The Uprising! November 9, 2018

“You know what Lisa Scorpio got as a Caucasian woman? She got paid.”
Kobi Dennis.

Welcome to a late edition of The Uprising! Sorry it’s late, but I’ve been really busy! Let’s get into this, beginning with some election coverage:

1a. Climate Change

Gina Raimondo easily won a second term as Governor of Rhode Island, which is a testament to her leadership on economic issues, but also acts as a kind of canary in the coal mine of climate change. In essence, voters aren’t taking climate change seriously enough if they are not willing to call Raimondo (and United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who also sailed to victory Tuesday night) out on their support for both Invenergy‘s proposed power plant and National Grid‘s liquefaction facility in South Providence.

This pattern of, in essence, asking people concerned about the environment, “What are you going to do? Vote for Fung? Vote for Flanders?” is getting very old. So old, in fact, that towns like Burrillville are calling the Democrat’s bluff and are no longer blue or purple, they are red. The Rhode Island Democratic Party seems to have calculated that building unpopular, anti-environmental projects in places where people have little political power, essentially creating political and environmental sacrifice zones, is a winning strategy.

In Burrillville, Judge Robert Flanders (Republican) easily beat Whitehouse, 56 to 44 percent. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (Republican) clobbered Raimondo 56 to 31 percent. Republican Jessica de la Cruz easily beat Kevin Heitke for an open Senate seat that’s been solidly Democrat for nearly two decades. And Burrillville Town Councilor David Place (Republican) beat incumbent Cale Keable by a hefty margin. (Though Keable was implicated in a sexual harassment controversy shortly before the election.)

This leaves Rhode Island divided between blue cities and towns along the cost and urban core, and red as we head into the rural parts of the state.

1b. Dee Dee Witman

Kobi Dennis, who challenged and lost to incumbent Mayor Jorge Elorza in the Democratic Primary, threw his support behind Independent Dee Dee Witman in the General Election. When it came time to recruit poll workers, that is people who stand outside polling stations carrying signs and distributing literature, Dennis recruited 19 people, including his own mother.

These poll workers were promised $120  for a full day’s work, 7am to 8pm. More than 100 of these workers, including those recruited by Dennis, have yet to be paid as promised.

Worse still, the workers that have not been paid are Black and Latinx. White people, like Lisa Scorpio and her recruits, were paid.

1c. Cranston City Council

The new Cranston City Council looks a little different, but Republicans managed to keep their 5-4 majority, meaning Michael Farina should be able to maintain his position as council president. One interesting result: Steve Stycos, who I will call the leader of the Democratic resistance on the council, actually received more votes than Farina.

Democrat Lammis Vargas joins the council, and she will be the only woman there. She is also the first Latina to serve on the Cranston City Council.

The new line up in Cranston:

Steven Stycos (DEM) City Wide
Lammis Vargas (DEM) Ward 1
Paul McAuley (DEM) Ward 2
John Donegan (DEM) Ward 3

Michael Farina (REP) City Wide
Kenneth Hopkins (REP) City Wide
Edward Brady (REP) Ward 4
Christopher Paplauskas (REP) Ward 5
Michael Favicchio (REP) Ward 6

1d. Providence City Council

I don’t think there were any surprises in the Providence City Council races. All the seats were taken by Democrats, most running unopposed. Eight out of the 15 seats are now held by women, but the women in these seats do have some real differences in politics, so it will be interesting to see what this means for the council going forward.

Seth Yurdin (DEM) Ward 1
Helen Anthony (DEM) Ward 2
Nirva LaFortune (DEM) Ward 3
Nicholas Narducci Jr (DEM) Ward 4
Jo-Ann Ryan (DEM) Ward 5
Michael Correia (DEM) Ward 6
John Igliozzi (DEM) Ward 7
James Taylor (DEM) Ward 8
Carmen Castillo (DEM) Ward 9
Luis Aponte (DEM) Ward 10
Mary Kay Harris (DEM) Ward 11
Katherine Kerwin (DEM) Ward 12
Rachel Miller (DEM) Ward 13
David Salvatore (DEM) Ward 14
Sabina Matos (DEM) Ward 15

1e. Rhode Island State Senate

New arrivals include Samuel Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence), Valerie Lawson (Democrat, District 14, East Providence, Pawtucket), Gordon Rogers (Republican, District 21, Coventry, Foster, Scituate, West Greenwich), Jessica de la Cruz (Republican, District 23, Burrillville, Glocester), Melissa Murray (Democrat, District 24, North Smithfield), Mark McKenney (Democrat, District 30, Warwick) and Bridget Valverde (District 35, North Kingstown, Narragansett).

