The Uprising, November 2, 2018

“Even as our hearts grieve and we pray for healing may we find the strength to take action to repair our world. And through our tears, let us join hands with our neighbors to continue this holy work – For we are nourished and sustained by our loving community on this sad day. Look around you. Look at everyone here bearing light. This is how we combat hate.”
Rabbi Sarah Mack of Temple Beth-El, President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island

It’s been a tough week as America picks up the pieces of at least three right-wing domestic terrorist attacks. Here in Rhode Island we grieve for the victims and come together to oppose such violence and hatred, but it can be overwhelming at times.

Welcome to The Uprising!, working to repair our world…

1a. Tree of Life

The attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh on Saturday had lots of local, Providence connections. Many local people know Squirrel Hill, know Tree of Life Synagogue or know people affected by the violence there. Laufton Ascencao, who is running for State Representative in District 68 (Bristol/Warren) writes on Facebook, “Years ago, I lived just a few streets away from the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was a beautiful and distinctly Jewish neighborhood. The time I spent living there taught me more about Judaism than a whole life before had.”

Two people commented on Ascencao‘s post. “I went to high school near the Temple and a classmate lost several friends in this slaughter,” wrote one. “Lived in Squirrel Hill for over 6 years. Sick to my stomach ever since last week. And yes, the Jewish community is small and connected. One of the murder victims was the aunt of my wife’s childhood neighbor,” writes another.

At the vigil held last Monday, four college students who call Squirrel Hill home lit candles for the victims as Rabbi Barry Dolinger and Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser read the names aloud. Two of them are pictured at the head of this piece.

1b. Gun violence

How much of what happened in Pittsburgh is due to the easy access to guns in the United States will be fuel for endless arguments. During the vigil, the Reverend Donnie Anderson of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches was interrupted while talking about standing up to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and their promotion of guns and gun culture. Anderson was accused of politicizing the event, but organizers of the vigil, which included the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island, invited two prominent local gun sense groups, Moms Demand and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, to table inside the lobby of the Jewish Community Center, along with the Refugee Dream Center, Dorcus International Institute, and the Anti-Defamation League.

Here are Anderson’s remarks. I cut the interruption out.

1c. Other vigils

In the wake of last Saturday’s terror attack I, like many others, sought out the company of other people. I found myself by the Holocaust Memorial in Downtown Providence. Nearly 50 other people showed up. This vigil was as raw as the weather, but I barely felt the cold and the rain. Those who spoke struggled for words and meaning.

There will be another vigil tomorrow across from Providence City Hall in Kennedy Plaza starting at 1 pm titled, Never Again: An Antifascist Assembly for Jewish Lives. Organizers are describing the event as a public assembly, Shabbat service, mourning ritual, political protest and antifascist demonstration.

2. We Will Not Be Erased! – Rally For Transgender Rights

As the Trump Administration moves to narrowly define gender as “a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth” transgender activists and allies from across the united States are pushing back and Rhode Island is no exception. At 11am on Saturday, November 3, people who care about human rights freedom of expression will be at the Rhode Island State House, rain or shine, to loudly declare that the government cannot simply erase people.

Organizers write, “The Trump administration is fighting desperately to erase transgender people from existence. We are calling on all our queer siblings as well as allies to come together and stand with transgender and non-binary individuals. Share your voice, wave your flags and show your PRIDE.”

3a. Invenergy

The Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), the state agency deciding on the permit for Invenergy‘s $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant, met on Thursday and decided all three motions under consideration in favor of Conservation Law foundation (CLF) and the Town of Burrillville.

“The EFSB’s decisions today were huge,” said Jerry Elmer, CLF senior attorney. “This is another nail in Invenergy’s coffin,” continued Elmer. “It makes it even more likely than it was before today that the application for the building permit will be denied by the EFSB.”

Invenergy disagrees with Elmer and will continue to press its case, perhaps having never heard of sunk cost and loss aversion.

“The review of this important new energy source for Rhode Island is continuing as planned,” said Invenergy attorney Michael Blazer, as quoted by Alex Kufner in the Providence Journal. “The facts are clear: with Rhode Islanders continuing to face some of the nation’s highest electric rates and thousands of megawatts of capacity coming off the grid in the coming years, the need for the Clear River Energy Center is only growing.”

If natural gas is a bridge fuel, that is, a temporary stop gap between oil/coal and wind/solar, how can the need be growing?

