Even as the ceasefire in Gaza broke down and violence resumed, forty activists gathered in downtown Providence yesterday to make the case for peace. The event was organized by Afsc-Sene. Check the link for future events.
By Steve Ahlquist on August 10, 2014
Even as the ceasefire in Gaza broke down and violence resumed, forty activists gathered in downtown Providence yesterday to make the case for peace. The event was organized by Afsc-Sene. Check the link for future events.
By Frymaster on August 10, 2014
Political endorsements ain’t what they used to be. If Donald Trump can issue endorsements and have people take them seriously, I figured…what the heck?
Herewith, my endorsements (i.e., people for whom I will vote) for select state-wide and GA races. I also add some one-liners at the end for GA candidates in districts other than my own. Unsurprisingly, virtually all endorsements are for the Democratic primary on September 9, 2014, which everybody knows is far more important than the general election in November.
Note: These endorsements solely represent my own opinion. They in no way represent the opinion of RI Future or its owners, editors and other contributors.
Typically, that right there is empty political blather, but if you’ve been around Providence over the past four years, you know it’s 100% real.Unlike the Providence mayoral primary, there is a real upside to getting the right Democratic candidate here, and a real downside to getting the wrong one. As mayor, Angel Taveras has proven himself a strong leader who can make the hard decisions.
Taveras inherited an absolute financial disaster, far worse than anybody in the campaign expected. The $110mm structural deficit stunned everybody. But Taveras made several crucial moves that let him and the city council craft a path back to stability. Specifically, he negotiated tough pension and union contract reforms by putting himself in the position of being the first to sacrifice.
That is, HE AND HIS OFFICE were first in line for the haircuts. There was not a lot that the other departments could do except take their hats off and sit down in the barber’s chair. As a result, the deal stuck, and the city could move on to other important issues.
Gina Raimondo, by contrast, has proven a disaster as treasurer. Her pension reform, so wildly applauded by the Wall Street Journal and other business allies, has spun out of control. It was so badly constructed that multiple rounds of mediation could not stop aggrieved pensioners from litigating.
It is the height of hypocrisy to claim that Raimondo created a pension deal. THERE IS NO DEAL.
This is what happens when a person accustomed to giving orders needs to work with others as co-equals (as Taveras did). Business people—that is, BOSSES—make for poor public servants. A good executive in the private sector makes a bad executive in the public sector.
In the nightmare scenario of a Raimondo administration, we should brace ourselves for ongoing class warfare. And because the state will remain mired in this conflict, we will not be able to address the actual issues facing us, like healing the economy and the ecology.
That connection between economy and ecology was front-and-center at Greg Gerritt‘s 60th birthday party / one-day conference last October. Somewhere around 100 practitioners, educators and activists that work in the “econo-logical industries,” if you will, convened at the Pawtucket Armory to learn and share.
Both Raimondo and Taveras dropped by, even though neither was a declared candidate. Later, I asked around about Raimondo…”Why is a venture capitalist speaking to a bunch of socialists? Does she have roots in this community?”
The answer I got was basically unanimous:
She’s laying down Astro-turf. She’s a 1-percenter. I don’t trust her.
Now she’s claiming herself to be a progressive. I ain’t buying’ it.
On Clay Pell…who is this guy? I personally find it insulting that some scion of the power class who married a minor celebrity feels he can waltz in from the federal structure and instantly be an effective governor. How about you put in a term in the GA and let people get to know you a little?
Where the governor’s race could have catastrophic consequences should the forces of light and goodness not prevail, the race for mayor of Providence fills me with hope for the future. Each of the three major candidates brings strong credentials and will likely make a good mayor.
I endorse Jorge Elorza for two reasons. First, I believe that more newcomers in office is exactly what Providence needs. (Although, it may prove unfortunate to lose Michael Solomon’s experience and leadership on the city council.) And while he’s new to elected office, he is not a newcomer to the city or the state. He has built a strong campaign team, attracting the kind of young leaders that can continue the work that Taveras has started.
More importantly, I endorse Elorza because his life experience better prepares him to deal with a troubling increase in violence, particularly on the South Side. Elorza grew up in a tough place going through tough times, and he prevailed where many of his peers did not. His performance at the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence candidate’s forum drove this home.
As a native of this city’s West End neighborhood who speaks fluent, near-native Spanish but also holds a law degree and has worked within the justice apparatus, Elorza is best-positioned to work with law enforcement and community groups to bring down the level of tension and violence.
This is my district, and it has seen some very difficult days, at least politically. The growing distrust in Gordon Fox exploded after his stunning failures in the 2010 and 2011 sessions, enabling Mark Binder to nearly beat him in 2012.
The FBI were nice enough to prove out our distrust by raiding then-Speaker Fox’s home and offices. Well, you know the story.
This race for the open seat illustrates the important choice Rhode Islanders face. Do we want true progressive reform or do we want yet more half-hearted and easily co-opted alleged liberals? Readers know my answer to that and should rightly expected this endorsement. Aaron Regunberg, it the tradition of David Segal and Chris Blazejewski, is bright, young, eager and committed.
Unlike the other two candidates, he has built strong connections with young people and communities of color. As a founder of the Providence Student Union, he has helped students at Hope High fend off the worst of the corporatist educational “reforms” touted by the other two candidates.
Miriam Ross seems a female version of Gordon Fox: a business-oriented lawyer ready to cater to the already powerful at the expense of the less-fortunate.
Heather Tow-Yick isa product of Teach for America, the epitome of wrong-headed educational reform. TfA works from the assumption that poor performance in inner-city schools comes from poorly-trained teachers and not from the OBVIOUS, GLARING INEQUITIES opportunity and support that burden the students that struggle the most.
If you’re a progressive, this one is a no-brainer.
Again, my district, and again, a no-brainer. Goldin is a US immigrant, who learned English as a second language. She has worked her entire career in social service non-profits, primarily in the areas of health and wellness for children, women and the disadvantaged.
