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Uprising

The Uprising, February 3, 2020

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In life, we are never guaranteed a victory. We are only guaranteed a fight. Here are some reports from the front lines…

1a. New coalition seeks first increase in cash assistance program in 30 years

A new coalition of community, healthcare, social service and advocacy organizations that serve low-income families, announced today that Senator Melissa Murray and Representative Michael Morin are submitting legislation to raise the benefit provided to families enrolled in the RI Works Program. The Coalition seeks to raise the benefit to 50 percent of the federal poverty level over the next two years – to lift families out of deep poverty. In the first year, the benefit for a family of 3 would rise from $554/month to $711, giving families more resources for clothing, toiletries, housing, transportation, food, and other basic needs.

Those 4,000 families who rely on this program receive an average of $6 per person per day,” said Senator Melissa Murray (Democrat, District 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield). “We know that being in poverty can negatively impact children’s ability to succeed in school and is harmful children’s health and future success. Increasing temporary cash assistance to needy families is one important strategy to help lift families, and especially children out of extreme poverty.”

Senator Melissa Murray

1b. Senate Labor passes $1 increase in minimum wage, balks at pathway to $15

It’s stomach churning to watch lobbyists, each paid well over $100,000 annually, speak out against raising the minimum wage at the State House, but that’s what Elizabeth Suever, Lenette Forry-Menard, Christopher Carlozzi and others do, year after year, committee meeting after committee meeting.

This week was especially maddening because the Senate, at the last minute, took away a bill that would have raised the minimum wage $1.50 this year (after no minimum wage increase last year) and put Rhode Island on a path toward $15, as Connecticut and Massachusetts have done, and in it’s place hit us with a one-time minimum wage increase of $1.


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Lobbyist Elizabeth Suever

1c. HomesRI announces legislative agenda at State House event

The legislative agenda includes many of the ideas Governor Gina Raimondo outlined in her proposed budget, such as a bond referendum of at least $25m to re-fund the Building Homes Rhode Island program and a permanent funding stream for affordable homes of at least $8m per year to support the production and operation of rental housing serving households at or below 60 percent area median income (AMI). They are also requesting at least $4m per year to support the preservation of expiring affordable units.

DARE attends the HomesRI legislative kick-off

2a. Sunrise Movement disrupts RI Speaker’s fundraiser

Local members of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization working to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process, disrupted a fundraiser for Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello. Activists sought to publicly condemn the Speaker’s recent comments claiming that Rhode Island cannot do anything to address climate change.

We are deeply frustrated by Mattiello’s inaction on the climate crisis. By claiming there’s nothing this state can do to affect climate change, Mattiello is not only failing Rhode Island, he’s simply lying,” said Mycala McKay, an organizer with Sunrise Providence.

2b. Protesters stage a die-in at Chase Bank, the leading funder of climate change

Climate Action Rhode Island (CARI) held a “die-in” at Chase Bank on Thayer Street in Providence on Friday to pressure the corporation “to stop funding any new fossil fuel projects and to phase out all existing fossil fuel funding.”

Ten people entered the bank with cardboard tombstones representing lives lost to climate disasters worldwide, disasters linked to warming temperatures due to human caused climate change. Each member of CARI made a short statement and then laid down on the floor. Chase Bank branch management called the Providence Police. Arriving officers told the protesters to leave the bank.

“Chase Bank is by far the biggest funder of fossil fuel exploration, arctic drilling, Amazon deforestation – $196B and counting,” said protester Justin Boyan. “The protest was totally nonviolent – We just wanted to raise awareness of what Chase Bank is doing.”

2c. Sunrise Providence announces counter-fundraiser to Speaker Mattiello after Speaker’s comments rejecting climate action

At their counter-fundraiser Sunrise Providence launched a new PAC, with the intention of supporting local candidates pushing for a Green New Deal.

On one side, we have long-time politicians like Speaker Mattiello who are determined to maintain the status quo,” said Rachael Baker, an organizer from Sunrise Providence, “On the other side, we have a broad coalition of citizens and activists who know that business as usual spells disaster for our livelihoods and threatens our homes and our lives. We need climate action now. To not pick a side is to maintain the status quo. To our elected officials, to our community leaders, to all Rhode Islanders, I ask you: which side are you on?

3. District 5 meeting reveals La Salle Academy is not paying property taxes to Providence; Will James

At a District 5 community meeting held Monday evening Senator Sam Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) gave the following summary:

  1. La Salle is not paying taxes.
  2. Legally they should have been.
  3. Lawyers for the school noticed and raised the issue.
  4. The bill would codify exemption.

A bill proposed by Representative Daniel McKiernan (Democrat, District 7, Providence) would exempt La Salle Academy from paying taxes on properties owned by the school. To the surprise of many constituents at this meeting, it appears that La Salle is already, unofficially, exempt from taxation. Numerous times throughout the evening Senator Bell stated that based on his review of tax law, charters, and through conversations with the Mayor’s office or Providence tax officials that “it is crystal clear” La Salle has not and should have been paying property taxes to the City of Providence.

“I just want to clarify that this bill is not a tax break, as it’s been established La Salle has not been paying taxes,” stated Representative Daniel McKiernan, in response to his Democratic primary opponent David Morales.