Invenergy’s unwarranted optimism means that the case will proceed. Here’s a schedule.

For a great primer on the now three year long Invenergy application, see here.

No New Power Plant, one of the Burrillville groups opposed to Invenergy’s plan, gave CLF a $5000 check.

Here’s Jerry Elmer:

3b. George Wiley Center

The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) made it easier for those who have been disconnected from gas and electric due to nonpayment to get reconnected ahead of the coming winter. Customers in arrears need to pay National Grid ten percent of what they owe and enter into a payment plan.

This looked like an easy victory for the George Wiley Center, a group that advocates on behalf of low-income ratepayers, but in truth this victory is the result of years of advocacy and activism. Work continues on re-instating PIPP (Payment of Income Payment Plan) which would require that low-income customers pay a lower rate for gas and electric.

Giving breaks to low-income utility ratepayers may not cost what we think:

“Society may realize reduced greenhouse gas emissions and other criteria air pollutants because customers will continue to use grid-mix or gas supply instead of less efficient resources – for instance, using the oven to provide space heating or burning wood or delivered fuels,” noted PUC boardmember Abigail Anthony speaking in favor of the PUC decision. “Society may benefit from increased economic activity resulting from reducing customers energy burden. Society may benefit from increased employment due to improved health, safety and quality of life of their employees. Society may benefit from lower social service costs, including lower Medicaid and Medicare costs. Society may benefit from other lowered health costs.

“While we don’t have a quantification of these costs and benefits, I would not be surprised if the customer and societal benefits exceed the cost,” concluded Anthony.

3b. Providence Democratic Socialists of America

A few hours after the PUC hearing members of the Providence Democratic Socialists of America and allies conducted a loud, boisterous march through the East Side of Providence to call attention to the problem of shut-offs. The group stopped at the home of Margaret Curran, who chairs the PUC to drop off some banners and a letter.

Because Curran had taken a sick day and wasn’t at the PUC meeting, the group stopped the music and the chanting, quietly left the materials on Curran’s porch, and only resumed their loud music and chanting after they were a few houses away.

The march was Halloween themed and featured Providence’s What Cheer Brigade.

3c. Nature’s Trust

Students and youth from across the country are taking to the courts in an effort to hold the government accountable for its role as steward of the environment. A lawsuit in Oregon was supposed to begin on October 29, but a last-minute United States Supreme Court stay imposed on October 19 is still in effect, and as a result, the trial did not begin as scheduled.

In Providence, students and supporters gathered on the steps of the United States District Courthouse of Rhode Island to “support of a national climate recovery plan, based on the best science available, following principals of a just transition, to transform the economy and respond to the facts that we have known for decades — CO2 pollution from burning fossil fuels causes dangerous climate change.”

Similar rallies took place across the country.

“It is my right to speak out. It is the government’s duty to protect its citizens,” said Chloe Mors, a 16-year old petitioner and student at the Met High School in Providence. “My voice, along with all others, matters and our lives are more important than any amount of money.”

Check out this new podcast from former Rhode Island Public Radio environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza about Our Children’s Trust:

4. Boycott Wendy’s

Providence was one of a dozen cities where protesters challenged Wendy’s over the fast food chain’s refusal to participate in the Fair Food Program. Both McDonald’s and Burger King participate, meaning they pay an extra penny per pound on certain produce, like tomatoes, the money to be used to ensure that growers treat their employees properly and pay fair wages. Wendy’s is the largest fast food chain not participating, which is terrible, because companies that don’t participate run the risk of buying their tomatoes from growers that allow rape and sexual abuse of migrant workers, and maintain unsafe, unsanitary, and near slavery working conditions.

Kind of makes the burgers taste a little bitter, doesn’t it?

5a. Elaine Morgan

The Gaspee Project‘s cookie cutter mailers in support of conservative candidates are as ugly in content as they are aesthetically. The flyers contain easily disprovable lies, such as, “force you to pay for the most brutal late-term abortions,” something Federal Law, specifically the Hyde Act, prevents.

But the mailers also contain antisemitic dog whistles, playing into George Soros-centered conspiracy theories.

