Time to Leave the Plantation?

Traditionally, Motif takes what are often confoundingly worded ballot questions and plainly explains them for voters before they enter the ballot box. This year, there’s one ballot question from the state, and it’s a pretty simple one: Is it time to drop “Providence Plantations” from our state name through an amendment to the state constitution?

This question was on the ballot in 2010 and nearly 78% of voters rejected the name change. But this year has seen a cultural reckoning and perhaps a greater understanding that despite the history of the word “Plantations” in the state name, its symbolism causes pain, and it’s hurtful to many Rhode Islanders to have a word so closely associated with slavery appear in the state’s official name.




Justice for Jhamal

On October 20, following a peaceful rally for Jhamal Gonsalves, currently in a coma after, according to witness statements, a police cruiser hit his moped, rally attendees and police clashed. Nineteen people were arrested. Photographer Josh Bronto (@sorryaboutyoureyebrows) was on the scene and caught some of the salient moments from the night.




In Their Own Words: Megan Cotter (D), House District 39

Megan Cotter

We talked to many of the local candidates running for public office in the upcoming 2020 election. We asked each of them the same set of questions, with the promise to print their answers only lightly edited for clarity. The following answers are from Megan Cotter (D), running against incumbent Justin Price (R), for RI Senate District 39.

Motif: What are, in order, your top three priorities or issues if elected?

Megan Cotter:

  1. End clear-cutting for solar farms. We can and should transition to 100% renewable energy in Rhode Island by 2030, but can’t destroy our natural environment in the process. We must seek alternative paths to renewables that don’t take out our forests and decrease our property values.
  2. Fix the broken school funding formula on the state level. School funds should be equitably distributed across districts so that all the children of Rhode Island have access to quality public education. We cannot and should not raise property taxes on everyday working families in our district to make up for the funding deficit left by poorly managed state funds.
  3. Get big money and corruption out of Rhode Island politics. For too long, our state has been run by the wealthy and well-connected few who can afford to run big reelection campaigns year after year. We should be represented by community members like me, not career politicians more interested in personal gain than standing up for their neighbors.

Motif: After the election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case with ramifications that could eliminate the Affordable Care Act, potentially reducing the high insured rate in Rhode Island. In a country without ACA protections, what should healthcare for Rhode Islanders look like?

MC: There’s a lot about national politics in this moment that is extremely unstable and unreliable. I believe that all Rhode Islanders should have healthcare coverage, and we should not make the mistake of relying on the federal government to guarantee that. I will fight for Rhode Island to implement single-payer healthcare. This has always been an important issue, but has become especially pressing during COVID-19. When the first wave of this virus hit and so many working Rhode Islanders lost their jobs, they lost their health insurance, too. Healthcare should not be tied to employment. It is something that the state can and should provide.

Motif: Do you think police departments are overfunded, and if so, how would you reallocate those resources?

MC: Right now, the burden of keeping our communities safe is primarily left to the police, and the funding they receive is reflective of that. In my opinion, we need well-trained police to act as law enforcement, and that does require funding. But they shouldn’t also have to be first responders and social workers. No single person can perform all of those jobs. That’s why we need to reallocate resources to other community safety measures, like affordable housing, healthcare and public education. We need to better distribute the work it takes to keep all Rhode Islanders safe, and distribute our funds to reflect that.

Motif: Should school funds be pooled and redistributed on a weighted scale to address statewide equity issues, or should districts continue to fund their own community schools? Are there school districts that should be combined?

MC: Yes, we must address inequity in schools across the state by pooling funds and intentionally distributing them across districts. Our district already has a number of combined school districts (Chariho and EWG). The intention behind combining multiple districts into a single school was to improve its funding, but instead these schools continue to be funded as if they only serve one district. An equitable distribution of statewide school funds would account for combined school districts.

Motif: COVID most harshly impacted a lot of core industries in Rhode Island (eg, hospitality, restaurants, arts/entertainment). What can elected officials do to revitalize these industries and improve the lives of our poorest residents?  

