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Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising, May 31, 2018



A not-insignificant percentage of the population has so decisively internalized the values of the market for their labor that the act of re-sculpting themselves to better meet its needs feels like authentic expression.
Adam Greenfield, Radical Technologies

Welcome to The Uprising!, your handy guide to revolutionary praxis.

And sorry this one is running a little late: It was a busy Friday:

1a. Reproductive Rights in Ireland and Rhode Island

Thursday was a big day for reproductive rights advocates as they got to press the case for the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA) which would codify the protections of Roe v Wade into Rhode Island State Law, in the Senate Judiciary Committee . Thursday was not such a big day for opponents of reproductive rights, who shrugged the hearing off and attended a fundraiser elsewhere in Rhode Island, confident that, as Craig O’Conner, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island put it, “The four Democrats who control the Rhode Island General Assembly, all men, refuse to protect reproductive freedom, including access to safe, legal abortion.”

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Some supporters of the RHCA argued that if Ireland, which is more than 80 percent Catholic can vote to permit abortion, then Rhode Island, which is just under 50 percent Catholic should be able to do the same. At the hearing last night, reproductive rights supporters outnumbered opponents 5-1. In contrast to the religion and false information of abortion opponents, supporters brought science and real stories of human suffering.

It didn’t matter. The bill is not going to advance out of committee this year.

As a reult, we’re seeing “as significant rise in the number of candidates for whom reproductive rights is a key issue,” said Judi Zimmer in her testimony. “Women mustn’t have their reproductive choices dictated by a minority of forced birthers.”

1b. Mary Ann Sorrentino

Previous to the Senate Judiciary Hearing was a press conference by The Woman Project highlighting the hope that the repeal of the 8th Amendment in Ireland. The 8th Amendment dictated that all abortion was illegal in that country.

At the event, Mary Ann Sorrentino, who used to head up Planned Parenthood in Rhode Island, took Speaker Nicholas Mattiello to task:

“Just this last couple of weeks, I think it was a week ago, the Speaker said that he doesn’t like to talk about the abortion issue because it takes up all the oxygen in the room. So I went to his office today and I delivered an order that I took out today to send him a case of oxygen from Amazon so that he never runs out again,” said Sorrentino.

“This is the same man who a few days later was all happy because he voted for the new stadium. So what does this tell us? This tells us that a bunch of men with seven cases of beer in the trunk having to drive to Worcester instead of going to Pawtucket for a ballgame is more of a crisis to him than a woman having to fly to another country for reproductive health care services. And that should be tattooed on every voter’s arm when they go to pull the lever in November.”

1c. Matt Brown

Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island Matt Brown spoke in favor of the RHCA:

2a. Children at the Border

The Trump policy of treating all border crossings as crimes and maintaining a “zero tolerance” for all all immigration related crimes is destroying families and traumatizing children. I’ll have much more on this later, but on Friday morning in Warwick, outside a United States immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Jefferson Boulevard there was a protest of this policy.

Aniece Germain, an American citizen and an immigrant from Haiti, spoke about hos this policy of separating families at the border is reducing the stature of America in her eyes.

“They believe that this country is the Land of Freedom,” said Germain. “The believe this country is the Land of Safety and Opportunities. They believe that they can be successful here. That’s why they want to come here … If we are not this country any more, if we don’t believe in those values … tell me: Those values, don’t they count any more?”

2b. Rhode Island Democratic Party Women’s Caucus

“The Women’s Caucus is unequivocally opposed to the separation of families at the United States – Mexico border,” said the group in a statement. “The treatment of children and families is a women’s issue, but it is also an issue that impacts society and groups of every identity, all of whom must come together to condemn the current treatment of families at the border.

“The Women’s Caucus calls on the Trump administration to end this brutal policy immediately.”

3a. Providence Water

Gillian Kiley writes that “to protect ratepayers, safeguard a critical public resource and maintain public accountability, the Rhode Island General Assembly should reject two related bills that would allow the City of Providence to sell or lease the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB) in order to infuse cash into the city’s pension fund.”

