Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising! June 7, 2019

“You know, the [idea] that children should be afraid of this community is just something I don’t get all all. Who else knows how to better love than this community?” – Reverend Donnie Anderson What’s up Rhode Island? Welcome to The Uprising! 1a. Rhode Island Pride When Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence Diocese issued a nasty tweet, the LGBTQIA+

Published on June 7, 2019
By Steve Ahlquist

“You know, the [idea] that children should be afraid of this community is just something I don’t get all all. Who else knows how to better love than this community?”– Reverend Donnie Anderson

What’s up Rhode Island? Welcome to The Uprising!

1a. Rhode Island Pride

When Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence Diocese issued a nasty tweet, the LGBTQIA+ community, lead by Rhode Island Pride, did not respond in kind. Instead, they demonstrated in Cathedral Square around the idea of love and tolerance.

More than one news outlet noted with sad irony that when Tobin “became aware of incidents of sexual abuse when they were reported to the diocese” between 1992 and 1996 in Pittsburgh, while he was the auxiliary bishop there, he did not report the abuse, because it was not his responsibility.

The response to Tobin’s tweet was kind of amazing.

“This is such a beautiful thing that everybody showed up on such short notice,” marveled Rhode Island Pride President Joe Lazzerini. “Less than 24 hours ago we read that tweet and now you are all standing here today in downtown Providence, in Cathedral Square, so that we can stand up against that tweet that he put out yesterday.”

About a year ago, Tobin quit Twitter, calling the social media platform a “distraction” and an “occasion of sin.” Unfortunately it seems Tobin followed the advice of local radio shock-jock John DePetro, who urged Tobin to rejoin the platform.

Two vital pieces of legislation, both opposed by Tobin and the Catholic Church, are being held up in the General Assembly by Senate leadership. The first, a bill to extend the statute of limitations of child sexual abuse, is being altered to make sure that the Catholic Church will not be financially liable for their crimes. The second seeks to codify the human rights protections of Roe v Wade into Rhode Island State Law.

Harmful for children?
Harmful for children?

1b. Drag Queen Storytime

After embarrassing themselves by cancelling Drag Queen Storytime, saying that Bristol, Rhode Island didn’t seem “ready” and that the event “may be something more diverse communities can appreciate,” the Rogers Free Library reversed course. Shortly after being rebuked in Bristol, Naomi Chomsky was warmly received in the “more diverse” City of Fall River, Massachusetts, where overwhelming crowds necessitated three readings to accommodate everyone.

The suggestion that Bristol is not “diverse” enough to hold such an event certainly riled many of the Town’s LGBTQIA+ residents, but happily, the Library’s timidity has given away to acceptance.

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Drag Queen Story Hour with Ramona Mirage is scheduled for Saturday, June 15, from 1pm – 4pm in the Herreshoff Community Room at Rogers Free Library, 525 Hope Street, Bristol, Rhode Island.

2a. Reproductive Rights

Hundreds of people calling for the passage of legislation to codify the human rights protections of Roe v Wade into Rhode Island State Law crowded the Rhode Island State House rotunda. Organized by Rhode Island NOW with the cooperation of the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, the event was to feature a keynote address from National NOW President Toni Van Pelt.

Toni Van Pelt

Then the rotunda microphone stopped working. (It was working fine the very next day.) Anti-choice activists began chanting loudly, drowning out the speakers. The acoustics of the rotunda are problematic on the best of days, but during this event people could not hear at all, despite the best efforts of the speakers.

Still, overall the event was a success, as the crowd of pro-choice advocates moved to the second floor and gathered outside all three entrances to the Senate Chamber, loudly chanting their demand that their right to abortions be protected by the state. The House already passed legislation to do this. The Senate is delaying the legislation, perhaps with an eye of running out the clock this session, killing the bill through inaction.

The voices outside the Senate Chamber were so loud that the Senators had to pause in their speeches to be heard.

Ultimately Van Pelt was able to deliver her address, at a Rhode Island NOW event held at a nearby restaurant. All the video and speeches are available here.

I asked Van Pelt about her experience in Rhode Island.

