The Uprising, April 27, 2018

“…I know I’m asking a lot. The price of freedom is high, it always has been. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.” –Steve Rogers Welcome to a holiday edition of The Uprising, your weekly dose of Rhode Island-y social, economic and

Rhode Island News: The Uprising, April 27, 2018

April 27, 2018, 9:49 am

By Steve Ahlquist

“…I know I’m asking a lot. The price of freedom is high, it always has been. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.”
Steve Rogers

Welcome to a holiday edition of The Uprising, your weekly dose of Rhode Island-y social, economic and climate justice news. The Holiday? Avengers: Infinity War is opening. Hey! Don’t judge me.

Let’s do this thing:

1a. Is Mattiello a smaller, local Nixon?

Rhode Island Speaker of the House  Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) says that his $70,000+ PAC overspending was a “mistake” and that the move gave him “no tactical advantage” in his re-election campaign.

Another political “mistake” that gave a re-election campaign “no tactical advantage” was Watergate.

Watergate also had a small group of political operatives acting, as did Mattiello campaign staffers Jeff Britt and Matthew Jerzyk, without the knowledge of the candidate (allegedly). Like the Watergate operatives, Britt and Jerzyk have avoided both investigators and the press, so far.

Watergate ended badly for Nixon. Maybe Mattiello will fare better.

1b. The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats (RIPDA)are calling for “a full and complete investigation into the illegal actions of the Mattiello campaign in 2016 and condemning the Rhode Island Democratic Party’s distorting statement in support of him.

“The question of ‘Who knew what, and when did they know it?’ is being asked by Rhode Islanders across the political spectrum today,” continues the RIPDA. “The people of Rhode Island deserve an answer.”

1c. The Rhode Island Republican Party seized on Mattiello denying any knowledge of Britt and Jerzyk’s actions. In a press release the Rhode Island Republican Party provided a handy list of things Mattiello has claimed not to know:

  1. As House Majority Leader, he did not know that the legislation he championed in 2010 was for 38 Studios.
  2. After House Speaker Gordon Fox’s office was raided, he said he knew of no corruption in government.
  3. He had no idea that it was unethical for Representative Don Lally get a state job a few months after resigning as state representative.
  4. He did not know that a legislative grant he awarded would be used to pay for children hockey jerseys to have his name on it.
  5. He did not know that Representative Ray Gallison had been fined by the Ethics Commission before he appointed him as Chairman of House Finance.
  6. He did not know where Representative John Carnevale lived even after Carnevale was exposed on television as living in Johnston.
  7. He did not know that his campaign aides were illegally coordinating with Shawna Lawton.
  8. He did not know that his PAC was spending $72,000 illegally to help him get reelected.
  9. He did not know that his aide Frank Montanaro was getting free tuition benefits while working for him for the last three years.
  10. He does not know how to pass a budget without gimmicks or vote for a line item veto or to end the legislative grant program.

“But,” continued the press release, “Mattiello somehow did know on November 8, 2016 (election night), when he was losing to Steven Frias by 147 votes, that he would win when the mail ballots were counted.”

1d. On Rhode Island Public Radio this morning Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo called Mattiello’s campaign action a “serious and troubling mistake” while avoiding comment on whether the Rhode Island Board of Election‘s punishment was appropriate.

1e. Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, about Speaker Mattiello:

“[We] showed up en masse yesterday at the state house in Rhode Island. The first couple of years in Rhode Island it was so tough, even the Democrats in Rhode Island were elated by the NRA. Speaker [Nicholas] Mattiello opposed us every step of the way the first couple of years. Yet we gave him all this data to show how gun laws work, especially around domestic gun violence. Guns were not being removed from abusers.

“He helped get a bump stock ban and red flag law passed by the House by an overwhelming majority of votes, with dozens of Moms Demand Action volunteers sitting in the audience. That’s how aggressive activism works. You can’t give up. It’s a marathon and it takes showing up and demanding action every single year in every single state. We show up at every gun control hearing. That’s how you prove yourself and become a political powerhouse.”

