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Squid’s Ink: A few modest proposals

We sent most of our hackers off to fight Russian and Chinese hackers, so this month, we’re relying on a coffee cabinet of optimism and outrage. 

A Votive Candle for Democracy

You may have heard that democracy is in trouble (it is), that government is corrupt (sometimes) and that our nation is divided (it always has been). But…

Vote anyway. 

Both Trump and Biden grabbed office with nail-bitingly thin margins. In Rhode Island a few hundred voters can tip the balance. (Which is why, for years and years, thick necked guys have driven to senior citizens’ homes and rounded-up mail-in ballots.)

It would be nice to think that there’s a benevolent and enlightened dictator who will solve climate change, reduce crime, improve education, lower taxes and preserve your right to bear arms (or arm bears), but that fine upstanding non-gender-specific candidate has been in hiding for years. 

We squid have a saying: Didn’t vote? Don’t complain. 

So preserve your right to bitch and moan by taking the 15 minutes to cast your ballot. Even if it’s raining! They won’t dunk your thumb in purple ink, but you’ll get a cool sticker. 

Election day is TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 8. 

The Abortion Abortion

Roe V. Wade is dead. So millions of women and children are being forced by law to bring unwanted children into existence. We squid don’t have either birth control or abortion. If we did, there’s no way that RI would be able to harvest enough of us to keep calamari as its state appetizer. It’s hard enough to raise children when they are wanted.
Here’s our solution: Anyone who votes for a candidate who won’t support a woman’s right to choose will be required to adopt two children. What? You don’t want those kids either? 

Governor Groans

If she wasn’t a secretive unknown, we might consider voting for Ashley “The Louis Vuitton Carpetbagger” Kalus. Her jabs at Governor Dan “Dozing Dan” McKee have been devastating. Education scores delayed? Pow! Energy prices up? Bam! FBI Investigation? Biff!

BUT…

  • Kalus won’t clearly say whether she’s pro-choice or anti-abortion. This is code for, “I’m a politician looking out for myself.”
  • Kalus also won’t denounce Trump or the January 6 insurrection. (“Vote for me, I’m ok with tearing it all down…”)
  • Kalus “loaned” her campaign $3.7 million dollars, which is all the number-crunching media needed to dub her a “viable” candidate. If this isn’t buying an election, we don’t know what is.
  • And then there’s the lawsuit in Chicago against Kalus and her husband. Whether the suit has any merit, reading the account in the Journal, shows that Kalus screwed a friend in a business deal and then walked away. 

THAT SAID…

  • Dozing Dan McKee needs to wake up and actually lead, rather than sit in the passenger seat wondering, “Where’s Gina?” Fewer than a third of primary voters thought you were worth a damn. If you get reelected, prove us wrong. 

Public Education is Killing It!

Fuggetabout Rhode Island, how’s education in the US going? 

Well, the recent school shooting in St. Louis was number 40 for the year with a bullet. 

Simultaneously, the US Department of Education reports steep declines in test scores. Two-thirds of fourth grade students are not proficient in reading. We’re shocked! You mean that after a two-year pandemic, kids performed worse on standardized tests? Outrageous! But dig a tiny bit deeper and you’ll learn that in 2019, the percentage of fourth-graders who couldn’t read was 60%!

Public policy seems to be designed to punish children and teachers for not meeting learning objectives that they weren’t meeting before the pandemic. And to keep things spicy, we’ll make sure we keep assault rifles on the street and spend money turning schools into hardened locked down prisons.

Here’s our radical proposal: stop telling our children that they’re behind. They’re not. They are where they are. Stop doggedly teaching to tests that prove everyone is failing. Restore funding to the things that make school worth going to – art, music, creative play, sports, and reading for fun. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but reading can be fun. 

And stop making teachers responsible for everything. Parents, you need to get involved. You need to put down your phone and read with your kids. Or read to your kids on your phone. If you care about your kids, spend the time.

BUT… What do we do about the kids whose parents don’t care? (Remember when you voted to eliminate a woman’s right to choose?) Or the ones who do care, but don’t have the time because they’re working two or three jobs to survive? 