The person I know the least about is Gordon Rogers, who skipped his one and only scheduled candidate forum.

Val Lawson attended her forum.

1f. Rhode Island House

New arrivals include Rebecca Kislak (Democrat, District 4, Providence), Mario Mendez (Democrat, District 13, Providence, Johnston), Chris Millea (Democrat, District 16, Cranston), Thomas Noret (Democrat, District 25, Coventry), James Jackson (Democrat, District 26, West Warwick), George Nardone (Republican, District 28, Coventry), Justine Caldwell (Democrat, District 30, East Greenwich), John Lyle Jr (Republican, District 46, Lincoln), David Place (Republican, District 47, Burrillville, Glocester), Bernard Hawkins (Democrat, District 53, Smithfield), Karen Alzate (Democrat, District 60, Pawtucket), Jose Serodio (Democrat, District 64, East Providence), Liana Cassar (Democrat, District 66, Barrington), Laufton Ascencao (Democrat, District 68, Bristol) and Terri-Denise Cortvriend (Democrat, District 72, Portsmouth).

1g. Alan Gordon

If Compassion Party candidate for Attorney General Alan Gordon, recently arrested for possession of marijuana cannabis, who angrily spelled out the n-word on stage during a debate, performed at the Resist Marxism rally alongside the fascist Proud Boys and rudely interrupted a memorial service for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue can get nearly 20 percent of the vote against Democrat Peter Neronha, imagine what a real candidate could have done…

1h. Working Families Party

Georgia Hollister Isman, state director at the Working Families Party, has a few post-election takeaways:

  • The State House will be more progressive and more female in 2019
  • New forms of voters communication are effective, but door-to-door canvassing still matters most
  • Mess with progressive women at your peril — why is that so hard to learn?
  • Leadership at the State House has become a salient topic for voters

1i. Ranked Choice Voting

Zakary Pereira has a piece on the way ranked choice voting worked in Maine.

Maine has shown the country and other states that Ranked Choice Voting is possible at the state level. It is up to supporters of democratic electoral reform to lobby their state legislators and governor to adopt a RCV voting system. Fairvote.org has a plethora of resources to do this. Ranked Choice Voting RI is a new and upcoming activist group in Rhode Island. If we fight, we can transform our electoral system and give power back to voters!

1j. Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is happy with the 2018 election results in Rhode Island:

“These results show that Rhode Island voters support candidates who are proud champions of reproductive freedom. All five statewide General Officers support passing a law to put the protection of Roe v Wade into Rhode Island statute,” said Amanda Skinner, PPV!RI PAC member and CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island (PPV! RI). “Governor Raimondo and a majority of House and Senate members are committed to passing the Reproductive Health Care Act and protecting the reproductive freedom of Rhode Islanders, including access to safe, legal abortion, from the attacks by President [Donald] Trump and his allies in Congress.”

1k. A blue tsunami just washed ashore in East Greenwich

RI Future‘s Bob Plain writes:

“On Tuesday night, East Greenwich Democrats… won all five seats on the town council. The last time East Greenwich had a town council with one party rule was 48 years ago, when the Republicans controlled all five seats.

2a. Yes on 3 Massachusetts

Massachusetts voted overwhelmingly in support of gender identity rights, about 68 to 32 percent. As good as this result is, the human rights of people should never be put on the ballot. Human rights are baseline values that should not be up to the vagaries of popular vote.