Her opponent, Chris Wall, is among the power elites. A former TV news talker, he’s worked as press secretary for a state cabinet officer and sells real estate in a major way. He’s all about the business and comes off like a jock.
I’m sure that TPV would prefer dude-bro in her chamber rather than Ms. Goldin. For that reason alone, it must be Gayle in Senate 3.
Each person listed below is a first-time candidate at the state level. I can’t cast a ballot for any of these folks, but if I could, I’d elect:
David Fasteson, Senate 22—Good guy and hardest-working first time candidate EVAH vs. ex-cop and political repeat offender. (Sierra Club got this one wrong!)
Jennifer Siciliano, House 22—Woonsocket city planner with genuine progressive cred vs. scion of the power elite who’s only ever worked for the GA.
Doris De los Santos, Senate 7—Latina policy wonk vs. old, white lawyer who’s run unopposed more than he’s faced challengers in his six terms.
Margaux Morisseau, Senate 21—Woonsocket non-profit leader with genuine progressive cred vs. A REPUBLICAN!
Shelby Maldonado, House 56—New CF vs old CF…’nuff said.
Carlos Tobon, House 58—Not the most progressive Democrat vs. incumbent that often fails to vote and voted against marriage equality
Note: The second and third paragraphs in the section on Jorge Elorza were inverted in the original version. The author corrected the error approximately 6pm on the day of publication.
Posted in Campaign 2014, Elections, Featured, Gov14, Politics | Tagged aaron regunberg, Angel Taveras, carlos tobon, David Fasteson, Doris De los Santos, gayle goldin, Jennifer Siciliano, jorge elorza, margaux morisseau, Shelby Maldonado | 8 Responses
By Bob Plain on August 8, 2014
Would an income tax on people who work in Providence help the local economy by replacing a regressive tax with a progressive one? Justin Katz and I debate the merits and drawbacks to the idea on this week’s episode of NBC 10 Wingmen.
By Bob Plain on August 8, 2014
Frank Ferri, who bills himself as a “progressive Democrat for Lt. Governor,” released a plan today that would distance legislators from lobbyists during the session, and double the time retired legislators have to wait to become paid lobbyists.
“No business wants to come to a place where the government can’t be trusted,” according to his plan, which you can read here.
Ferri, a state representative from Warwick running for lt. governor against Ralph Mollis and Dan McKee, said:
“The system is broken, and to make matters worse, those tasked with oversight and compliance responsibility have not done their jobs. It’s no wonder Rhode Islanders have lost trust in government. Public service should be about advancing and protecting the interests of a legislator’s constituents, not building relationships that the legislator can use later to pad his or her wallet.”
Ferri’s proposal would double the amount of time – from one year to two – that a former legislator would have to wait to become a lobbyist. A committee chair would have to wait for years under the proposal and the House speaker and Senate president would have to wait six years. It would also ban lobbyists from loaning legislators money.
It would also prohibit lobbyists and political action committees from donating to legislators during the session. In explaining why, he lifts the veil a bit on how the sausage is actually made on Smith Hill.
“In a practice that has become so ingrained within our state’s political culture, legislators typically hold fundraisers every week during the legislative session,” according to the proposal. “It is so commonplace, that committee hearings are often scheduled around these events.
These social hours are, on the surface, harmless opportunities for legislators to mingle with constituents and each other. However, for professional lobbyists, they provide unmatched hours of special access to Assembly leadership and committee chairs – access that the average constituent can’t afford. These fundraisers have replaced the smoke-filled back rooms of years past to become the modern day place where legislation is really won and lost.”
The plan would also make available online the names of lobbyists who testify on legislation.
“The committees already collect this information in the form of sign-in sheets. Instead of these sheets being quietly filed away, they should be posted online so that the public can see for themselves who is speaking for or against a particular bill. The House and Senate could adopt this policy immediately, and Ferri has written to the House Speaker and the Senate President to ask them to adopt the policy in their respective 2015 rules.”
By Steve Ahlquist on August 8, 2014
At the Rhode Island State House yesterday just under 200 people representing 15,000 Liberian-Americans living here in Rhode Island rallied to call attention to the terrible Ebola crisis now ravaging four countries in Africa. The rally succeeded in its goal of gaining the attention of political leaders as Mayor Angel Taveras addressed the crowd and rally organizers announced a meeting with Representative David Cicilline to take place at his Pawtucket office following the rally.
Rally organizer and facilitator Kormasa Amos kept the proceedings on track, encouraging singing and dancing by the crowd. Samuel Aboh Jr., the other rally organizer and keynote speaker, developed the #ebolabegone campaign online, which has gained national prominence. Willete Holt delivered a poem to the crowd which was extremely well received.
Rhode Island has the largest Liberian population in the country, and the Ebola virus is tearing through that country as we speak. People are being quarantined in their homes, hospitals are closing. Food and water are becoming scarce. This is a massive humanitarian crises. Supplies, such as water, non-perishable foods and medical supplies can be dropped off at Decontee’s African Restaurant at 711 Broad St, Jerry’s Beauty Salon at 500 Broad St, Christ Center of Praise Church at 93 Prudence Ave, and at Council President Michael Solomon’s office at the Providence City Hall.
000 Kormasa Amos
000 Song 002
000 Song 003
001 Kormosa Amos
002 Sister Miatta Dorley
003 Randell Dauda
004 Poem Willette Holt
005a Winston Gould
005b Fatima Khadar
005c Deen Ibiyemi
005d Dr Fine
006 Samuel Aboh Jr
007 Hull, Solomon Vincent
007 Claudius Cooper
By Robert Malin on August 8, 2014
The Rhode Island chapter of the Sierra Club has released the endorsement of the following candidates for state representative. As part of the oldest environmental group in the country, our selection committee based this on a questionnaire we did with Clean Water Action which was sent to every candidate running. Also, for incumbents, the Environmental Council of Rhode Islands legislative scorecard was used. Additionally, as is the policy of Sierra Club nationally, special weight was given to candidates who come from in activist background, particularly those who have worked with us on campaigns in the past.
