The Uprising, March 23, 2018

“At the edge of our hope, at the end of our time, we have chosen not only to believe in ourselves but in each other. Today there’s not a man or woman in here that shall stand alone. Not today. Today we face the monsters that are at our door and bring the fight to them.
“Today, we are canceling the apocalypse!”
Stacker Pentecost

Welcome to The Uprising! Ready, set, go!

1. Representative Shelby Maldonado (Democrat, District 56, Central Falls) has introduced legislation, with bipartisan support, that will “continue the status quo relating to operator’s and chauffeur’s licenses and limited work authorization to approved recipients under the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This act would also provide that the issuance of a Rhode Island operator’s license shall not confer the right to vote in the state of Rhode Island.”

The bill is the first of its kind to be introduced.

There is a wide range of cosponsors for the legislation, including Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence) who introduced legislation last year that would have compelled local law enforcement to comply with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) directives, a bill that stood in direct opposition to Maldonado’s bill that would have prohibited local law enforcement from complying with ICE.

The bill became a bipartisan effort when Blake Filippi (Republican, District 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) added his name. With Maldonado citing the support of Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) and the Senate version of the bill being championed by Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (Democrat, District 29, Warwick), the bill seems like a good bet to pass and be signed by Governor Gina Raimondo.

2a. Bills to “exempt natural hair braiders from the requirement to be licensed as hairdressers or cosmeticians, and … define the practice of natural hair braiding” were heard in the Rhode Island State House and Senate this week. The two hearings were very different. Tuesday’s House hearing only lightly touched on the cultural and racial issues at play, and instead concentrated on the regulatory aspects and the issue of over regulating businesses. In the Senate hearing, the issue of race took center stage, much to the discomfort of Senator Elaine Morgan (Republican, District 34, Exeter Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich) who “took major offense” to Joseph Buchanan, a 65 year old black man and lifelong Rhode Island resident, “playing the race card.”

2b. Most of the media attention was focused on the confrontation between cosmetologist Jackie Pace and Representative Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence) that occurred in the hallway of the State House after the House hearing on Tuesday night. Inside the room, where my cameras were running, the debate was heated, or what Williams termed “passionate” but nothing unusual. What happened in the hallway is up to debate, but Williams and Michael Stenhouse, who runs the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, claim there was no assault.

It’s too bad that the media decided to concentrate on the alleged altercation, rather than the issue of natural hair braiding itself. Here’s a hair braider who can “do anything with braids” talking about two Liberian women who went to school for cosmetology so they could legally practice their trade. Now they are burdened with debt. “There is no salon that will look at me, if I go to it, as a black girl, that will hire me,” she said.

3. After spending millions of dollars to overturn net neutrality, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), are now spending millions more to send lobbyists to State Houses across the United States to make the case that state governments should do nothing about net neutrality. Net neutrality is safe because ISPs, “for the last eight years have publicly and strenuously pledged” not to throttle, block or discriminate against providers of Internet content, said Timothy Wilkerson, vice president of the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association (NECTA) to a packed House Committee on Corporations.

Chad Marlow is Advocacy and Policy Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where he principally focuses on privacy, surveillance, and policing issues. “Elimination of net neutrality does one thing and one thing only,” said Marlow. “It allows those who provide Internet access to engage in content based discrimination.”

3b. Randall Rose summed up the importance of net neutrality here:

“Without net neutrality, you’re likely to have a hard time seeing alternative websites. Big-name sites want you to experience faster load times when interacting with their content than when you’re visiting smaller rival sites, and they will want to pay off your phone or Internet company so that alternative sites are impeded from connecting with you at the same speed.”

3c. My testimony before the Rhode Island House Committee on Corporations on Net Neutrality:

Thank you chair and reps

My name is Steve Ahlquist and I am a small business owner. My business, UpriseRI.com, exists in its entirety on the internet. I produce political news coverage.

Uprise is not the next Facebook or Google.

Net neutrality is a first amendment issue .

Without net neutrality, large news organizations and internet providers can effectively shut me down, by charging me or those interested in my website prohibitively large amounts of money to use the internet at the same speed as any other news company.

That may please people who dislike my politics, but this slowdown can be applied to any media outlet that doesn’t have the funds to compete with large media companies, no matter where they may lay on the political spectrum.

I can’t afford new fees to compete with larger news organizations. I am funded entirely by small local donations, no large shadowy corporate entities lend support.

I urge this committee and the General Assembly to fight for net neutrality and the first amendment.

4a. “What does it mean to be a Democrat?” became the question at Monday evening’s Platform Committee of the Rhode Island Democratic Party (RIDP). The committee is working on the 2018 platform, an “expression of values” and an “aspirational document,” according to RIDP Executive Director Tolulope Kevin Olasanoye.

But attendees had other questions.

“We’re mostly Democrats in Rhode Island,” said Kaki Accola, “But a lot of Democrat politicians don’t look like Democrats to me.”

A woman named Anna said that she is a registered Independent, because the Democratic tent is, “too big for me and far more right than I am ever willing to sign onto.”

“I feel that funding and official party endorsement” should be made contingent upon following the party platform in some way,” offered Anne Holland.