“When municipalities in Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana, Texas and Florida privatized their water, corruption, environmental problems and a flood of customer complaints followed. Private water utilities set huge rate increases, failed to comply with federal laws regarding water contamination and used haphazard billing practices.”

3b. Elorza testifies:

The Senate bill to help the process of monetizing Providence Water, S2838, got a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Mayor Jorge Elorza testified.

“There has been a lot of concern and a lot of just concern over the threat, or concern, of privatization,” said Elorza. “However, we in Providence and myself, strongly believe that water is a public utility and there should always be public oversight. This legislation maintains regulation and oversight, and upon the completion of any transaction, the resulting entity will be a fully regulated public utility.”

Elorza stops short of saying that the City of Providence will maintain ownership and control of the resource. The bill under consideration retains “regulation and oversight” but privately owned public utilities are regulated and the government has oversight.

3c. Enter Steve Goldsmith, a “pioneering privatizer of city services”

Steve Goldsmith is advising the City of Providence on this deal. As Mayor of Indianapolis, Goldsmith did a water privatization deal there. Goldsmith is associated with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank that promulgated privatization and supply-side economics (aka trickle down) in the 1980s. The Manhattan Institute was very influential in developing ideas on school choice (aka the privatization of public schools).

Channel 12 reporter Dan McGowan looked into Goldsmith and has a lot more info:

“Goldsmith, who serves as director of the Innovations in American Government program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, is considered one of the nation’s leading experts on operations within municipal government. He served as a deputy mayor of New York City under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2010 and 2011, and has been labeled a “pioneering privatizer of city services” by The Wall Street Journal.

“The city is not directly paying Goldsmith, but it has hired Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, a prestigious international law firm with an expertise in utility transactions. Goldsmith is a former partner at the firm and is working as an advisor. City records show the firm was paid $29,000 between last August and March.

“The city has also hired Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP as an advisor on a potential water transaction. The Providence-based firm was first hired when former Mayor Angel Taveras was exploring a water deal and then retained by the Elorza administration. The city has paid the firm $85,000 since last April.”

Yeah, your tax dollars are being used to help sell your water off.

4a. Revolution Wind

Deepwater Wind’s Revolution Wind project is a next-generation 400-megawatt offshore wind farm with up to 50 offshore wind turbines.

By all measures except maybe one, the Revolution Wind Project is a positive development for Rhode Island and the future of energy in our state. My reservations concern the private ownership of electricity generation. One of the promises of wind and solar was the distributed nature of the energy sources. Gone would be the days of Mr Burns style energy companies where one individual or bunch of stock owners reap the economic benefits of power generation.

Under a distributed and publicly owned production of power model energy would become a collective good, not a source of private, out-of-state profit. Revolution Wind continues the prevalence of corporately controlled out-of-state (or even out-of-country) interests taking money out of Rhode Island when we pay for power. Our state needs a plan to keep energy dollars in our state.

But really, I can’t complain too much. This is a great thing for Rhode island.

“In addition to the fact that this is moving us to a place of much cleaner energy, it’s really a banner day for really good jobs in Rhode Island,” said Governor Gina Raimondo.

4b. No LNG in PVD!

Raimondo made her big Revolution Wind jobs announcement in the Port of Providence, where National Grid is still going ahead with its plans to build a $180 million fracked gas liquefaction facility.

No LNG in PVD! campaign coordinator Monica Huertas lauded the Revolution Wind announcement, saying “This is a great opportunity for Providence, for Rhode Island. This is great. It’s going to give us jobs. It’s going to give us clean energy. But if we build the LNG facility here it’s going to lock us in to another thirty years of fossil fuel use which is going to undo everything that we’re doing here.”

4c. No pictures!

While covering Governor Gina Raimondo‘s Revolution Wind jobs announcement and talking to to the No LNG on PVD folks, I happened to take this picture:

Before I could leave, I was stopped by a large man who told me that I had to delete the pictures on my camera, while he watched, or he would turn me over to Homeland Security. I was with Sister Mary Pendergast, who had offered me a ride back to my car, parked just outside the Port of Providence.

I refused to delete the picture of course. I was told that I was allowed to shoot photos only to the east, west and south, but not the north, where the tanks were. I was told there was no public interest in what chemicals the tanks may or may not contain.