1f. On the other hand, here’s Tony Perkins, president of the ultra right-wing Family Research Council. Perkins gets the story a little wrong, Democrats aren’t “crossing party lines” to stop abortion. Right-wing Democrats have always held the line against women’s reproductive rights here.

“In Rhode Island, the shift over abortion is so palpable that even Democrats are crossing party lines to stop it. Even there, in a deeply blue state, five Democrats sponsored a dismemberment ban. And while the bill didn’t get a vote, it’s a good reminder that cutting up children in the womb isn’t – and should never be – a partisan issue.”

2a. Matt Brown

Former Secretary of State Matt Brown announced he was running for Governor as a Democrat and pointedly chose to be in Burrillville that very same evening. Burrillville is where Invenergy plans to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the center of pristine forests, locking Rhode Island into fossil fuels for another (and potentially last) generation.

“Of all the crazy and backwards things being done in our state right now, building a fracked gas plant in the middle of a forest in 2018 is the craziest and backwards-ist of all,” said Brown to the residents of Burrillville.

After years of being ignored by the political establishment, residents of Burrillville felt rightfully validated by Brown’s attention.

“So first of all I want to thank all of you,” said Brown, “Because you have been doing this fight here, leading this fight, for almost three years. And not just all the people of Burrillville but all the people of the state and not just this state but the whole region owe you a debt of gratitude… You are fighting not just for yourselves but for the state, the region and generations to come.”

Brown received a standing ovation at the end of his two-hour meet and greet.

2b. Independent journalist Alex Nunes spoke with Brown about his work with Global Zero, a group dedicated to the elimination of nuclear warheads world-wide. Here’s Brown on Rhode Island’s war economy, which Nunes has been investigating for a while now:

“…government dollars that go to the defense industry do not create as many jobs as investments in clean energy, healthcare, education, and other areas. For Rhode Island, the future of the economy is going to be and has to be being a leader in clean energy, a leader in healthcare, and a great place to start and run a small business. That’s the future of the economy. Unfortunately, the current [Raimondo] administration is taking us backwards on all three of those… Defunding Medicaid has gutted the hospitals, and so our healthcare system locally is on the verge of collapsing. It’s essentially bankrupt and looking to sell itself to out-of-state corporations. And then giving one-off giveaways in taxpayer dollars to massive corporations instead of helping out our small business, which are really the future of the economy.

“We need a real economic development strategy that provides long-lasting, good, stable jobs that aren’t going to crash in a boom-bust cycle and aren’t going to be outsourced.”

3. Lincoln Chafee

Lincoln Chafee, the former Mayor of Warwick, United States Senator, Governor of Rhode Island and candidate for President has announced that he is 90 percent sure that he wants to be a United States Senator again. He wants to challenge Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the upcoming Democratic Primary.

Chafee has also come out against the proposed Invenergy power plant, something Senator Whitehouse, who wears the mantle of an environmentalist, will not do. But Chafee says his primary motivation is Whitehouse’s low approval rating in a recent poll and Whitehouse’s support for Hillary Clinton in the recent presidential race despite Bernie Sanders‘ decisive win in the Rhode Island Democratic Primary in 2016.

4a. Invenergy

After nearly three years of jockeying, the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) heard opening arguments on Invenergy’s proposed fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant.

High powered corporate attorney Michael Blazer was flown in from Chicago to deliver the opening.

Things got weird when Blazer quoted Inherit the Wind, a play and movie based on the Scopes Monkey Trial. In the play, the character Henry Drummond, based on real-life lawyer Clarence Darrow says:

“Can’t you understand? That if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools? And tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it. And soon you may ban books and newspapers. And then you may turn Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man. If you can do one, you can do the other. Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your Honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we’ll be marching backward, BACKWARD, through the glorious ages of that Sixteenth Century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind…”

Blazer was essentially casting environmentalists and groups like Conservation Law Foundation as anti-technology Luddites, opposed to gas, wind and hydro. “What are we left with?” asked Blazer, “Marching backwards to burn whale oil?”

