The Uprising – January 12, 2018

Nicholas Mattiello and Joseph Shekarchi

Under President Donald Trump’s tender ministrations, the only country barreling towards s***hole status is the United States, which surely must be feeling great again…

But this is The Uprising: Where we locally source our worries!

1. On the day Trump announced the revocation of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for 200,000 Salvadorans, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) launched a nationwide campaign designed to educate immigrant workers about “on a multitude of issues including wage theft and changes to immigration policy that will affect hundreds of thousands of workers and their families in 2018.”

The weakening or elimination of TPS and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) “coupled with alarming news that wage theft is on the rise” has led IUPAT to coordinate “efforts to educate workers on exploitation and safety on the jobsite.”

2a. The Rhode Island Senate Committee on Finance approved the two bills that will give public money to the billionaire owners of the PawSox so they can finally build that new stadium they so desperately desire. The vote in Finance allowed a vote on the Senate floor as early as Thursday. The fact that there was no vote on Thursday may mean that Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence) lacks the needed votes.

Senator Jeanine Calkin (Democrat, District 30, Warwick) will be a no vote. As she explains, “The people of Rhode Island deserve to have a government that puts their interests above those by any corporate entity. This legislation would allow state agencies to take out bonds for construction for any purpose, to the benefit of a for-profit corporation, and paid for by the taxpayers of the state. Any such expenditure should require the approval of the voters of the state.”

2b. On the House side, things are more difficult for the PawSox. Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) agrees with Steven Frias, his opponent in the last election, that his district opposes state monies for a new stadium by a margin of two-to-one. (That Mattiello and Frias agree should surprise no one: The differences in their policies during the election were negligible.) Mattiello thinks opposition to public money for the PawSox holds state wide.

On Wednesday Mattiello said that the House is going to “‘reflect the public’s will’ regarding PawSox.”

3a. Mattiello’s effort to bring sexual harassment training to the Rhode Island House of Representatives was somewhat successful, it seems. Jacqueline Tempera at the ProJo reports that 60 of the 75 representatives attended, though only one Republican, Representative Bobby Nardolillo (Republican, District 28, Coventry), stayed for the entire presentation. Minority leader Patricia Morgan (Republican, District 26, West Warwick) left early, and Representative Antonio Giarrusso (Republican, District 30, East Greenwich) passed entirely, telling the ProJo:

“I just felt like, I’m a month away from my 56th birthday and I think I did all right with my life. Mostly, I felt like I’d be doing a disservice to my parents by going. They raised me to respect everyone, especially women.”

In an election year, and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Giarrusso’s weird sounding excuse paints him as being out of touch, a repeating pattern according to Democratic challenger Justine Caldwell:

“Representative Giarrusso’s absence at this crucial moment demonstrates why the residents of our district need new leadership at the State House,” wrote Caldwell in her press release. “On issue after issue, we see Representative Giarrusso not paying attention. Each time something like this happens, it strengthens my resolve to be the change so many of us seek.”

3b. Maybe worse than not showing up is showing up and cracking wise during the training, as Representative Ramon Perez (Democrat, District 13, Providence, Johnston) seems to have done.

When Cheryl Burrell, who led the training “went over a list of ‘harassing behavior,’ she noted that requesting sexual favors at work is inappropriate,’ noted the Projo.

Perez then joked: “How do you do that?”

Over at GoLocal, Perez explained: “I know my English may be hard to understand at times, but I wish people would have asked me what I was trying to say before criticizing me. I was not joking when I asked a question to the presenter to explain to me more about the issue of sexual favors. I feel badly if anyone misunderstood what I was asking because I went there to learn about this very serious issue.”

Maybe Perez’s explanation holds water, but that’s now how his comment was heard by Representative Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence) and another, unnamed woman representative.

Here’s video of Speaker Mattiello explaining the need for the sexual harassment training:

4a. Jerry Elmer, senior attorney at Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), wrote an oped for the ProJo explaining how Invenergy, the company trying to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island, is suing for the right to shift “well over $100 million in costs onto New England electricity customers.”