The vote in Massachusetts was a referendum on whether or not to keep a 2016 Massachusetts law that extended nondiscrimination protections to transgender people. Here’s a nifty piece on the victory by Alex Barasch at Slate, entitled, “The Campaign to Preserve Massachusetts’ Trans Protections Was Successful Because It Centered Trans People.”

“The coalition that came to SB 2407’s defense drew on a range of tactics, from TV ads to phone banking to canvassing, but in a victory speech Tuesday night, “Yes on 3” co-chair Mason Dunn’s takeaway was simple: “We win when we are trans-led, by and for our community.”

See also:

TGI Network of RI: #TransLawMA matters for Rhode Islanders, too

“We are fighting for ‘Yes on 3,’” said Amy Hogarth, who works at Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, “It’s a ballot question, in Massachusetts. We are in a hard fight for the simple rights of transgender folks. This is a popular vote on human rights – which makes no sense at all – and asks us to remove protections for trans and gender non-conforming people. It’s trying to remove protections in all public spaces.”

2b. We will not be erased: A rally for Transgender Rights

Hundreds of people gathered on the south lawn of the Rhode Island State House in defiance of a Trump Administration plan to erase the identities of transgender people nationwide and impose a binary gender identity to be  determined by genetic testing and genitalia present at birth. In Rhode Island, people who identify as transgender, gender diverse, and/or intersex have fairly decent state protections. These state-level protections are vitally important should federal protections disappear.

The rally served as a strong rebuke to Trump from Rhode Island’s LGBTQI community and their allies: We will not be erased.

Here’s Justice Gaines reading her powerful poetry to the crowd:

3a. Nicholas Mattiello

Two days after securing his re-election, Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello held a caucus meeting at the Carpionato Group owned Chapel Grille in Cranston (where you can taste the ghostly tears of the boys who suffered there when the building was part of the Sockanosset School for Boys.)

While the House Democratic Caucus met inside, over fifty people, representing themselves and more than a dozen advocacy groups, stood outside and called for change. The Cranston Police Department, of course, threatened those outside, who were exercising their first amendment rights, with arrest, adding that the “owners of the property” the Carpionato Group, were willing to press charges.

This is what the loss of the commons means: The roads and sidewalks around the restaurant are private property, and Mattiello secured himself in a place where private property rights (which always somehow to trump constitutional rights) ensured he would not be bothered by those who oppose him. Meanwhile, the Senate Democratic Caucus met in the Rhode Island State House, and the media was allowed to attend.

After the meeting at Chapel Grille was over, 21 Representatives signed onto a press release declaring their opposition to Mattiello. They write (emphasis mine):

“Tonight’s Democratic Caucus was called quickly and held behind closed doors. This lack of an open and transparent process deprives us of the opportunity to advocate for the kinds of changes our constituents expect and demand. Some newly elected Representatives have never met the Speaker and were asked to vote for him tonight without even a discussion.

There is no reason we must vote tonight. The vote for speaker happens on the floor of the House in January. Each of us has heard the demand, loud and clear, from our constituents for a more democratic House, one that operates in an open and transparent way, and where legislative proposals get a fair hearing. We must have a speaker who can meet those demands.

“We oppose Speaker Mattiello because we lack faith in his ability to lead fairly and transparently. We came to the House to fight for our communities and our demand for better leadership tonight is exactly that.”

One of the Representatives who oppose Mattiello, Representative Joseph Almeida (Democrat, District 12, Providence), writes:

I was included in a press release expressing and supporting greater transparency and fairness along with my house peers. I do support those ideas, but that wasn’t my primary motivation. I was disappointed in some of his decisions as Speaker related to diversity. Mattiello promised to enhance diversity throughout our great state, but the vital programs I supported were cast aside for other priorities. We always talk about economic development yet that economic development doesn’t seem to make it to the most impoverished places in Rhode Island.

The General Assembly needs to place greater emphasis on diversity and provide our minority community with more economic opportunities. It needs to create more state programs that ensure minorities have a fighting chance in a world that seems to be stacked against them. This is something that I am passionate about and something I think we should all strive to achieve.