Put all children in schools that are bright and open and fun to attend. Extend the day and increase tutoring. Ban assault rifles and teach young people self-defense. 

Demonstrate the value of education by learning from the mistakes of the past and implementing change – even if it does mean that testing companies and curriculum publishers go bankrupt.

Satire?

Our editor just whacked us upside the head with a two-by-four and asked, “What happened to the satire?” First of all, that hurts. Picture a poor defenseless squid being pre-assaulted by a rampaging rhinoceros and… OW!

Bike Lane Bombs and RIPTA Retread

By now you’ve heard about the Great Hope Street Urban Trail Trial Debacle and RIPTA’s cancellation of Providence high school student bus runs. The Trail ran for its scheduled week, and then vanished in a flurry of online surveys and partisan posting on Instagram and NextDoor. For its part, RIPTA keeps trying to hire bus drivers, is rerouting some regular bus service, all while considering giving free fares to the homeless. And as of press time, First Student school bus drivers were contemplating a strike, complaining about poor wages, low hours, and the twin threats of COVID, and rabid parents.

[Editor: We’re still waiting for the satire…]

We’ve got a simple solution – hire the homeless to drive the buses and let them sleep in them at the end of the day. Yes, keeping the newly dubbed “Bus Bums” scent-free would require installing showers in bus parking lots, but that’s less expensive than either building affordable housing or giving the Superman building undeserved tax breaks.

[Editor: What about the bike lane?] 

And, since the Bus Bums don’t have either commercial licenses or training, those little white pylons won’t protect anybody in the bike lanes, so the whole thing is moot.

[Editor: Have you been inhaling from school bus tail pipes this month?]

Sophomoric and Graveyard Humor

  • You know those sponsorship ads on The Public’s Radio (NPR), the ones that aren’t commercials? We recently heard that Providence’s Swan Point is “a full service cemetery.” 

We hacked their computers and learned that not only will they burn or bury your dead, they’ll also wash your car while you’re at the funeral, and if nobody wants to take care of Grandma’s yappy dog, Kibble, they’ll euthanize the puppy and put him in the casket with Grandma.
[Editor’s note: no real dogs were killed to make this sick joke, but two grandmothers did expire in the testing phase.]

  • A bunch of students are suing Brown University for “pre-assault.” From what we understand, they’re accusing the Ivy League Institution of failing to make its campus safe from violent miscreants who want to – and did – rape students. 

Our hackers discovered that Brown is considering: banning burlesque, mini skirts, and theater with sexual content, arming its rent-a-cops with semi-automatic weapons, installing surveillance cameras with facial recognition on campus trees, and putting estrogen and saltpeter into the drinking water to put a damper on non-consensual encounters. 

  • We also learned of another lawsuit accusing Brown’s dining services of “failing to make its meal plans fitness safe.” Chubby plaintiffs blamed Brown for their “freshman fifteen” pounds of weight gain and claimed that the University should have told them that eating pizza and cheesecake without exercising was unhealthy.
    [Editor’s note: Sexual assault is no joke. Nor is obesity. For that matter, politics really isn’t funny either. Maybe we need to rethink this whole satire thing…]



News Analysis — Elections 2022: Few contested races remain after primaries

For information about the upcoming RI general election on Nov 8, see the web site – vote.sos.ri.gov – that explains how and where to vote, options for early voting, and lists of candidates for all offices. RI has early in-person voting Oct 19 through Nov 7 at city and town halls; no special application is required to vote early in-person.

The deadline to register to vote for this general election is Sun, Oct 9. The deadline for registered voters to apply for a mail ballot is Tue, Oct 18. Registering to vote can be done in-person, by postal mail, and on-line.

Most of the RI races in the 2022 general election are not considered seriously competitive, and more than a few major offices do not even have an opposition candidate. For mayor of Providence, Democrat Brett Smiley won an aggressively contested primary with 41.9% against Gonzalo Cuervo with 36.2% and Nirva LaFortune with 21.9%, but no Republican declared candidacy at all and a lone independent, former city council member (then as a Democrat) Wilbur Jennings Jr, failed to submit nomination papers to qualify for the ballot.

