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.




Rhode Island in a “Tough Spot”: A summary of the governor’s October 15 press conference

Governor Gina Raimondo and DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott gave an emergency COVID-19 presser today at 1pm.

There were big upticks in today’s COVID data; DOH reports 228 new cases since yesterday. There are 129 people hospitalized for reasons related to COVID-19. Of those, 12 are in the intensive care unit and five are on ventilators. The percent positive rate for cases yesterday is 1.9%, but overall according to state leaders metrics are trending slowly up. The state saw two additional deaths since yesterday; both were in their 90s. This brings the Ocean State’s total fatalities from the coronavirus to 1,149.

Governor Raimondo and other state leaders promised new restrictions at yesterday’s press conference. Rhode Island COVID cases have been creeping up slowly over the autumn. Today the governor only announced one major change to restrictions, ordering common areas and workplace break rooms closed for 90 days. Raimondo said she was not lowering the social gathering limit, that it will remain at 15. According to state officials, analyzing the data and contact tracing shows most COVID spread is happening in groups well under the allowed limit. 

“We’re in a tough spot right now,” the governor said. “We’re not where we wanna be.” While no new big restrictions are on the horizon, the state is committed to enforcing restrictions on the books. Crucially, new mask-wearing regulations will be forthcoming, as the state expects Rhode Islanders to wear masks when in the presence of someone they do not live with. Governor Raimondo reminded Rhode Islanders big parties or other gatherings could incur fines of $500 per person. Rhode Island State Police have announced they are tripling enforcement presence for Halloween in a few weeks. Raimondo also asked college residents, teenagers and young students not to go out and party for Halloween. Department of Business Regulation will be stepping up enforcement of fines on businesses that violate COVID regulations.

Additionally the governor asked people to follow some of the COVID restrictions for trick-or-treating this year. Some of the guidance includes individually bagging candy to give away and finishing trick-or-treating before dark, among others. “It’s not forever, this is for now,” said Raimondo. While it’s fun to make jabs at the governor for implying the virus is afraid of the dark, trick-or-treating during daylight hours is to limit the time (and possible exposure) of community spread. Dr. Alexander-Scott noted it was possibly for a sick person to transmit COVID-19 by passing out candy, and said parents should feel welcome to wipe down candy.

The governor also asked people to keep Thanksgiving local, advising them not to travel on a plane or train. More official guidance and restrictions will be made available next week, but Raimondo added that there would be no official prohibition on Thanksgiving. The governor also said the reason for some of these restrictions and guidance was to avoid having to shut down the economy again.

Governor Raimondo also wants to step up asymptomatic testing again, using it to surveil community prevalence of COVID-19. If you are a close contact worker, a legal adult younger than 40, travel to or from other states, or recently attended a large protest or demonstration, the governor advises you to get tested.




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: Jennifer Douglas (D), Senate District 34

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 Jennifer Douglas (D), running against incumbent Elaine Morgan (R), for RI Senate District 34. 

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

Jennifer Douglas: I will work on legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour to fight poverty and stimulate the economy.

I will work on legislation to implement the environmental policies outlined by the Green New Deal (GND).

I will work hard to encourage and grow small businesses in the area that will complement the character of our rural community. 

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?

JD:  Healthcare is a human right, not a way for insurance companies to get rich. Single-payer healthcare will improve health outcomes, save Rhode Islanders money and guarantee a woman’s right to choose. I work in the medical field. I see so many patients who can’t afford their medications, who don’t get the testing they need because they can’t afford the deductible, and forgo lifesaving treatment so they don’t lose their homes and livelihoods due to overwhelming medical debt. We can do better. We need to do better.  

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

JD: I know in my own community our police operate on a lean budget, so they’re definitely not overfunded. In others, they have the money for equipment that can militarize their departments and I also don’t believe that is necessary. What I would like to see is our police receive the training and support they need to do the jobs they signed up for — actual police work. Our police aren’t social workers or drug counselors or dog catchers, yet we expect them to attend to every need in our community. Let’s remove that burden so they can do the important work they were hired to do. 

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?

