The Uprising! February 22, 2019

Sheldon Whitehouse confronted by Sunrise RI
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“The resolution is how we build support. We need this resolution because we need to build support and we have young people across the country who want this and we’re going to start voting politicians out of office who don’t get on board. This is what we need.”

– Sunrise RI member Nina Wolff Landau

Welcome to The Uprising!

1a. Green New Deal

About half of the people attending Senator Sheldon Whitehouse‘s climate change and sea level rise presentation on Tuesday were there to confront him on his lack of support for the Green New Deal. After Whitehouse reiterated his position, members and allies of Sunrise RI unfurled banners and took over the front of the room. When the students left, before the end of Whitehouse’s presentation, they took nearly half of the audience with them.

“The Green New Deal is a proposal that has been put forward in the Senate that would move America onto renewable energy,” explained Sunrise RI’s Ann Garth. “It would also create jobs in green energy. It would help stop the powerful fossil fuel industries … The point of the Green New Deal is to move in the next few years, rather than thinking incrementally and thinking about long-term, small step things but to actually do something that will match the scope and scale of the crisis we face.”

Garth, who grew up in California, was particularly disappointed in Whitehouse’s lack of support. She’s been a fan of his for many years. She told the Senator:

“I’m here today because I have so much respect for your work on climate change. I was a page in the Senate when I was in high school. I watched your Time to Wake Upspeech on climate change every week. I remember one time I went to the back of the Senate Coat Room, where they store the posters, because I wanted to touch the poster and feel like I had some sort of physical connection to the history you were making.

“Two years ago I interned in your office. I wanted to work in your office because I had so much respect for your passion and commitment on climate change.”

Whitehouse presented a barrage of reasons for why he won’t support the Green New Deal Legislation, saying, among many other things: “In the Senate, I very much want to organize something where every Democrat can support what we are doing. We need enough Senators on board to be able to win. We need to do it soon. I don’t think we have 12 years.”

“When the Democrats are divided, we are much less able to be effective … We need to work on an actual bill. A resolution is not going to change anything…”

1b. Sunrise responds

Undeterred, Sunrise RI visited Whitehouse’s Downtown Providence office the very next day. Whitehouse was not there. (He was in Quonset, checking out an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program). Sunrise RI came prepared with point by point rebuttals to Whitehouse’s excuses.

It’s well worth listening to:

George Carvalho, Whitehouse’s Rhode Island State Director, who repeatedly stressed that he “really had to get back to work,” spent about 20 minutes listening to Sunrise RI’s message before leaving the 35 people who had come to Whitehouse’s office to advocate for the Green New Deal alone in the office lobby.

1c. Sheldon Whitehouse

Interviewed on Channel 12/WPRI by Ted Nesi last week, Whitehouse explained his opposition to the Green New Deal resolution. He wants to provide coverage for Senate Democrats and Republicans who are not yet willing to do anything about climate change:

“It’s actually kind of important, I think, from [the point of] making the caucus work together that someone who’s as hawkish on climate as I am is not getting on and is giving everybody else some coverage, some space, to keep working together until we’re in a position to actually run the winning play.”

Though he won’t support the Green New Deal, Whitehouse is not adverse to using the resolution to drive money into his Political Action Committee, the Ocean PAC. In a fundraising email Whitehouse writes, “I’m asking you to join me in taking a stand against mockeries like Mitch McConnell’s call for a vote on the Green New Deal. Help me take on the special interests spreading climate denial by donating $5 to Oceans PAC today.”

1d. Condescension

“It brings energy. It brings enthusiasm. It brings a new narrative. So all of that I welcome and applaud,” said Whitehouse on Channel 12/WPRI about Sunrise RI, a group of actively engaged young people involved in the effort to build support for the New Green Deal.

But the members of Sunrise RI are not going to be so easily dismissed and condescended to. Nina Wolff Landau responded to Whitehouse’s characterization of Sunrise RI:

“We keep hearing that the Senator is excited to see young people’s enthusiasm on this issue. But the reality is: We’d rather not be here. We have jobs. We have school. We have other responsibilities. and we have other things to do on a Wednesday afternoon…

“We are demanding that we not be written off as young people excited to be engaged in our civic duty. We want to be listened to. We are knowledgeable and powerful voters and we are on the right side…”

1e. James Langevin, Jack Reed and David Cicilline

Sunrise RI had no better luck during their visit to Representative James Langevin‘s office.

“So will Congressman Langevin be supporting the resolution for a Green New Deal? The joint resolution?” asked Sunrise RI member Nicole DiPaolo during a visit to Langevin’s office.