US House, 2nd district: Fung v. Magaziner

Allan Fung and Kevin McCarthy in RI, Aug 6, 2022. (Source)

The marquee race is unquestionably for the second district seat in the US House of Representatives being vacated by James Langevin who has held it since 2002. In the Democratic primary, outgoing General Treasurer Seth Magaziner trounced a crowded field of five other candidates, with 54.0%. On the Republican side, Allan Fung, who served as Cranston mayor from 2009 to 2021, earned the nomination unopposed.

In the only public poll of the race, conducted by Suffolk University in collaboration with The Boston Globe, Fung led by 6 percentage points head-to-head against Magaziner (45% – 39%), but the result is of dubious value because it was conducted Jun 19 – 22, long before the Sep 13 primary; and it included all of the other Democratic candidates at that time.

Nevertheless, Fung is an unusually strong Republican candidate by RI standards and has a credible chance of winning the House seat. He is well-regarded and his twelve years as mayor of Cranston are generally seen as a successful example of good governance of a municipality that recently eclipsed Warwick to become the second most populous city in the state. (Cranston was in third place while Fung was mayor.)

No one thinks Fung is the favorite in heavily Democratic RI, and political forecasting news service Five Thirty Eight considers the race “likely Democratic” with an 83% probability of Magaziner winning with 52.0% of the vote to Fung’s 44.1%. That would still be a considerably stronger showing by Fung than his two gubernatorial losses against Gina Raimondo in 2014 (40.7% – 36.2%) and 2018 (52.6% – 37.2%), although 2014 was quirky because “Cool Moose” and Moderate Party candidate Robert Healey drew 21.6%, apparently almost entirely from Raimondo and nearly enough to make Fung governor.

The real obstacle for Fung is that US House races have become nationalized in a highly-polarized climate where Democrats are struggling to defend their slim 221–214 seat majority in a “mid-term” election (that is, without a presidential contest). As of Oct 2, the Five Thirty Eight ranks 214 seats either strongly, likely, or leaning Republican; 208 seats either strongly, likely, or leaning Democratic; and 13 seats a toss-up: 218 seats are needed for a majority. In other words, control of the House is absolutely up for grabs.

Fung has been doing an awkward dance with national Republicans. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted a photo of himself visiting Fung in RI on Aug 6, and a few weeks later Ted Nesi of WPRI reported that Fung had flown to McCarthy’s annual donor retreat in Wyoming. According to Punchbowl News, the event “was loaded with millionaires and billionaires (including Elon Musk, the world’s richest person) who want [McCarthy] to become the next speaker of the House.” This is dangerous company for Fung to keep as he risks scaring off RI voters. Punchbowl wrote, “Just hours after the Jan. 6 insurrection, even as the tear gas still wafted through a blood-stained Capitol, McCarthy and 146 other House Republicans refused to certify Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Just weeks after Trump left Washington in disgrace, McCarthy visited him at Mar-a-Lago, kicking off the process of resurrecting Trump’s national standing. And McCarthy worked to derail a separate House investigation into the insurrection, even repudiating a deal that one of his own Republicans made with Democrats to create a bipartisan commission to look into the Capitol attack. And now, should McCarthy become the speaker in January 2023, he’ll preside over a conference filled with those either disinterested, unwilling, unable or afraid to speak out against Trump. And the result of that dynamic is that the House GOP will be made up of loud voices who want to impeach Biden, investigate the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation, defund the FBI and take Trump’s revenge tour to the House floor.” It’s understandable why Fung is not anxious to have his fundraising and other ties to McCarthy displayed too openly.

Motif has in the past given generous coverage to Magaziner, for example with his BankLocal program using state investments to back loans to RI small businesses. In the end, though, most voters are not going to make their choice based on any personal qualities of the candidates, neither competence nor track record, but rather on whether they want to see Kevin McCarthy as speaker at the head of the Republican majority in the US House. Despite his efforts to remain aloof from national politics, that is likely to sink Fung.

RI Governor: Kalus v. McKee

In theory, Republicans can win the governor’s office in RI. They have held it repeatedly: most recently, Edward D. DiPrete (1985–1991), Lincoln Almond (1995–2003), and Donald Carcieri (2003–2011) served as Republican governors. But RI is heavily Democratic: In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden trounced Donald Trump in the state by more than 20 percentage points, 59.4% – 38.6%. Other state offices are overwhelmingly won by Democrats.