MC: As a director of sales in the seafood industry, I know on a personal level how important it is that we protect our restaurants and other local businesses. And to do it, we need to revamp our tax system. It’s time we demand that big corporations and the wealthiest 1% of Rhode Islanders pay their fair share. That would allow us to implement a $15 minimum wage so that no one needs to work more than 40 hours a week to afford their basic needs. We could provide healthcare for all so that every Rhode Islander has access to care, regardless of their employment status or income level (and taking the burden of providing employees with insurance off of small business owners). And we could invest in our small businesses, taxing them at a lower rate than large corporate entities so that they are able to grow and thrive.

Motif: Climate change is a very real threat in Rhode Island — we are in close proximity to the ocean and broke temperature and drought records this year. If elected, what steps would you take to protect the environment?

MC: I will support a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030. We have to take bold action against climate change, and need to prioritize working people and frontline communities in the process. The climate crisis is more than just an ecological disaster; it’s an existential crisis, and a deeply personal one. It’s also not a problem of the future, but something that is having devastating effects on our state and communities now. We have no more time for elected climate skeptics to pretend otherwise and delay action.




In Their Own Words: Maria Bucci (D), Mayor of Cranston

Maria Bucci

We talked to many of the local candidates running for public office in the upcoming 2020 election. We asked each of them the same set of questions, with the promise to print their answers only lightly edited for clarity. The following answers are from Maria Bucci (D), running against Kenneth Hopkins (R), for Cranston mayor.

Motif: What are, in order, your top three priorities or issues if elected?

Maria Bucci: First and foremost, we must continue to take the risk of COVID-19 seriously and prioritize the health and safety of our residents. This includes developing a city-wide vaccine deployment plan in consultation with the Department of Health while building a response fund from state and local grants to drive small business innovation. 

Second, we must keep Cranston affordable for all residents. That means maintaining a diverse tax base to protect our residents from unaffordable tax increases. We also must revive our Affordable Housing Commission and establish a sustainability funding source to expand our affordable housing and provide options for all of our residents. 

Third, we must continue to improve the city services on which our residents rely. That includes pushing for a Zero Waste initiative to increase recycling rates and reduce waste management costs. We need to relaunch our city website to make permitting more streamlined and support new businesses. Finally, in order to prevent flooding and protect our waterways, let’s get our storm drains cleaned out and implement more green infrastructure.

Motif: After the election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case with ramifications that could eliminate the Affordable Care Act, potentially reducing the high insured rate in Rhode Island. In a country without ACA protections, what should healthcare for Rhode Islanders look like?

MB: It is unfortunate that politics at the national level is so dysfunctional that we cannot reliably deliver affordable healthcare to all of our residents. In the absence of leadership, I continue to support Rhode Island’s efforts to put Affordable Care Act protections into state law and make sure we help those with the greatest need in our community.

Motif: Do you think police departments are overfunded, and if so, how would you reallocate those resources?

MB: There is so much uncertainty around what our city’s budget will look like next year. We are facing the potential for unfulfilled promises from the state on education funding and car tax phaseout. Our federal government wants to fight rather than providing relief for local governments. Until we know whether the state and federal government will deliver on their promises, I am unable to identify what departments may be overfunded in a difficult budget year. That being said, I believe that we need to make sure that our city and social services are adequately funded in order to deliver the social and emotional support services that are needed.

Motif: Should school funds be pooled and redistributed on a weighted scale to address statewide equity issues, or should districts continue to fund their own community schools? Are there school districts that should be combined?

MB: Right now we rely on both state and local funding sources for our schools. I believe it is essential that a community is financially invested in its schools, so I would not support moving solely to a statewide funding formula. However, the current funding formula needs to continue to evolve as our communities grow and change to be sure that funding reflects our communities now, not our communities 10 years ago.

Motif: COVID most harshly impacted a lot of core industries in Rhode Island (eg, hospitality, restaurants, arts/entertainment). What can elected officials do to revitalize these industries and improve the lives of our poorest residents?  