Edie Ajello – H. 1 Providence
Chris Blazejewski – H.2 Providence
Aaron Regunberg – H. 4 Providence
Maria Cimini- H. 7 Providence
John Lombardi – H. 8 Providence
Grace Dias- H. 11 Providence
Art Handy – H. 18 Cranston
Dave Bennett H. 20 Warwick
Joe Solomon H. 22 Warwick
Scott Guthrie – H. 28 Coventry
Teresa Tanzi -H. 34 Narragansett/South Kingstown
Donna Walsh – H. 36 Charlestown/Westerly/SK/BI
Larry Valencia – H. 39 Richmond/Exeter/Hopkington
Jay O’Grady – H. 46 Lincoln/Pawtucket
Linda Finn – H. 72 Middletown/Portsmouth
Deb Ruggiero – H. 74 Jamestown
Lauren Carson – H. 75 Newport
Gayle Goldin- S.3 Providence
Doris De Los Santos – S. 7 Pawtucket
Adam Satchell – S. 9 West Warwick
William Conley- S. 18 East Prov/Pawtucket
Stephen Archambault – S. 22 Smithfield/N. Prov/Johnston
Margaux Morisseau – S. 21 Coventry/Foster/Scituate/W. Greenwich
Josh Miller – S. 28 Cranston
Cathie Cool Rumsey – S. 34 Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, W. Greenwich
Sue Sosnowski- S. 37 South Kingstown/Block Island
We thank every one who returned the surveys. We received a record number of responses and some of the decisions were difficult but everyone was considered carefully. There will be a second announcement of endorsements for the Governors, Lieutenant Governor and Treasured along with additional State Representative endorsements.
Congratulations to all those selected in this first round of endorsements and we will work with your campaigns and other endorsees to get you elected.
By Steve Ahlquist on August 7, 2014
The future of democracy is being threatened and will be determined by our response to the problem of ever increasing wealth inequality. As a very few generate exceptional profits from capital investments, the rest of us recede ever further into relative poverty. Democracy and the open society are under serious threat from snowballing capitalism, which buys elections and access to the political system at prices the average citizen cannot compete with. It is not science fiction to suggest that our children may be slaves in all but name to uncaring oligarchs in some dystopian future.
One of the problems reformers run into is the opaqueness of the financial world. Not only are the systems that govern financial transactions intentionally byzantine and unnecessarily complex, financial actors working within the system do everything they can to obscure who owns what assets, who is paying how much to whom, and by what pathways money tends to flow. Everyone who has seen a movie is familiar with the idea of “shell corporations” and “offshore accounts” as a way of hiding financial assets for nefarious purposes, but few of us are aware of how pervasive these and similar practices are in reality.
If we seek to put an end to ever increasing economic and political inequality and prevent future economic crises similar to or worse than our recent recession, then economic transparency is of the utmost importance. As Thomas Piketty says in his landmark (but far from perfect) Capital in the Twenty-First Century, “there should be clarity about who owns what assets around the world.” (page 518)
Piketty argues that the debate around growing inequality and the management of global capitalism is operating in the dark. We have no reliable data about who owns what and how much money they are making. A significant portion of the world’s wealth seems to be squirreled away into secret black market accounts. Without accurate data, we are flying blind and suggesting solutions to problems we don’t fully understand.
It is in this light that I see the actions of Treasurer Gina Raimondo as contrary to the public good. Raimondo, far from fighting for the rights and economic prosperity of all Rhode Islanders, seems more interested in veiling herself and her allies from financial scrutiny. For instance, Raimondo’s use of a blind trust, to hide her investments and income from scrutiny during her gubernatorial campaign, flaunts economic clarity and openness.
More problematic is the outrageous letter Raimondo sent to the RI Attorney General’s office, in which the treasurer maintains that revealing the amount of money Rhode Island pays to its hedge fund managers might put hedge fund managers at risk of kidnapping! From David Sirota at the International Business Times:
Citing the case of Eddie Lampert, an investor who was abducted in 2003 by ransom-seeking kidnappers, the letter to Assistant Rhode Island Attorney General Michael Field from Raimondo’s office further argued that disclosing too much information about financial fees and compensation could endanger the lives of hedge fund managers.
The amount of money people like Treasurer Raimondo make from their jobs as elected officials pales to insignificance when compared to the amount of money they generate from their capital investments. If people were given a true picture of how wealth is distributed, there would be outrage. This is why financial transactions and the ownership of assets is hidden, and why a new era of financial transparency is mandatory if we wish to preserve our democracy.
Otherwise, the only viable financial plan for those wishing to avoid economic serfdom may be the realization of Treasurer Raimondo’s worst fears: the kidnapping and ransoming of the 1%.
By Rebecca McGoldrick on August 7, 2014
For decades, the United States has provided weapons, combat training, and billions of dollars to governments, paramilitary troops, and even cartels themselves under the guise of protecting us from illegal drugs. Not only has that approach totally failed — after all, illegal drugs today are cheap, widely accessible, and more potent than ever before — but it has destabilized entire countries and created one of the most serious human rights crises of modern times. It may be difficult for us to admit, but we have a moral imperative to acknowledge our central role in creating and sustaining this destructive drug war that has forced tens of thousands of children leave their parents and flee their homes.
Just on the face of it, it is clear that the drug war has been massively counterproductive. Despite pouring more than a trillion dollars into the war on drugs over several decades, the United States leads the world in illegal drug consumption. The sale of illegal drugs to American consumers makes up the vast majority of cartels’ income and directly fuels the violence in Latin America. As with alcohol prohibition, our attempt to eradicate drug use by waging a war on the suppliers and producers has only created more corruption and bloodshed.