“I’ve given a lot of speeches at rallies where there were a lot of antis, but I don’t think I’ve ever had it be so immediate, so in my personal space,” said Van Pelt. “Back in the day, before FACE was passed, they used to change themselves up to the clinic doors. We used to get up really early in the morning, get there at 4am and they used to come and try to chain themselves to the doors, their necks to the doors so that the doors couldn’t open. We were defending against that, so that was very immediate. But not when giving a speech. This was different today.

“I’ve given speeches where there were antis there and they were very, very loud, but they were not, like, right in my space,” continued Van Pelt. “I didn’t feel physically threatened before.”

2b. The Womxn Project

2c. Message from Ireland

Rita Harrold, protesting Donald Trump, somewhere in the UK, specifically mentions the Stop & Shop workers in New England and activists working to codify Roe v Wade in Rhode Island. Harrold visited Rhode Island in October of last year.


3a. Guns

The Rhode Island Senate passed a bill banning the manufacture of 3D printed guns, called “ghost guns.” The Rhode Island House of Representatives has held the bill for further study. So far, none of the bills gun control advocates are working on have been sent to Governor Gina Raimondo‘s desk.

On Sunday, the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, hosted a community event at the Southside Cultural Center on Sunday to “to honor the lives of those affected by gun violence and to elevate gun violence prevention efforts nationwide.” The event was held as part of Wear Orange Weekend and National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 7.

“I want to take a moment to recognize those who have personally experienced gun violence who are present. These individuals understand the devastating toll of gun violence in our country. I want to thank each of you for joining us today and channeling your pain into a call for change,” said Christine Bandoni, a volunteer with Rhode Island’s Moms Demand Action, before calling for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the Virginia Beach Shooting, mere days before.

Christine Bandoni

3b. Jaychele Schenck

High School student Jaychele Schenck read a poem she wrote at the Wear Orange event that brought down the house:

You can read her poem here.

3c. Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence

4. Housing

Members of DARE’s Tenant and Homeowner Association (THA) rallied on Saturday to demand the redevelopment of Barbara Jordan II apartments for low and very-low income residents of Providence. They marched through the streets of the Barbara Jordan II apartments, which have long been empty, demanding that all 74 units be restored and made affordable to very-low income tenants ($20,000 per year or less). They are also demanded that the property remain affordable permanently, through the use of the state’s Land Trust, and that the rehabilitation work be done by local contractors and laborers.

“What’s happening with Barbara Barbara Jordan II is that [Rhode Island Housing] brought a consulting firm in from Chicago to talk with the community and supposedly to engage with the community, to have community input about what Barbara Jordan is to look like and what Barbara Jordan is to be after rehab,” said Malchus Mills, DARE Board member and THA leader. “We talked mostly about affordability and that the folks in the area could not afford the the rent that that was going to be asked for.”

4b. Homelessness

Providence Lost, a 30-minute documentary film by Oscar Dupuy d’Angeac, tells the story of the Trottier family, Butch, Madonna and their son, Stephen Tobin. The film follows the story of the family’s eviction from their Providence apartment, the grinding search for a new, affordable place to live, and their eventual homelessness. Butch Trottier died during the eviction process, from complications resulting from his hospitalization after a panic attack. Madonna and Stephen now live outside the city.

After the film preview Monday evening, there was a panel discussion featuring Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza; Representative Shelby Maldonado (Democrat, District 56, Central Falls); Jennifer Wood, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Center for Justice; DeeDee Williams, Deputy Director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless; Oscar Dupuy d’Angeac, who directed the film and is the co-founder of Signs of Providence; Madonna Trottier, one of the subjects of the film and her son, Stephen Tobin.

The panel was great because real solutions were offered by the panelists: Things that can be done immediately, at no cost, and things that will require planning, legislation and money.

“There’s some pretty basic things that would need to change in order to address the issues that we’re all talking about,” said Jennifer Wood. “The first and foremost issue is to decide that housing is a right. If we, as a society, make that decision, if we decide housing is a basic human right, it’s needed for human survival, then we actually as a nation have solved this problem.”

4c. Point in Time

The Point in Time Count, mandated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is a count of all individuals, sheltered and unsheltered, experiencing homelessness on a given night in January. Rhode Island conducted the annual PIT count on January 23, 2019.

The Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless published data gathered from the 2019 Point in Time Count (PIT) that illustrates the scope of homelessness in Rhode Island. While the report shows an overall reduction in the number of Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness, advocates warn there is more to this than meets the eye.

“Progress is certainly being made, but ultimately the Point in Time Count alone is an imperfect way to capture the full scope of homelessness in Rhode Island,” explained Caitlin Frumerie, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless.

5a. Invenergy

With the caveat that “no ethical lawyer will ever guarantee future results” Conservation Law Foundation Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer predicted that “on June 25th it is likely but not certain that [Invenergy’s power plant] permit will be denied. I think [the EFSB will] deny it on both the need and the unacceptable environmental harm.”

Elmer gave a nice shout out to UpriseRI.com during his remarks. “Our brief, Invenergy’s brief, Burillville’s brief, they’re all available on the EFSB website, but better than that, the briefs are all available on the Uprise RI website, together with Steve Ahlquist‘s look at and analysis of those briefs.”

Here are the links:

Still there is a worry, this being Rhode Island, that the fix is in deep and the the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), the tribunal ultimately responsible for the licensing of Invenergy’s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant. will approve the application despite the evidence.

Elmer dismissed this idea.

“Part of my considered opinion that we’re likely to win is based on the nature of the case that has been put in and the background knowledge and experience and integrity of the EFSB members,” said Elmer.

Jerry Elmer

5b. Army Corps of Engineers

Despite Elmer’s prediction, Invenergy is confidently storming ahead with plans to build the power plant. Teaming up with National Grid, Invenergy has applied to the Army Corps of Engineers “to conduct work in waters of the United States in conjunction with constructing a transmission line, an energy center and upgrading a substation in the vicinity of Burrillville, Rhode Island.”

(Elmer did warn that Invenergy will “bluster” and act as though they will win the case. He said not to worry too much about that.)

According to an Army Corps of Engineers press release, Invenergy and National Grid “have jointly submitted a permit application to the Corps of Engineers pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The proposed project would consist of two major components, Invenergy’s proposed power plant and the Burrillville Interconnection Project. More specifically, the application proposes to construct an electric generating facility; construct a dedicated 345 kilovolt (kV) transmission line interconnection known as the Burrillville Interconnection Project (BIP); and upgrade an existing substation known as the Sherman Road Switching Station.”

Public comments on this work proposed by Invenergy and National Grid (file # NAE-2016-00505) should be forwarded no later than July 3, 2019 to:

United States Army Corps of Engineers, New England District
Regulatory Division
(ATTN: Alex Kostra)
696 Virginia Road
Concord, MA 01742-2751

Additional information is available from Permit Project Manager Alex Kostra at 978-318-8651 or toll free 800-343-4789 or 800-362-4367 (if calling from within Massachusetts) or by email to: alexander.a.kostra@usace.army.mil

5c. Killingly Energy Center

Sadly, things are not going as well across our western border. John Penney, in the Norwich Bulletin, writes, “In the span of the last couple of weeks, NTE Energy was awarded a capacity supply obligation from ISO-New England and later successfully petitioned the Connecticut Siting Council to allow for the refiling of a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need.”

5d. Energy Facilities Siting Board

Legislation to overhaul the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The bill was held for further study and seems unlikely to pass either chamber of the General Assembly.

The Town of Burrillville supports the legislation, writing, ““The EFSB enabling legislation is outdated and inadequate. Public participation is limited. City and town resolutions supporting or opposing a facility can be ignored. State environmental goals are not prioritized. Incomplete applications create unnecessary expense and delays while stakeholders and agencies pursue essential information from an applicant. Host cities and towns can be excluded due to budgetary constraints. Regulatory enforcement options for existing energy facilities are limited.”

Burrillville Now has a write up on the hearing here:

5e. Margaret Curran

Governor Gina Raimondo has nominated Laura Olton to chair the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The governor will submit Olton’s name to the Rhode Island State Senate for its advice and consent. As chair of the PUC Olton would automatically become chair of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB).

Olton served previously as legal counsel for National Grid. Some feel that her close association to the company is problematic. Raimondo did not include Olton’s employment at National Grid in her press release announcing her choice.

