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The Uprising! August 3, 2019



With the resignation of Providence City Councilmember Luis Aponte (Ward 10) in the wake of his conviction of embezzlement charges, the race is already on to find his replacement. Four candidates have announced their intention to run so far, according the the Boston Globe‘s Dan McGowan. That field will narrow or widen as we get actual dates from the Board of Elections and the Secretary of State for when the various steps in the process need to take place.

On Friday, the Providence City Council voted to vacate Aponte’s seat, paving the way for a special election. After the dates are decided, there will first be a window for each candidate to collect the minimum 150 signatures needed to qualify on the ballot. Then there may be a primary, before a general election. Along the way there will be door knocking, signs going up, and possibly even a debate or two. With no other elections currently running in the state, and given the importance of the Providence City Council, expect a lot of attention and effort to be put into this race.

Also, it’s important to realize that even though every seat on the Council is held by a Democrat, those Democrats range from progressive to conservative, with a host of views being represented. Control of the City Council is currently under Council Presidency Sabina Matos (Ward 15), by a thin margin. Things could change dramatically in ways people were not expecting until 2022, when many of those currently filling seats on the council will retire, due to term limits.

There’s a lot riding on this race.

1. Monica Huertas

Monica Huertas is a Rhode Island College graduate, Social Worker and Activist. Huertas is the director of No LNG in PVD, which is working to stop the liquefied natural gas plant that is being proposed for development in the Port of Providence.

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“I’ve lived in Providence my whole life. I love this city and care about my neighbors,” said Huertas. “I am tired of watching as time and time again our politicians get tangled up in scandal after scandal, while working families find it harder and harder to get by. I strongly believe that Ward 10 needs to be represented by someone who will work hard for the community and our schools, and not another insider.”

Huertas plans to focus on a justice platform and will work hard for the social, economic, racial and environment causes her community believes in, as well as against the corruption within government.

Monica Huertas

2. Alex Kithes

The other special election this year is in Woonsocket, where 26-year old Alex Kithes is battling 76-year old Roger Jalette for an open seat on the City Council there. Jalette has served on the Woonsocket City Council in the past, and touts his experience. Kithes has been active in Woonsocket and state wide politics since age 17, most recently with Rhode Islanders for Reform, which sought to influence the rules and diminish the power of the Speaker in the State House of Representatives, and also with Sunrise RI which is a nationwide group of young people combating climate change.

On Friday morning Kithes and Jalette met on on the conservative Woonsocket-based radio station WNRI and debated issues.

Kithes has big ideas, is pro-choice, pro-immigrant, and pro-environment.

Jalette represents a comfortable return to the recent past, calls abortion murder, calls undocumented immigrants “illegals” and seemingly has no real ideas on climate change.

The election is on Tuesday August 6.

3a. Rhode Island Democratic Party

The Rhode Island Democratic Party (RIDP) has hired Cyd McKenna as their new executive director, and honestly, this is a very good fit. Given that McKenna most recently worked as Deputy Communications Director in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, under Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston), moving to the executive director position of the RIDP, which Mattiello effectively controls, is more of a lateral move for McKenna.

3b. The Women’s Caucus

The RIDP has put together a committee to rewrite the Party’s bylaws, bylaws that, among other things, will dictate the relationship between the Party and the various caucuses, including the largest and most active caucus, the RIDP Women’s Caucus.

To that end, the Women’s Caucus asked that two members of their executive committee be on the bylaw committee. RIDP Chair Joseph McNamara turned down that request, without so much as a letter to the Women’s Caucus to explain. (McNamara is also a a member of the State House of Representatives representing District 19 in Warwick.)

McNamara chose five men and two women to serve on the bylaws committee. The two women on the bylaws committee (Patricia Serpa and Justine Caldwell) are both members of the State House of Representatives, meaning that anything they do on the committee that may annoy Speaker Mattiello (who, as noted above, effectively controls the RIDP) may earn them retribution when it comes to getting their legislation passed.

No schedule on when the Bylaws Committee will meet, or when they hope to complete their work, has been released.

3c. South County Sunrise

Activists with South County Sunrise surprised members of the RIDP outside the Quonset O Club in North Kingstown Tuesday evening. The RIDP was gathering to honor Edna O’Neill Mattson a longtime RIDP member (who once worked on JFK’s campaign) and one of four voting members from Rhode Island on the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The DNC will be meeting in San Francisco next month, and among the many issues to be debated and voted on is whether or not to hold an official DNC sanctioned debate on climate change.