Instead of addressing the demand side of the equation — as we have done successfully with tobacco and other drugs — we have created a firestorm of violence in an attempt to eradicate the supply of illegal drugs in countries that produce them. Providing weapons and money to Latin American countries, our government has further escalated the destabilizing violence. We have used our imperial power to convince our neighbors to expand their military and police forces and mobilize them against the cartels. Fighting fire with fire has only turned millions of innocent bystanders into victims.
No other part of the world has felt the wrath of the drug war as severely as Latin America. Colombia is home to the world’s largest internal refugee population; Mexico saw more than 60,000 drug war related killings from 2006 to 2012; and Honduras has become the murder capital of the world. It comes as no surprise that some of the most outspoken leaders against the drug war are current and former Latin American presidents, including José Mujica of Uruguay, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, César Gaviria of Colombia, and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico.
Though responsible for the lion’s share of illegal drug use in the US, mainstream white America has for the most part managed to insulate itself from the destructive human costs of the drug war. Enforcement of our drug laws here at home has been focused on poor, urban, minority communities. For decades, guns and money have gone south while drugs have come north, eventually reaching the affluent suburbs, but leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. This arrangement has allowed us to export most of the violence and corruption to our inner cities and neighboring countries.
The new attention given to the child refugees at our border, however, provides an opportunity for us as a country to reflect on the damage we have inflicted on millions of children and families with our failed war on drugs. Imagine what it must take for a mother to decide that the best chances for her children’s survival is to send them through a barren desert accompanied by armed coyotes. The drug war has created such an environment of corruption, chaos, and indiscriminate violence that parents feel they have no other choice.
The child refugees at our border are fleeing a hell that we in the United States helped create. While many are quick to blame the victims, there is no denying that there is blood on our hands. We are fueling a war in our back yard in a futile attempt to kick our own drug habit. It’s time for us to break the taboo and begin seriously considering alternative drug control strategies. We must demand that our political leaders end the futile and destructive war on drugs immediately. The lives of children at home and abroad depend on it.
Rebecca McGoldrick is the Executive Director of Protect Families First, an organization working to end the war on drugs.
By Steve Ahlquist on August 6, 2014
According to urban myth the tallest building in Providence is commonly believed to be the model for the Daily Planet Building in the comics, television series and films of Superman. It’s not, but a good story is often better than the truth, so as the building changed ownership and the name of the building changed, most Rhode Islanders have taken to referring to it as “Superman Building.” The actual building used in the 1950s Adventures of Superman television program was the Los Angeles City Hall. The Daily Planet Building’s depiction in comics over the years has been far from consistent.
I maintain that the nickname for the building is not only spurious in origin, it’s insulting to the character of Superman. Grant Morrison, a Superman writer who has documented the Man of Steel in the book, Supergods, explains the character in this interview:
At the beginning, Superman was very much a socialist superhero. He fought for the unemployed, the oppressed, he beat up wife-beaters. It’s about a man driven by a burning sense of injustice — there are no monsters or robots, he fights against corrupt council officials! He was conceived as a Depression-era superhero, who dealt with the problems of ordinary people.
Morrison describes a Superman very different from the political and symbolic role the former Bank of America Building plays in present day Rhode Island politics. In the shadow of that architectural monolith lies Kennedy Plaza, now threatened for extermination precisely because the busing hub serves ordinary people, the unemployed and the oppressed. Instead of fighting against corrupt city officials, the former Industrial Trust Tower seems to actively collude with the political power structure. Indeed, the building has more in common with Superman’s arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, the brillaint super-villainous corporate executive who cares only for his own fortune and power and nothing for the rest of humanity.
In deference to Superman’s good name, I can only refer to that piece of real estate by its address, 111 Westminster, and I ask everyone who believes in truth and justice to join me.
By Bob Plain on August 6, 2014
The Providence Journal reports that using the NECAP test as a graduation requirement would have only deprived one student of a diploma, and in that article Mancuso is quoted as saying: “Maybe everybody should trust the professionals rather than running behind our backs and going to the legislature. The system worked just fine.”
In “response” six groups who argued to suspend the NECAP graduation requirement, sent a letter to legislative leaders:
An article in today’s Providence Journal quotes RI Board of Education Chair Eva S Marie Mancuso as citing RIDE! data that only one student benefitted from the “high stakes testing” moratorium bill that passed at the end of the session. In doing so, she suggests that passage of the law was unnecessary (or worse), and that its impact was negligible. Since she expressed interest in informing the General Assembly about the law’s impact from the Board’s perspective, our organizations thought! it worth making you aware of! it from our less defensive posture.
The groups are the RI ACLU, the Providence NAACP, the Providence Student Union, young Voices, RI Teachers of English Language Learners and Parents Across Rhode Island. You can read the letter here. It says the data is inaccurate (the ProJo article says only one student would have been denied a diploma but the ACLU says this document shows that three students in Bristol alone would not have graduated) and that the number of students potentially denied a diploma was but one reason for the moratorium.
“But perhaps its most important impact is in ensuring that, at least for the next three years, teachers won’t have to waste hours and hours of classroom time teaching to an irrelevant test, and students won’t be dragged out of real classwork in order to spend pointless hours cramming for a meaningless standardized test.”
By Bob Plain on August 6, 2014
In the TV Commercial War that is the Democratic primary campaign for governor, Angel Taveras has tacked away from his defensive stance against Gina Raimondo to launch an offensive front against Clay Pell.
Pell’s campaign, in response, tacked away from what I called it’s positive campaign strategy, saying in an email:
For weeks now, Mayor Taveras and Treasurer Raimondo have been lobbing negative attacks at one another. At the same time, Clay has been focused on one thing — talking with Rhode Islanders about the new ideas and fresh approach he’ll bring as Governor, and his real plan to get our state back on course.
Because of the growing momentum of our grassroots campaign, Mayor Taveras has now turned his mudslinging in our direction. We, however, firmly reject the politics of attack and innuendo. Clay learned from his grandfather that campaigns shouldn’t be about tearing people down, but should be about ideas for the future.