JD: Rhode Island’s schools are failing and students cannot meet even basic benchmarks. And the problem is funding. The state provides inadequate resources for education, forcing school districts to rely heavily on local property taxes. This leads to inequality between different districts, where most cannot generate enough revenue to provide their students with a quality education. To fix this problem, we must amend the Rhode Island constitution to explicitly provide a right to a good education for all children, and our state must pick up the revenue shortfalls in communities that cannot generate enough money from local property taxes.

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?

JD: COVID has highlighted the inequity our communities face. Job losses have left people without health insurance in the middle of a pandemic. Our small businesses are closing permanently. All of my platforms address this crisis we’re facing now, and will strengthen our state going forward. Investing in small business, advocating for fair wages, providing universal health care, and finally, demanding that corporations and the extremely wealthy pay their fair share will lessen the burden on the hard working people of this state. It’s time we invest in all people, not just profits for the well-connected few. 

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?

JD: In this coastal state, we need to be focused on addressing climate change. Erosion, severe weather, downed trees, long power outages affect us all. I support a Green New Deal. We will invest in green energy and create jobs to build the infrastructure for it, putting people to work and ensuring our economy is sustainable. We will NOT, however, allow our forests to be cleared by corporations for solar fields. 




“It’s Not Great News”: A summary of the governor’s October 14 press conference

Governor Gina Raimondo and DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott gave the weekly COVID press briefing today at 1pm.

First, the data since yesterday. Rhode Island saw 160 new COVID cases since yesterday. One hundred thirty-one people are in the hospital, 13 of those people are in the ICU, and four are on ventilators. DOH reports eight additional fatalities today, bringing the total number of COVID-related deaths to 1,147.

“It’s not great news,” the governor announced today. Rhode Island has seen gradual increases in a number of key metrics the state uses to assess transmission of the coronavirus. The percent positive rate is 2.7% for yesterday, the highest it’s been since August. Hospitalizations have doubled in the last four weeks. The hospital system still has plenty of capacity, but local healthcare system administrators are starting to get worried. As a result, the governor will be announcing more restrictions at a press conference tomorrow at 1pm. There will be no major changes to K-12 schools, retail or restaurants.

“Bottom line is this: Let this be a wakeup call for Rhode Island,” said Raimondo. She referred to the example in Wisconsin. The governor explained that data patterns in RI and the rest of New England are looking similar to other states before those states saw big surges. “There was nothing to worry about until there was,” she said. Wisconsin, an example the governor detailed at length, saw small but consistent upticks in percent positive testing rates and hospitalizations.

The current upticks are not from large gatherings according to the governor. Upticks in spring and summer were driven by large gatherings. The governor today said the current upticks were from small gatherings. People who might not follow the rules with friends or close family, not distancing, handwashing, observing mask guidance, etc. 

Congregate settings, while still seeing deaths (deaths from COVID are still tied to age and underlying conditions), are seeing fewer cases; colleges and universities are seeing fewer cases; K-12 schools are still seeing fewer cases. “It’s not like letting kids work [on school] from home is the answer because [case numbers] it’s 50/50,” said the governor. According to contact tracing, the uptick in cases is coming from outside these areas, small gatherings of people bending the rules.

“Anytime you’re out of your house with people, wear a mask and keep your distance,” said Raimondo. According to the governor, it doesn’t matter if you’re visiting family or friends the next town over, you still need to be following the guidelines. Essentially, you should be following COVID regulations around anyone you don’t live with.

Raimondo today said anyone planning a Halloween party to cancel it. “If you’re making plans for Thanksgiving, think about not traveling,” she said. The governor acknowledged it would be difficult, but key to stop virus transmission. Specific announcements on new trick-or-treating restrictions will be announced tomorrow.

“We’ve gotten good at isolating people when we test positive,” said the governor. Contacts comply with state officials when quarantining after exposure to someone with COVID. The governor wants to ramp up asymptomatic testing, saying today it was key to the next phase of flattening any rise in cases.

In other announcements, the governor stated today Central Falls and Providence Public Schools would remain in their hybrid model for the rest of the semester. Metrics in the schools themselves have been good, but wider spread in their cities has the governor concerned. The Department of Commerce today announced additional relief to the state’s small business relief program, the Restore RI initiative. While only 20% of the money for the program has been awarded since its start two months ago, the governor said they were doubling the amount businesses could be eligible for. Eligibility has opened up to sole proprietors, non profits and childcare businesses.