Talia Lavin pointed out in a Washington Post oped that “Conspiracy theories about Soros aren’t just false. They’re anti-Semitic.” Lavin writes:

“…it’s no surprise that Soros would wind up as a target. He’s become the subject of escalating rhetoric on the right — including from President Trump — that posits Soros as a nefarious force, fomenting social dissent and paying members of a migrant “caravan” that has been the subject of intense right-wing fearmongering leading up to the November midterms. And that rhetoric draws on old, and deep-rooted, anti-Semitic ideas that have been deployed by the right for decades.”

I wrote my piece about the mailers featuring Senator Elaine Morgan (Republican, District 34, Exeter Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich) who is being challenged by Democrat Jennifer Volpe Douglas. I pointed out that on Twitter, Morgan has tweeted or retweeted similar antisemitic dog whistles in the past.

Morgan responded to my piece by doubling down, saying that, “George Soros is an enemy to Israel (IDF) and the USA!”

5b. Joe Almeida

Similar mailers were sent out from the Gaspee Project to the benefit of Luis Vargas, an “Independent” who is challenging Representative Joseph Almeida (Democrat, District 12, Providence).

“This coordinated attack by the Gaspee Project tries to make my ideas appear radical, but they aren’t. I am fighting for a living wage, universal health care, efficient public services, reasonable gun restrictions, and an infrastructure designed for the 21st century,” writes Almeida. “These are all issues I hope the people in Providence will see as beneficial to our amazing community in contrast to Vargas’s Trumpish, grim vision; a vision based on intolerance, arrogance, and heartlessness.”

Speaking of a living wage, the first time I met Luis Vargas was outside a Wendy’s in Warwick during a Fight for $15 protest about three. Vargas was there to counter protest, but stayed in the car.

6a. Nicholas Mattiello

Once Chanel 12/WPRI reporter Ted Nesi revealed that Representative Katherine Kazarian (Democrat, District 63, East Providence) made an accusation of sexual harassment about Representative Cale Keable (Democrat, District 47, Burrillville, Glocester) to Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, Mattiello sprang into action and removed Keable from his position as chair of the powerful House judiciary Committee. Since the Speaker knew about these accusations for years, one is forced to wonder why the Speaker waited so long to take such action.

Mattiello’s lack of ethical leadership on this issue has led to calls for Mattiello to step down as Speaker, or at the very least, has led to many, many calls for Mattiello to not be re-elected as Speaker by his fellow Representatives should he win re-election in his House District.

“We call on the voters of Rhode Island to reject this failure of leadership by calling on their own State Representatives to demand the resignation of Representative Keable and to refuse to support the current leadership that has so abjectly failed women and the entire Rhode Island community,” writes Planned Parenthood Votes!

RILPAC (Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee) believes that District 15 is ready for new representation and the Rhode Island House of Representatives is ready for a change at the top.”

“Whether Speaker Mattiello wins or loses on November 6th, we implore all representatives to support a leader who will put an end to this culture of silence, and who will foster transparency,” writes the Young Democrats of Rhode Island. “We need a speaker who will treat women equitably, who will allow debate and dissent, and take meaningful action when members of the chamber or the public come forward with evidence or allegations of harassment. Speaker Mattiello has proven himself incapable of these things.”

“The Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee, at their monthly meeting on November 1, 2018, unanimously passed a resolution calling on all state representatives — including the four who represent Portsmouth — to oppose current House speaker Nicholas Mattiello‘s bid for re-election to the post of Speaker of the House.”

Both Speaker Mattiello and Representative Keable face tough re-elections against Republican challengers on Tuesday.

6b. Katherine Kazarian

One issue overlooked in the Channel 12/WPRI revelations about sexual harassment in the State House is the fact that Representative Kazarian’s accusations against Representative Keable were released without her permission. I understand the importance of making ethical lapses on the part of House Leadership public, but this was Kazarian’s story to tell, and perhaps should have been told when she was ready, if ever. I think well-meaning journalists can think differently about the ethics of releasing information such as was contained within the leaked email, but the discussion may be meaningful.

7. Daniel McKee

After tacking to the left in his primary battle with progressive Aaron Regunberg and barely winning, Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee is careening to the right and showing his true colors, backing the “Independent” challenger Douglas Gablinske against incumbent Democrat Susan Donovan in House District 69, Bristol.

McKee’s endorsement of Gablinske, “is disappointing and shows a disregard for the party’s values and for women legislators,” writes the Rhode Island Democratic Party Women’s Caucus.

McKee is also taking heat from the chair of the District Committee for House District 69, Tracy Ramos.

