Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising, January 19, 2018

It’s very important to be pragmatic and make the tough decisions when it comes to scooping $3.2 million in co-pays out of the pockets of Medicaid recipients to balance the budget. It’s also important to dream big and roll the dice when it comes handing over more than ten times as much money, $38 million, to a bunch of blackmailing
Photo for The Uprising, January 19, 2018

Published on January 19, 2018
By Steve Ahlquist

It’s very important to be pragmatic and make the tough decisions when it comes to scooping $3.2 million in co-pays out of the pockets of Medicaid recipients to balance the budget. It’s also important to dream big and roll the dice when it comes handing over more than ten times as much money, $38 million, to a bunch of blackmailing billionaires so that can have a new sports stadium, right?

Pragmatism (or is it dreaming big?) is not raising taxes on the rich while gambling that the Supreme Court will pave the way for legalized sports betting. State sanctioned gambling is a tax on the poor.

“The lottery tax is regressive,” writes economist Mark Thornton. “It takes a higher percentage of a poor man’s wages than a rich man’s. Every study has shown this to be the case and there has not been one published study that contradicts this finding. But that is not all: the lottery is also played more often by poor people and is therefore a highly regressive tax.” Thornton is no bleeding heart progressive: He’s a Senior Fellow at the free market extremist Mises Institute.

(See Ian Donnis, Ted Nesi and Bob Plain on Governor Gina Raimondo‘s budget.)

Welcome to The Uprising for January 19, 2018, a weekly rundown of Rhode Island social, economic and environmental justice, with some politics and other stuff thrown in.

Let’s do this thing!

1. Rhode Island is the birthplace of religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Like any good and noble ideal, such concepts can be twisted and abused by unscrupulous actors like President Donald Trump. He is establishing the Orwellian themed “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” charged with enforcing “laws and regulations that protect conscience and prohibit coercion on issues such as abortion and assisted suicide.”

Trump says the new division will protect the religious from discrimination. Others disagree:

“This action puts the lives and health of LGBTQI people at risk,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA’s Executive Director. “It means some Americans will now face additional barriers in accessing health care because of who they are or whom they love. That is wrong, and the consequences could literally be deadly.

“This is a perversion of the true meaning of religious freedom, a fundamental national principle that seeks to ensure that no belief is privileged over any other. The Trump Administration is privileging the beliefs of radical religious conservatives over the very lives of women, LGBTQI people, and others whom some health care providers may see as morally objectionable.”

Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality notes that, “Trans people are already turned away by providers because of who they are. One-third of our United States Transgender Survey respondents who tried to access health care in the year before the survey were turned away or mistreated by providers. One-third. Health care providers are supposed to provide care to all patients who need them, not pick and choose who they treat.”

2a. On Sunday nearly two hundred people crowded the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island to take President Trump to task over his most recent racist comments. Trump reportedly referred to several nations including Haiti, and all of Africa, as “shitholes.”

The event was organized by Providence City Councilor Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), a Haitian immigrant.

2b.“So despite hateful remarks and xenophobic practices, let us counter with love and light,” said LaFortune. “And most importantly, action. It is important for us to stand together in solidarity and demand that our elected representatives speak up for us.”

2c.“I just want to begin by saying Donald Trump is a racist, he’s a fraud, he’s a bigot and he’s a misogynist,” said Rhode Island State Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) an immigrant from Jamaica. “This country does not belong to Donald J Trump and his misguided followers. We’re all immigrants – We were simply dropped off in different ports.”

2d.“I’m here because I’m outraged,” said Jim Vincent, President of the NAACP Providence Branch. “I’m outraged because of the constant bigotry that has come out of the White House. From the fact that [President Donald Trump] questioned the country of our former President’s birth, to talking about Mexicans being rapists, to talking about Muslims and banning them, to talking to Navajos about things that were offensive, to talking about NFL players who are fighting racism and bigotry in this country: I am tired of the divisiveness and the vulgarity…”

3a. “… as the town continues to mount a vigorous campaign against the fossil fuel-burning plant, Invenergy has had enough,” wrote Alex Kuffner in the ProJo. “After making $1.175 million in payments to the town, the Chicago company was set to pay another $500,000 installment on Monday. Instead, it placed the money into an escrow account.