MB: When it comes to our local businesses, the city should pursue every state and federal grant available to provide COVID relief to those businesses that are struggling at no fault of their own. The state has used some CARES Act funds to support these efforts, and I believe we should pool as much money as possible to create our own local response fund to support businesses as they need to innovate and operate under health restrictions.

The disparate health impacts of this pandemic has shown us underlying inequities in not just our healthcare system but also so many of our institutions. Elected officials need to take equity and historic bias into account when providing all levels of city services. 

Motif: Climate change is a very real threat in Rhode Island — we are in close proximity to the ocean and broke temperature and drought records this year. If elected, what steps would you take to protect the environment?

MB: Our community has felt the direct impact of a changing climate and short-sighted development decisions. It takes the form of more flooding events, urban heat effects, and the ever-increasing sea level rise of Narragansett Bay.

Creating and implementing a Complete Streets ordinance will give residents and businesses the opportunity to engage in the redevelopment of our transportation corridors that connect us with our neighbors and link our commercial and residential sectors. Our residents need more effective and realistic options beyond car ownership to live and work in Cranston.

Trash and recycling pickup are a mainstay of municipal government. Cranston privatized this service when hiring Waste Management, which resulted in escalating costs with diminished results. I am committed to delivering a more effective arrangement that will provide necessary services to our community and boost the education and community engagement required to move toward being a Zero Waste community.




In Their Own Words: Alana DiMario (D), Senate District 36

We talked to many of the local candidates running for public office in the upcoming 2020 election. We asked each of them the same set of questions, with the promise to print their answers only lightly edited for clarity. The following answers are from Alana DiMario (D), running against Doreen Costa (R), for RI Senate District 36.

Motif: What are, in order, your top three priorities or issues if elected?

Alana DiMario: With the disclaimer that priorities will need to remain flexible given the changing situation due to COVID-19 and federal administration actions: 

  1. Pass the Act on Climate Bill (passed the Senate but not the House this session) to implement measurable and actionable benchmarks for different sectors to reach the goal of net-zero emissions in Rhode Island by 2050. As we get through and recover from the COVID-19 crisis, we can’t lose sight of the realities of climate change and what we need to do to combat it, including moving toward a new sustainable energy infrastructure built and maintained by Rhode Island workers.
  2. Create educational and economic opportunity by continuing to expand Paid Family Leave policies, increasing income caps for childcare assistance, expanding public Pre-K seats statewide, expanding trade educational access, fixing and funding our schools equitably, and increasing the minimum wage. 
  3. Take common sense approaches to increasing revenue sources, such as following the lead of many other states in fully legalizing and taxing marijuana (which would also decrease incarceration expenditures) and considering a marginal tax rate increase on Rhode Island’s top earners. 

Motif: After the election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case with ramifications that could eliminate the Affordable Care Act, potentially reducing the high insured rate in Rhode Island. In a country without ACA protections, what should healthcare for Rhode Islanders look like?

AD: In a country without ACA protections, healthcare for Rhode Islanders can and should look like a state WITH ACA protections. We have the power to protect essential covered services for Rhode Islanders, such as emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs and pediatric services, among other benefits. This legislation has already been introduced by Senator Josh Miller in previous sessions, and if the protections of the ACA are removed at the federal level, we should do all we can to ensure that the healthcare access of Rhode Islanders is preserved.

Motif: Do you think police departments are overfunded, and if so, how would you reallocate those resources?

AD: The issue at hand is really whether we are accomplishing our public safety goals to make our communities healthy and safe, and working backwards if not to address the root causes of crime. We cannot continue to expect police officers to be mental health counselors, social workers, housing advocates and substitute parents, among other roles. Unlimited amounts of spending on police would not ever effectively meet those needs. We need to allocate more resources to addressing poverty, specifically food and housing insecurity, in our communities, as we know this has a positive impact not only on crime rates but on people. We also need to allocate more resources to integrate social services and mental health programs both in schools and also in our communities to help our vulnerable friends and neighbors. 

Motif: Should school funds be pooled and redistributed on a weighted scale to address statewide equity issues, or should districts continue to fund their own community schools? Are there school districts that should be combined?

