The Uprising – February 9, 2018

“We’re born to save the day.” – Richard John Grayson

Welcome to a video heavy Uprising for February 9, 2018, where French-style military parades are frowned upon.

I’ve got a lot to talk about, to wit:

1. The East Side of Providence was hit with racist flyers targeting Jim Vincent, president of the NAACP Providence Branch and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. After reading the inside of the flyer, which accused various Providence residents, including at least one minor, of criminal acts, a response was mounted. Over 150 people, politicians, religious leaders, community activists and concerned residents, came together at the corner of George Street and Brook Street to stand against racism and hate.

The highlight? Providence City Councilor Nirva LaFortune reading Maya Angelou‘s Still I Rise:

2a. Speaking of racism and hate, Lilian Calderon, the undocumented mother of two young children, is still in detention, and the only thing keeping her from being deported at any time is the order of a federal judge responding to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU.

“Ever since that day, Natalie asks me why her mom has left,” said Luis Gordillo, husband of Lilian Calderon. Lilian was taken by ICE. “I’ve lost my best friend. I’m asking for her release because she needs to be with her family, and her children miss her. I don’t understand why this is happening when we thought we were doing everything right to keep our family together.”

AMOR has a petition in support of Lilian Calderon.

And here’s a fundraiser for her legal defense costs.

2b. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has added his voice to the many who are demanding Lilian Calderon’s release.

“The case of Lilian Calderon, who has been here since she was three years old, who grew up in our city, and who graduated from our public schools, is a sad reminder of how wrongheaded our immigration policy is,” said Elorza in a statement. “Unfortunately, a mother and wife to US citizens may not see her family again after trusting the federal government, following the rules, and attempting to become a citizen through the legal process. Our focus should be on supporting families, not breaking them apart.”

2c. Reverend David Helfer, Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of South County, is calling for a radical religious (or humanist?) response to the injustice:

“Make the world you dream of,” writes Helfer in his sermon. “Stand in the way of ICE. Say ‘no more’ and force an unjust system to shift. Call your representatives and remind them how you vote, on DACA and everything else. Put your heart and your body on the line… This, this, is what will shift the arc of justice, and reorient us toward the deep and enduring bonds of humanity.”

3. The Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, a group of more than 15 organizations that are “working together to share resources, build strategies and coordinate efforts to connect reproductive freedom with social and economic justice,” convened a press conference announcing their legislative agenda for 2018. At the center of their concern: the Reproductive Health Care Act of 2018.

Danika Severino Wynn, a midwife and Manager of the Planned Parenthood of Southern New England Providence Health Center, earned 40 seconds of sustained applause and a standing ovation for her words, words in which she called out the General Assembly leadership on their outright hostility to reproductive rights.

“The four Democrats who hold the top four positions in the Assembly, all white men, refuse to allow a vote on the Reproductive Health Care Act,” said Severino Wynn. “In fact, three of them, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello are endorsed by radical, anti-abortion rights groups and have sponsored legislation to restrict access to abortion. House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi, while not endorsed by anti-abortion rights groups, has refused to make a public statement about whether or not he supports Roe v Wade and opposes bringing the Reproductive Health Care Act to the floor. My hope is that we will soon value bodily integrity and the right to self-determination more than the ethos of four white men.”

4a. Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Commissioner Doctor Ken Wagner heard emotional and moving testimony in favor of a proposed rule to require all school districts in the state to adopt policies in line with the RIDE guidance on transgender and gender non-conforming students. Transgender and student advocates spoke about the importance of protecting a vulnerable population that is at risk of bullying and assault from fellow students, teachers and school staff without such a policy.

Though there were several speakers who opposed special protections for transgender and gender nonconforming students, mostly on religious grounds, advocates more than made their case for the proposal.

Especially moving was the testimony of Sherry Jones, mother of a nine-year-old transgender daughter who has suffered tremendously in Rhode Island’s public school system.

4b. The RIDE meeting was a reunion of sorts for some of the attendees, as transgender student policy opponent Kara Young noted on Facebook:

5. Mayor Jorge Elorza’s week was a roller coaster. One day he was leading a rally against racism (see 2b above), the next day he had his State of the City Address upstaged by the Providence Teacher’s Union (PTU). Hundreds of Providence public school teachers packed all four floors of Providence City Hall. At issue are stalled contract negotiations between the union and the city. PTU’s last contract expired on August 31, 2017. They have been working without a contract since.

