Connect with us

Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising, December 1



Welcome to The Uprising, where the news is necessary, but not necessarily good.

This week Garrison Keillor and Matt Lauer crashed and burned their careers and at the current rate, by the time you finish reading this sentence, three more prominent men will have lost their jobs due to allegations of sexual misconduct, unless of course they’re Roy Moore, Al Franken or Donald Trump.

Speaking of Trump, this week he managed to insult Native American WWII heroes who fought Fascists, as opposed to Trump, who retweets Fascists.

And how about that Bosnian Croat war criminal who drank poison in court and died after being sentenced to 20 years in jail? Believe me, I’m not implying anything when I note here that Michael Flynn just pled guilty to lying to the FBI.

Let’s look at what’s happening locally:

Can you help us?

Funding for our reporting relies entirely on the generosity of readers like you. Our independence allows us to write stories that hold RI state and local government officials accountable. All of our stories are free and available to everyone. But your support is essential to keeping Steve and Will on the beat, covering the costs of reporting many stories in a single day. If you are able to, please support Uprise RI. Every contribution, big or small is so valuable to us. You provide the motivation and financial support to keep doing what we do. Thank you.

Become a Patron!
Opens in a new tab - you won't lose you place

1a. The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) was planning to hold a few hours of public comment, listen to National Grid‘s rebuttal, and vote on the proposed liquefaction facility planned for the Port of Providence, which is vociferously opposed by the community and the NoLNGinPVD coalition. Instead, a mix of community activists, environmentalists and elected officials insisted on being heard, and the entire four hours of the meeting consisted of public comment. (For the record, exactly 96 percent of the comments were in strong opposition to Grid’s plan.)

The hearing was fraught with white privilege, environmental racism and police presence, all of which came close to boiling over late in the meeting, as can be seen here:

The next hearing will feature no public testimony, just National Grid’s rebuttal, followed by CRMC deliberations and a vote. You can attend that hearing at 5pm on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 in the Cafeteria of the Administrative Building, One Capitol Hill, Providence, RI.

1b. CRMC Chair Jennifer Cervenka, or at least CRMC Public Educator and Information Coordinator Laura Dwyer, didn’t like this piece on Cervenka’s possible conflict of interest in leading the approval process for Grid’s project. “There cannot be a conflict of interest until there is one, simply,” wrote Dwyer, “and the National Grid matter did not come before the Council until November, nearly three months after the Chair resigned from the Coalition.”

Actually, National Grid’s application with CRMC was submitted in October, 2016, (that’s nine months before Cervenka was installed as chair) and the CRMC discussed the project, in part, at least five times according to the minutes of their meetings available online.

1c. Tony Affigne, who served on the CRMC for about 6 year before being unceremoniously replaced by Governor Gina Raimondo, weighed in on National Grid’s liquefaction proposal, and the obvious environmental racism on display at the two CRMC hearings. A professor of political science at Providence College, Affigne said, “I might have helped the Council avoid the appalling display of environmental racism, contempt for low income people, and disregard for health and safety risks, which were apparent in its two National Grid hearings. I might have cautioned the new chair to show the same respect for people on the South Side, that CRMC routinely shows for people who live in the state’s more affluent seaside communities. I would have objected, strenuously, to any attempts to use police power, [or] to control what testimony appears in the official record. Neighborhood residents were right to point out that not a single member of the Council lives near hazardous petroleum or chemical facilities, and [I] can barely imagine the fear, frustration, and anger felt by people already subject to innumerable environmental dangers.”

2a. While most of Rhode Island’s reporters seemed to be covering Governor Raimondo’s job announcement, (see item 3 below) a few stalwarts were at the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) covering a host of motions from the litigating parties. The board decided not to let members of the Narragansett Indian Tribal Council become intervenors in the proceedings, saying that doing so would be taking sides in tribal politics. (The Tribal Council is at odds with Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas, who signed signed a deal to sell water to Invenergy to cool its turbines. Invenergy wants to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the pristine forests of north west Rhode Island.)