My vote was not directed at the Speaker, but I don’t believe his priorities align with the constituents of our fine Providence community and minorities across our state. One day I hope to vote for Mattiello, but unfortunately, today is not that day.

3b. RICAGV

Two of Rhode Island’s leading advocacy organizations, the Rhode Island National Organization for Women and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) teamed up to defeat Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello at the polls. They were unsuccessful.

Here’s a photo from the next day’s Providence Journal, showing Mattiello celebrating his victory, with second amendment lobbyist Michael O’Neill. Expect nothing to change if Mattiello maintains his Speaker-ship.

3c. WPRI/Channel 12

Ted Nesi revealed the sordid, behind-the-scenes sexual harassment occurring at the Rhode Island State House and Speaker Nicholas Mattiello‘s nonchalant, no-big-deal attitude about it. As a result, WPRI/Channel 12 is in Siberia.

“I’m going to have a new policy going forward: news media outlets that treat me fairly and are objective, I’m going to converse more with,” said Mattiello to Channel 12 reporter Kim Kalunian.

The next day, President Donald Trump banned CNN reporter Jim Acosta, for what amounts to essentially the same reason. My favorite part of the video was when an unnamed White House aide, eager to do the President’s bidding, attempted to take the microphone away from Acosta. Her blind allegiance to Trump rather than to freedom of press, was extremely disturbing.

Despite Mattiello’s disturbing similarities to Trump when it comes to the media, Representative Jason Knight (Democrat, District 67, Warren) has promised to work for a more open House of Representatives. This will be great for the Siberians and the compliant news media as well.

4. Dominick Ruggerio

Don’t think that just because the meeting was more open, the Senate Democratic Caucus meeting was more Democratic than the House. When Senator-elect Samuel Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) tried to vote against Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence), he was not allowed to.

“I wanted to register a vote in specific opposition to McCaffrey and Ruggerio,” said Bell to me, “but I was told that my only procedurally valid options were to abstain or vote for them.”

You were not allowed to vote no? I asked.

“If [no votes] had been allowed, I would have cast them,” replied Bell.

5. Providence Teacher’s Union

From a press release:

Mayor Jorge Elorza and the Providence Teachers Union (PTU) President Maribeth Calabro today announced that the City of Providence has reached a tentative agreement for a contract with the PTU, which represents over 1,900 members in the Providence Public Schools District. Negotiations have been on-going since the previous contract expired in late August 2017.

“This agreement is a step in the right direction for our Providence school community as we seek transformational changes in our school system,” said Mayor Elorza. “We are working hard to ensure that our students are learning in schools that inspire them. We are encouraging school-based autonomy and personalized learning because our students are unique and each child has so much potential. This contract allows us to better support our kids by supporting our teachers’ skill development.”

The tentative three-year agreement includes wage increases for members along with:

-Provisions to continue school-based autonomy in Providence Public Schools
-Expanded summer learning and instruction opportunities
-Increased professional development opportunities for teachers
-Additional incentives for English Language Learner and Advanced Degree credentials

“The leadership of the PTU is pleased that we could reach a tentative agreement that respects teachers and supports the need to address summer learning loss and the ability to continue our positive, collaborative relationship with the district in the best interest of our students,” added President Calabro.

The entire tentative agreement will be presented to the membership of PTU and considered for ratification. Upon passage, the contract will then be sent to the City Council for ratification.

6a. The Woman Project

 The Woman Project came out strong against the re-election of Nicholas Mattiello as Speaker.

6b. Laura Harmon

“There is great opportunity to promote the language of care and compassion and to make women’s stories central to the campaign for healthcare in U.S.”

“Access to abortion and indeed access to healthcare in general is of course a class issue – access to healthcare should not be determined based on one’s ability to pay, but based on one’s need.

“Those who don’t have the financial means to access abortion or those who cannot travel to obtain one are often discriminated against when access is restricted.”

6c. Jocelyn Foye

also has an interview with Jocelyn Foye, one of the co-founders of The Woman Project.