“Uh, like I just said, there hasn’t been any new information, unfortunately, since our conversation yesterday, so I don’t have any new information to give you, other than the fact that he still hasn’t made a decision at this point,” replied Langevin’s press secretary Stuart Malec.

The group also visited Senator Jack Reed‘s Downtown Providence office on Thursday. Reed has not come out in support of the resolution.

That leaves Representative David Cicilline as the only member of Rhode Island’s federal delegation to support the New Green Deal.

1f. Peter Nightingale

University of Rhode Island physics professor Peter Nightingale has some opinions about the Green New Deal:

The Green New Deal vs. Capitalism

2a. Providence Water

As Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza continues his plan to “monetize” Providence Water through some sort of public-private partnership, concerned Rhode Islanders are pushing back.

Providence City Councilors Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Katherine Kerwin (Ward 12) and Seth Yurdin (Ward 1) introduced a resolution, crafted in partnership with the Land and Water Sovereignty Campaign, at Thursday night’s City Council meeting “in opposition to any and all forms of monetization and/or privatization of Providence water supply and sewer and of Scituate Reservoir.”

The Land and Water Sovereignty Campaign is a group led by Black, Indigenous, people of color, and environmental advocates. They write:

“Water is an inalienable human right and shouldn’t be commodified. Monetization /privatization would negatively impact our most vulnerable communities and our environment. Over 600 cities and towns have already suffered the negative effects of monetization/ privatization. We oppose Mayor Elorza’s bill H5390, and we call for a moratorium of all negotiations and actions leading to monetization/privatization.

The resolution was referred to the Committee on City Property.

You can read the resolution here.

2b. Public meetings

The City of Providence is inviting residents from across Rhode Island to participate in community conversations hosted by the Mayor’s Office and partners focused on the legislation and its potential impact statewide. Community meetings are set to take place on the following dates, times and locations:

  • March 4, 2019, 6:00PM – 7:30PM; Nathan Bishop Middle School, Auditorium, 101 Sessions St, Providence, RI 02906
  • March 11, 2019, 6:00PM – 7:30PM; Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School, Cafeteria, 375 Adelaide Ave, Providence, RI 02907
  • March 21, 2019, 6:00PM – 7:30PM; Nathanael Greene Middle School, Auditorium, 721 Chalkstone Ave, Providence, RI 02908

2c. Scituate Reservoir

Last Saturday Reverend Brendan Curran, associate pastor at Barrington Congregational Church UCC, lead a a group of about two dozen people on a march from the North Scituate Public Library to the Scituate Reservoir for a vigil “to honor and protect the water” in response to Mayor Jorge Elorza‘s plan to “monetize” the system. Curran writes:

“We will encircle the water with our our hearts, prayers, poems, songs, personal sharing, or simply our presence. All are welcome to share whatever they feel gives thanks for the water and sets the intention of protecting the water for all and for future generations. We acknowledge the original peoples on whose stolen land the water dwells. We intend to lift up hopes for healing among the peoples, the water, and our shared connection to the land. People will join hands around the water. Our circle will grow wide. We will be a circle of healing and protection around the water, our life source.”

2d. Johnston Water District

Meanwhile, it was revealed at Wednesday’s Providence Water Supply Board meeting that Ricky Caruolo, General Manager of Providence Water, met with Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena and Polisena’s Chief of Staff Doug Jeffrey on February 13 to discuss the possibility of Providence Water acquiring the Johnston Water District.

It remains to be seen if this new wrinkle will have any impacts on the planned monetization of Providence Water or Invenergy‘s proposed Burrillville power plant. Invenergy has a deal with Johnston to purchase water to cool the plant’s turbines. That deal is presently awaiting a decision in Rhode Island Superior Court.

3a. Invenergy

Members and allies of BASE (Burrillville Against Spectra Expansion) attended Governor Gina Raimondo‘s press conference about increasing funding for state parks and beaches to call her out on her tacit support of Invenergy‘s $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant. Raimondo was a strong supporter of the power plant but has since staked out a more neutral stance in reaction to strong opposition from every environmental group in Rhode Island.

This so-called neutrality is belied by the fact that the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) continues to litigate in the case now being heard before the Energy Facilities Siting Board. The OER is a state agency ultimately under the direction of Governor Raimondo, through her hand picked executive director Carol Grant.

When Raimondo attempted to shine the protesters on, she was reminded of our first amendment right to protest by Sally Mendzela.

“Guys, we hear you,” said Raimondo to the protesters. “There’s an EFSB process, that’s the appropriate place. There’s plenty of meetings… That’s the appropriate place for you to…”

“Everything is the appropriate place,” said protester Sally Mendzela, correcting the Governor. “This is our First Amendment right to let people know we don’t need a power plant next to parks…”

“That’s true,” said Raimondo, before turning to a scrum of reporters for additional questions. “You’re welcome to your opinion.”