Daniel McKee was weakened severely by a difficult five-way primary that he won with only 36.8% against a surprisingly strong performance by newcomer Helena Foulkes with 30.1% and outgoing Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea with 26.1%. Exactly what happened, and whether Foulkes and Gorbea split the anti-McKee vote, will be debated for years.

The result set up a general election contest against Ashley Kalus who is running as a Republican conservative. Kalus has been taking real shots at McKee, and some of them have been landing. She attacked his giving government money to renovate the Industrial National Trust Tower (the “Superman building”) as a boondoggle: “Here’s an idea – instead of giving $69 million in corporate welfare to the developer of the Superman Building, why don’t we invest in RIPTA? Considering the average driver makes $16.75/hour – imagine how impactful even an additional $1 million would be for RIPTA’s abilities to provide services,” she has said. She likewise praised the federal court ruling that tractor-trailer tolls were unconstitutional as applied, a mess McKee inherited from former Gov. Raimondo.

The Kalus campaign called a McKee ad claim that she would roll back abortion rights “blatantly false,” saying “Ashley would not support any effort to overturn the 2019 law” that enshrined the Roe v. Wade viability standard into state law despite its overruling at the federal level. But she would oppose the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act supported by McKee and which his office said on Sep 30 would be included in the budget for next year, to “provide insurance coverage for abortion-related services for state employees and individuals enrolled in Medicaid.” By contrast, the Kalus campaign said “she stands with the overwhelming majority of Rhode Islanders, 77%, that do not support taxpayer-funded abortions.”

McKee succeeded from his role as lieutenant governor when Raimondo resigned to become secretary of commerce in the Biden cabinet. Other than succeeding a gubernatorial vacancy, there are no remaining duties of the lieutenant governor since the state constitution was amended a few years ago to remove the ex-officio job of presiding over the State Senate. I remember being shocked at a press conference when a reporter asked then-Gov. Raimondo to respond to comments then-Lt. Gov. McKee had made, and she dismissively said he was welcome to call her office like any other citizen. McKee never fit into the Raimondo administration: With her Ivy League pedigree (Harvard undergrad, Yale Law) and Rhodes Scholarship (Oxford D.Phil.), Raimondo was used to being the smartest person in the room and surrounded herself with other people who had the same outlook. McKee, despite his Harvard Kennedy School M.P.A., is very much not that sort of person.

McKee is also as good a politician as Raimondo is not: he can relate to ordinary people while Raimondo has no tolerance for fools, and his experience as mayor of Cumberland helped him learn to govern. I’ve had the opportunity to observe him closely, including his management of the state through a blizzard and a hurricane, and his approach was to surround himself with competent experts and listen to their advice. He has clearly made mistakes, such as approving a no-bid contract for government services, and he may pay a price for that, politically or worse. The most charitable interpretation is that McKee trusted his friends and they exploited him.

The political weakness of McKee should have served as an invitation for the Republicans to nominate a candidate with a solid management background and broadly moderate ideological views, but Kalus seems to have blown that opportunity. Kalus gave an extended interview to the experienced and incisive political reporter Ian Donnis for his “Political Roundtable” show on RI Public Radio, the overall effect of which could only be described as disastrous for the candidate. Donnis pressed her repeatedly on refusal to answer “whether you believe teaching about race and racism should be restricted or whether certain books should be banned” and she ducked the question, saying “My focus is on the things that we can agree on… which is math, and reading, and writing.”

Donnis said “You started a business with your husband that operated COVID-related services in Rhode Island, and then got into a dispute with the State Department of Health. That’s now the subject of closed-door mediation.” Kalus responded, “And what we see with Dan McKee is we see a governor that is under FBI investigation for giving out federal money, contracts to insiders and his friends.” Donnis had to correct her in real-time, saying “We should know there’s no information at this point indicating that Dan McKee himself is the subject of this probe.”