Of course, not granting the Tribal Council intervenor status is also taking a side, I think…

2b. More interesting was EFSB Chair Margaret Curran and board member Janet Coit‘s downright skepticism of Invenergy’s arguments against a Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) motion to delay the proceedings for discovery and expert analysis. Invenergy learned in September that one of two planned turbines was ineligible to participate in an upcoming energy auction. They sat on this fact for a month while they worked on ways to cast the bad news in the best possible light. CLF Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer asked for 45 days to let CLF experts figure out what this news means for his case. Invenergy attorney Alan Shoer wanted to deny CLF discovery, saying that the company had released all the information CLF and Burrillville attorneys needed.

“You don’t get to decide discovery,” said a skeptical Coit.

Then the EFSB granted CLF 90 days, twice what was asked for.

2c. One last note about the EFSB: The Narragansett Indian Tribal Council attorney, Shannah Kurland, introduced a letter to the board from Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas, which cast doubts on the idea that Invenergy will be pumping water out of a well on tribal lands in Charlestown. “I understand that when the water agreement received media attention, most people if not all immediately assumed that this initiative would take place on the Tribe’s reservation in Charlestown RI,” wrote Thomas, “This is incorrect…”

Instead, Thomas implies that the water will come from a farm the tribe owns in Westerly.

Ruth Platner at the Charlestown Citizens Alliance has the story here.

3. The Indian-based tech company Infosys wants to bring 500 new jobs to Rhode Island and Rhode Island Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell wants Governor Gina Raimondo to say, “Thank you, President Trump!”

Raimondo wisely declined.

In a sure sign that Bell lives in some kind of mirror universe, he’s found a way to credit Trump on immigration: “According to multiple national news reports,” said Bell, “Infosys pledged to move jobs back to the United States after President Donald J. Trump took steps to reform the work visa programs that Infosys and other out-sourcing companies use.”

I’m sure the many people facing deportation want to credit Trump as well: for breaking up their families and destroying their lives.

4. Last Saturday Indivisible RI and other groups held a rally opposing the Trump/GOP tax bill. The New York Times calls the bill a “behemoth piece of legislation that could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people.”

In the words of mirror universe resident Brandon Bell, “Thank you, President Trump!”

5. Mother Jones wrote about Invenergy, but not the project slated for north west Rhode Island. Instead, they covered Jessup, Pennsylvania, where residents lost the battle to prevent construction.

“Some in Jessup, and unions in the broader region, emphatically agreed,” with Invenergy, writes Jamie Smith Hopkins. “They pointed to the jobs for hundreds of construction workers—many of whom were struggling after a long building drought triggered by the housing bust—and the money for local businesses that could benefit from the activity.

“But once construction ended and the 30-employee plant fired up, it would pump out pollution for the four or more decades of its expected life. The prospect that it could displace more-toxic coal plants didn’t seem a fair trade to some residents, with the nearest coal-fired sites more than 40 miles distant and tiny.”

6. No other state in New England has passed even one preemptive labor law.

Rhode Island has passed two.

Preemption is “a situation in which a state law is enacted to block a local ordinance from taking effect or [to] dismantle an existing ordinance,” writes Economic Policy Institute economist Marni von Wilbert.

You can read about both times Rhode Island’s conservative state legislators enacted preemptive labor laws here. The first was in 2014, when former state rep and present day convicted criminal Ray Gallison decided that hotel workers in Providence didn’t deserve a living wage. The second time was this year’s earned paid sick days bill, which included a last minute preemption clause conjured out of nowhere, and with no public input.

7. This week The Woman Project interviews my friend Bella Robinson, Executive Director of Coyote RI, a group that seeks to decriminalize and destigmatize prostitution.

“Sex workers are the only population besides undocumented people that are criminalized for their status as a person. In fact many of the institutions that are supposed to protect us, are sent to erase our existence. Sex workers face many barriers in organizing, fighting for their labor rights and are often faced with hostility from members of their own communities.”