AD: The school funding formula needs to be changed. Every child in Rhode Island should be able to receive a world-class education, regardless of the town they live in. I think that could be accomplished via a statewide funding formula, or by regionalizing schools to more equitably address needs. The data from other states about changing funding formulas does not definitively show what approach leads to the best outcomes, but information taken from those changes elsewhere can help inform what direction we need to go in. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted that we need to start moving forward with the school infrastructure improvement projects as soon as possible, targeting the facilities that are in the worst shape first. Our kids should walk into school buildings that show their communities value them and their education. 

Motif: COVID most harshly impacted a lot of core industries in Rhode Island (eg, hospitality, restaurants, arts/entertainment). What can elected officials do to revitalize these industries and improve the lives of our poorest residents?  

AD: Maximizing the distribution of CARES funding that is already allocated toward small businesses is the first step; this can help businesses adapt if possible and cover some overhead costs to offset their lost revenue. In addition, we need to ensure that housing and food stability, along with access to healthcare, is maintained for workers in these hardest-hit industries. Federal money must be directed toward programs to help displaced workers with these essential needs as well as toward business owners. Revitalizing these industries is dependent on getting COVID19 under control. The sooner we can widely distribute a proven vaccine, the sooner we can safely reopen fully. I would support using a portion of future federal funds to invest in offsetting advertising and reopening costs.

Motif: Climate change is a very real threat in Rhode Island — we are in close proximity to the ocean and broke temperature and drought records this year. If elected, what steps would you take to protect the environment?

AD: In Rhode Island we can do our part for the future by investing in a new renewable energy infrastructure with statewide standards for smart siting and breaking our reliance on fossil fuel energy imported from outside of the state. In addition, we can take action now to mitigate the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and coastal flooding. We need a statewide initiative in coastal communities and other areas vulnerable to flooding to maintain storm drains and identify places to mitigate flooding risks through additional drainage and other proactive measures. Finally, we need to protect our drinking water supply by utilizing more green infrastructure installations to reduce the water pollution caused by stormwater runoff. 




In Their Own Words: Brandon Potter (D), House District 16

Brandon Potter (D)

We talked to many of the local candidates running for public office in the upcoming 2020 election. We asked each of them the same set of questions, with the promise to print their answers only lightly edited for clarity. The following answers are from Brandon Potter (D), running against Maryann Lancia (R), for RI House District 16.

Motif: What are, in order, your top three priorities or issues if elected?

Brandon Potter: In the immediate, we need to start by properly addressing our health crisis. Our General Assembly has been out of session and there’s important work that needs to get done urgently. We need safe staffing in nursing homes, and we need rules reform that brings a change of culture to our State House. 

Secondly, we have to address our state budget and ensure the state aid provided to cities like Cranston remains in place. Cutting funding to Cranston would force the city to raise property taxes, devastate our community and exasperate the financial fallout from COVID. I’ve met many retirees and seniors who are either planning on leaving the state because of taxes, or worried they’ll be forced to leave because they have fixed incomes and can’t afford any more. People have to be prioritized in whatever budgetary decisions are made.

Third, we need to invest in the future economy with infrastructure and renewable energy. We can come out of this period stronger than before and lead RI forward with economic development and good paying jobs. We have to rebuild our economy, and with interest rates being near 0, now is the time for government to make investments that stimulate our economy and create jobs. 

Motif: After the election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case with ramifications that could eliminate the Affordable Care Act, potentially reducing the high insured rate in Rhode Island. In a country without ACA protections, what should healthcare for Rhode Islanders look like?

BP: Sick people shouldn’t be thought of as a business opportunity. There’s no reason anyone here should ever be without access to affordable healthcare. My girlfriend Katie is 31 and has a genetic kidney disease called FSGS. She’s been a dialysis patient for three years and has been denied a transplant because of our broken system. People with preexisting conditions must be protected, and the assault on the ACA by the Trump administration is an inexcusable disgrace. RI should codify the ACA into state law with a public option, and we should continue to expand our healthcare as we work toward a single-payer universal system. 