“Providence teacher morale is the lowest it’s been in years, but we have remained focused on providing the best education possible for students,” said PTU President Maribeth Calabro. “We’re working in some of the most deplorable classroom conditions throughout the state. Despite working in these extremely difficult and sometimes unsafe conditions, we are still some of the lowest paid teachers in the state due to several pay freezes in previous contracts. This lack of respect for the teachers and support professionals who educate Providence’s children is unprofessional and unacceptable. Mayor Elorza needs to get his priorities straight.”

6. Peruvian-born, Rhode Island based sculptor Peruko Ccopacatty unveiled four new metal sculptures in Providence’s Kennedy Plaza this week. The sculptures are “a 14 foot angel fashioned from reused car bumpers, a seven foot man built from reclaimed stainless steel, and two six foot llamas sculpted from scrap metal.” The installation is sponsored by The Avenue Concept, Providence’s first privately funded public art program.

7. Did Rhode Island dodge a bullet when Amazon passed on whatever offer Governor Gina Raimondo made to bring business to the state? An Economic Policy Institute report finds that luring Amazon fulfillment centers is an ineffective strategy for boosting overall local employment, that tax incentives likely constitute an unneeded giveaway, tax incentives may do little to boost overall employment and that investments in public services are more effective than tax incentives at generating long-term economic growth.

8. Not one, not two, not three but FOUR new interviews at The Woman Project!

9a. Invenergy!

Sadly, the results of ISO New England‘s Forward Capacity Auction (FCA) 12 are in and it’s bad news for the power plant company. The FCA determines the sources and prices for energy in our region three years in the future. For the third year in a row energy from Invenergy’s proposed power plant is not needed to keep the lights on in Rhode Island. Worse, the trend lines are moving away from a need for such a plant as more and more renewables come online and as estimates for future power use continues to go down.

Per Conservation Law Foundation Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer: “In this auction, the ISO needed to procure 33,725 MW of capacity for all of New England. In fact, the ISO procured 34,827 MW of capacity – or 1,102 MW more than it needed. That is, even if you back out all of the 485 megawatts that Invenergy has offered into the New England-wide system, the ISO would still have a surplus of 617 MW.”

9b. The results of FCA-12 will make it harder for Invenergy to make their case before the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) this July 19. That’s when opening arguments and final hearings begin to determine whether or not Invenergy gets to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island. Hearings are scheduled to run through October 31. Here’s the schedule, as of today, it could change.

It will be interesting to see how much of a factor these hearings will be on the election of people like Governor Gina Raimondo and United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who like to adorn themselves with environmentalists mantles but can’t seem to find it in their hearts to come out against the proposal…

10. In Rhode Island, some marriages are separate and unequal.

Rhode Island scored a tremendous victory on August 1, 2013, when the right to same-sex marriage became protected by law. Two years later marriage equality came to all 50 states. But some state senators and representatives continue to fight against marriage equality when it comes to solemnization of marriage bills.

Solemnization of marriage bills are granted, upon request, on a per marriage basis. When passed, they allow someone who isn’t a marriage officiant to preside over a marriage. Legislators like them because they are an easy way to grant favors.

In the Rhode Island State Senate and House, these bills pass through the Judiciary Committee before going to the floor for a vote. For convenience these bills are bundled and passed en masse. However, because some state legislators oppose marriage equality, there are two bundles created. Same sex and opposite sex bundles are passed separately. This allows legislators to vote no or to abstain on same sex marriage bills, effectively passing judgement on marriages they don’t approve of.

11. Can’t do this week’s Uprising without tackling the Sam Bell/Nick Autiello/Paul Jabour Providence District 5 Senate race.

It all began when Cris Potter submitted an oped detailing Democrat Nick Autiello’s Republican past as a supporter of Rudy Giuliani, and Autiello’s Facebook and Twitter posts attacking President Barack Obama.

“This is why I am a little afraid of Nick Autiello’s long history of opposing and attacking Obama,” wrote Potter. “Rudy Giuliani, the Republican Mayor of New York City and 2008 Presidential candidate, has become a symbol of a different kind for Black people. Giuliani pioneered brutal police tactics like stop and frisk and has recently served as a prominent Trump surrogate who led the design of Trump’s Muslim ban. This is why it makes me a little afraid that Autiello began his career in Florida Republican politics campaigning for Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 Florida Republican primary.”