4b. In a video, Paul Roselli, president of the Burrillville Land Trust and Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island, criticized Governor Gina Raimondo, who consistently claims that there is nothing she can do about the permitting of power plants or other fossil fuel projects (like the liquefaction facility planned for the Port of Providence by National Grid.

“This is an issue that is totally out of my control,” said Raimondo, as quoted in Roselli’s video. “[The proposed liquefaction facility] is being regulated by the federal government. I have no say in it.”

Roselli then goes on to list all the things Raimondo could do, if she were actually opposed to this and other fossil fuel projects in our state.

  • Raimondo could have “sent a written testimony to FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).”
  • Raimondo could have delivered “oral testimony to the CRMC (Coastal Resources Management Commission).”
  • Raimondo could have “sat down and met with the people who, if this facility is built, are going to have to live with it.”
  • Raimondo could have “nominated actual environmentalists to the CRMC.”

4c. Meanwhile, Invenergy, which has shot itself in the foot during the permitting process for its proposed power plant before the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) at least twice, is now blaming the opposition for its problems in its lawsuits before FERC. (see item 4a above.)

In a letter to FERC, Invenergy claims that delays in the permitting process are “due in large measure to the unceasing, and in Clear River’s view, entirely uninformed and harmful opposition by a few well-funded ‘just say “no” to any gas-fired generation development in New England’ groups.”

Well-funded?

4d. One example of the way Invenergy shoots itself in the foot is in the way it executes water deals. Invenergy contracted with Fall River to supply water to its proposed power plant by the truckload. The existence of this deal was revealed by this reporter to the Fall River City Council, who were previously unaware. Many residents of Fall River are displeased, including Collin Dias, a 17-year old student who goes to Bishop Connolly High School and who led a protest outside the Fall River Government Center.

“We should not be known as the city that backs big corporations and power plants like the one in Rhode Island,” said Dias. “We need to be known as the city that stands up for the environment.”

4e. We should be worried, I think, about the fact that Invenergy’s proposed power plant will have the ability to burn oil or fracked gas. Oil pollutes much more when burned and will require as much as ten times as much potable water to produce energy.

Imagine a time when the price point of oil is cheaper than natural gas. Just as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was “prepared to temporarily waive the state’s strict [air quality] emissions, if needed, to keep the lights on” it’s easy to imagine a future Rhode Island Governor (or our present one, let’s be honest) issuing emergency orders allowing Invenergy to exceed the number off days the plant will be allowed to burn oil if need be. (Currently the proposal would allow Invenergy to burn oil for ten days a year.)

Of course, Baker didn’t have to issue such orders because even though the recent cold snap was the worst New England has faced in a century, the energy system weathered the frigid temperatures, “remarkably well, and clean energy excelled,” writes Greg Cunningham for the CLF. Cunningham further argues that new pipelines would not have helped with price spikes and that they don’t make economic or environmental sense.

4f. Yesterday Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin became the first statewide elected official to oppose the proposed Invenergy power plant. Kilmartin “detailed four reasons for his opposition: the 1,000-megawatt plant that will primarily burn natural gas but will also be able to use oil will exacerbate climate change; the plant is not needed as more renewable sources of power come on line; Invenergy is attempting to have ratepayers pay millions of dollars to connect the power plant to the electric grid; and the water-supply plan is flawed.

The Town of Burrillville responded:

“We applaud Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s well-reasoned and thoughtful opposition to Invenergy’s proposed Clear River Energy power plant.  As the Attorney General has noted – and as the evidence the Town has presented to the Energy Facility Siting Board has shown – the fossil-fuel plant is not needed, would cause undue harm to the environment, would undermine the state’s environmental goals, and rather than save ratepayers money, could lead to rate increases if Invenergy is successful in its attempts to pass on its costs to ratepayers.