Donnis asked Kalus several times whether she voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election, and she avoided answering, saying, “The question of Donald Trump is not the question of the governor’s race in Rhode Island.”

Kalus has also faced embarrassing questions about how she filed for a homestead tax exemption for a $1.2 million property in Illinois while claiming to live in RI. As WPRI reporters Eli Sherman and Ted Nesi explained, “Under state law, the homestead exemption is supposed to be only for homeowners who live in their residence full-time. Kalus said that was always true for her husband, who she said stayed in Illinois while she was living in RI to manage a state COVID-19 contract they won.” Sherman and Nesi note that Kalus, whose RI declaration of candidacy lists her domicile at a second house in Newport, voted in Florida in the 2020 election, residing at a third house the couple bought in 2015.

All Republicans running for office in RI face the same dilemma: how to separate themselves from a national party that has embraced a culture war that is deeply unpopular in RI, let alone Trump’s “big lie” about which the Polling Institute at Monmouth University has been asking a representative sample of the electorate this question monthly: “Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square, or do you believe that he only won it due to voter fraud?” and consistently about one-third of the public says voter fraud.

Kalus, without any local track record like Allan Fung, is an unknown and possibly unknowable quantity about whom all assessments are necessarily based on her own statements and campaign, and by that measure she has been doing herself no favors. There has been no public polling of the race because the conventional wisdom is that Kalus has the chance of a snowball in hell of upsetting McKee.

Bond referenda

There are three bond referendum questions on the ballot with the 2022 general election, the first two pretty ordinary.

Question 1 asks for $100 million to design and construct new facilities at the URI Narragansett Bay Campus. “This project would support educational and research needs in ocean engineering, oceanography, and other marine-related disciplines,” according to the secretary of state. Over the 20-year life of the bonds, interest would add an estimated $60 million to the total cost.

Question 2 asks for $250 million “to improve Pre-K through grade 12 public school facilities and equip them for 21st-century learning,” mostly construction projects. “Funding may be used to address immediate health and safety concerns, early childhood education, career and technical education, and other educational needs including but not limited to science labs, libraries and modern learning technology,” according to the secretary of state. Over the 20-year life of the bonds, interest would add an estimated $151 million to the total cost.

Question 3 combines nine separate items under a $50 million umbrella of “environmental and recreational” projects for the “green economy.” We will consider these from largest to smallest, preserving the item letters as they will appear on the ballot.

Item a: $16 million for up to 75 percent matching grants to help cities and towns identify hazards resulting from climate change, such as more frequent and intense storms that cause increased flooding of coastline, rivers, and streams flood plains.

Item i: $12 million for Roger Williams Park and Zoo to construct a state-of-the-art, carbon-neutral education center and event pavilion.

Item b: $5 million to establish a Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, essentially a revolving fund lending to small businesses with zero interest and below-market-rate loans and grants to help implement clean energy projects.

Item e: $4 million to clean up former industrial or commercial “brownfield” sites that may be contaminated by hazardous waste or other environmental pollution, providing up to 80% matching grants for remediation projects that bring sites back into productive use.

Item c: $3 million for matching grants to complete projects that restore and protect the water quality, aquatic habitats and the environmental sustainability of Narragansett Bay and RI’s watersheds, furthering efforts to clean water for drinking, shell-fishing, recreation, commerce and other uses.

Item d: $3 million for maintenance of forests, wildlife habitat, and related infrastructure on state properties, such as state management areas, including removal of dead and/or dying trees and tree planting.

Invasives removal and other forest health and wildlife habitat activities; and the repair and maintenance of fire roads, trails, and bridges to improve and maintain recreational public access and mitigate the risk of wildfire.

Item f: $3 million for the State Land Acquisition Program allowing the state to acquire open space, farmland, watershed, and recreation lands, investing these funds in the preservation of working farmland and recreational resources. Funds will be matched by federal, local and non-profit sources in a 1-to-3 ratio with every state dollar being matched by three other dollars.

Item g: $2 million for up to 50% in matching grants to cities and towns, local land trusts and non-profit organizations to acquire open space lands in Rhode Island.

Item h: $2 million for up to 80% in matching grants to cities and towns to develop or rehabilitate local public recreational facilities such as parks, playgrounds, and athletic fields, and up to 50% in matching grants to acquire land for public recreational facilities.