“Michael Blazer, chief legal officer for Invenergy, said the town is violating the agreement by disseminating what he describes as ‘misleading information’ aimed at derailing the project known as the Clear River Energy Center.”

The Town of Burrillville never pretended that they were taking the money from Invenergy for any purpose other than to fight against the proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant. In October 2016 Burrillville Attorney Michael McElroy told the Burrillville Town Council and residents, “I want to make it clear that I see no inconsistency between entering into these agreements and dead set opposition to the plant.”

Jerry Elmer, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Senior Attorney, who is fighting against the power plant before the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), said “Invenergy is being a bully…

“Basically, Invenergy is telling the EFSB and the public – in as strong a way as it possibly can – ‘We are not a company that you want to have in Rhode Island.’ As I say, Invenergy’s statement in this regard supports CLF’s argument in the EFSB that Invenergy should not be granted a permit to build.”

3b. Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is the first state wide elected official to come out against Invenergy’s proposed power plant. Kilmartin presented four reasons for his opposition:

  • “…adding a fossil-fuel facility the size and scope of the proposed power plant will exacerbate climate change and undermine Rhode Island’s ability to achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals set forth in the 2014 Resilient Rhode Island Act.”
  • There is a “lack of need for the power plant as solar and wind power are increasingly coming on-line.”
  • “…the legal uncertainty as to where Invenergy will get water it needs to cool the facility.”
  • Kilmartin “… is deeply troubled by Invenergy’s recently-revealed plan to have the ratepayers pay the bill for the installation of the transmission lines from the plant to the existing grid.”

Kilmartin is asking the court for permission to file amicus briefs in the Superior Court lawsuits challenging Johnston’s plan to sell Providence Water to Invenergy.

3c. Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena was unhappy with Kilmartin’s decision, as reported by Johnston Sun Rise.

“First of all, I always thought that the purpose of the Attorney General’s office was to prosecute criminals, like for instance the people who were involved in 38 Studios, which for some reason nobody wants to seem to touch,” said Polisena. “Also, I thought that they should look for the $75 million that was obviously taken from Resource Recovery years ago, and also go after the people who took the money away from those men and women who are retirees of the St. Joseph-Fatima Hospital. They lost 40 percent of their income, and I assume that the Attorney General probably should have had his finger on the pulse.”

Polisena said that he first learned about Kilmartin’s decision by reading it in the newspaper. He said that Johnston supported him in his run for the office.

“I know that I came out publicly for him. I was a strong supporter of his, so I don’t know what the deal is. I wish that I would have gotten a phone call from him saying what his intentions are.”

3d. Burrillville residents and allies aren’t willing to let Invenergy’s recent troubles  slow them down. They greeted Governor Gina Raimondo as she entered and exited the House Chamber at the State House to deliver her State of the State Address.

4. Speaking of Governor Raimondo’s State of the State Address, you can watch it and read the annotated version of it here.

5. “The bottom line is, if it’s a felony it’s not a serious felony,” said Rhode Island State Senator Nicholas Kettle (District 21, Coventry, Foster Scituate, West Greenwich)’s attorney, Paul DiMaio. “And there’s no violent accusations here, no accusations of drugs, none of that stuff, no domestic violence, so if he wasn’t a state senator this never would have happened.”

The Rhode Island State Police took computers and electronics from the Senator’s home this week, leading to speculation about why. Right now we know more about what Kettle isn’t accused of than what he is.

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6. The Woman Project interviews  Lilian Rogers, Program Director of The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (CSPH):

“Recognizing when shame is being used as a method of control is also very important,” says Rogers. “Often, women are shamed for their sexual behaviors in a way that encourages their silence. Breaking that silence can be very powerful. Often, toxic masculinity (the system by which folks who identify as male are socialized to repress feelings, emotions, and reduce communication) plays a huge role in how sexual shame is implemented in society. One of the most important pieces of work that the CSPH is doing at the moment is facilitating our Non Toxic Masculinity series, which helps men (primarily cis men) unlearn socialized toxic behaviors. This means that the burden of reducing sexual shame does not lie solely with women, or people who are trans or non-binary/gender non-conforming, it is also up to cis men who often hold higher platforms of privilege & can have greater impact by using that privilege as a tool to speak out against oppression.”