Metaphors are flexible things. Blazer wants to cast himself as Clarence Darrow, a big city lawyer heroically arriving in some backwater town to deliver the truth to local knuckleheads, but he’s really more like William Jennings Bryan, clinging desperately to an anti-science religious ideology (fossil fuels) that is not only outdated, but dangerous. One big difference between Jennings Bryan and Blazer, however, is that Jennings Bryan was anti-materialist and motivated by faith, while Blazer’s point of view seems more than tinged with corporate greed and base materialism.

4b. The Fall River City Council Committee on Health and Environmental Affairs met Monday night to discuss the Watuppa Water Board decision to sell water to Invenergy to cool their proposed $1 billion dollar fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the pristine forests on north west Rhode Island.

The Committee, led by Chair Steven Camara, voted unanimously to pass two resolutions:

  • Condemn the water deal with Invenergy and condemn the Invenergy project in Rhode Island
  • Support a non renewal of the deal once the deal expires

The big reveal Monday evening was that while Fall River may be listed as the contingent water supply for the Invenergy project, in truth the supplier is Benn Water, a pool filling company. Even if the Fall River deal were to somehow fall through, “Benn Water has a number of communities that are contingent suppliers in Rhode Island and in Connecticut,” said Invenergy and Benn Water Attorney Mark Russo. “Probably somewhere between nine and ten. So I think that is an important point to make… What you do is you lease a hydrant and you lease a meter, and that’s how you take [the water.] We don’t have reserve capacity agreements with these other communities, only Fall River has that.”

It seems that Fall River is just one of many communities supplying water to Invenergy, but the only one getting a $45,000 payout.

5. Privatizing Providence Water

Proponents of privatizing the Scituate Reservoir want you to believe that Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) is not privatization. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza avoids both terms, calling his effort to privatize the water “monetization.”

Let’s set this record straight: Public-Private Partnerships or monetization or whatever you want to call it, is Privatization, the selling off of public goods to private corporations. And once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.

I’ve written extensively about Representative Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick)’s privatization initiative, in fact, I was the only reporter in Rhode Island that did. Shekarchi’s study commission dissolved without ever issuing a report as far as I can tell. Sunlight is a disinfectant.

Here’s a history of privatization.

And here’s an open letter to Mayor Elorza opposing the privatization of Providence Water from Providence resident Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur.

Privatizing the water “…is a plan that does not make sense economically, does not make sense morally, and does not even make sense logistically…

“National data compiled by Food and Water Watch found that privately owned water companies charge 58 percent more, on average, than public utilities do, and rates at privately owned companies have increased on average at three times the speed of inflation. This is in part because privately owned companies must make a profit for their shareholders or owners, and in part because privately owned companies have—by definition—higher costs, such as corporate taxes and higher borrowing rates. Perhaps a contract could keep costs down here in Providence while increasing them even more on water customers beyond the city limits, but if that’s the solution why not seek it without adding a private intermediary? Privatization also tends to lower water quality and maintenance, even when good accountability measures are built into contracts. This is in part because it is much more difficult for a city to enforce contractual provisions than it is for that city to simply supervise a component of its own municipal government. (Notwithstanding your reference at the meeting to Providence Water as a quasi-governmental agency, it is nothing of the sort.)”

6. All Art Must Perish

The Cable Car Cinema on South Main Street in Providence is closing on May 27, after 42 years. A unique and essential venue for small, foreign, documentary, art and unusual films, the Cable Car will be sorely missed.

Owners Daniel Kamil and Emily Steffian write:

“Rhode Island is also fortunate to have two remaining single screen art-houses (the Avon and Jane Pickens) and we urge everyone to continue patronizing them. They are unique community assets that enrich our lives and should not be taken for granted…

“For the short-term, we will catch our breath, take a moment, and if the right opportunity arises – the Cable Car Cinema may emerge in another locale and in another form…

“Long Live Cinema!”

Reading this announcement I recalled the Cinerama at 811 Hope St, which was demolished in the mid-1980s. Walking past the rubble during the demolition I saw graffiti on a partially intact wall that said, “All Art Must Perish.” A sad truth I hold dear.