Though O’Neill Mattson was unable to attend the event due to illness, the South Coast Sunrise activists managed to secure promises from RIDP Chair McNamara and former Providence Mayor Joseph Paolino to vote for a climate change debate next month.

This leaves just O’Neill Mattson and State Representative Grace Diaz (District 11, Providence) uncommitted to the idea of a DNC sanctioned debate of climate change.

3d. Senator Sam Bell

Rhode Island State Senator Samuel Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) held a constituent meeting Monday evening and talked about his accomplishments during his first year in his position. He also took questions from his constituents.

4. Natural Hair Braiding

Governor Gina Raimondo ceremonially signed legislation exempting natural hair braiders from having to become licensed hairdressers and cosmeticians, an unnecessarily costly and time consuming process for skills passed down generation by generation in black families. Raimondo held the short ceremony at Studio 361 in Providence, a beauty shop that specializes in hair braiding and other services.

Representative Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence) has been pushing this bill through the General Assembly for over three years. (And I’ve been covering this story for years as well, starting at RI Future.) On the last day of this year’s legislative session, the bill passed both houses and moved to the Governor.

5. Cristian Aguasvivas

After fleeing to the United States and seeking asylum, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) determined, under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), “that it is more likely than not” that Cristian Aguasvivas will be tortured by the Dominican Police.

Aguasvivas is wanted for the murder of a police officer there. He claims he is innocent. The BIA determined that members of Aguasvivas’ family were tortured by police while they were searching for him, and Aguasvivas’ brother was killed.

Aguasvivas was before Judge John McConnell Jr in United States District Court on Thursday, his legs chained, wearing the prison jumpsuit provided to him by the Wyatt Detention Center, where he has been held since his arrest in Lawrence, Massachusetts four years ago.

The Convention Against Torture is a United Nations Treaty and the United States is a signatory. Under this treaty, the United States cannot send a person to a country if they know or believe that that person is going to be tortured. However, the position of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is that under the current law on extradition, the judiciary has a role only in determining whether or not “each of the charged offenses is supported by probable cause.” The determination of whether or not the person to be extradited will face torture is left left to the Secretary of State maintains the Secretary, and the Secretary is not bound by any determinations made by BIA.

Judge McConnell promises a decision “soon.”

6. Open Government

Every year the Rhode Island Attorney General holds a forum on Open government. Here’s everything you need to know to start filing Access to Public Records Requests, and to how to make sure your local government meetings are properly open to the public. Learn about the OMA and APRA here.

7a. The Making of a Democratic Economy

Economist Marjorie Kelly, vice president and senior fellow at The Democracy Collaborative, was in Boston a week ago Thursday evening to discuss her new book, The Making of a Democratic Economy, which is about the possible transformation of our economy from one of extraction to one based in democracy.

See full video here.

7b. House Minority Leader Joseph Shekarchi on minimum wage

House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick) spoke on The Public’s Radio about why low-wage workers in Rhode Island saw a decrease in their wages this year, due to the Rhode Island House of Representatives failing to pass a minimum wage increase.

The Public’s Radio Political Analyst Scott MacKay: Why do you think it is that the Speaker refused to allow Governor Raimondo’s plan to raise the minimum wage to come to a vote? The fact is that we’re way below Connecticut and Massachusetts. We have an overwhelmingly Democratic Assembly, and you’re supposed to help out working folks. Why no minimum wage increase?

Shekarchi: So, there are a lot o other things that we’ve done that have helped out working people, the working class, but what I think is that the business community felt that where we’ve been raising it quite a bit over the last couple of years…

MacKay: We’re still way below our neighbors!

Shekarchi: We’re way below our neighbors on a lot of things, Scott. So you just can’t say that as a catchall, and that’s what we’re going to do. There’s a give and take, and I think we have done a very good job of it. I think we’ll probably see this year, coming up, that there will be some kind of an increase in the minimum wage. As you know, over the years since I’ve been there we’ve had significant minimum wage increases. We’ve also raised the minimum wage for tipped workers, we’ve raised the earned income [tax credit], so we’ve down a lot for the working people and we’ll continue to do so, but it’s about balance. we need to keep our economy competitive…

When Shekarchi mentioned that there’s a give and take at work, I found myself instantly agreeing, since the policies he advances always seem to give to the rich and take from the poor here in Rhode Island

8. Nancy Green

9. ACLU of Rhode Island

10. The Bartholowmewtown Podcast

11. Convergence RI

12. Picture of the week

Former Providence Mayor Joseph Paolino posing with South County Sunrise

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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.

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