4b. Side note: Representative Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence), who is on the other side of many issues I advocate for, approached me and asked if we could put politics aside for a minute. I agreed.

We then had a very interesting conversation about Marvel Comics and Marvel movies. We recalled that when Thor was first introduced in 1962, his secret identity was the disabled Dr Donald Blake, who tapped his walking stick on the ground to become Thor. I explained, the best I could, the relationship between Pepper Potts and Tony Stark over the course of the many Marvel movies. And we agreed that the first two Spider-Man films, featuring Toby Maguire as Peter Parker, were really excellent films.

5a. The Senate Committee on Labor, chaired by Senator Paul Fogarty (Democrat, District 23, Burrillville, Glocester), was hearing a slate of bills to increase the minimum wage in Rhode Island on the same day that the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce was treating legislators to free cocktails and top-notch hors d’oeurves.

Perhaps it was thought that getting some drinks into the legislators would make them miss the fact that minimum wage opponents were using the same old tired, discredited arguments they came prepared with last year.

The Senate Committee on Labor held their meeting in a room with no cameras or recording equipment, except for what I brought in with me. This may have been to avoid calling attention to the chummy relationship between the Senators and the restaurant owners, like Bob Bacon, owner of Gregg’s Restaurants, who said he considers several of the senators “friends.” Or maybe it was to conceal Senator Frank Lombardi (Democrat, District 26, Cranston)’s jokey banter with several of the servers from Sympatico Jamestown who testified.

5b. An “economic snapshot” from Elise Gould at the Economic Policy Institute shows that “when we compare states with any minimum wage change since 2013 with those without any… the association between states with at least one minimum wage change and growth in wages for low-wage workers is quite strong.”

This means raising the minimum wage is a good thing, right? Maybe…

5c. The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce routinely opposes raising the minimum wage. Yet when Laurie White, president of the Chamber told the crowd at the 18th Annual Economic Outlook Breakfast about the Business Insider report that put Rhode Island at number nine in the state rankings, she noted that, “They looked at six specific factors… They looked at unemployment, they looked at job growth, they looked at per capita GDP as well as GDP growth, they looked at average weekly wages and wage growth.”

Note that wage growth is connected, in part, to raising the minimum wage. (see 5b above) You don’t get to take credit for improving the economy when you oppose the means to get there.

5d. Speaking of the Economic Outlook Breakfast, Rhode Island business leaders seem optimistic about the economic future of our country and state.

Over 53 percent of Rhode Island’s business leaders think the United States economy will be in much better or somewhat better shape over the next twelve months. Over 64 percent feel that the Rhode Island economy will be in much better or somewhat better shape over the same period. Looking backwards, over 70 percent of business leaders think that their businesses are in much better or somewhat better shape today than they were a year ago. 75 percent believe that their business will be in much better or somewhat better shape a year from now.

6. A pair of interviews from the Woman Project:

6a. First up is Aria Mia Loberti, an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the University of Rhode Island, a member of the United Nations Inter-Agency Network of Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality, and yoga instructor.

“I actually started out with a Biology major, because I wanted to learn about the moral and ethical implications of modern science research on things like reproduction, the environment, and our overall wellbeing. It did not take me long to discover that, for my personal goals, the best place to learn about these phenomena were in my Philosophy and Communication courses, not necessarily in my science classes. My continued work in the sciences allows me insight into these issues from that angle, but training to be a rhetorician and a philosopher requires me to consider how mainstream political and social philosophy can be shaped or changed in the first place. These fields challenge me to examine the moral structures of social norms and religion in issues of gender inequality, reproductive freedom, and a woman’s agency over her own body. Rhetoric, in particular, grapples with the questions of how best to argue for an issue with heavier social or moral implications, emphasizing the navigation hierarchical symbol-systems we inhabit. The Political Science field brings insight into policies that can help disintegrate years of gendered hierarchy, which in turn can allow us to move towards reproductive freedom.”

6b. And here’s Dilenia Rodriguez, artist and filmmaker:

“The idea that my reproductive freedom is in danger, and that what I choose to do with my body and my life can be determined by a majority male government troubles me a whole lot. First off, reproductive freedom impacts my personal journey. I am ambitious, hopeful and I’m looking forward to the development of my career and the future contributions I can bring to this world. I believe that being able to choose when and if I want to reproduce allows me to determine my own path and look out for my safety. Having a baby is a decision I need to be allowed to make for myself because I am the one who lives in this body and giving birth is a serious procedure that could put my body in jeopardy. It’s important for me to decide whether I want to bring human to this world because that is a life that I would need to look after and care for properly and willingly, otherwise I would be doing an injustice to another human being.”

7. Ending housing discrimination based on source of income

“Source of income discrimination is real,” said Stephen Vadnais, executive director of the Pawtucket Housing Authority. “If you look at Craigslist ads, you can see that maybe half the ads say, ‘no Section 8.’ Not only do they say, ‘no Section 8’ it’s how they say ‘no Section 8.’ They say, in bold, ‘No smoking. No pets. No Section 8.‘ To me, that’s really code for discrimination.”