3b. A slam dunk?

While not taking any official position on Invenergy‘s proposed power plant, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse expressed confidence in the Energy Facilities Siting Board, saying, ““I suspect that at this point it’s kind of a slam dunk, but we’ll see.”

3c. Coastal Resources Management Council

The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC)’s executive director Grover Fugate answered criticisms that his organization supported National Grid over a vulnerable community when the CRMC board green lit National Grid’s proposed LNG liquefaction facility. The new facility is to be built in the Port of Providence, near the Washington Park community of mostly poor people of color who already suffer some of the highest asthma rates in New England. Fugate said,

“That was a process that was under FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Agency]. The reason they came to us was for a very limited set of regulations that we have. We asked NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] whether we could adopt a climate change policy that would allow us, for instance, to ban fossil fuels in the coastal area. NOAA said no, because we can’t take that one action and show that it would have any measurable impact and therefore we can’t put one industry at a disadvantage to another. So, we were precluded from doing that but we did the best that we could.”

The CRMC allowed public comment for days, on a decision that was predetermined. It was later revealed that the CRMC improperly withheld information from the public regarding the approval process.

4. Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles are being tested this week on low-volume roads in the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown as the initial phase of a pilot project scheduled to launch in Providence this spring.

5. Beach fees

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and Janet Coit, director of the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) chose Lincoln Woods State Park, the oldest state park in Rhode Island, which opened on President Abraham Lincoln‘s birthday 110 years ago, to announce an initiative to expand funding for Rhode Island’s parks and beaches.

There’s been an outcry over the increase in beach fees from Republicans like Patricia Morgan and Democrats like Dennis Canario to which I ask,

6. Rhode Island Democratic Party

The Rhode Island Democratic Party will hold its first State Committee meeting of 2019 on Sunday, March 24, at 6 pm (registration begins at 5 pm) at the Cranston Portuguese Club, 20 Second Avenue, Cranston, where elections for all executive committee offices will be held. Additionally, the Committee will consider adoption of a revised platform.

Representative Joseph McNamara (Democrat, District 19, Warwick) announced his intention to run for a second term as Rhode Island Democratic Party (RIDP) Chair.

“Four years ago, I became chair on the eve of the 2014 election at a critical time for our party. At the time, we were in the middle of a bruising general election battle, having not elected a Democratic governor in our state in a generation. Four years later, we kept our federal delegation solidly blue and, for the first time in 29 years, we re-elected a Democrat as Governor by sending Gina Raimondo back to lead our state. In the General Assembly, Democrats won more seats in both chambers and we now have more Democrats serving on city and town councils in our state that at any time in recent memory.”

State Senator Samuel Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) and a Democratic State Committeeman for House District 7 disputes McNamara:

“Democrats lost three seats in the House during Representative McNamara’s tenure as Party Chairman. Before the 2014 elections, there were only six Republicans. Now there are nine. It is a verifiable falsehood for him to claim that Democrats gained seats in both chambers. Facts are facts.”

Bell also takes exception to the way the rules are being described in a release from RIDP Executive Director Tolulope Kevin Olasanoye. Olasanoye writes:

“All interested candidates for office on the executive committee (Chair, 1st Vice Chair, 2nd Vice Chair, 3rd Vice Chair, Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer) must submit a letter indicating what office they intend to run for via e-mail to info@ridemocrats.org no later than March 1, 2019 at 5 pm Each candidate’s letter must also indicate which State Committee member will raise the motion to nominate, as well as which State Committee member will second the nomination.”

Bell writes:

“It is … unacceptable for McNamara to require any candidate challenging him to give his office advance warning of exactly who will run, who will nominate them, and who will second the nomination. Members of the state committee are free to vote on the floor, and no candidate can pledge a member’s vote in advance. Nor does McNamara have the power to set a short time limit on announcing a challenge to him. Members of the state committee are free to nominate and second whatever candidate they choose to. Everyone knows that McNamara will almost certainly win. There’s really no need for him to try to rig the playing field in his favor.”

7a. ICE

Last Friday, approximately 70 ICE detainees at the Suffolk County House of Correction (SCHC) launched a hunger strike calling for an end to abuse and inhumane conditions. As many as ten people are currently being held in solitary confinement in retaliation for participating in the hunger strike.

Last night, The FANG Collective helped organize a noise demo in support of the prisoners outside the SCHC.