Motif: Do you think police departments are overfunded, and if so, how would you reallocate those resources?

BP: I’ve been critical of the defund the police narrative for a few reasons. One, I think racial justice is one of the most serious issues in our country, and we need to consider it in how decisions are made in all areas. When we can witness Black people murdered and assaulted on video like we have, it should be clear to everyone how serious of a problem there is. We need to acknowledge that with the seriousness it deserves. Systemic racism doesn’t just exist in our criminal justice system or police departments. These tragedies are only allowed to happen by failures in our education system, failures in our economy, failures in our healthcare system. We ask police to do too much, and certainly we need to take a holistic look at how we can better combat and reduce crime long term. But trying to simplify the solution to a bumper sticker sized slogan like “defund the police” does this conversation a big disservice. We need to hold police accountable to the highest of ethical standards, and there has to be absolute zero tolerance for abuse of power. We also need to recognize the difficulty and danger of what it means to be a cop. We have to acknowledge police are people too, they’re affected by what they see and experience in that job. In some cases, it might make sense to invest more money in training, counseling or hiring more officers. In some cases I’m sure we can eliminate needless spending on military equipment. We also should be divesting from prisons and ending privatization, so this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. We have a lot of work to do and we need to be able to pull people into the discussion, and not be more divisive and escalate the tensions if we want real progress to happen. I think it’s a lot deeper than that. 

Motif: Should school funds be pooled and redistributed on a weighted scale to address statewide equity issues, or should districts continue to fund their own community schools? Are there school districts that should be combined?

BP: The inequities in our education system have to be addressed at the state level. Local property taxes disproportionately fund education, which breeds inequity and strains working families and seniors. I don’t know that combining school districts is the solution, but we certainly need to move more toward a state-based funding formula that isn’t heavily reliant on local home values to determine education quality. 

Motif: COVID most harshly impacted a lot of core industries in Rhode Island (eg, hospitality, restaurants, arts/entertainment). What can elected officials do to revitalize these industries and improve the lives of our poorest residents?  

BP: Before we can revitalize we have to preserve what we have. Small businesses from restaurants, retail shops, event venues, etc. have been devastated. People have had to close their businesses, many are dangerously close to. We need to release the aid to provide assistance to small businesses. This money shouldn’t be used to plug holes in our existing state budget. From there we can rebuild our economy by investing in infrastructure and renewable energy, and make our state an attractive place to live and work. We need to bring public and private funding together on appropriate development. We need to raise the minimum wage. There’s a lot of work to do in our economy, but with political courage and independent voices that are willing to speak up on behalf of what’s best for regular people, I’m confident we can come out of this stronger than before. 

Motif: Climate change is a very real threat in Rhode Island — we are in close proximity to the ocean and broke temperature and drought records this year. If elected, what steps would you take to protect the environment?

BP: I support all efforts to get us to carbon neutrality as soon as possible. I see addressing climate change locally with two critical components. One, we have to acknowledge the severity of climate change, the financial impact it’s having on us and will continue to have, and display a sense of leadership in deciding to play our part in addressing it. I believe in leading by example, and I think Rhode Island being the smallest state has a unique opportunity to demonstrate what’s actually possible. Secondly, I think we need to recognize working people in how we shift to a new energy system. We have to make sure as we shift to a new energy system we’re not leaving working-class families behind. 

We can create thousands of good-paying jobs right here in the state by investing in renewable energy and lowering utility costs for families and small businesses, but it will take standing up to the fossil fuel industry, National Grid and powerful special interests. I think we need to use this moment, as we’re rebounding from the financial fallout of COVID, to be really bold and kill two birds with one stone. Rebuild our economy, invest in an emerging market and do our part in combating the climate crisis. 




It Came from the Swamp

Delicious frights await those brave enough to board the riverboat and learn the legend of the swamp monster that lurks in the depths of the Blackstone River.

The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and Vision Media Productions invented an entirely new Halloween event this year — a socially distant 20-minute cruise down the Blackstone River full of surprises and scares.