8. Rhode Island Director of Corrections A.T. Wall will retire in early 2018 after more than three decades of public service. Over at RI Future, Bob Plain writes, “Wall was respected – if not always loved – by some incarcerated people.” Former RI Future writer Bruce Reilly, who began contributing to RI Future while he was in the ACI said, “Many of us fighting for criminal justice reforms over the past two decades found him to be a respectful adversary.”

9. Donald Trump may well be the most anti-Christian President in history. His disdain for the poor, his attacks on immigrants, his disrespect for women, his fascism, racism, anti-humanism, disregard for the consequences of his actions: the guy is a moral monster…

So of course Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence Diocese is upset… about a gay nativity.

10. Is Peace, you know that thing we never talk about that’s the opposite of War, making a comeback?

On Tuesday people stood outside the office park where United States Representative Jim Langevin works.

Organizers Jonathan Daly-LaBelle and David Oppenheimer were careful to note that Langevin is not being singled out alone, he is just the first. The ongoing protest is targeting Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, and Representatives David Cicilline and Langevin.

At the demonstration, Rhode Island’s congressional delegation was challenged for “their support of Trump and the majority GOP positions” on military spending and war. The entire Rhode Island delegation voted to support the $696 billion military budget this year.

On Friday, December 1, at 5pm there will be a monthly peace vigil at the corner of Exchange and Washington Streets in Providence. “The Rhode Island Anti-War Committee invites you to join us in protest of the US foreign policy’s ballooning military budget that emphasizes violence and military intervention.”

Seems like Peace is breaking out all over…

11. Could National Grid be less popular? The George Wiley Center has been calling the company out for years for its lack of compassion when it comes to shutting off low-income folks falling behind on their bills. Governor Raimondo has ordered the DPUC to look into the company’s languid response to post wind storm repairs. NoLNGinPVD is fighting the company’s environmentally racist expansion of fracked gas in the Port, near the homes of low income people of color.

Now Grid is asking for a 15 percent rate increase.

A growing coalition of groups such as the George Wiley Center, the Rhode Island Democratic Socialists and the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America are pushing for a publicly owned power Grid. Here’s a website devoted to the Providence DSA’s efforts:

12. Care New England continues to do whatever they want to Memorial Hospital, and instead of holding the company responsible, RIDOH continues to enable their behavior.

“Today’s directive from the Department of Health is another example of a regulatory process gone awry in which the tail is wagging the dog,” said United Nurses and Allied Professionals spokesman Ray Sullivan. “The effort to formally close Memorial Hospital was initiated by Care New England executives weeks ago, and health department officials where well aware of their intent to eliminate services and jobs without completing the reverse certificate of need process. To date, the administration has yet to hold Care New New England leaders accountable to their highly publicized promise to maintain some level of operations on that campus.”

13. After reading a new profile of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on VICE, you can hear her speak at the 25th Anniversary Celebration and New England Regional Summit on Saturday, December 2, 2017 from 1-5 pm at the Bell Street Chapel in Providence.

That is, if you still want to hear Stein after reading Everybody Hates Jill by Eve Peyser.

“In our interview, Stein wouldn’t assert that [Hillary] Clinton and Trump are equally dangerous, but she also wouldn’t say that they’re not. (Classic Jill.) While Stein remains eager to criticize the Republicans, the focus of her anti-establishment vitriol has most often been directed at the Democrats. I chalk it up to, in part, what Freud called ‘the narcissism of minor differences,’ a psychological theory that asserts closely related communities ‘are engaged in constant feuds and in ridiculing each other’ which satisfies ‘a convenient and relatively harmless satisfaction of the inclination to aggression.’”

14. Nerd alert: Secrets of the Marvel Universe

15. From the CRMC hearings for National Grid’s liquefaction facility comes the picture of the week!

UpriseRI is entirely supported by donations and advertising. Every little bit helps:

Become a Patron!

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.