8. Yessenia Funes over at Earther asks, What Does an Equitable Plastic Bag Ban Look Like?

This brings me to the plastic bag ban that the Providence City Council in Rhode Island approved Thursday night. The city’s Racial and Environmental Justice Committee, which sits underneath the Office of Sustainability, began to voice concerns over the ban once they realized the council was moving quickly to vote on it just a month after the proposed ban was brought to the committee’s attention.

At issue? Equity.

“We put [the ban] through our equitable lens and shared it with our base,” Vatic Kuumba, a member of the committee’s project team, told Earther. “What came from that was a concern for the fee of the bags.”

9. The Dancing Cop Show at the Pawtucket Public Library, the one aimed at children, has been canceled, but not because officials there are opposed to Tony Lepore‘s history of what has been characterized as “racist and divisive” comments, for which he has never apologized.

No, library officials canceled the event, they say, because they fear people who might protest the event, people opposed to racism, might put the children in danger.

In other words, its not racism they are worried about, its those opposed to racism that worry them.

And Lepore is still getting paid.

As reported by Jonathan Bissonnette at the Pawtucket Times:

“If anything happened, I would also feel responsible in a way, that’s the situation I’m in all the time,” Lepore said, labeling his opponents as a “so-called resistance group.”

“They’re a bunch of bullies, they bully almost everything I do, they bully the people that hire me…” he said. “I don’t think they would have protested, I think they’re bluffing, but when there’s children involved, I could see why the library was concerned about it.”

10. Providence is moving ahead with it’s JUMP Bike bike share program.

11. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza endorses Aaron Regunberg for Lt Governor

12. Our Revolution Rhode Island announced that Sam Bell, running for Rhode Island State Senate as a Democrat in District 5, Providence, is the first candidate to receive an endorsement from the group.

“Our Revolution Rhode Island’s Endorsement Committee has endorsed Sam Bell as he is an example of a candidate that carries out Our Revolution principles and values,” says Endorsement Committee member Alicia Kelley. “We look forward to what Sam will accomplish in the State Senate.”

13. The Executive Board of Our Revolution also took Rhode Island Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, both Democrats, to task over their vote “to allow the continuation of war in Yemen without Congressional oversight.”

“This was the Senators’ opportunity to oppose an unsanctioned war, to stop a President with an unbridled taste for power and to stop increased United States aggression in Yemen until a full vote for war authorization took place in Congress. It would have sent a critical message to the world and to Trump and his Generals. Have we not learned anything from the failed invasions of Iraq or Syria?”

14. Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee (RILPAC) made its first endorsement of 2018 by endorsing Sandra Cano in the State Senate District 8 special election race. This represents the first major endorsement for the PAC’s newly elected board and symbolizes the PAC’s intention to play a major role in the upcoming 2018 elections.

15. In the wake of reports that Sinclair Media Group is “requiring its anchors to read promotional messages on air that many are calling ‘pro-Trump propaganda’” the Kent County Huddle once again protested outside local affiliate WJAR Channel 10, demanding that local news be locally controlled. Just under two dozen people met outside WJAR-10 offices and marched to Pontiac Avenue where they held signs for passing motorists to see. 

16. UpriseRI contributor Barry Schiller has a vision for better commuter rail.

17. Book Review the Collective book store: Freedom is a Constant Struggle

18. A rally for slain activist Marielle Franco was held at Brown University. Franco, a Rio de Janeiro City Council member, and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, were shot and killed on March 14 after a car pulled alongside theirs and opened fire. A rally was held at Brown University Tuesday in Franco’s memory. The rally also served as a protest against Brazil’s recent move to “near martial-law” as the military has taken on the job of state security.

19. This week UpriseRI is launching the Testimony Project. This project will make public and easily accessible the written testimony of the various lobbying groups that work the Rhode Island State House.

First up is the written testimony provided to the Rhode Island Senate Committee on Labor by Rhode Island Franchisee Association, Inc. In it, RIFA explains why they are opposed to raising the minimum wage in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Franchisee Association, Inc. pays Advocacy Solutions $60,000 a year to lobby on their behalf.

20a. Tomorrow, Saturday March 24 the March for Our Lives will take place around the world. In Rhode Island, thousands are planning to converge on the back lawn of the State House from 1-3 pm. March for Our Lives “is inspired by, created by, and led by students across the country.”

20b. You can read and watch the testimony of one of those students, Classical High School freshman Adah Bryan, here.

“We’re being called pawns, puppets, even child actors. We are too young to make our own choices, our own opinions, we’re too young to know what we’re talking about. Let me say, I am not a pawn. We are not pawns. I haven’t lived long, but still many times throughout my childhood I have seen shootings, mass murder, and mass death broadcasted on the news. When I say I want stronger gun control, I’m not a kid who doesn’t have enough information. I’m a young adult who has seen these things over and over again, Marjory Stoneman Douglas just being the last.”

21. Picture of the week:

Representative Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence)

That’s it for this week!

Pacific Rim Uprising is out! Of course, my favorite giant monster movie of all time is 1969’s Gamera vs. Guiron.


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About Steve Ahlquist 579 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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