Costumes are encouraged! All COVID-19 precautions are taken: the riverboat is cleaned between trips, capacity is limited to 15 passengers and all passengers are required to wear masks. Tickets must be purchased in advance at swampscare.com




In Their Own Words: Scott Guthrie (D), House District 28

Scott Guthrie

We talked to many of the local candidates running for public office in the upcoming 2020 election. We asked each of them the same set of questions, with the promise to print their answers only lightly edited for clarity. The following answers are from Scott Guthrie (D), running against incumbent George Nardone (R), for RI House District 28.

Motif: What are, in order, your top three priorities or issues if elected?

Scott Guthrie:

Tax equity

Time and time again we’re told that tax breaks for the wealthiest will trickle down to working families through job creation. The result has always been trickle up. Presently, hard-working people are shouldering the tax burden for top earners, and the richest seem content with that. It’s long overdue that the wealthiest contribute their fair share. A modest increase in taxes for that 1% must be looked at, particularly during these troubling times. Recent Federal tax cuts furthered the widening of tax classes to favor the richest of the rich, crushing the middle-class.

Tax credits to spur the economy

The Historic Mill Tax Credit allowed developers to rehabilitate vacant, blighted and crumbling mill buildings across the state. The result was the modernization of mostly non-usable structures into housing and mixed use. When occupied, local economies thrived and businesses grew.

Imagine a Manufacturing Mill Building Tax Credit. A credit used to modify, upgrade and make code-compliant the vast amount of shuttered mill buildings across this state. This would be a job creator, not only for the construction industry, but for businesses and entrepreneurs seeking offices, workshops or even factory space.

Civic education

Civics, at one time, was mandatory to graduate from high school. For the last two decades it has been absent for the most part. Some communities offer civic education, but not in the latter years of high school curricula. It is patently clear with behavior we see and read in newscasts the lack of public courteousness and respect. Students want, and have actually filed suit in Federal Court, for civic education back in the classroom, ideally closer to their voting age. Government has an obligation to us, and we, in turn have an obligation to our country. Today that principle is absent.

Motif: After the election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case with ramifications that could eliminate the Affordable Care Act, potentially reducing the high insured rate in Rhode Island. In a country without ACA protections, what should healthcare for Rhode Islanders look like?

SG: A single payer system. This Congress is ignoring its own past practice and ramming a Supreme Court Justice through, for one purpose. It’s infuriating that a political party will stop at nothing to invalidate healthcare measures to help millions of American citizens. As a cancer survivor, I feel for people with preexisting conditions and the struggles they will face. Each and every state will be tasked to make up the monetary difference at an unknown cost. Perhaps we should be the first of 38 states to pass/ratify a constitutional amendment guaranteeing health care as a right. 

A single payer system, guaranteed, constitutionally, period

Motif: Do you think police departments are overfunded, and if so, how would you reallocate those resources?

SG: Police department funding is budgetary and varies according to size, population etc. Overfunded? I doubt they are. Law enforcement officers are constantly training, honing their skills for the increasing workload they face daily. Often times they are first to arrive at overdoses, administering life-saving Narcan, automobile and industrial accidents, medical emergencies, and fires on top of their daily law enforcement responsibilities. As a person, I wholly support law enforcement officers.

Motif: Should school funds be pooled and redistributed on a weighted scale to address statewide equity issues, or should districts continue to fund their own community schools? Are there school districts that should be combined?

SG: School districts should provide an education in their respective community. What needs to change is the funding method. The constant battle over the amount of state funding, basically through income taxes, must increase to at least 50% (see tax equity above), reducing the reliance on the onerous property tax. Students are the ones that suffer when sports and other popular activities are cut because of rising costs, and fear the loss of athletic and academic scholarships. Urban, struggling school districts would benefit the most if a fair funding method were to become a reality. Consolidation should be a last resort if necessary. 

Motif: COVID most harshly impacted a lot of core industries in Rhode Island (eg, hospitality, restaurants, arts/entertainment). What can elected officials do to revitalize these industries and improve the lives of our poorest residents?  