I also wrote that Pell was playing the role of spoiler in this three-way battle. Several respected progressive voices chimed in to correct me. In a comment on that post, Will Collette, publisher of the Progressive Charlestown blog, wrote:
I’ve been hearing this “Clay is a spoiler” line coming from the Taveras camp for weeks and I don’t buy it.
Taveras is running a lack-luster campaign, can’t raise the money and has surrounded himself with more than a few good ole boy synchophants. It bothers me to see guys on the city payroll playing whips and enforcers for the Taveras campaign. I heard one of them, after a particularly ugly incident, tell a colleague why he acted like a jerk, saying “hey, I work for the guy.”
Yeah, the “Headstart to Harvard” line was good when he started the campaign, but what else does he have except whining about how Gina is running ads against him? What did he expect?
That he’s losing ground while Clay is gaining begs the question of who’s the spoiler – Clay or Taveras?
The Mayor said that for people like me, who REALLY don’t want to see Raimondo become Governor, he’s the only choice and that supporting Clay Pell only makes a Raimondo win more likely.
If Angel Taveras really believes in “anybody but Raimondo,” maybe he ought to consider withdrawing and supporting Clay.
And ardent Clay Pell supporter Bob Walsh wrote this on a Facebook post:
You will know Angel is in third place when he goes negative on Clay too. Then those who support Angel because they despise Gina will have a choice – sticking with their candidate, who is now in the spoiler position, or joining the people-powered, positive campaign of the only Democrat in the race that no labor or progressive voter can oppose on the issues. The next 5 weeks will be fascinating!
By Steve Ahlquist on August 6, 2014
In the minds of some Rhode Island politicians and business leaders, the empty and unsellable “Superman” building hangs like a millstone around the neck of the City of Providence. Rather than come to grips with the fact that the building is rundown and overpriced and that new economic thinking is needed to reinvigorate the Capital City, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Warwick Mayor Scott Avidesian (who currently heads RIPTA, the Rhode Island Public Transportation Administration), have pushed through a plan that scapegoats the poor, disabled, elderly, homeless and people of color.
The new vision for a modern and vibrant downtown does not include a busing hub. So Kennedy Plaza has been fenced off and is being destroyed as quickly as possible, before an outraged public can mount any kind of coordinated defense. Already the shelters have been taken down and trucked away, and the expensive heating system that automatically melts the snow is being dug up and scrapped. This work is leaving a giant pit in the center of downtown, even though there is no money allocated to completing the project. The plan seems akin to digging a hole in the hopes that someone will come along and build a house there.
Simply stated, this is class warfare being waged against the most vulnerable populations in our state, and it is being done with taxpayer money. Instead of walking across a plaza replete with convenient shelters to transfer from one bus to another, bus riders are now required to walk several blocks from one bus to another. In the winter, when Burnside Park is effectively one giant sheet of ice, the walk will become more treacherous or even impossible, especially for the handicapped and the elderly.
Yesterday the RIPTA Riders Alliance held a press conference calling on officials to allow the public to have real input into the redesign of Kennedy Plaza. They demanded that construction be halted pending the swearing in of a new Mayor of Providence and a review of the plan. Forty-five people attended the event, including members of the Sierra Club, the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, Occupy Providence, The George Wiley Center and others.
Tonya Withers, a homeless woman who sleeps in Kennedy Plaza on the hard stones of the Civil War Monument, also spoke out against the construction and in favor of greater public services for the poor and homeless.
Of course, Tonya is exactly the kind of person this new plan seeks to eliminate from downtown, so what are the chances that city or RIPTA officials will give her words any weight?
RIPTA Riders Rochelle
RIPTA Riders Elaine
RIPTA Riders Patricia Raub
Sierra Club Barry Schiller
Occupy Providence Randall Rose
RIPTA Riders Ele
RIPTA Riders Ingrid
RIPTA Riders Ralph
By Bob Plain on August 6, 2014
“We trust that Seth will bring a progressive focus to the office of Treasurer,” the group said in a statement. “He has a strong commitment to the issues of workers’ rights, job security, livable wages, affordable banking services, and a relief from predatory lending practices. He wants to reopen negotiations on the pension mess and has a plan to bring Rhode Island investment dollars home for microloans to support small businesses and start-up companies. And he supports a more progressive tax system and other measures to address the growing issue of income inequality.”
Magaziner is a newcomer to Rhode Island politics and he’s worked for Trillium, a socially-responsible investment firm in Boston. He’s vying in the primary against Frank Caprio, the former state treasurer.
RIPDA said of Caprio “we believe that Rhode Island needs new faces and a fresh vision.”
By transportprovidence on August 6, 2014
Recently Congress passed a temporary funding measure for the Highway Trust Fund. The House-designed plan used a number of funding gimmicks that drew money from non-road expenditures to cover road construction projects. Although the Rhode Island delegation put up a protest to these pro-car funding mechanisms, it also in the end voted for them.
Since the temporary nature of the budget bill means this issue will come up again shortly, progressives should be aware of what the issues are so that next time we can demand a better deal.
I’ve chosen to push our own Senator Whitehouse on this issue, not by any means because he’s got the worst views in the Senate, but in fact because I think he’s got the potential to move beyond his mediocre position and become a real champion for reform on this issue. In a state like ours, where being a champion for better transportation isn’t a political liability, our senators should be using the deliberative nature of the upper house to prevent bills like this from passing.
Leading up to the vote, Sen. Whitehouse gave a speech against the House Bill, and proposed a more progressive alternative favored by a coalition in the Senate. The first thing to understand about the Senate bill is that although it was far better than the House one, and might have made an acceptable compromise, it still had a lot of problems with it, and much of that was displayed in Whitehouse’s speech.
