid sick leave, temporary care giver insurance and temporary disability insurance.
  7. Increase the minimum wage, towards $15.00/hr.
  8. Increase the number of workers eligible for overtime pay by raising Rhode Island’s mandatory overtime threshold, to protect workers, especially those incorrectly classified as exempt employees.

The entire report is available here.

5. Check out Jen Long’s piece over at Motif, 2017: A Recap of an Environmental Year in the New Reality of the Absurd, which gives a day by day breakdown of the Trump administration’s decimation of environmental protections.

6. Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s office says, “it is anticipated that Rhode Island will join a coalition of States signing on to a Net Neutrality lawsuit once it is filed.

“Rhode Island is working with a group on states on this issue. That multi-state working group is being led by New York. The States are continuing to confer on this matter. At this point, although the FCC has issued an oral decision, the process requires that the FCC issue a written decision and it is likely that a lawsuit will not occur before this written decision is issued. The time line for the FCC written decision is unknown but the states, including Rhode Island, are monitoring that timeline, coordinating efforts, and will act once a written decision is issued.”

7. The fire at the New Life Worship Center in Smithfield, Rhode Island was intentional say authorities. The Rhode Island Arson Watch Reward program is offering a $5000 reward that leads to the arrest and conviction of the people involved with the crime.

8. Care New England has reached a deal over Pawtucket’s Memorial Hospital, one that both UNAP Local 5082 and Governor Gina Raimondo seem happy with.

9. At COYOTE RI’s 3rd annual event to mark the passage of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, advocates affirmed that sex worker rights are worker rights, sex worker rights are human rights, sex workers deserve to be respected, sex workers should be free to live lives free of stigma and that sex workers do not need to be rescued, they need to be free to make their own best choices for themselves.

10. The UHIP disaster is still a disaster.

11. 400 electric-assist bikes will be available for rental in Providence next summer.

12. Rhode Island is 157 people away from losing a seat in the House of Representatives says a Providence Journal analysis.

13. “The world faces poverty, inequality, ecological crisis and financial instability,” begins 33 Theses For An Economics Reformation, “We are concerned that economics is doing much less than it could to provide insights that would help solve these problems. This is for three reasons:

First, within economics, an unhealthy intellectual monopoly has developed. The neoclassical perspective overwhelmingly dominates teaching, research, advice to policy, and public debate. Many other perspectives that could provide valuable insights are marginalized and excluded. This is not about one theory being better than another, but the notion that scientific advance only moves ahead with a debate. Within economics, this debate has died.

Second, while neoclassical economics made a contribution historically and is still useful, there is ample opportunity for improvement, debate and learning from other disciplines and perspectives.

Third, mainstream economics appears to have become incapable of self-correction, developing more as a faith than as a science. Too often, when theories and evidence have come into conflict, it is the theories that have been upheld and the evidence that has been discarded.

The short document is well worth a read.

14. Picture of the week:

Have a happy holiday folks, see you next week.

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