“The economic and social realities of the lives of people who need abortions and contraception are different based on the multiplicity of oppressions people face based on class, race, ability, gender identity, and sexuality,” continued Foye. “We understand that if a person is forced to birth a child that they cannot care for, the trajectory for their lives will be radically different. Their ability to support themselves and their families will be altered, their life choices will be limited.

“If we lose Roe federally without passing the RHCA, we will have people from all classes, races, abilities, genders, [and] sexualities resorting to unsafe abortion practices that can have life­‐long consequences including death.”

7. Never Again: An Antifascist Assembly for Jewish Lives

“Antisemitism,” writes Noraa Kaplan, organizer of Never Again: An Antifascist Assembly for Jewish Lives, “is not a relic of the past; it is alive and well in our fascist society.” The rally was held in response to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh that claimed eleven lives on October 27.

The rally, in the shadow of Providence City Hall, was planned as a public assembly, Shabbat service, mourning ritual, political protest and antifascist demonstration. It hit all those notes and more: It brought people together as a community devoted to countering fascism.

“To honor and mourn the victims of this latest chapter of antisemitic violence, we will assemble publicly. Assembly is just as much a political exercise as it is a religious congregation,” wrote Kaplan on Facebook. “We will hold a Shabbat service to finish what our fallen comrades started before they were interrupted. We will also make noise, make trouble, make a big stink, make them hear us and hear that we will not let terror and fascism and politics kill us.”

The Torah is read, from beginning to end, every year in the Jewish tradition. Divided into roughly 52 weekly parts, the Torah has been read cyclically like this for generations and millennia.

“I get chills thinking that some of the last words those people heard before their murders were the same ancient words that have been chanted for generations before them,” said Kaplan.

The text read that day was about the greatest sin of the Jewish people while in exile, said Kaplan, the intermarriage of Jews and not-Jews. Ironically, the gunman, “targeted the Tree of Life because they stood with HIAS, the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, an organization that helps refugees make it safely to the United States,” said Kaplan. “This attack had as much to do with Islamophobia and white supremacy as it did with antisemitism. The fates of Jews, and of Muslims, and of people of color, poor people, and of trans women, and all targets of fascism are bound up together!”

8a. Nature’s Trust Rhode Island

Nature’s Trust Rhode Island filed an appeal in Rhode Island Superior Court on the decision by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to deny a petition by youth, young adults, and others. The petition, filed on September 5, asked the department to live up to its duty to put in place a plan to reduce the threats of climate change. DEM denied the petition in full on October 5. The appeal asserts that the department failed to provide an adequate explanation for its decision, as is required for any administrative action.

President of Nature’s Trust Rhode Island, Peter Nightingale, Professor of Physics at the University of Rhode Island, explained, “Since we filed our petition, several major scientific reports were issued. Those by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Academy of Sciences support the urgency of key steps sought in our petition: drastic reduction of emission of greenhouse gasses, specifically short-lived ones such as natural gas; crucial expansion of natural carbon sinks such as forests; and accelerated research of agricultural and other methods of extracting carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.”

8b. ECRI report card

The Environment Council of Rhode Island (ECRI) released its biennial Green Report Card on Monday. The report highlights critical environmental issues that were considered by Rhode Island state legislators during the 2017 and 2018 sessions. The report issues letter grades to individual General Assembly members based on bill votes and sponsorships. Overall, the Rhode Island Senate scored a C- and the Rhode Island House of Representatives scored a C+. The report also qualitatively evaluates Governor Gina Raimondo, writing:

“Overall, Governor Raimondo took more action on environmental issues during the second half of her term than she did in the first two years. She has taken actions to prepare Rhode Island for climate change, reduce carbon emissions, decrease plastic pollution, and provide resources to municipalities to protect parks and open space and expand the state’s bike path network. She also came out strongly against the Trump administration’s plan to open up New England coastal waters to offshore drilling and opposed efforts to make biomass eligible for net metering incentives. But she did fail to square her support for the Burrillville power plant and neutrality on National Grid’s LNG facility with her climate goals. Her administration has also been lackadaisical about appointing members to the Water Resources Board, and she faced harsh criticism when she did not renew the terms of three environmentalists on the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) board, appointing instead new members with dubious qualifications.”