7. Nicholas Kettle isn’t resigning in the near term, but State Senator James Doyle II (Democrat, District 8, Pawtucket) did, siting his battle with addiction issue, opening up his seat for a special election in Pawtucket. On Facebook Pawtucket City Councilor Sandra Cano wrote, “I am seriously considering running for State Senate in the special election on February 27th… I want to continue fighting for stronger schools, good paying jobs and economic opportunity for the people of Pawtucket and for all Rhode Islanders.”

It’s a crowded field. Matthew Fecteau, Mark Theroux, William Lynch and Albert Vitali are running, expected to run, or considering a run. And David Norton, who previously backed Fecteau, has announced his intention to run as well. Norton writes:

“I initially supported my friend Matt Fecteau for this race because of Matt’s opposition to a taxpayer-funded PawSox stadium.

“However, yesterday, Valley Breeze reporter Ethan Shorey challenged Matt on the PawSox issue and Matt flip-flopped in a statement that does not square with what I discussed with Matt or the policy position on Matt’s website.

Also, yesterday, stadium supporter Sandra Cano announced that she is entering the race.  Sandra has been a very strong and vocal supporter of a taxpayer-funded stadium and fought strongly for it alongside the Pawtucket Mayor.

I consider Matt and Sandra to be friends but this rubber stamping on issues against the wishes of voters and constant flip-flopping needs to stop.  We need a candidate and a leader in this race that will fight for what is right and not waffle on important decisions.

Cano is the only woman considering a run so far.

8. It’s hard not to see the comments Giovanni Feroce made on the Dan Yorke’s State of Mind about Representative Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence) as anything but classist, sexist and stupid:

Giovanni Feroce: You want controversy, I’ll give you controversy right out of this show. We think it’s good that a waitress  is voting on a 9 and a half billion dollar budget. That is crazy. That is crazy to me.

Dan Yorke: You’re referring to Representative Moira Walsh?

Giovanni Feroce: Ya, and I have nothing against her. I have nothing. I don’t like her policies… but the fact that that can happen is just insane. It’s insane. It’s insane that we have a 9 and a half billion dollar budget and people who don’t have an education in finance, etc. can do that.

DY: So, you think it’s constitutional to provide a litmus test for running for office?

Giovanni Feroce: No, here’s my answer to that. Here’s my answer to that. She could be a wonderful person, I don’t know her. She, go ahead and get elected, but now let’s take monies from the budget and let’s have a 30 day where a Wharton or a Harvard or other schools come in and give a training to that. So, it wasn’t me knocking anybody…

Walsh, never one to back down from a fight, wrote a response to Feroce on Facebook: “I dare you to live on MY budget for a week and then tell me I am not qualified to vote on a larger budget. #singlemoms can balance a budget with one hand, a baby on their hip, and brownies in the oven. There is no basis to the argument that poor people are poor because they’re bad with finances.”

9a. Progressives and social justice advocates ignore the Rhode Island Small Business Economic Summit at their peril. State House leaders make the annual pilgrimage to Bryant University to get their marching orders on legislation that favors business, often at the expense of workers.

“I haven’t missed one of these summits since I was elected,” said Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) to the attendees of the 2018 Rhode Island Small Business Economic Summit Tuesday morning. “It’s an honor to be here.”

That’s not something Mattiello could say to those attending the annual Fighting Poverty with Faith Interfaith Vigil: he’s skipped that event twice. Both events are held to make legislative asks, but only one group is promised results.

“You know, when you hear ‘Cap’ Willey testify about all of the things that were previously recommended and the things that we [the General Assembly] got done,” said Mattiello, “It makes you feel good. It makes you feel like your time is being well invested… Collaboratively we’re getting things done.”