“Attorney General Kilmartin has listened to the objections presented by many parties since this ill-advised proposal was made in 2015 – including 32 Rhode Island cities and towns that have passed resolutions against the plant.  He has clearly done his homework on this issue and we encourage other public officials to do the same.  This proposed project is not viable, not needed, and would negatively impact our state in many ways. We need to put a stop to it now.”

CLF’s Jerry Elmer responded:

“CLF is delighted that Attorney General Kilmartin recognizes that Rhode Islanders should not be saddled with a huge price tag for a new fossil fuel plant our state doesn’t need and doesn’t want. We call on all of Rhode Island’s elected officials to speak out against Invenergy’s costly, reckless proposal.”

5. Governor Gina Raimondo was joined by Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Representative David Cicilline and many other local politicians and union representatives to kick off the work about to be started on the 6-10 Connector.

This infrastructure work is vitally important, if for no other reason than safety, (most of the bridges that make up this stretch of road are structurally deficient) and the project will reconnect neighborhoods. But could the project have been even better?

We will never know, says James Kennedy, who was working to explore alternatives to a highway model, because the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) had a favored plan, and gamed the system of public comment to their advantage.

6. Kat Kerwin is challenging Providence City Councilor Terrence Hassett in Ward 12. On her Facebook page Kerwin says she “She will be a progressive voice on City Council, and will defend working class values by fighting for fair taxes, strong public schools and a safe community.”

Kerwin will officially kick off her campaign after the Women’s March next Saturday.

7. New Providence City Council President David Salvatore (Ward 14) and the rest of the Providence City Council will soon take up the proposed “Tax Stabilization Investment Act” that, if passed, will grant tax breaks for any projects that meet a certain monetary threshold and will eliminate public comment on future tax breaks for wealthy developers.

Standing in front of The 903 in Providence, the site of new luxury apartments near Providence Place Mall, a coalition of diverse voices came out against the legislation.

The 903, says Jenna Karlin of Unite Here Local 26, “symbolizes everything that is wrong with Providence tax policy” and the proposed Tax Stabilization Investment Act. “This building received a ten-year tax stabilization agreement, or as I like to say, a tax break, from the City of Providence and according to press at the time, that would be a savings of $5 million in tax revenue that I believe the City should have received.”

Kat Kerwin (see item #6) spoke at this event.

8a. There can’t seem to be an Uprising without The Woman Project. This week they interview Danielle Dirocco, executive director of URI Graduate Assistants United.

“Reproductive rights– specifically the right to choose on your own terms when and if you would like to become a parent– should not ever be seen as a barrier to academic or professional success,” said Dirocco. “The protection of reproductive rights is an essential component of a successful, supportive start to your family AND your career.”

8b. Speaking on RIPR, Rhode Island House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick) downplayed fears of a Trump appointed Supreme Court necessitating a law protecting abortion rights in Rhode Island this term. “I don’t share that fear,” said Shekarchi, a man. “I don’t think any kind of overturning Roe v Wade is imminent…”

Shekarchi said that the bills for or against abortion rights will be introduced and “we’ll see what the public’s mood is, not unlike the PawSox.”

Comparing a fundamental human right to appropriating money to build a baseball stadium seems a bit flippant.

Shekarchi went on to say that, in his opinion, protecting Roe v Wade right now is “not a pressing need.”

8c. Meanwhile, the first of the anti-abortion bills to be introduced in the House has led The Woman Project to call for the ouster of the five “Democrats” who co-sponsored it. House Bill 7026, co-sponsored by Representatives Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence), William O’Brien (Democrat, District 54, North Providence), Samuel Azzinaro (Democrat, District 37, Westerly), Stephen Ucci (Democrat, District 42, Johnston) and Gregory Costantino (Democrat, District 44, Lincoln) would outlaw certain kinds of abortion.

9. Speaking of bad bills, check out Benjamin Branchaud‘s “Four bills that died in 2017 that should never come back (and five that should).”

10. The Hatewatch Staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote a piece about the “hypocrisy at the foundations of the Nationalist Front,” a “a collective of far-right organizations including the LOS and neo-Nazis in the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), Vanguard America (VA), and National Socialist Movement (NSM).”