“Maybe you have forgotten that in his former position as a state representative, Doug Gablinske voted against the interest of Bristol residents and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in lost school funding,” writes Ramos. “Maybe you forgot he called union members (long strong supporters of Democrats and the support for whom has long been a central tenet of Democratic philosophy) pigs at the trough? Maybe you forgot that he is a paid lobbyist working for fossil fuel interests? Maybe you forgot you are a top Democrat in Rhode Island? Shame on you, Mr McKee and all that this incomprehensible endorsement demonstrates that you stand for.”

McKee’s endorsement should surprise no one. Gablinske and McKee share similar values when it comes to things like energy policy and labor. McKee also tacitly (if not overtly) backed Michael Earnheart, the Trump supporter backed by the Rhode Island Democratic Party over incumbent Democratic legislator Moira Walsh.

8. Cable Access

It’s not on state interconnect yet (that will happen a few episodes in) but you can catch the first episode of a new cable access show, The Uprising, on Providence cable access at 2pm on Mondays all this month.

Host Jennifer Siciliano interviews Providence City Councilor Mary Kay Harris and Rachel Miller, who is running unopposed for Providence City Council. What’s nice about this show is that I don’t have to do much. Jennifer and her team are doing all the heavy lifting.

9. Andrew Augustus

Andrew Augustus left the Allan Fung campaign after racist and misogynist tweets he authored while a student at Rhode Island College came to light. Augustus was Fung’s press and media person. As bad as Augustus’s tweets were, why didn’t anyone take Fung to task for only agreeing to do a primary debate on the John DePetro Radio Show? DePetro has been a long time radio shock jock infamous for his racist and misogynist statements while on air.

Someone did eventually speak up about Fung’s ongoing relationship with DePetro, after DePetro was announced as the emcee of a Women for Fung event.

“Asking someone with views like John DePetro to preside over a women’s get-out-the-vote event is tone-deaf and alarming, but hardly surprising coming from Allan Fung. Allan Fung has embraced Donald Trump and shown Rhode Island women that he does not stand with us,” said Sulina Mohanty, chairwoman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party’s Women’s Caucus. “We call on Allan Fung to ditch John DePetro from his event. Standing alongside a bigot like DePetro sends a glaring message to Rhode Island women, minorities, the LGBTQ community and all marginalized communities that you do not represent us.”

10. Brown War Watch

11a. Kristen’s Law

Katrina Northrop, writing for The College Hill Independent, explores the reactions of two parents who lost their children to opioids here in Rhode Island. Read: Kristen’s Law and the pitfalls of criminalization:

“On different days, in different Rhode Island towns, Sue Coutu and Anthony Hollins both picked up the phone to the news that their children had died from an overdose. But their shared experience prompted vastly different reactions. Coutu firmly believes in punishing drug dealers and holding them accountable for what she considers their taking advantage of the opioid crisis, while Hollins sees overdoses as a complicated manifestation of educational, mental health, and economic issues that can’t be solved by imprisoning people. With Rhode Island’s recent passage of Kristen’s Law, which gives life sentences to people who sell drugs in cases of fatal overdoses and is named after Coutu’s deceased daughter, their differing solutions are at the center of a heated legislative debate about who is held responsible for the state’s opioid crisis…”

11b. First Student Bus Strike

Paula Pacheco Soto, writing for The College Hill Independent, takes a deep dive into the repercussions of the First Student Bus Strike on students, teachers, drivers and City government. Read: Taking Back the Wheel: Lessons from the First Student drivers’ strike

“Wafaa is eleven years old and attends Nathanael Greene Middle School. She and her younger brother were two of the almost 10,000 affected by the 11-day-long school bus driver strike. She missed almost a week and a half of school, including the breakfast and lunch that the school provides her every day. She told me her older brother tried to drive her to school, but couldn’t do it again in order to make it in time for work. “I have a lot of homework and tests to make up for,” she said, “I even missed the movie they do every week…”

12. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

Bill Bartholomew interviews:

Rhode Island election preview with Dan McGowan of Channel 12/WPRI

Democratic strategist Rob Horowitz

Newport City Councilmember Jamie Bova

13. Ian Donnis

He beat me to it so I’m including The Public’s Radio‘s TGIF column by Ian Donnis, instead of simply retweeting it.

14. Picture of the week:


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About Steve Ahlquist 628 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

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