The first thing to be said is that Whitehouse puts up a big protest, but says outright in the speech that he’s willing to vote for the bad bill, which he did. Think about this from the perspective of the Tea Party. What incentive does the rightwing of this country have to compromise in any form when its opponents announce such weakness upfront? The strength of the right in this country is that it continually draws a line in the sand that is outside of the Overton Window, and then demands that others catch up. The left needs to see itself in this same light. Whitehouse’s criticism of the House bill was welcomed, but his admission upfront that he had nothing up his sleeve to actually oppose the bill meant that the Tea Party had already won.
Sen. Whitehouse explains a number of reasons for being willing to vote for the problematic bill:
*He says we need to protect jobs– This is an understandable position in a state with poor employment, but the nature of our road infrastructure does a poor overall job of protecting a growing economy. Short-term spending on roads does employ some people, but if those roads cut off neighborhoods from neighborhoods, that harms the overall productivity of our cities. The overall cost of road infrastructure and car-oriented development outstrips its benefits in the longterm, what some observers have referred to as the Ponzi Scheme of Suburban Development.
The nature of both the House and the defeated Senate bill did nothing to address the nature of road building. Sen. Whitehouse has, for instance, lobbied on behalf of special funding for projects like the Providence “Viaduct” which divides the city in quarters, takes up about as much land as the I-195 Project, and makes non-car travel impossible from neighborhood to neighborhood. After funding was restored to the HTF, a number of states saw resumption of road widening. If Sen. Whitehouse and the others in the Rhode Island delegation would have held their ground on this issue, a short-term crisis in road spending might have forced some serious conversations nationwide about whether we’re spending our resources in a wise way.
*He uses the AAA and the American Society of Civil Engineers as support for his position. The AAA, though not viewed as a political organization by most Americans, is in fact deeply embedded in preventing transit projects, blocking parking reform, bike lanes, and other projects that reduce people’s dependence on cars. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives “letter grades” to roads which include at times their structural integrity, but which also include measures such as “functional obsolescence.” Functionally obsolete bridges sound scary, but what that term actually means is that the bridges aren’t considered big enough by a subjective standard set by the ASCE. It’s important to understand that solutions like road widening, which a lot of HTF money goes to, actually worsen traffic congestion by creating an induced demand to drive. By quoting these sources uncritically, Sen. Whitehouse joins the road-building lobby and betrays his best efforts to stand up to climate change. More to the point, he endangers economic development, as the bigger picture around jobs and the economy calls for more investment in walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented places, and less sprawl and road-heavy design.
*The Senator rhetorically blames the age of Rhode Island’s colonial infrastructure for the poor condition of its roads. This is ironic on a number of levels, and intentionally or unintentionally misleads the public. Colonial roads, like Touro Street in Newport or Benefit Street in Providence are 1) not federally funded by the Highway Trust Fund, 2) Extremely cheap to construct and maintain–by many orders of magnitude–compared to highways, which are funded through the HTF, 3) usually able to self-support through local property taxes, because by nature they’re able to have housing and businesses alongside them, something which highways tend to push away. Post WWII road construction, which usually costs more than the surplus development it encourages, and is thus fiscally unsustainable in the long run, is the source of Rhode Island’s, and the country’s, transportation problems.
*Senator Whitehouse deserves credit for supporting a higher gasoline tax, calling for users to pay a fee for the roads they use rather than have them funded through a House gimmick. The gasoline tax has advantages and disadvantages. One issue, as mentioned in the colonial roads example, is that for road projects the federal gasoline tax is only available to projects like bridges and large roads, and this means that local short trips by car tend to subsidize longer trips (this wouldn’t be a problem if everyone used the highway equally, but since that’s not the case, it effectively underprices highways and overprices local roads). The continuation of a system in which gasoline taxes only fund half of road construction means that all non-car trips subsidize car trips as well. Raising the gasoline tax would tend to improve funding for these projects, while decreasing demand to drive, but it’s unclear that there’s a mechanism in our current transportation system to get state DOTs, that receive and manage much of the federal HTF, to spend less on roads. The fact that Sen. Whitehouse frames road construction as a form of jobs program underlines this issue. We need a better funding system, including a mix of a higher gasoline tax, as well as parking taxes, congestion pricing, and other mechanisms, alongside a better spending system. Support for “saving” the HTF without reform means “saving” our highway-dependent road spending. That’s nothing good.
*Pet projects sometimes get funding from the HTF. Sen. Whitehouse cites the Great Island Bridge, which serves a low density housing cul de sac in Narragansett. A just spending system on roads would have municipalities building bridges like this, rather than consigning them to federal spending. The overall structure of the HTF means that states get disproportionate amounts of money to spend as compared to their populations, so that Rhode Island is a rare dense state joined by many rural states that also take more than they put in to the system (the State of Rhode Island and its Providence Plantations are poorly suited to continue to expand its road system, when cities like Providence, for instance, have more highway lane-miles per capita than most other cities in the country). This means that denser, larger states that are more likely to focus on transit or biking lose out on funding. The aspects of the HTF that make it a good way to bring home spending to states with bad economies is also the aspect of the fund that makes it a bad way to prioritize transportation funding.
The federal vs. local framework that some progressives, including Sen. Whitehouse apply to this issue is understandable. On some issues, having the federal government intervene and take a stance that local governments will not is paramount to the functioning of a democracy. The history of left-leaning voters’ preference for federal over local spending comes from an honest source–without the federal role, issues like African-American civil rights might never have been resolved, even to the limited degree that they are today.
But when we encounter federal programs that do more harm than good–that essentially codify a bad way of doing things–we need to distinguish between that type of federal response and other progressive examples. What’s exciting about the new conservative recognition of some of these truths is that there is now a left-leaning as well as a right-leaning constituency for reform. Likewise, there still exists a left-leaning and a right-leaning constituency to keep things the way that they are. In standing up to the Tea Party, Sen. Whitehouse may have the right motivations, but if what he ends up supporting is business-as-usual with the Highway Trust Fund, that will ultimately harm Rhode Island.