The article explores the hypocrisy of the so-called moral codes of prominent members of the organizations. Though they claim to have a strong moral code based on “the tenets of our historic Christian faith” many members are engaged in behaviors that violate these tenets.

“Hatewatch recently documented the existence of a profile that features [Kevin] Cottle, a security contractor and Rhode Island TWP member, on the website FetLife.com, a website that caters to BDSM fetishes such as those listed by Cottle’s ‘Dark1976‘ profile, namely ‘Curious about bisexuality, Anal Training, BBW (big beautiful woman) Submission, and Gay Sex and Male Bisexuality.’”

The Traditionalist Workers Party is extremely homophobic and supports the forcible conversion of gay men.

Cottle said that the profile was set up by friends from his time in the Army, as a joke.

11. The Freakonomics podcast has an interview with Governor Gina Raimondo, “How to Be a Modern Democrat — and Win.

“Gina Raimondo, the governor of tiny Rhode Island, has taken on unions, boosted big business, and made friends with Republicans,” says host Stephen Dubner about the episode. “She is also one of just 15 Democratic governors in the country. Would there be more of them if there were more like her?”

12. I hate to be a buzzkill, but do we really want to be glorifying the Lottery, which is known to exploit the poor, or football, a sport built on “violence, racism, economic exploitation of poor kids, corrupt deal making with local governments over stadiums, and a willingness to find it entertaining to watch people suffer brain damage?”

13. Shortly after the right-wing Koch-backed libertarian “think tank” the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity sent out this tweet, Walmart announced massive layoffs:

Then there’s this tweet, claiming National Grid is giving back “to their employees and customers when taxes are cut.” In reality, National Gird is giving nothing back, they are simply demanding slightly less.

Here’s a helpful link on confirmation bias.

14. Net neutrality: Senator Louis DiPalma (Democrat, District 12, Little Compton, Middletown) and Representative Brian Patrick Kennedy (Democrat, District 38, Westerly, Hopkinton) introduced legislation (2018-S 2008 / 2018-H 7076) that would prohibit the state and its municipalities from entering into contracts with any internet service provider who engages in business practices that were prohibited by recently repealed net neutrality rules.

Although the Rhode Island General Assembly does not have the power to mandate how internet providers conduct their business, we can say that any provider who engages in these unscrupulous business practices will not be considered for any state or municipal contract in Rhode Island,” said DiPalma.

15. United States Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) will hold a Town Hall in Newport to discuss the Democratic economic agenda, A Better Deal: Better Wages, Better Jobs, Better Future.

January 13th, at 2:00pm, at Pell Elementary School, 35 Dexter Street, Newport.

16. Here’s the picture of the week:

Collin Dias

I’m sure next week will be interesting too! See you then.


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About Steve Ahlquist 169 Articles
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

3 Comments

    • I just sent an APRA request to Cheryl Burrell, who led the training, and Larry Berman, Speaker Mattiello’s spokesperson, for this information, based on your question, Craig. Great idea.

  1. Steve Ahlquist
    When a journalist conducts an interview, there is only so much space that can fit into an article. The interviewee has no control over which part of the discussion gets printed or gets on other media broadcasts. If you want to hear the whole story in Rep Giarrusso’s words, I urge you to go to the WPRO website and search his radio appearances on the Gene Valicenti and Dan Yorke shows that aired last Wednesday. On those shows and on his (entire) telephone interview with Projo, He had mentioned the importance of the training and that everyone should attend these training seminars at some point. As a professional and a business owner for 32 years, He takes these things very seriously and has gone through training in the past. Not only is his record impeccable, so is the record of his entire management and staff. They have zero offenses in his company history. Therefore, the chosen words by the Projo editorial staff were correct. I only wish they could have been more inclusive on his other points. Hopefully you can listen to the two radio spots and you will understand his position completely. Perhaps you will witness for yourself what he truly feels about this terrible subject.

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