Governor Raimondo also announced she would be getting tested weekly on Dr. Alexander-Scott’s recommendation. Within the next week state leaders are expected to roll out a new mandatory testing system for specific asymptomatic populations in order to obtain an accurate picture of community spread. One of the examples the governor gave when asked would be RIC/CCRI commuters getting tested weekly. The state can’t force people to get tested, Raimondo acknowledged, but the state will offer it. The state doesn’t intend to send cops to people’s houses if they have large gatherings, people have gotten lazy not malicious. State regulators will be cracking down on bars and other places.




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. 




Despite Rising Case Numbers, Raimondo Expressed Pride About RI’s Response to COVID: A summary of the governor’s October 7 press conference

Governor Gina Raimondo and DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott gave the weekly COVID press briefing today at 1pm.

Rhode Island has seen 145 new cases of the coronavirus according to data provided by DOH this morning. The governor announced during her comments today that the state performed 9,524 tests with a percent positive rate of 1.5%, far below the 5% recommended by the CDC. “If you look at how Rhode Island is doing relative to other states, you should be proud of the 1.5%,” said Raimondo. 

State officials in the Ocean State calculate that rate differently than other states, something local media has frequently critiqued. RI is among the few states to count repeat tests, and the positive percent rate is higher if you only count first time COVID test takers. Calculating how many positive tests there are is a key metric in discovering the virus’ spread. When asked today, the governor said the state records data using both ways, and that it was unfair to penalize the state for essentially just testing more. Dr. Alexander-Scott today added they weren’t look at aggregate numbers, but pointedly testing in specific communities such as college students or congregate care homes in order to determine the prevalence of the coronavirus. The governor also announced today her intentions to scale up testing, saying residents should not be surprised or alarmed to hear of 10,000 COVID tests being performed daily statewide.

There are 107 people hospitalized for reasons related to COVID-19. The state is trending downward in this statistic. Last week, 70 people were admitted to the hospital for COVID while this week it’s down to 66. Ten people are in the intensive care unit statewide with the virus, and five of those people are on ventilators. DOH reports one additional death today, a person in their 80s.

Raimondo addressed the status of the K-12 testing system today. K-12 schools have their own testing infrastructure, separate from the regular COVID testing system that’s been in place for months. Any student, staff member or teacher who needs a test should be using the separate testing system. Since school began, the K-12 system has performed almost 6,000 tests, with just 2,500 of those tests being performed last week. That system has turned out 109 positive cases, making its percent positive rate around 2%. The governor noted that the number of positive cases in the school system overall was 260, indicating that members of the K-12 system had received testing outside the one designed specifically for schools.

Out of the 95 schools that have seen COVID cases, most of those schools only have one positive case of the virus. Governor Raimondo stated they had not seen outbreaks, and that when they arise the state has become experts in handling them. “Bottom line is these systems are working and you should have confidence,” she said.

Governor Raimondo also put out a call for substitute teachers today, citing a desperate need for them in schools. She appealed to folks’ sense of duty and called on retired teachers to sign up to be substitute teachers. One member of the media noted they were hearing teachers in some districts were encouraged not to use sick time due to the lack of coverage. The governor repeated that most students were back in school after a month and the state had yet to see a breakout.

When asked today by the press corp if district court rulings against social gathering limits concerned Governor Raimondo for any future lockdown situations, the governor said she was not concerned. The district rulings were not in Rhode Island’s district, and her executive orders limiting gatherings have been time limited to 300-day periods. She said she hopes to avoid another lockdown situation like in the spring, when they didn’t even know how to test for the virus. Raimondo finished by saying it was a balancing act between people’s freedoms and matters of life and death.




A Scary Story

Illustration for “The Masque of the Red Death” by Harry Clarke, 1919

A wealthy prince, thinking himself protected from a plague that sweeps his land, hosts a lavish party in his castle, inviting all his wealthy friends to eat, drink and play, waiting for the plague to burn itself out and focusing on their own interests.

Now imagine that prince is the President, his castle the White House rose garden. Who could have guessed that Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “Masque of the Red Death” was so prescient?

“And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”