Will Weatherly is a contributor to RI Future and a senior editor at the College Hill Independent. He lives in Providence, RI. You can follow him on Twitter @willbweatherly.

One response to “Candidates for Ward 1 and Ward 12 square off”

  1. cailin rua

    The hand wringing of all the candidates over the state of the Providence school system is as interesting as it seems disingenuous.

    I don’t suppose one could expect the Downtown Neighborhood Association to ask serious questions regarding Tax Stabilization Agreements and Tax Increment Funding and tie the budget shortfalls created to the effect it has on our school system. Regardless, I believe it is an important issue.

    I became interested in what comes out of the College Hill Independent. It’s a publication produced by Providence’s most voracious tax dodging non-profit, Brown University. That’s another tangent I will not go off on at this point, however.

    I found there are writers who are actually willing to take to task certain members of the R I Progressive pantheon. I am referring to Lucas Smolcic Larson’s piece in the College Hill Independent, MISSING THE MARK – The reality of the gun control debate in Rhode Island, which appeared in the CHI on 20, April of this year:


    Larson recounts the history of the gun control movement starting with Richard Nixon after he tells about how the Black Codes after the Civil War “that barred Black gun ownership and prompted the confiscation of firearms by bands of white men, the most famous being the Ku Klux Klan.”

    Larson says the first measures began with the governor Ronald Reagan signing the Milford Act in reaction to the Black Panther’s open carry policy at the time. He was followed by then president Richard Nixon “overseeing the Gun Control Act of 1968.”

    Larson then goes on to write:

    “Gun control policies played a role in the rise of mass incarceration of Black and Brown people in the 1980s. Yale law professor James Forman Jr. explains in his book Locking Up Our Own how, surprisingly, Black politicians worked to criminalize gun possession in their communities with tough-on-crime policy. Responding to high levels of crime threatening African American communities, Black Washington DC city councilman John Wilson pushed a sweeping ban on handguns and shotguns, along with mandatory minimum sentences for criminals who used guns. His proposal passed, but concurrent calls for addressing crime through social programs from other Black leaders met their end with the political conservatism of the 80s. Forman explains that Black politicians did not realize that their punitive policies, such as mandatory minimums, would go on to drive the disproportionate incarceration of their own communities. Although they fully intended the criminalization of gun possession to help protect their neighborhoods, in the long run these policies again worked against the people gun violence affected the most”

    Very interestingly, Larsen asks the kinds of questions of Kat Kerwin that no one in the establishment media or the Patreon button media seems willing to ask such candidates.

    Here are some of the issues:

    Episodic Mass Gun Violence distortions, which has been used exploitatively to ramp up support for gun control policies:

    “President Obama told the nation, “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries…with this kind of frequency.” Politifact labelled his claim “mostly false,” citing a database by researchers Jaclyn Schildkraut and H. Jaymi Elsass that puts the US at a lower per-capita mass shooting fatality rate than Norway, Finland, and Switzerland (although isolated events have boosted these countries’ rates).”

    Red Flag Law:

    “the RI ACLU published a 14-page criticism . . . ”

    “” But research by Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, finds that curing all cases of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression overnight would only reduce gun violence by 4 percent.”(According to Larson less than one half of that figure would be the result of homicide and 60% more likely to be suicide, which I think would be a much higher figure involving those suffering from depression, people who have other means to end their lives available to them)

    The de-sensationalized statistics:

    ” Mother Jones’ mass shooting database recorded 71 victims in 2016, representing only .005 percent of total gun deaths. These catastrophic events are a serious problem but, broadly speaking, they are not the problem of gun violence in the US.

    Everyday gun violence is an issue of urban racial injustice. The CDC reports about 80 percent of gun homicides in 2016 took place in cities. Despite making up only 13 percent of the population, Black Americans are gun victims at rates that exceed those of whites in all 50 states. In Providence, data presented by Mayor Elorza’s Advisory Council to Reduce Gun Violence in 2017 showed shooting victims treated at city hospitals over the past 10 years have been 32 percent Hispanic and 43 percent Black. Overall, Rhode Island has one of the lowest gun death rates in the US, but gun violence disproportionately harms urban communities of color in the state.”

    Larson’s analysis is astute. Larsen’s account is balanced. He asks Kerwin the difficult questions and gives her the benefit of the doubt as I might be inclined to do if it weren’t for what the “progressives” consider her most important credential – her involvement with the R I Coalition Against Gun Violence.

    I think more questions need to be asked about who the RICAGV is beyond the broad coalition it represents – mostly non-profits of one sort or another, I believe, and question its origins and leadership. I don’t know about the origins of RICAGV, but it is or was presided over by Jerry Belair, who is the Director of Acquisitions, Corporate Counsel at Meredith Management.

    Meredith Management is run by John Rosenthal, who runs the non-profit group Stop Handgun Violence, another group seemingly patterned after neoliberal opportunist and former Republican, Michael Bloomberg, who founded Everytown for Gun Safety. Rosenthal has connections to Don Law and has sponsored events with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Brown(Brown has been arrested for DV, by the way). Rosenthal’s involvement with the celebrity world must garner huge amounts of cash for his non-profit. HIs anti gun activism has enamored him with dynastic Massachusetts politicos.

    Here is where I wish to come full circle on the issue of school funding, TSAs, TIFs, etc. I don’t know how much in tax breaks a corporation like Meredith receives or how much funding they’re able to acquire for any brownfield clean-ups needed to turn a profit at their mill renovation projects around New England. They were trying to do the American Tourister project in Warren before Brady-Sullivan became involved. What I do know is that Meredith Management is looking for tax breaks of 4.6 million for their 550 million dollar Fenway Center project in Boston. Meredith Management seems like the kind of real estate development company that is well versed in siphoning off municipal funds in order to finance their mega projects. I don’t think anyone affiliated with such a group would ask the serious questions about about tax write-offs for huge corporations and the effects such things have on school budgets.

    The thrust for the gun control juggernaut which dominates contemporary local politics in this state seems dominated by three prominent groups – neoliberal independent Republican Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety, big time real estate developerJohn Rosenthal’s Stop Handgun Violence, and his acolyte Jerry Belair’s RICAGV.

    The approach of all the aforementioned groups is carceral. Such an approach has greatly exacerbated the mass incarceration problem in this country to the detriment of poor and minority communities which have not seen any real abatement of violence, even in the wake of all such activism. Bloomberg/Kelly/Bratton’s Fourth Amendment violations in poor and minority communities are legend. I don’t know how anyone can claim a progressive pedigree and be involved with such people, given such facts.

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