Over the 20-year life of the bonds, interest would add an estimated $30 million to the total cost.




Squid’s Ink: October Kerfuffles

Our hackers had an easy September. We floated under the waves at contaminated beaches, and lounged under the bridges as flood waters rushed past above. Yes, we dodged those lures and fishing hooks (oh, the sweet temptation of near-death), but we emerged into the hurricane-election season unscathed. While others may think that the State’s appetizer of calamari is a noble thing, we find it shameful and terrifying. But that is an issue for another month.

Political Asylum

Nobody in the Rhode Island Democrat establishment will say this, but they are terrified that Governor Dan (“You snooze you lose”) McKee will shank the election to newcomer Ashley (“Carpetbagger”) Kalus

Kalus, of course, is known for maintaining houses in Illinois, Florida, and now Newport. Her proposed education policy is to ‘Do what Massachusetts is doing… whatever that is, but better.’ Her stand on the abortion choice issue has been to dissemble and mumble platitudes on Twitter. Sounds like a true Rhode Island Pol to us!

Meanwhile, McKee has his fingers crossed that whatever the FBI is investigating will take so long it won’t land until after the election. McKee squeaked a win in September with fewer than one-third of the anemic primary vote, only after a flurry of early and absentee ballots were discovered at the Board of Elections in a plain brown paper bag. 

“Any other candidate would be taking a victory lap,” said political consultant Goe Getter, “but McKee’s got to be worried. Kalus has loaned her campaign millions – lots more than McKee has fundraised. And we all know that while money can’t buy happiness, it just might buy an election.” 

We woke several voters to ask their thoughts, but they just wanted to know if we’d brought coffee and donuts.

Migrant Migraines

In a brilliantly cynical move, Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis used taxpayers’ money to airlift Central American Migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, where they were greeted with warm chowder, fried clams, and a one-way ferry ticket off the island. 

We had an imaginary conversation with Rhode Island’s own Survivor champion, Richard (“Don’t tax me”) Hatch, who told us, “Poor strategy. If they had been naked, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection would have classified them as a protected migratory species, and sent them to the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary.”

Just before press time, our hackers also learned that in August, more than 2,000 migrants were dropped into Central Falls by parachute. They were greeted by distant relatives, taken home, and immediately put to work for Central Falls Restaurant Week. The parachute fabric is currently available at Lorraine Mills in Pawtucket for $14.95/yard.

Bussing and Biking Blunders

Blaming a COVID-related labor shortage, The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority has been reducing service and in September canceled bus runs for Providence high school students. RIPTA, which seems to think that buses are a benefit for poor people rather than a vital part of a vibrant city, promised to notify students at least 10 minutes in advance. East Side Classical High School Parents were outraged and demanded immediate action. Parents from other parts of town shrugged, “This is how RIPTA always behaves. It hates students.”  RIPTA Chairman, Scott “I drive a car” Avedisian explained that to solve the problem, RIPTA is holding job fairs…“Paging Ralph Kramden!”

Meanwhile, as we go to press, the East Side is also getting a taste of Environmental Road Rage. 

As part of a one week Urban Trail Test. Part of Mayor Jorge (“Kinda Cute in Bike Shorts”) Elorza’s Great Streets Initiative, more than 130 parking spaces were removed from Hope Street to make way for a two-way bike lane, which was sponsored by Spin Bikes, the 3M corporation and the AARP. 

Some residents and businesses dubbed the experiment “non-democratic,” “anti-senior” and “anti-business.” 

Cycling advocates pointed to sea level rise, the price of oil, and how much nicer the world would be without cars. 

Will fistfights erupt? Will businesses go bankrupt? Will double-wide strollers be mowed down by rogue scooterists? Only time will tell.