Margaret Curran, who currently serves as chair of the PUC, will stay on for the conclusion of the EFSB docket on Invenergy‘s proposed power plant.

6a. Jail time for Protesting ICE

About thirty people were outside the New Bedford District Courthouse Monday morning in support of Holly Stein, one of the four people arrested last August for blocking the entrance of the Bristol County Jail and House of Corrections in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Stein was sentenced to 10 days in the Ash Street Jail, with a one day credit for time served. (Lizzie Borden was held at the Ash Street Jail here during her trial.)

Last August, Stein was on of four people with The FANG Collective who were arrested after peacefully blocking the entrances to the prison. The action was carried out in solidarity with ICE detainees who were on hunger strike inside the prison to protest the dire conditions at the facility. The Bristol County Sheriffs reacted to the protest with violence, “resulting in two demonstrators receiving traumatic brain injuries,” said FANG in a statement.

Holly Stein

“I’m angry and upset at the treatment towards the people who have been detained and held at Bristol County,” said Stein, in a brief interview outside the courthouse, ahead of her sentencing. “To all the inmates and people who are being held, I’m standing in solidarity with them. I am saddened by the fact that the County can’t see that this is a humanitarian issue that needs to be addressed and instead are choosing to sentence me. The larger issue at hand is the fact that people are being detained and held unfairly. This is not this is not where I want to live. I don’t want to live in a place that treats people in this way. We need to be working towards justice, real justice.”

As for the sentence she was to receive, ten days in jail, Stein said, “This is unacceptable. This is a horrible precedent: If we speak out against conditions and torture to people inside, people are going to be sent to jail…

“I’m not looking forward to going there and I just hope that this brings more attention to Bristol County and to the correction facility,” continued Stein. “Things need to change. The sheriff is under investigation and that investigation needs to continue, instead of sending us to jail. They really need to be investigating the jail and investigating the detention centers and break the contracts with ICE that allow people to get held based on nothing.

“I feel very privileged in this position, even though I’m about to go into jail,” said Stein. “I just think more people should stand up about the injustices that are happening.”

Asked if she regrets her actions that lead to this, Stein answered, “Absolutely not.”

For a view of what happened inside the courtroom, see here.

6b. Week of Action to #ShutDownICE

The FANG Collective, in conjunction with activists across the country, are calling for a “Week of Action to #ShutDownICE” from June 23-29th. The Week of Action is timed with the June 30th expiration of United States Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) 287(g) agreements across the country. Organizers are calling on municipalities and law enforcement agencies to refrain from renewing these agreements and cut ties with ICE after their expiration.

287(g) agreements with ICE allow law enforcement agencies to question people about their immigration status, detain people on immigration charges and carry out the duty of ICE officers. Currently, 80 law enforcement agencies in 21 states have 287(g) agreements with ICE. Every year thousands of people are detained and deported by ICE through the 287(g) program.

In May, ICE announced an extension of the 287(g) program called the Warrant Service Officers (WSO) initiative. It allows participating agencies to arrest and detain people who have been issued warrants by ICE, even if local measures aimed at limiting the power of ICE in the area, such as “sanctuary city” policies, are in place. 10 counties in Florida and Georgia have already signed up for the new program.

“With 287(g) agreements expiring across the country, and with ICE attempting to expand the program, now is the time to take action and end 287(g) and defend our communities from ICE’s violence,” said Arely Diaz of the FANG Collective.

7. Tax Delinquents

The Rhode Island Senate was poised on Wednesday to grant a massive giveaway of potential tax delinquents, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars worth, by enacting a 10-year statute of limitations. Instead, the Senate delayed consideration of the bill to this coming Tuesday.

Senate Bill 0074, would “enact a ten year statute of limitations on any assessment of tax due and payable or commencement of any collection action for any tax due and payable by the tax administrator for the sales and use tax, the estate tax, the personal income tax, and business corporation tax.” The bill would potentially erase tens of millions of dollars of debt, owed to the state of Rhode Island, for some of the biggest tax delinquents in the state. See here and here.