“You call Homeland Security,” I said, “I’ll call the ACLU.”

Soon I was talking to another person in charge of Port Security. I pointed to the television news vans still parked nearby. I asked if they were being monitored for the direction in which they pointed their cameras. I was told they were. I was told that no reporter except me snapped pictures of the tanks and that Port authorities knew this because they were watching.

Ultimately it all came to naught. No one tried to force me to delete the pictures and I was not arrested by Homeland Security.

There are two punchlines to this story. First, at an event later in the day, I ran into another reporter who has taken pictures at the Governor’s announcement. I ask him if he had taken any pictures of the tanks to the north.

“I think so,” he said, flipping through the pictures on his camera. Sure enough, he had taken pictures of the tank.

Secondly, I remembered that at the event were tons of pictures taken by Deepwater Wind mounted on foam core and set up on easels. I didn’t take pictures of all the Deepwater Wind stock photos, but I did take this one:

In the back ground of the photograph is the tank that no one should ever take pictures of.

4d. Global Warming Solutions Act

The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA, Senate Bill 2747), was heard in the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. Introduced by Senator Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown), the bill is modeled on a Massachusetts statute. The Rhode Island GWSA would require reductions in carbon emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. To get to these goals, the bill divides emissions into three broad categories, electricity generation, buildings and transportation. Each category will be overseen by a government agency that will set goals and the regulations required to achieve those goals.

Unlike the Resilient Rhode Island Act, which sets aspirational but unenforceable goals, the GWSA requires the government to take action and to meet the goals set in the statute.

The GWSA is a different way of accomplishing the same goal as the carbon pricing bill by reducing carbon emissions state wide.

Brown University Professor Timmons Roberts noted that the bill is not good enough, under current science, to effectively mitigate the worst aspects off climate change, but it is a good start.

5. Coastal Resources Management Council

The Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee was originally going to take up the reappointment of Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) members Donald Gomez, Michael Hudner and Patricia Reynolds, but a letter from Monica Huertas, campaign coordinator from No LNG in PVD! caused a delay as Chair Susan Sosnowski (Democrat, District 37, Block Island, South Kingstown) gets “legal opinions on some of the allegations that were made.”

Those allegations include environmental racism and a governor who has overstepped her authority to nominate members to the CRMC.

“We are calling for a minimum of four members of the required 16-person CRMC to be people of color, with one a resident of the South Side Providence, in addition to the other qualifications noted above,” wrote Huertas. “To meet the requirement of the majority of the CRMC members need to reside in coastal communities, we request that new appointees from coastal communities reside in coastal Environmental Justice communities.”

6a. Michael Araujo

Mike Araujo announced his intention to run for the Providence City Council as a Democrat in Ward 13. Providence City Councilmember Bryan Principe, the incumbent, has decided not to run for re-election. Araujo has lived in the ward for 20 years.

6b. Kat Kerwin

Kat Kerwin, who is running for Providence City Council in Ward 12, was featured in Teen Vogue as a young, progressive candidate for public office.

On the support system Kerwin’s found among other women running for office across the country, she said, “I think the best part of it is in my mind, whenever something is going wrong with the campaign or I don’t know how to do certain nitty-gritty things, I have dozens of women… where I could immediately pick up the phone and they would drop anything and they would help me even though they have their own campaigns to be running and their own families or jobs. I think that’s a really special thing.”

7. Alex Nunes interviewed Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island Paul Roselli. Sked why he decided to run for Governor, Roselli said:

“I’ve been fighting the power plant for the last three years. In August 2015, Invenergy came to Rhode Island, held a press conference, and said, “We’re going to build a billion dollar power plant in the northwest corner of Rhode Island.” And Governor Raimondo said—I remember these exact words: “We’ll do everything we can to make sure you’re successful here.” A year-and-a-half ago, I was on my way to Chicago to attend a conference. Before I went to Chicago, I heard the governor also went to Chicago for a fundraising event. The guy hosting the event was the CEO Michael Polsky of Invenergy, the same folks who are building the power plant. Then I saw online at the Board of Elections website, two checks of a thousand dollars from Michael Polsky to Governor Raimondo. I thought: “What the heck is going on here?” I looked at the dates [on the donations] and this was right around the time the governor came to Burrillville [to speak to opponents] and said, “I want to listen. If there are some issues with the power plant, it will never be built.” I thought: How arrogant? How absolutely arrogant to say that in front of about 800 people in the auditorium?