Autiello responded that he was young when he supported Giuliani, and that he is older and wiser now. “Like anyone who makes the evolution from one set of political beliefs to another, mine was a process,” writes Autiello. “I had a very simplistic understanding of the world, how society functions, and how the economy works.”

Autiello then intimated that Potter’s piece was actually authored by Sam Bell, who is rumored to be entering the race. (For the record, Cris Potter definitely authored the piece.)

Commenting on Autiello’s response, Randall Rose ponders, “[H]ow do we know [Autiello’s] claimed new progressive views will stick?”

12a. The 2018 Prosperity Now Scorecard found that unemployment in Rhode Island is at its lowest rate in more than a decade, and average annual pay for workers increased slightly in the last year. Despite these gains, however, income inequality remains a significant problem for the state; the richest 20 percent of households now earn 5.3 times more than the poorest 20 percent, a disparity larger than that of most other states.

The Scorecard indicates several policy changes Rhode Island should make to help Ocean State families find a path to prosperity. These include:

  1. Investing in education prior to kindergarten
  2. Increasing the minimum wage to at least $15/hour by 2023
  3. Expanding the Rhode Island Earned Income Tax Credit (currently at 15 percent of the federal EITC compared with 23 percent in both Connecticut and Massachusetts)
  4. Protecting against payday lending (Rhode Island remains the only state in New England that doesn’t protect against predatory payday lending practices)
  5. Making the overall tax system fairer by ensuring that the combined state and local taxes on bottom 20 percent of families are lower than for the top 1 percent of families
  6. Increasing weekly unemployment benefits to at least 50 percent of the state’s average weekly wage
  7. Protecting Section 8 housing voucher-holders from discrimination in the housing market

12b. Speaking of inequality:

Thirty-two State Representatives and two State Senators committed to advocating for the 2018 Fair Shot Agenda, a set of four legislative initiatives intended to address the growing gap between the wealthy and the middle class. Last year’s Fair Shot Agenda included a $15 minimum wage, school building repairs, earned paid sick days and a more progressive car tax. There was some success: earned paid sick days was passed, in addition to a modest increase in the minimum wage.

This year, the Fair Shot Agenda includes:

  • Passing a budget that protects our neighbors
  • Investing in school facilities to ensure safe and appropriate schools for our young people
  • Creating pay equity and raising the minimum wage to $15 for all workers
  • Ensuring affordable long-term care and prescription drugs for seniors

13. “Sometime we even do 24 hours straight,” said Victor, a worker at Eastland Food Products. “We starve. We don’t sleep. Add to this all the pressure our supervisors put on us to the cost of the workers… Accidents are sometimes very common. Also, bad treatment from supervisors.”

Workers for Eastland Food Products, located in Cranston, were handing out flyers outside of Whole Foods on Waterman Street in Providence Friday afternoon to call attention to charges of wage theft. “Eastland hasn’t paid time and a half on Sundays or holidays for years,” states the flyer. “The workers, along with their union, UFCW Local 328, have filed a complaint to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to them.”

14. The Atlantic proposes the following syllogism:

  1. The GOP has become the party of Trumpism.
  2. Trumpism is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
  3. The Republican Party is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.

And presents a radical solution:

“We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).”

15. Pretending to be a superhero can focus children on their tasks:

“…kids pretending to be superheroes ‘worked’ more than those who thought of themselves in the third person, and both of those groups did better than the kids who just thought of themselves as ‘me’.”

and

“Donning a cape and mask, the kids from the recent study were better at what psychologists call ‘self-distancing’. One reason the kids engaged in imaginary play had better focus might be that pretending to be another person allowed the greatest separation from the temptation. A second potential explanation is that the kids in costume identified with the powerful character traits of the superhero and wanted to imitate them. Whatever the cause, the superheroes showed more grit.”

16. Picture of the week: Give my mom a raise!

See you next week!


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About Steve Ahlquist 669 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

1 Comment

  1. The separation between rich and poor, among the worst int he country, is a direct result of RI economic development strategy which focuses on real estate, education, and the medical industrial complex. All of which contribute to leaving fewer resources in lower income communities. and shift income up the ladder.

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