Several Munchkin Bites

So… now the Dunk is the Meek. It feels like we’ve traded coffee and donuts for the mouse in the hole or the roadrunner sticking out its tongue… What’s next, vendors selling life and property insurance at Monster Truck Rallies? “Popcorn, beer, get your red hot auto liability…”
Anyway, like many of you, we’ve been wondering whether liberating its brand from the donut was a smart choice for the Dunkin’ corporation. The ubiquitous New England chain has been dashing across the pond, where it partnered with E.l.f Cosmetics to produce a makeup collection. (Really!) You can get Boston Creme Eyeshadow, a Dunkin’ Strawberry Frosted with Sprinkles Face Sponge, or the fabulous E.l.f. Dunkin Donut Forget Putty Primer, which has a “slight, sweet donut-inspired scent.” What’s next Pumpkin Latte Rouge? Or maybe Lobster Roll Croissant Lipstick? 

Speaking of waffles… If you haven’t read Steve Ahlquist’s interview of Elorza on the Buff Chace 8% TSA, it’s a lovely look at how the sausage gets made. Here’s our excerpt: Steve: “$30 million tax break for what??” Elorza: “Legal department… Risk… We might lose… I’m not afraid of Nick Hemond… Just give them the money and hope nobody else sues.”

Even though it has nothing to do with Rhode Island, our hackers learned that  Queen Elizabeth II of England is still dead. Despite attempts by Mark Zukerberg to reanimate her in the Metaverse, the longest ruling monarch in British history remains interred at Windsor Castle. Rumors that she was buried with several of her favorite corgi dogs are considered both fatuous and in poor taste. When asked for a comment, her son, King (“Prince”) Charles III shook his head and waggled his ears.

Finally, The Price of Gas at the Pump continues to decline as the November elections approach. “This is just business as usual,” explained Dr. Rill B’aby D’rill, spokesperson for the Oil International Cartel (OIK). “We like to give consumers a scare in the summer, and then make it easier for our puppets… er bought-and-paid-for… er politicians to win in the fall.”




Wealth, Power and Whiteness Still Dominate Representation in Woonsocket

Before 1952, Woonsocket was divided into five city council wards. After the 1952 Charter Commission finished its work, Woonsocket moved to the system it roughly has today, with seven at-large city council seats and an elected mayor. Instead of at-large seats, most cities use a district election model that ensures people from different neighborhoods will be chosen to represent the city evenly. How did Woonsocket get to this model, and 70 years later, what have been the effects of this change?

As Woonsocket entered the 1950s, it was a city in decline: The manufacturing base abandoned the mills and moved south to take advantage of workers in states and countries with more lax laws regarding worker safety and compensation. Woonsocket became convinced that their way of organizing city government was holding the city back. So, as Providence had done in the 1940s, Woonsocket formed a Charter Commission to modernize and streamline the government. This modernization would ultimately be accomplished by establishing a unicameral legislature of seven non-partisan, at-large city legislators and a “strong mayor” executive branch.

The establishment of a unicameral at-large city council was accomplished by doing away with the ward system. At present, all city council members are at-large, meaning that in any election, the top seven vote-getters become the city council. The candidates are also technically non-partisan in that they don’t have an official party affiliation.

Yellow flags indicate the homes of councelpeople. Colors indicate median income for each part of Woonsocket.
Images compiled from data published by UpriseRI

As detailed in the Woonsocket Call on May 10, 1952, the chairs of the three political parties in Woonsocket presented their views on how to reconfigure Woonsocket’s government, with an eye towards redistricting the city. Surprisingly there was a broad agreement among the three party heads as to what was needed. Democrat John F. Doris, Republican Emile A Pepin, and Independent Kevin K. Coleman, as leaders of their respective parties in Woonsocket, expressed to the Charter Commission a series of good governance ideas.

These ideas included a “strong mayor” system of government (not a city manager) plus higher salaries for both the mayor, which should be a full-time position, and for city council members, as a means of attracting higher-caliber candidates, and several others.

Arguments against at-large elections, at least as they pertain to the school committee, were made by Thaddeus Piekos, financial secretary of the Woonsocket Teachers Guild, the teacher’s union. Piekos said that “at-large elections could result in the selection of five members from the same district with other school areas being overlooked as a result.” (Woonsocket Call, June 7, 1952)

Sadly, the predictions of Piekos have been borne out by time. In the seventy years since the Charter Commission finished its work, political power has concentrated into three areas of the city. People of color and low-income people are not getting elected to office. Instead, wealth, power and whiteness dictate representation in Woonsocket.