9b. At the 2018 Rhode Island Small Business Economic Summit, Grafton H “Cap” Willey gave attendees some advice: Invest in politicians, like Speaker Mattiello, who will do your bidding.

“In all seriousness,” said Willey, ominously, “There are forces out there that want to tax and regulate you out of business, and they’re making the investments to do so. You need to step up and make investments now. That means you need to be active. Know and let your representatives know your thoughts. Be prepared to financially support these representatives that are willing to step forward and represent your interests. They need your support and we need to be supporting them.”

This where our tax cuts go: Towards the purchase of more political power.

9c. The Rhode Island Small Business Economic Summit is also where you’ll hear long debunked economic myths recycled and foisted on an audience raised on the religion of free markets. David Chenevert, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, a strong supporter of Invenergy’s proposed power plant (see items number three above), floated the “minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage lie” to the morning attendees.

“I can remember when minimum wage [was] $1.60 an hour and I was thrilled because I could fill my gas tank,” said Chenevert. “The minimum wage then was looked on as a subsidy. Older gentlemen would work and use that for their vacation, plus they had a regular job. Today, we’re trying to get minimum wage be a way to make a living.”

Of course, it’s easy to show that  when FDR introduced thee concept in 1933 and passed it in 1938, he saw clearly intended the minimum wage to be a living wage.

“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.” (FDR, 1933, Statement on National Industrial Recovery Act)

FDR also said, “By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level — I mean the wages of a decent living.” (1933, Statement on National Industrial Recovery Act)

9d. On January 30th at 3pm in the State House Library, the Working Families Party is “kicking off two bills aimed at gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 and closing the wage gap for women and people of color.”

You know the other side is working hard against this, so be here if you can.

10. The words of a “fine Christian gentleman”?

“That way, I can take care of all the n—— and the k—-,” said Bishop Hendricken High School Principal Joseph Brennan Jr, while smiling for the camera.

So ends a 40-year career of shaping the minds of young men.

11. President Trump’s insane plan to permit offshore drilling off America’s shores (except for Florida, of course, they’re special) is meeting strong resistance in Rhode Island. Rhode Island Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence) has introduced a resolution to unify the General Assembly against the plan. Rhode Island Representative Lauren Carson (Democrat, District 75, Newport) and State Senator Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown) announced legislation that would hinder efforts to drill of Rhode Island’s coast.

“The public is invited to attend the meeting at the Marriott Providence Downtown from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and submit prepared written comments to transmit directly to the agency,” writes Chip Unruh from United States Senator Jack Reed‘s office. “The United States Department of the Interior has indicated that Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) experts will answer questions on a one-on-one basis and provide information on the national program, but will not hold a town hall style meeting.”

An organized community response is planned for 5pm.

12. Peace can’t happen if we continue to fund America’s war machine like money has no value. Protesting outside Senator Jack Reed’s office, organizer Jonathan Daly-Labelle told me, “A lot of people don’t realize that our congressional delegation is voting for more military spending for Trump and the Pentagon than even they are requesting.”

Reed voted in support of the largest military budget ever last year, $696 billion, and allowed the continuation of the unauthorized wars in the Middle East. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives James Langevin and David Cicilline also voted in support of the spending. The $696 billion was well beyond what President Donald Trump requested.

13. Rhode island Jobs With Justice (RIJWJ) has launched their campaign for RhodyCare, “a new program that will provide a subsidy to help cover the cost of in-home care, adult daycare, or child care for a loved one at every stage of life. The flexible, per-elder or per-child subsidy could go to whoever is providing care – whether it is a family member, informal caregiver, or a professional care provider.”

“Everyone deserves the freedom to live full and healthy lives, as well as the ability to sustain their families,” said RIJWJ Executive Director Michael Araujo. “With RhodyCare, we can make that vision a reality for all those who work and live in our great state.”


15. Picture of the week:

Governor Raimondo greeted by Burrillville after the State of the State Address.

16. I’ll be at the at the Rhode Island State House this Saturday, January 20 from 12-2pm for the Women’s March. Hope to see you there!

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