Here’s a bit of nostalgia: “History of Rhode Island movie theatres and drive-ins.”

7. Robert DeRobbio

Since I can only be in two places at once, I missed Robert DeRobbio‘s announcement that he is running for Mayor of Providence as a Democrat against incumbent Jorge Elorza and youth activist Kobi Dennis. In his press release:

“DeRobbio criticized the current administration’s failure to improve city schools, citing the massive proficiency gap in math and science between Providence high school students and those just fifty miles up the road in Boston…

“Additionally, DeRobbio criticized the newly installed speed cameras, indicated support for legalizing and taxing marijuana, and pledged to increase the ethical standards of City Hall by making all employees sign a legally binding pledge not to become a lobbyist until his administration leaves office.”

8. Mike Chippendale

The week began with Representative Michael Chippendale (Republican, District 40, Coventry, Foster Glocester) taking to Twitter to call Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez a “dummy” Monday morning, responding to her tweet concerning the waffle house shooting hero, James Shaw Jr, who wrestled an assault weapon out of the hands of the shooter.

Chippendale, elected in 2011, has an A rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Roundly criticized and making national news, Chippendale declined to publicly comment on his tweet. But in a private Facebook group, he characterized his tweet as “blunt, edgy and playful.” He also said that Emma Gonzalez, who rose to prominence as a gun sense advocate following the horrific shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as a “high-profile public personality who is 19 years old – not a child.”

Eventually Chippendale did apologize, kind of, issuing statement that said, “Yesterday it was inappropriate for me to call someone a dummy on Twitter, and I’m sorry that I did – but I will not apologize for zealously defending the 2nd Amendment.”

9a. Governor Gina Raimondo

Governor Raimondo says that she’s officially neutral on the Invenergy power plant, despite having been a full-throttled supporter early on. That may be so, and perhaps not too much should be made of the fact that she visited Washington DC last week to speak to the North America’s Building Trades Unions conference and this week traveled to Lincoln, Rhode Island to speak to the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. These two groups are among the biggest supporters of the Invenergy project.

9b. I give Governor Raimondo a hard time on the Invenergy power plant, but credit where it is due:

Raimondo signed an executive order protecting Net Neutrality a day after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rescinded federal regulations protecting internet users. Said Raimondo:

“A free and open internet is essential to our democracy and economy. Rhode Island was founded on a principle that there is a place here for everyone. By protecting a free and open internet in our small state, we’re renewing that promise.”

9c. Governor Raimondo called the first meeting of her Gun Safety Working Group to order Monday afternoon. The Working Group is tasked with delivering ten suggestions for reducing gun violence in the state, not just in terms of mass shootings and school shootings, but in terms of urban violence and suicide reduction. The Working Group is tasked with making suggestions for better data collection and develop evidence-based strategies.

9d. Raimondo supported a bill to protect access to reproductive health care:

You can read more about H7265 here.

9e. Governor Raimondo signed a quilt square in support of the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA). The quilt square will become part of the RHCA Petition 2.0, as seen in Rhode Island State House.

RHCA Petition 2.0

10. Economic Progress Institute

The Economic Progress Institute (EPI) celebrated its 10th annual policy and budget conference entitled Budget Rhode Map: Paving the Way to Good Jobs. This year’s conference focused on strategies that improve the skills of Rhode Island’s workforce, especially for adults with lower skills and English language needs.

You can watch all the video from the conference here.

11a. The Woman Project Interviews: Lanna Nawa, Business Owner of Impact Everything

“I would like to live in a state that empowers women to choose their own beliefs about reproductive rights and allows them to choose what to do with their bodies while respecting one another’s decisions.”

11b. The Woman Project also introduced a new logo:

“Change is afoot at TWP.

“We have a new collaborator, DL Helfer, a local UU minister. We have a new look, clasped hands to demonstrate the way we’ve been making change — together. And our approach has shifted a bit as well, as we grow from a fledgling RI organization focused on bodily autonomy through art activism to a voice heard in our State House and beyond.”

