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The Uprising! July 26, 2019

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Stopping climate change means stopping the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. We don’t stop this expansion by holding conferences at Fidelity Investments HQ in Smithfield, Rhode Island, as the Environmental Business Council (EBC) of New England did for their first annual Climate Change, Resilience and Adaptation Summit Friday morning. Fidelity has invested in excess of $94B into fossil fuel companies. Hosting a conference doesn’t in any way mitigate their crimes against the Earth. Instead, it allows Fidelity to greenwash their sins away…

1a. Sunrise RI

It was with this idea firmly in mind that activists from Sunrise RI disrupted Senator Sheldon Whitehouse‘s keynote address to attendees of the summit this morning.

“What we need is bold and urgent action, and instead, we’re here at this event. We’re celebrating the incremental successes of the corporations that are profiting most from this crisis,” said activist Yesenia Puebla. “We need you to finally step up and support the Green New Deal, and sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge.”

“There’s an example of the next generation, taking this damn seriously,” said Whitehouse after the activists had left.

In a statement, Sunrise RI writes, “Today was the 9th time that we’ve asked Senator Whitehouse to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge. Until he rejects contributions from fossil fuel industry executives and PACs, and Co-Sponsors the Green New Deal, Senator Whitehouse has no right to be given a platform as a ‘climate champion.’ Please check out and share our livestream from the action!”

1b. More Sunrise


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In the same statement as above, Sunrise RI made a big announcement:

This September, Providence, RI is going to be the host city for Sunrise’s Northeast Regional Summit!

“As part of our escalating strategy for bold climate action, Sunrise is convening four regional summits across the country. Over the weekend of September 7th and 8th, we will train and mobilize over 1,000 people so that they are prepared to propel the fight for climate justice forward in their hometowns. Following the two days of training, we are planning a massive action in Providence on Monday, September 9th. You won’t want to miss it!

“We’ll be closely collaborating with national as well as with other hubs to craft a weekend full of trainings and workshops aimed at building the skills and capacity of Sunrisers from all over the Northeast. These regional summits are a crucial step in ramping up our campaign for climate and economic justice. We’re so honored and excited to be hosting one of the summits, but in just over a month, we have SO MUCH work to do to make it as inspiring and powerful as possible. We are still in the process of filling critical leadership roles, as well as beginning outreach to key regional partners, so if you have any interest in being involved in the planning process, please fill out this form.

1c. Invenergy

What happens when you stand up to fossil fuel companies?

Sometimes you win.

Case in point: Invenergy, the company that wanted to build a $1B fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant amid the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island, got shut down by Rhode Island’s Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) after a four year battle. Invenergy had initially asked for an expedited decision, and wanted shovels in the ground three years ago. The hard work of community members delayed the application process, giving the markets the time they needed to show that the plant is not needed.

After the EFSB decision, which becomes official once the EFSB publishes it, Invenergy has 10 days to appeal the ruling to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Experts think an appeal is unlikely, and even more unlikely to be successful. Apparently Invenergy feels the same way, since they just suspended their application with the Army Corps of Engineers. This permit was required to build the wires connecting the proposed power plant to the electrical grid. The application was filed jointly by Invenergy and National Grid.

2. Profiting from Trump’s border policies

According to a research piece by Alex Kotch for Sludge, at least five companies in Rhode Island are profiting from contracts made with United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The companies are:

  • K9 Instincts; Portsmouth;
  • Brown Point Facility Management Solutions LLC; Cumberland, Lincoln;
  • Global Maintenance LLC, Cumberland;
  • Lincoln Government Service Inc, Lincoln; and
  • National Glass and Gate Service Inc, aka NG&G Facility Services International, Lincoln

I break down what I know about the companies here.

3. PrYSM sues Providence

The Providence Police Department is apparently violating the Community Safety Act (CSA, aka the Providence Community Police Relations Act (PCPRA)) by maintaining a Gang Database that uses criteria designated as illegal under the Act, and then renaming the Gang Database the Intelligence Assessment Database, as if it mattered what the database was named.

The latest meeting of the Providence External Review Authority (PERA) was a Kafkaesque nightmare of denials and obfuscation on the part of the Providence Police and the Providence City Solicitor demonstrates why such a lawsuit is necessary. PERA is the board tasked with reviewing Police misconduct, but the board found itself hamstrung by procedural roadblocks thrown up by their own legal counsel.

Legal counsel for the PERA board, Associate City Solicitor Steven Nelson, seemed to be working more for the Mayor of Providence and the Providence Police Department than for PERA or the people of Providence, who might have a vested interest in making sure that the Police obey the law.

Here’s a typical back and forth between Counselor Nelson and PrYSM CSA Team member Justice Gaines:

“Now, as the City Solicitor is here to advise [PERA] as a Board, and you as a Board have a responsibility to review of these policies, you as a Board could ask your counsel, what should you do about the illegal Gang Database,” said Gaines.

“I’m not here in that capacity,” said Nelson.

“Yes you are,” said Gaines.

“I’m just not,” repeated Nelson.

“You’re here to advise the Board,” countered Gaines. “They are asking you about your responsibilities…”

“It’s also not on the agenda,” complained Nelson.

“It is on the agenda!” objected Gaines.

“No. Gang Database is not on the agenda,” said Nelson.