SG: The pandemic was mishandled from the get-go. Federal relief packages fell far short of what was initially needed, and they are bickering to this day, with no future support in sight to make the hospitality industry whole and provide relief to those displaced workers. Most of these employees work under completely different pay scale, relying on tips for income. Elected officials are stuck in a waiting game with Washington playing politics instead of addressing the needs of states trying to move forward.

Motif: Climate change is a very real threat in Rhode Island — we are in close proximity to the ocean and broke temperature and drought records this year. If elected, what steps would you take to protect the environment?

SG: I fully support renewable energy projects, many of which are in my community. We have both wind and solar arrays in place in rural areas, which allows property owners the ability to keep their property instead of losing it to residential development. As a state we should incentivize solar use on buildings in the urban sector in an effort to control carbon emissions. Additionally, my community has 11 elevations on both branches of the Pawtuxet River. Development of water-driven energy production was always a dream of mine. This state, with its many waterways used during the industrial revolution could benefit from this in the future as well.  




In Their Own Words: Paul Roselli (D) RI Senate District 23

We talked to many of the local candidates running for public office in the upcoming 2020 election. We asked each of them the same set of questions, with the promise to print their answers only lightly edited for clarity. The following answers are from Paul Roselli (D), running against incumbent Jennifer de la Cruz (R), for RI Senate District 23.

Paul Roselli

Motif: What are, in order, your top three priorities or issues if elected?

Paul Roselli: First and foremost, my top priority is for the economy to get back on track due to COVID-19 with the rescue of our small businesses. The pandemic has shown us that there are weaknesses in how businesses are regulated. We are using 20th century regulations in food delivery and security, managing and creating livable walkable neighborhoods, business management models, loan and banking services, hiring practices that need to adjust in a world ravaged by this disease. We can no longer look backward to solve our problems. Our business as usual model must become a thing of the past.

Second is the environment. We must stop cutting down our forests. Incentives for solar installations must be revamped for already disturbed lands, more incentives for roof tops, more training for installers, engineers, to include solar panels on all buildings in our state. Also, we need a line item funding source for open space purchases. The concept of voter approved bonds is a good one that has worked since Governor John H. Chafee instituted the Green Acres program in the 1960s. But that model is costly. We need a bottle bill that will help fund open space and preservation of what little land we have left.

And third is health care. The health of Rhode Islanders has come under scrutiny with the coronavirus. I want health equity regardless of location and income. Develop more of Dr. Michael Fine’s community health centers. When all of us are healthy with primary care options that are affordable and timely, then all of us will be able to enjoy the world around us. 

Motif: After the election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case with ramifications that could eliminate the Affordable Care Act, potentially reducing the high insured rate in Rhode Island. In a country without ACA protections, what should healthcare for Rhode Islanders look like?

PR: I’ve been a small business owner for nearly 40 years. I own and operate a documentary film production company. During that time, there were years that I didn’t have — and could not afford — healthcare insurance. There were no options other than high deductibles and low coverage health insurance. Today, I’m on Medicare. We must lower the age of Medicare. Make community based primary care easy to access. Set state mandated rates that hospitals can charge for services and procedures. Educate populations on healthy lifestyles. Without the Affordable Care Act we will go back to a 20th century model of high rates and little services. Healthcare workers want to take care of people. Healthcare owners want to make money. As a state, we will need to adjust our regulations to include primary care options for all residents, children, mothers and anyone who can work.

Motif: Do you think police departments are overfunded, and if so, how would you reallocate those resources?

PR: I do not believe that police departments are overfunded. But I do believe that the resources need to be reallocated for increased training, additional personnel trained in social services, trained in medical care, problem solving and de-escalation of potentially dangerous situations. The right to protest is inherent in our society and written into our laws and regulations. I want a police force that listens, sends me people who are skilled and trained in working with community organizers offering guidance and support and who listen intently to the needs and desires of a community in need. We all feel the pain when situations escalate and turn violent. Money needs to be spent in community supported programs that help people deal with strife and inequalities. This is the only way all of us can move toward a better world.