12a. Is Governor Raimondo appointing members to the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) illegally? Save The Bay has petition the Rhode Island Superior Court seeking clarification.

“The issue before this court is one of statutory interpretation, a pure question of law…. The declaration sought by Save The Bay in this Petition would terminate the confusion over the appointment authority of the governor and provide certainty with respect to the number of Council members and their qualifications.”

12b. The CRMC is currently chaired by Jennifer Cervenka, who was placed in her position by Governor Raimondo in the middle off the Council’s consideration of permits needed by National Grid to build a liquefaction facility in the Port of Providence. The sudden appointment of Cervenka paved the way for National Grid to get the desired permits.

Se here and here.

Though Save The Bay’s complaint appears unrelated to the issue of the liquefaction facility, it is unknown what effect a judge’s decision may have on National Grid’s application.

13. Speaking of the CRMC:

The Southside NoLNGinPVD Community Earth Day Block Party was held in amazing weather outside the Washington Park Library on Sunday afternoon. Dozens of families played games, created art projects and ate BBQ courtesy of NoLNGinPVD and the Sierra Club of Rhode Island.

Area residents and environmental activists are trying to prevent further expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the Port of Providence. National Grid is planning to build a liquefaction terminal at Fields Point, which will strengthen Rhode Island’s dependence on fracked gas. Meanwhile, the chemical plants and storage tanks that clutter the port contribute to the area residents’ asthma rates, the worst in New England.

Christina Cabrera explains a “Just Transition” for the Port of Providence

14a. International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT)

Over 20 painters from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 11 volunteered their time Saturday, painting the outside of the Tides Family Services building on 242 Dexter Street in Pawtucket. Saturday marked the IUPAT’s annual Community Day of Action. IUPAT DC 11 volunteers painted the 20,000 square foot building to, “help people know that the community cares for them.”

“It is our pride and honor to give back to the communities that we live and work in,” said Painters Union Business Representative Justin Kelley. “Tides Family Services is an essential part of taking care of the most vulnerable in our society and like our union makes sure no one in our working class communities are left behind. We are happy to be a part of making sure that all people in our state have good places to live, learn and work.”

14b. IUPAT District Council 11 held a rally Saturday afternoon in partnership with Fuerza Laboral and Rhode Island Jobs With Justice at the site of Trilogy Development‘s Station Row project being built by Tocci Construction at Smith and Canal Streets in Providence.

“We are calling upon the Providence City Council and Mayor Jorge Elorza to engage in a full scale examination of the labor conditions on all job sites that are recipients of TSAs and implement reforms to ensure that workers are given the opportunity for fair workplaces that are free of labor law violations,” said Michael Araujo of Rhode Island Jobs With Justice. “Construction workers deserve to have their rights respected. Construction workers deserve better.”

14c. A number of issues seemed to be occurring at Trilogy Development’s Station Row project being built by Tocci Construction at Smith and Canal Streets in Providence.

The tube set up to deliver waste the container was over eight feet above the container itself. Large plumes of silica dust from disused pieces of drywall, periodically filled the air, before being blown by the wind in the direction of downtown.

15. More than 13 women running for public office in Rhode Island held a meet and greet on the lawn of the Rhode Island State House Saturday afternoon to reach out to the public for support, and to support each other in the upcoming midterm elections.

“One of the biggest reasons we organized this event today was to show the women that are interested in running for office that there’s an incredible amount of support in Rhode Island for candidates like them,” said Representative Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence). “We know that 70 percent of elected officials are men and we believe that women need a little bit more support and a little bit more convincing when it comes to running.”

16. Rhode Island has the distinction of being the most religious state in New England, where 32 percent identify as “very religious,” and 39 percent who identify as “not religious.” An additional 29 percent in Rhode Island identify as “moderately religious.”

17. Picture of the week:

This has been a heck of a week. My plan is to see Avengers: Infinity War, then get right back to work.

I love you, Rhode Island!

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