The agenda said that PERA would be discussing Providence Police Department policies. The Gang Database is one of those policies.

4. Elder care shortages

A new 12-page report highlights the dire shortage of registered nurses (RNs) and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) present in Rhode Island in local nursing homes, the low wages and high turnover rates, and the lack of safe staffing standards for resident care.

The report calls for the passage of a minimum staffing standard of 4.1 hours of care per resident per day, an increase in starting wages of CNAs to at least $15 per hour, and a focus on training and workforce development moving forward as immediate first steps towards resolving Rhode Island’s resident care crisis.

“I’m here today because we need to stop sweeping this issue under the rug,” said Shirley Lomba, a certified nursing assistant at Bannister Center. “Rhode Island nursing homes are understaffed and Rhode Island caregivers are underpaid. Those are facts. When our residents have more time with their caregivers, they have better outcomes. The lack of staffing standards forces us to rush through the very basics of care and doesn’t give us any time to answer questions or even just chat with our residents; basic things that are necessary to maintain quality of life. We’re fed up, and we’re here to demand change.”

5. Lock Arms for Peace

It seems to just be getting bigger all the time.

Lock Arms for Peace is an idea dreamed up by Diana Garlington and Kobe Dennis.

“Five years ago Kobe Dennis and myself decided that there was a lot of violence that was going on in the community so we decided to start a new organization called Lock Arms for Peace,” said Garlington. “What this does is it shows that we still have unity and peace in our community. We want to show everyone that even though there’s a lot of violence going on, there’s still people who care and there’s still people who are going to reach out and try to save our community and stop these senseless acts of violence.”

6. Common Cause RI

Rhode Island State Senators Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown) and James Sheehan (Democrat, District 36, Narragansett) and State Representatives Jason Knight (Democrat, District 67, Barrington, Warren) and John Lyle Jr (Republican, District 46, Lincoln) were on stage Wednesday night to discuss this past year’s legislative session with John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island.

  • Why did the House never voted to suspend the Rules, as has happened every year in recent memory? Because of the influence of the Reform Caucus, or maybe more because Minority Leader Blake Filippi straight up refused to go along with it.
  • Why can’t we have early voting? Because conservative Democrats are afraid that savvy Progressives might use the new systems to unseat them.
  • How Rhode Island moved the Primary date to the day after Labor Day, solving one problem, and creating a bunch more…
  • Why Rhode Islanders have a chance this year to positively affect the redistricting process this time around and avoid the worst consequences of insider gerrymandering.
  • Senator Sheehan’s attempt to bring public financing of elections to the Rhode Island General Assembly.
  • Why magistrates are judges, and why a General Assembly full of lawyers can’t seem to be able to reform the system.
  • Why no one thinks the General Assembly will be taking up casino gambling in the fall.

7. Attorney General Peter Nerhona

Attorney General Peter Neronha announced an important next step in the Office’s review of clergy child sexual abuse: a new Memorandum of Understanding between the Attorney General and the Diocese of Providence pursuant to which the Office and the Rhode Island State Police will gain access to all complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy dating back to 1950 – whether deemed credible by the Diocese or not.

8. Paul Valletta

Instead of becoming Cranston’s new Fire Chief, Paul Valletta is retiring. Last Monday’s Cranston City Council Meeting to approve or deny Valletta the meeting was cancelled. Valetta has been accused of having a history of angry outbursts and racist remarks. Here’s a letter from the Cranston Action Network regarding Valletta.

9. Teachers and Racism

Elementary schools tend to discipline black students more harshly than white students, leading to a considerable racial gap in expulsion and suspension. That’s among the findings of a new data analysis led by researchers at Brown and Princeton Universities.

The analysis found that teachers’ different treatment of black and white students accounted for 46 percent of the racial gap in suspensions and expulsions from school among 5- to 9-year-old children. It showed that about 21 percent of the gap could be explained by differences in the characteristics of schools that black and white children attend predominantly, while differences in student behavior accounted for 9 percent of the gap.

10. Accidental overdoses investigated as homicides

Expressing concerns that treating accidental drug overdoses is both counterproductive and dangerous, public health and recovery advocates call for the Providence Police Department to immediately halt their investigations of recent and tragic drug overdose deaths as homicides. The request was made in a letter sent by seven organizations to Providence Commissioner of Public Safety Steven Paré and other City officials.

In the past month, at least seven Rhode Islanders have tragically died from overdoses in the city of Providence. These deaths highlight the need to address this epidemic as the public health crisis that it is in order to make progress in saving lives. Regrettably, the Providence Police Department openly and immediately cited last year’s strongly opposed – but ultimately enacted – drug-induced homicide bill known as “Kristen’s Law” to investigate these deaths as murders.

11. Lauren Niedel

12. ACLU of Rhode Island

13. Bartholomewtown Podcast

14. ecoRI

15. ConvergenceRI

  • A teacher speaks her mind: Following an emotional outburst at the mayor’s news conference on Friday morning, a Hope High School teacher shares her recommendations about what needs to happen

16. GoLocalProv

17. Picture of the week:

[Correction: I originally reported in Item 1c that Invenergy had 60 days to appeal the EFSB decision once posted. Invenergy will have ten days, not 60. This has been corrected.]


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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.

atomicsteve@gmail.com

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