Ultimately, a Rhode Island with less money to spend on roads would be a healthier Rhode Island. It would be a Rhode Island that would focus money on fixing local roads, on encouraging infill and reducing farmland destruction, on emphasizing Bus Rapid Transit and biking over road widening or vanity transit. There’s no value to short-term jobs over that. As Sen. Whitehouse himself emphasized, we need to look at the overall picture for jobs, not just particular jobs in particular industries.
When Sen. Whitehouse is again confronted with a chance to vote for a bad House Bill, we hope he’ll stand firm and vote no. We also hope to see some deeper investigation of these transportation and land use issues in his upcoming Time to Wake Up speeches. The Senator has been a leader on climate change within the hermetically sealed realm of direct environmental regulation, but he needs to see how his stances on issues like transportation directly correspond to the effectiveness of his overall message.
Time to Wake Up!
By Bob Plain on August 5, 2014
Charges were dropped last week against John Leidecker, but a Providence Journal editorial still wants NEARI official fired for sending crass – but not criminal - emails to then Bristol Rep. Doug Gablinske.
Ed Achorn, editor of the paper’s op/ed page, and Bob Walsh, executive director of NEARI, debated the merits of the piece this morning on Twitter.
By Bob Plain on August 4, 2014
In some ways, the Democratic primary for governor is an epic battle between two factions of the party.
Angel Taveras, the progressive mayor of Providence who saved the city from fiscal disaster is in a public slugfest with Gina Raimondo, the well-heeled, Wall Street insider infamous for cutting pensions and investing the savings in hedge fund fees.
After beginning the campaign by negotiating a Peoples’ Pledge, Taveras and Raimondo are now running dueling attack ads on each other. And late last week their feud reached fever pitch when the Raimondo camp accused a Taveras supporter of sneaking into an event and trying to steal her cellphone. (The Taveras campaign apologized for the first transgression and denied the other.)
Such sleaziness would be the bigger news if it wasn’t for Clay Pell. Everyone is most abuzz about his people-powered, positive campaign strategy. Couple that with millions of his own money, and it could prove to be a winning strategy.
Unless it ends up just being the spoiler strategy.
Many expect Pell to make a huge leap in the next round of polling. But few expect it will be big enough to win. He may well best Taveras in the end, but it seems most-likely that Raimondo will beat them both. While Pell and Taveras split the left, Raimondo is drawing new conservatives into the Democratic Party – I know of at least one longtime Republican who plans to vote for Raimondo in the Democratic primary this year. And if Raimondo wins the primary, a swarm of influential liberals will give serious consideration to voting for a Republican.
So even as the drama unfolds between Wall Street and Main Street Democrats, the left’s lack of ability to agree on a candidate may have already guaranteed Rhode Island’s next governor will be a conservative.
By Bob Plain on August 4, 2014
Congress should make a long term commitment to funding transportation, especially given that Rhode Island has the worst infrastructure and unemployment in the nation, I argued on Wingmen last week. Meanwhile, Justin Katz suggests we forgo federal money and fund transportation locally, which doesn’t seem like a serious solution to me.
By Steve Ahlquist on August 2, 2014
On Friday afternoon Providence joined cities around the world holding a rallies calling for an end to hostilities in Gaza. The local event, outside the Federal building in Downtown, across from Kennedy Plaza, was hosted by the American Friends Service Committee and attended by activists from several local groups, including Occupy Providence and East Bay Citizens for Peace. Those in attendance were against both the war as it is being perpetrated by Israel and the continued funding of Israel’s military by the United States.
In a long conversation with Kevin, one of the protesters, we talked about how sad it is that being against war is an unpopular political position. Certainly everyone talks about wanting peace, but how many are committed to disarmament, and the cessation of military sales and preventing the development of new weapons systems?
I maintain that agitating for peace is more courageous than advocating for war.
Members of three other groups were also in attendance: The Providence Police Department, the United States Marshall Service and Homeland Security were all on hand, apparently to make sure that peace activists don’t get out of hand and do… peaceful things…
I don’t know why so much law enforcement needed to be there, actually.
Another rally is scheduled for next Friday at 4pm.
By Bob Plain on August 1, 2014
“We believe he is both the most progressive and the most viable candidate in the race,” the group said in a press release.
“Of the three candidates, he shows the strongest commitment to progressive tax policy. He is the only candidate to commit on our questionnaire to supporting a repeal of the state’s 2006 tax cuts, which led to devastating cuts in municipal aid and an increase in the regressive property and car taxes. (The other candidates were undecided.) He is the most skeptical of the large tax breaks the city hands out to favored developments, and we trust him to take a rigorous approach to evaluating these deals.”
“It’s an honor to have the endorsement of such an engaged and thoughtful group of activists,” Elorza said. “Our message of ‘One Providence’ is about focusing on the things that will bring us together and move us forward as a city, and I believe that the Progressive Democrats share those values. We continue to build a coalition in every neighborhood and every community that will push us to victory.”
Smiley’s press liaison Josh Block said Smiley has been endorsed by many members of the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, such as Senator Gayle Goldin, Representatives Linda Finn and Edie Ajello, and Margaux Morisseau. “Brett’s proud of his progressive background, and he looks forward to turning these values into practical solutions as mayor,” Block said.
Meanwhile, Dan McGowan posted to this popular Facebook group he created that Elorza is leading Smiley in campaign cash on hand, too. According to McGowan Elorza has $217,729 and Smiley has $109,661. Solomon leads the four candidates with $526,203 and Republican Daniel Harrop has $130,986. “Buddy Cianci doesn’t have to file until Oct. 7,” he wrote.
Also today, the Smiley camp has called on Elorza to return a $2,000 donation from Gianfranco Marrocco. Marrocco owns the $3 Bar on Federal Hill that has been plagued by violence recently.