7b. Sheriff Thomas Hodgson

Thomas Hodgson, the sheriff of Bristol County, Massachusetts, joined Political Roundtable on The Public’s Radio to “discuss President Trump’s push for a border wall, immigration and other topics.” Bonus Q and A here.

Hodgson is a bigot, and it was disheartening to hear his views being mainstreamed on The Public’s Radio. Though Reporters Ian Donnis and Scott MacKay pushed back some, it felt too polite given some of the complaints lodged against Hodgson.

8. Border Wall

“This is first time ever getting a protest together. To be honest with you I was just pissed off,” said Dulce Cruz to the 60 people gathered on the south steps of the Rhode Island State House. “I was just so angry when I saw [Trump] on CNN, I just pictured squishing Trump’s face over and over again. I thought, I have to actually do something and for the first time I actually did…”

Cruz’s anger was sparked by President Donald Trump‘s declaration of a national emergency on Friday to secure the billions of dollars in funds necessary to build his wall along the Mexican border. Trump’s decision has provoked a possible constitutional crisis.

The gathering was planned as a speak out and a march.

Dulce Cruz

9. Hate Groups returning to Providence

The last two times Resist Marxism visited the Rhode Island State House, there was violence. Now they are coming for a third time on April 6. Here’s a breakdown, courtesy of Antifash Gordon.

Check out their last two visits here:

10. Family Fun Pack

Andy Boardman contributed a fantastic piece this week in which he outlined what a series of policies put forth by Matt Bruenig and the People’s Policy Project might look like if Rhode Island adopted them on a state level.

Families with children face financial burdens that are too often inadequately addressed. With the ‘Family Fun Pack,’ the People’s Policy Project offers an opportunity to reimagine family policy in Rhode Island. By incorporating everything from paid leave to free school lunch to health care under one comprehensive mantle, the ‘Family Fun Pack’ provides state lawmakers, candidates and advocates a compelling way forward.”

11. Impeachment

“It’s a fairly new group,” said Noah, outside the Pawtucket office of United States Representative David Cicciline (Democrat, Rhode Island). “It’s called By the People, and it’s a movement to impeach Trump.”

Three members of the fairly new organization paid a visit to Representative David Cicilline‘s Pawtucket office on Monday to encourage him to sign a pledge to impeach Trump.

“We’ve been really concerned about this national emergency that Trump has called last week,” said Kristy. “We’re a small but might crew to make sure that our congressman knows that we are not okay with what’s happening in our country right now. We’re asking him to make a commitment to pledge to impeach Trump.”

12. Opeds

UpriseRI is always happy to run well-written opeds, and this week we got a bunch:

13. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

14. ConvergenceRI

Here comes the sun” by Richard Asinof

On Feb. 6, ISO New England, the region’s electricity grid operator, as part of its forward capacity market auction, awarded a bid to Sunrun to deliver 20 megawatts of energy capacity beginning in 2022 by aggregating its home solar and battery systems.

“This is a first for home solar and battery systems,” said Anne Hoskins, chief policy officer at Sunrun, a national solar aggregator, in a post announcing the successful bid. “[We] are now competing head-to-head against more polluting, centralized power plants in one of the largest electricity markets in the United States.”

15. The Morning Sun

Column: The only wall we need separates church and state” by Ed Fisher

“Roger Williams, Puritan cleric, theologian, and author, founded the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He was a steadfast advocate for religious freedom, separation of church and state, and fair dealings with American Indians. He was one of the first abolitionists. Williams wrote in 1644 of ‘A hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.’”

16. H Russell Taub

If the charges are true, Republican activist and Congressional candidate H Russell Taub will be going to prison for a long time.

I remember Taub from three years ago, when he brought former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra to the Rhode Island State House to argue against accepting Syrian refugees in our state. This was before Trump, but certainly a precursor to the rising tide of nativism in our country.

Hoekstra was drowned out by protesters, and said, “I’ve been in politics for 18 years, and I have never been met with a group as hostile and uncivil as what you are. Congratulations.” You can see Taub in the video below.

Rhode Island rocks.

17. Rhode Island User’s Union

Thanks to the Rhode Island User’s Union for inviting me to their meeting last week so I could explain how to better reach out to the media in Rhode Island, and talk about how to do good press releases and press events. Thanks also to Karen Jeffries for supplying me with materials to make me look smarter and better prepared for that meeting.

18. Picture of the week:

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse confronted by Sunrise RI

As usual, I’m missing a dozen good stories and ideas. Maybe I’ll catch up next week, but don’t count on it.


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About Steve Ahlquist 1027 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.atomicsteve@gmail.com

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the reporting! Appreciated the video of the Sunrise Group. I also didn’t know that we had a water protector group in RI and a church group that similarly supports that work.

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