4. Treasurer Magaziner urges Wyatt bondholder Invesco to address community concerns over prison

Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner has sent a letter to Invesco CEO Martin Flanagan, over concerns with the situation at the Donald D Wyatt Detention Facility in the City of Central Falls, Rhode Island. Invesco runs Rhode Island’s CollegeBound Saver and CollegeBound 529 plans, and is also the majority bondholder for the Wyatt Detention Facility following the company’s merger with Oppenheimer in 2019.

As one of Rhode Island’s business partners, you know the importance of maintaining positive relationships with the populations we jointly serve,” writes Treasurer Seth Magaziner to Invesco CEO Martin Flanagan. “I ask you work with relevant stakeholders to take any measures available to address the concerns of community members in the Wyatt dispute.

5. In the eyes of certain State Senators, some marriages are less worthy

On Thursday evening, three Senators who sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee abstained from voting on S2078, a solemnization of marriage bill for a same-sex couple, but voted to approve S2133 for a heterosexual couple. The Senators who abstained were Harold Metts (Democrat, District 6, Providence), Frank Lombardi (Democrat, District 26, Cranston) and Jessica de la Cruz (Republican, District 23, Burrillville, Glocester).

6. Woonsocket City Council passes resolution honoring self-admitted white nationalist

The Woonsocket City Council is at it again, honoring a self-identified white nationalist while going after the progressive member of the Council who dares to stand up for something better. It may have a reached a crescendo with VP Jon Brien’s statements about “cancel culture” and Saul Alinsky conspiracy theories.

It’s all about cancel culture,” said Woonsocket City Council Vice President Jon Brien. “When you don’t like what you hear, shut them down, turn it off, get them fired, ruin their lives. This is a system that has been created years ago by Saul Alinsky and is being further put into place by a generation of people who have got these participation trophies and cannot understand that the first amendment is about not only being able to say what we want, but also hearing what you don’t like because the next guy has the right to say that.”

Attorney John DeSimone is the Woonsocket City Solicitor

7. Video from the Rhode Island Students for Bernie Kickoff Rally

The historic Columbus Theatre was the site of a second rally for the Bernie Sanders campaign here in Rhode Island on Tuesday evening, this time aimed specifically at the students and youth. The event drew over 200 people.

Keynote speeches were delivered by Jennifer Epps-Addison, Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy, a national activist group that has officially endorsed Sanders for President, and Linda Sarsour, founder and director of the Arab American Association of NY, as well as a Bernie 2020 National Surrogate.

We believe, as progressives, that another world is not only possible, but actually within our reach,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “We are driven to speak up, act out, and to fight like hell because people are suffering…

8. Peace coalition demands No War with Iran at State House event

Peace, justice, anti-war and anti-militarism groups in Rhode Island held a State House rally demanding that the United States not go to war with Iran. The groups maintain that while the most immediate threat of war has cooled, a re-escalation of tensions could easily occur.

Those in attendance called upon Rhode Island’s congressional delegation to take pro-active measures to rein in President Donald Trump’s ability to threaten Iran and destabilize the Middle East further.

Steve Gilroy from Iraq Veterans for Peace

9a. RI Democratic Women’s Caucus condemns abuse and corruption surrounding Convention Center controversy

Recently a top female executive at the Rhode Island Convention Center disclosed an alleged abusive and toxic relationship she endured from her co-worker, James Demers. Demers is also a retired Rhode Island State Trooper and, according to reports, is a close friend of the current Rhode Island Speaker. It is alleged that this man stalked, harassed, and abused his female co-worker over a period of seven years. He allegedly quipped that he would “ruin her life,” if she continued to distance herself from him. Upon disclosure of Demers alleged abuse, he was placed on leave. Soon after that, the current Speaker ordered an audit of the Convention Center on behalf of the Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS) – circumventing the committee’s authority to issue one – and therefore calling into question the motive of such an order.

The Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus believes that no woman should experience harassment in the workplace, and that no one should fear retaliation for speaking truth to power. In a Democratic state such as ours, one would expect the principles of equality, fairness, and integrity to be exemplified by the leaders of our party, especially those with the most political clout. Yet – as revealed this week in stories from WPRI and GoLocalProv – misogyny and moral ambiguity appear to guide the current Democratic state party leadership as it fails to rise to the level of ethics that our party platform demands.

9b. Five State Representatives demand answers from scandal plagued Speaker

“When is enough, enough? It is probably when the Rhode Island State Police are searching State House dumpsters in the dead of night. It seems like every week there is a new inquiry or investigation into unethical or illegal behavior in the House,” said Kathleen Fogarty (Democrat, District 35, South Kingstown). “We are calling for a Democratic Caucus to address the current state of affairs in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.”

10. Opeds

11. ACLU

12. ConvergenceRI

13. ecoRI

14. Bartholomewtown Podcast

  • Brian Amaral (Providence Journal)
  • Treasurer Seth Magaziner Talks Divesting RI Pension Funds from Assault Weapons + Private Prisons from RI Pension Funds

15. Picture of the Week:

Protesters stage a “die-in” at Chase bank, the largest funder of fossil fuels and climate change in the world.

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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