“Come to find out, while the governor was there [in Chicago], she got more [donations]. I thought: “That’s it. I’m done. I’m done opposing this as a voice in the wilderness—quite literally. I’m going to face her in some type of political arena.” So last year, September 2017, I threw the proverbial hat into the ring, and I said, “I’m going to run against her.” That was then. And since then with the UHIP debacle, DCYF, the pension craziness, and these issues with these giveaway programs—I said, those are my issues along with the environment and the fossil fuel industry. And here I am.”

8. Refugee Dream Center

With the support of Islamic Relief USA, the Refugee Dream Center distributed Ramadan Food Boxes to families in the refugee community on Saturday morning. The Refugee Dream Center works to “facilitate their resettlement process and integration into their new lives in the United States.” This is the second year the organization has distributed Ramadan Food Boxes.

“Last year we got 84 boxes,” said Omar Bah, executive director of the Refugee Dream Center. “This year we got much more, 120 boxes, from Islamic Relief USA based in Virginia.”

9a. Holly Taylor Coolman

Holly Taylor Coolman considers herself a “traditional” Democrat. She was gracious and open when I explained that my interest in her was spurred in part by Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena‘s defense of what he called “core [Democratic] party values” that are “traditional, conservative, and Catholic.”

Barth Bracy, executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life, introduced me to the candidate at her campaign announcement.

9b. Dennis Algiere

I was told it’s purely procedural: Senator Dennis Algiere (Republican, District 38, Westerly, Charlestown) walks into the Wednesday, May 30 meeting of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture,has himself marked present and then leaves the room for the evening.

Room 211 has no cameras (other than those brought in by reporters) and no sound recording either. The only official records kept are in the notes of the clerk, which indicate Algiere is there, when clearly he is not.

“…there are only four Republicans in the Senate, and they need to be at the numerous hearings and other commitments all taking place at around the same time,” said Greg Pare, director of communications for the Senate President. “Leader Algiere, as an ex-officio member of all committees, checks in to enable the committees to proceed.”

The video where Algiere asks to be marked present, then notices the camera, is illuminating, I think:

10. Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

Week three of the Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival took on the War Economy: Militarism and the Proliferation of Gun Violence and made the following demands.

  • We demand an end to military aggression and war-mongering.
  • We demand a stop to the privatization of the military budget and any increase in military spending.
  • We demand a reallocation of resources from the military budget to education, health care, jobs and green infrastructure needs, and strengthening a Veterans Administration system that must remain public.
  • We demand a ban on assault rifles and a ban on the easy access to firearms that has led to the increased militarization and weaponization of our communities.
  • We demand the demilitarization of our communities on the border and the interior. This includes ending federal programs that send military equipment into local and state communities and ceasing the call to build a wall at the United StatesMexico border.
  • We demand an immigration system that, instead of criminalizing people for trying to raise their families, prioritizes family reunification, keeps families together and allows us all to build thriving communities in the country we call home.

11. Biomass incinerator

Alex Kuffner pronounced the biomass bill dead at 4:44pm on May 30. The bill died due to a critical dose of journalistic sunlight.

At a rally against the bill in front of the Rhode Island State House, John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island said, “Our legislature is being asked to weigh the public interest against the economic interests of a single developer. And it’s not the first time we’ve seen this same developer come hat in hand to our legislature,” continued Marion. “In 2016 this same developer tried to subvert the legislative process through a midnight amendment to the state budget that received zero vetting. Only after being publicly exposed was that amendment pulled out of the budget. This time the rent-seeking is not being done under the cover of darkness but nevertheless it puts into stark relief the nexus of money and politics in our state.”

13. PawSox


14. Picture of the week:

At the 7am rally outside ICE offices in Warwick Rhode Island on Friday:

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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.