“Jorge Elorza has accepted thousands of dollars, and an endorsement, from Gianfranco Marrocco, a man who has been at the center of multiple incidents of violence in our city and just this week uttered a string of racist comments directed towards Mayor Taveras, said Smiley in an email. “Last Wednesday, I released my ‘Good Government Plan’ to prevent disproportionate access for people like Gianfranco Marrocco, people who donate to politicians and expect special treatment in return. This type of pay-to-play politics cannot be allowed to continue, and Mr. Elorza is sending the wrong message by cashing Marrocco’s checks.”
Elorza said he is not opposed to returning the donation. But on one condition: “If Smiley is willing to publicly stand 100% behind everything that every one of his supporters has ever said or done, then I will return Marrocco’s contributions.”
He also said: “Gianfranco Marrocco’s comments about Mayor Taveras were unacceptable and a distraction from the real issue here. The violence on Federal Hill must be stopped and I stand ready to work with all of the business owners to aggressively hold any violators accountable, period. Now, as to Smiley’s ‘pay to play’ accusations, that’s just plain ridiculous. He is constantly itching for a fight. We have a race to win and I won’t get distracted from communicating our message of One Providence to every neighborhood.”
Correction: an earlier version of this post indicated they candidates had raised certain amounts of money. In fact, those numbers indicate how much money they have on hand.
By Tom Sgouros on August 1, 2014
Almost four years ago, I endorsed Gina Raimondo to be Rhode Island’s General Treasurer. Since then, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, and now a new election campaign is before us. Gina, the fundraising juggernaut that she is, is now facing better-than-decent odds in a quest for the Governor’s office.
Four years ago, when Raimondo first ran for office, she had no record at all to judge. Anyone who voted for her was voting for a promise, or maybe an image. Though lots of voters will always go for the image regardless of the reality, it is no longer necessary. We have three years of record with which to judge her. So what do we learn?
When I first sat down with Gina in 2010, she said that the issue that concerned her most was income inequality. She said it without hesitation, almost the first thing after “Hello, how are you?” (and in front of a witness, too). Well, fine; creating an economy that is good for everyone is one of the central economic issues of our time. But when did she speak out on the subject in public? Was it before it became popular to do so this year?
One component of doing something about inequality in the economy is to address the declining value of the minimum wage. As part of her campaign platform, Raimondo has come out in favor of increasing the minimum wage. This is all to the good, but our legislature saw efforts to increase the minimum wage in 2012 and 2013, too. Do you remember her speaking out on the issue when it mattered then?
A strong stand on the minimum wage will be important for her in a contested Democratic primary. But it would have been important for the rest of us for her to mention that support some time ago.
The minimum wage, however, is only a small part of what needs to be done to address the inequality that plagues us. For example, tax cuts for rich people — at the state and federal level — have been a key part of making inequality worse. During Raimondo’s term as Treasurer, the legislature made permanent the income tax cuts for the rich awarded a few years before, making them much more difficult to repeal. Gina, a wealthy individual whose background in finance and degree in economics gives her plenty of clout on economic issues inside the state house, was silent on the issue.
There are a host of other issues, of course, such as predatory financial services. To her credit, Raimondo has spoken out against payday lenders who charge 290% interest for loans to the poor and desperate. However, it was not very long ago that interest rates a lot lower than that were considered loan-sharking, exclusively the province of heavy-set guys with baseball bats. It’s hard to see speaking out against 290% as brave, even if there exist profiles in courage at the General Assembly that still refuse to do so.
Of course all these issues are minor compared to the big one she embraced: pension reform. In 2011, the threat to the state and all the school departments was that employer payments made into the pension system were scheduled to rise by more than 50% in 2012. And yet payments from the pension system — the actual pensions — were only expected to rise by a few percent, a rate that was actually declining each year, largely due to three previous rounds of pension reform in the preceding six years.
By refusing to question the accounting rules that created such a huge disparity, Raimondo guaranteed the outcome: that the state’s employees would take the brunt of the cuts, and that they would be very painful to them, without relieving our cities and towns of much burden at all. That, of course, is precisely what happened. (Or what might still happen, depending on the still-pending court cases.)
She saw the situation as a dilemma: a choice between two bad options, but it was a false dilemma. There were other choices, but they would have required her to stand up to the accountants and financiers who insisted there was no choice. Instead, she followed their rules.
To her credit, I believe Raimondo has acted in a moral and thoughtful way within those rules. Our state can do much worse than that, and we often have. However, the sad fact is that these rules — the ones we all play by — are stacked against ordinary citizens, and I’ve seen little acknowledgement of that from her. From taxes that weigh most heavily on the poorest while exempting the wealthiest, to laws that punish criminals for stealing cars but don’t punish banks for stealing houses, to accounting rules that are unnecessarily destroying public pension systems and squeezing municipal budgets across the country, our nation is beset with rules and laws made to benefit the powerful and wealthy, at the expense of the rest of us. Our state is no different.
Sadly, a great deal of harm has been done to our nation and our state by well-meaning and morally upright people who refuse to question the rules of the game. To date, Gina Raimondo has been a proud part of that sad tradition. Hard work and determination are virtues, but so is judgment.
A leader must be much more than a resume. No one needs a leader who only follows direction well, who simply keeps her crayon inside the lines of the coloring book better than her classmates. Leading means rejecting the coloring book and drawing a picture or finding a path no one else saw. History’s great leaders, from Moses to King, rejected the consensus and led a new path. If you don’t do that, you’re not leading, you’ve only maneuvered yourself to the front of the pack. There is a difference, and it’s a big one.
At this point, it’s pretty clear that the Raimondo campaign is relying on the same strategy that won her the Treasurer’s office in 2010: minimal information and lots of money. Where there is policy information it’s like her minimum wage stance: late or non-controversial. There is vague stuff about funding school construction and roads, but little to say how she would ultimately pay for it. There are, however, lots of warm fuzzies: pictures of family, stories about dinners with her parents, meatloaf recipes, and so on. We know from 2010 that this is a working strategy. Perhaps you’re pleased with how this worked out last time. In that case, you have nothing to worry about.
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