Motif: Should school funds be pooled and redistributed on a weighted scale to address statewide equity issues, or should districts continue to fund their own community schools? Are there school districts that should be combined?

PR: Its hard to believe that in Rhode Island’s 39 towns and cities there are 66 school districts. Local control of local schools is a must. And that has been the model for the last 200 years or so. With technology and bringing education into a community, we can lessen the cost of education by reducing transportation and infrastructure costs, using solar canopies on school parking lots can add money for more teachers, more resources for our students who may be at home, in school or both. Equity is a must for all to prosper. We need to redistribute funds with a better system than the one we now have. Using funds from generating solar energy can be an equalizer for urban and rural schools alike. Pooling tax supported funds can help with purchasing power of supplies, food and fuel. State mandated regional approaches to snow removal, street cleaning, school monitors and more can save money that should go to education, teacher supported services. And we must move rapidly toward getting high speed internet across Rhode Island and into our schools. Doing these will help equalize the regional and local disparities.

Motif: COVID most harshly impacted a lot of core industries in Rhode Island (eg, hospitality, restaurants, arts/entertainment). What can elected officials do to revitalize these industries and improve the lives of our poorest residents?  

PR: First, we must stop 20th century business as usual model of hospitality, restaurants, arts and entertainment and more. Transportation is key here. Getting cars off our highways. Designing livable walkable areas in existing towns and cities. Designing cities and towns with more venues for our core industries. Rhode Island is a small business state. I’m a small business owner. As an elected official, I see my role in working with folks from Save the Bay, SmartGrowth, Health Equity Zones to create policy that would open our streets to dining, making our ponds and rivers clean and usable, creating areas in parking lots as educational zones for solar canopies, new technologies that will increase use of the internet. We currently design spaces for cars. That is a 20th century approach. Let’s design our spaces to include trees, open space, forests, places to kayak, swim. We can open up the economy by spending on areas that already have the infrastructure. When we do that, small businesses will move in. And most importantly, we need to adjust our way of business thinking and instead of giving incentives to big corporations, we need to give incentives, low cost or no cost loans, training to anyone who wants to start a business in a neighborhood. We must stop our give away programs to the mega rich, and instead give them to people who need it. We must turn our workforce into owners and entrepreneurs. 

Motif: Climate change is a very real threat in Rhode Island — we are in close proximity to the ocean and broke temperature and drought records this year. If elected, what steps would you take to protect the environment?

PR: I’m an environmentalist. I’ve been endorsed by Clean Water Action, The Rhode Island Chapter of the Sierra Club and Climate Action Rhode Island. First we need to control our waste — we need a bottle bill. The funds from the bottle bill would reduce our waste management costs and could provide funds for the purchase of open space. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management must update their greenhouse gas emissions standards to the latest as provided by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The RIDEM must strengthen and enforce all environmental regulations in our state and as such, the agency must receive more funds to hire more people in each of their departments. As a legislator, I would immediately call for a moratorium on the clearcutting of forests in our state. No rate payer money would be used to clearcut forests. I would call for and institute a $0.06 increase in incentives for rooftop solar and solar canopies on disturbed lands. Give no cost grants or low cost loans for anyone wanting to convert their heating system using heat pumps. And I would write into legislation that procurement would not only be the least cost in terms of dollars, but least cost in terms of life cycle. Legislation would be introduced to mandate gas companies to update and improve that gas transmission infrastructure and get to 0% gas leaks as quickly as possible. Rhode Island can be a leader in solar energy. We need a solar panel making facility in Rhode Island. Training for electricians and installers. And, we need to stop the environmental racism that takes place daily along Allens Avenue and in other parts of Rhode Island. Dust and soot from diesel trucks exasperates asthma, causes heart and lung ailments, and troubles the hearing and sensory systems. If elected, I would help institute new regulations to clean up our streets along these areas, reduce air and noise pollution and force the gas and oil companies to pay the bill.




Fall in the Air: Map of Events Around RI

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