This “get-out-of-debt free” card is the product of pro-business extremists such as Grafton HCapWilley IV, who suggested the idea to Senate and House leaders at this year’s 2019 Rhode Island Small Business Economic Summit. While presenting a wish list of business legislation, such as the elimination of the estate tax, essentially a tax on dead millionaires, ‘Cap’ Willey IV included this statute of limitations idea, saying, “We ask you to pass a statute of limitations on tax collections of ten years.” ‘Cap’ Willey IV also proposed, “a reduction in the usurious 18 percent interest rate charges on overdue accounts that go back to the Carter years. An 18 percent interest rate is just not right. It should be prime plus a certain percentage.”

The status of the bill is now in question. This might be one of those times where you might want to contact your Senator to express your opinion.

8. Speaker Mattiello

Representative Kathleen Fogarty (Democrat, District 35, South Kingstown) has accused House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) of using Wite-Out to remove her name from House Bill 6180 – Relating to the Governance of the University of Rhode Island.

In an open letter Fogarty accused Mattiello of childish, unethical, outrageous behavior. Mattiello issued a response to the media, but House Spokesperson Larry Berman declined to send one to Uprise RI when I requested it. This is a common thing for House Leadership to do, that is, ignore and attempt to marginalize media outlets that are critical of the Speaker. Fogarty has it right: Childish.

@RIHouseofReps and @RISpeaker on Twitter.

9. John Hope Settlement House

Saying she was “holding back tears,” Siobhan Callahan, Founder and Executive Director of the Wangari Maathai Community School, informed parents interested in sending their children to the school that, “Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to open this Fall.”

As Callahan explains in her letter, the John Hope Settlement House board refused to take a final vote on a contract to house the school before the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s deadline passed.

The deal, according to Callahan, was for payments of $875,000 over five years. It is unknown why exactly the John House board let the clock run out on the deal.

The deal to house the school at John Hope was controversial within the community John Hope serves. John Hope as an institution is nearly a century old, and many in the community rallied under the banner of a group called Save John Hope, which sought to prevent the takeover of the institution for a charter school that would not be centered on serving children within that community.

In a press release, the John Hope Settlement House board writes that “This was a very short period of time to attempt to complete such a difficult process. The rushed timeline provided by the Wangari Maathai Community School did not allow sufficient time to properly negotiate the agreement and prepare the facilities.” You can read the entire press release here:

10. Non-Compete Agreements

Andy Boardman makes the case that non-compete agreements, “which generally bar workers from accepting employment at companies that rival their current employer” are out of control.

Rhode Island lawmakers have an opportunity to follow suit. The Rhode Island Noncompetition Act (H6019/S0698) aims to safeguard the bargaining power and mobility of low-wage workers by limiting non-compete agreement enforcement. If passed, the Noncompetition Act would prohibit the enforcement of the covenants against employees with weekly earnings below approximately $1,000, employees protected by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and interns.

The bill, introduced by Senator Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence) and Representative Christopher Blazejewski (Democrat, District 2, Providence), has the backing of Governor Gina Raimondo, Attorney General Peter Neronha and Treasurer Seth Magaziner. All view it as a step to expand economic opportunity and protect workers’ bargaining power while promoting overall economic growth. “If someone is willing to put in the work to get [training and employment experience],” says Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training Assistant Director Matthew Weldon, “they shouldn’t be prevented from landing a good job in the future because they were required to sign a non-compete agreement when they were an intern or a low-wage worker – that just doesn’t make sense.”

11. Car-free in Rhode Island

Barry Schiller provides some helpful tips on navigating Rhode Island without a car.

12. eco-RI

13. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

14. ConvergenceRI

15. GoLocalProv

16. Providence Daily Dose

17. The Womxn Project

In episode 5 of Pie-Corner Talks, a podcast from The Womxn Project, “your Master Baker, Jen Rourke, interviews Uprise RI‘s Steve Ahlquist. Through Uprise RI, Steve and a team of reporters cover issues of social justice, human rights, progressive politics, and climate change. In this episode, they talk about how Steve started Uprise, why he does it, and comics.”

18. The Public’s Radio

19. Picture of the Week:

Representative James McLaughlin (Democrat, District 57, Central Falls) holds aloft a painting of Jesus, in the State Capitol of Rhode Island, the birthplace of separation of church and state… Sorry, Roger Williams…

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