9. College Hill Independent

The People’s Council: Rachel Miller reimagines Providence politics by Cashen Conroy:

“On the night of the 2018 Rhode Island primaries, Rachel Miller, a candidate for Providence’s Ward 13 City Council seat, had more than polling numbers on her mind. Earlier that day, a friend who was volunteering for her campaign got a frantic call about an immigration enforcement raid occurring just a few blocks away. He was still making phone calls himself, attempting to provide emergency support for the families that had been picked up, when Miller joined him on the back steps of her apartment hours later. She was there by his side, listening to his conversations about the recent deportations, when she got a text telling her to come back to the office—she had won…

Through the Muck: Introducing an Indy series on climate change in RI by Harry August, Ella Comberg and Julia Rock:

“We have no idea how to think about climate. Over-dramatized headlines responding to last month’s United Nations IPCC report yell at us: “The World Was Just Issued 12-Year Ultimatum On Climate Change.” This Smithsonian article and so many like it warn of  global catastrophe if we blow past 1.5 degrees of warming. However, this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to an economist whose model positions four degrees of warming as optimal—a direct contradiction of the IPCC report’s findings. While stickers on the wall tell us to turn out the lights, Providence’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America calls for more drastic measures like nationalizing our electric grid (more on this in Issue 8). And as some friends tell us it’s wrong to bring kids into a warming world, others wring their hands as they climb into Uber XLs. “The world is fucked anyway,” they say—or, worse, “Elon Musk will save us.” It’s clear that—decades after climate change was discovered and 25 years of UN climate conferences later—this is a problem like no other…

We Can’t Live on Books Alone: The Fight for Graduate Worker Powerby Dylan Lewis:

“Brown University’s Graduate School recently bought two Facebook ads targeting their students’ unionization efforts, one titled “Do You Need a Union,” the other “Know the Facts.” The latter stated that, were graduate students to unionize, union dues would amount to $650 a year. The text was accompanied by a bright red dollar sign. These ads are the public face of Brown’s anti-unionization efforts. Meanwhile, students like Kaitlyn Quaranta, a third year doctoral student in Brown’s Department of French Studies who proudly displays an “I’m Voting Union YES!” pin over her heart, are the face of Brown graduate students’ efforts to unionize…

9. ACLU statement on the arrest of Richard Gardner

Richard Gardner was arrested yesterday not because of what he did last month in the Cranston city clerk’s office, but for the crimes that led him to serve thirty years in prison before being lawfully released. That was made perfectly clear by Cranston police chief Michael Winquist when he acknowledged at his news conference that ‘whether he’s jaywalking, filing a false document, it doesn’t matter to us. We feel that he should be behind bars.’

“While many people are undoubtedly applauding Gardner’s detention regardless of the reason, his arrest – and the deliberate timing of it on a Friday afternoon to ensure he would be locked up over the weekend – represents a disturbing abuse of police power that should be of concern to all. The attitude that targets people for arrest because of who they are or what they did in the past is the same attitude that promotes an ‘ends justifies the means’ philosophy in policing that is contrary to the rule of law. It is a philosophy that also leads to targeting of people on the basis of their color or their neighborhood or even, like Cranston’s own notorious Ticketgate scandal, on the basis of their political views or actions.

“Every person in the state who failed for years to pay on their tax return the sales taxes they incurred for their internet purchases committed the same crime Gardner is now alleged to have committed. In allowing the police to engage in the arbitrary and capricious enforcement of the law to target Gardner for arrest, we have given the police a green light that, in the long run, makes all of us less safe from abuses of government power.”

10. Bartholomewtown Podcast

Special episode! Election Day In Rhode Island, round table panel with Ben DeCastro and Kobi Dennis, plus checking in with Attorney General candidate Peter Neronha and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Giovanni Feroce. Welcome to Election Day In Rhode Island.

11. Ian Donnis

TGIF: 20 Things To Know About Rhode Island Politics & Media

12. 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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