The notes kept by the 1952 Charter Commission seem to have been lost to time. A records request made to Woonsocket City Hall yielded no results. The Woonsocket Historical Society has nothing about the 1952 Charter commission, and the Woonsocket Public Library was also unable to provide more than the Woonsocket Call articles and some historical books on the subject. All these organizations were extremely supportive in writing this piece.

[This version of Wealth, Power and Whiteness Still Dominate Representation in Woonsocket has been abbreviated; read the full version at UpriseRI.com]




Do Your Job: And Get Paid for It!

Buying votes might be illegal, but Rhode Island’s politicians have a long tradition of innovative and expensive ways to ensure loyalty: Offer a group of state or local employees a raise or a better contract, with the expectation they’ll be grateful. Remember Buddy Cianci’s Cost of Living Pension Blowout? It’s the gift that keeps on giving in the form of Providence’s ginormous pension liability.

In July, Providence teachers got a $3,000 signing bonus to ratify a new contract, and Providence just pitched a 4% annual raise to city firefighters. The fact that these are five-year contracts good for two election cycles is just a coincidence…

The latest? The state’s $3,000 bonus to union workers who got their COVID-19 vaccines.

Wait, what? Three grand for getting a shot that anyone with a brain knows improves your chance of living to see the New Year and is actually required for most employees to do their job?

The Providence Journal reported the union’s president calling it “…the most overwhelming ratification I am aware of.”

We at The Squid’s Ink applaud our public employees, and think they deserve more money. Hell, we all deserve more money. 

With the more than $1 billion in federal COVID aid still banked, our hackers found plans already in the works for vote-buying… er signing bonuses for workers in other fields.

The Pothole Prize – City and state road and highway workers get $3,000 now for agreeing to fill potholes… eventually. Probably. Some day. Maybe.

The DMV Deal – Still in negotiation, our sources say that Department of Motor Vehicle employees will receive $100 for every person still in line after closing hours.

Preschool Payoff – Early childhood workers clean up with $1,000 per year for changing diapers, wiping tears and snot, and scrubbing vomit.

Plowers Plunder – This winter, “snow removal vendors” will bank an extra $100 for every driveway they block when clearing streets. $250 if you’ve just finished clearing it. 

Bus Driver’s Benefit – For $3,000, all RIPTA employees agree to open the front door of their busses, and “kneel” the bus for the disabled and elderly. They are still permitted to snort and roll their eyes when cyclists ask to use the bike rack.

Birth Lottery Bucks – Starting January 1, every mother who successfully gives birth will receive $100 in scratch tickets.

Medical Marijuana Moolah – Weed workers and budtenders will toke home $420 “hazard pay” for sampling their product. Beer brewers are still working out details for distribution of “Hops Improvement Funds.”

Dollars for Donuts – A “reverse debit card” for city and state police will add $50 per swipe at Dunkin’ [last name redacted] to the officer’s bank account. Cops will get $75 per cruller at “artisan” shops like Allie’s, Knead and PVDonuts.

Docs’ Dollars – Physicians, nurses and phlebotomists are often neglected in the payoff game. This year, they’ll get $2,000 just for filling out required insurance papers. $3,000 if they do it while meeting with patients.

Morality Money – our elected officials will reluctantly take $1 matching funds from state coffers for every $1 they decline from lobbyists and special interest groups. This rises to $10 per dollar for cash offered in brown paper bags.




Cosmic Capsule – Buddy Cianci – Run Buddy Run

Lunar Notes for Providence Candidate Buddy Cianci

 

buddyLove him or hate him, you have to admit that Buddy Cianci is a remarkable man. Two time mayor of Providence, forced to resign each time as a convicted felon, he has announced his decision to run for that office again. A look at his horoscope reveals his uniqueness as well as his astonishing chutzpah.

He is a Taurus and along with the Sun in Taurus, he has Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus in Taurus as well. Six planets in one sign is unusual. Even more unusual is the Jupiter/Uranus/Saturn conjunction. What this means is that the energy of these planets are fused together, creating a powerhouse of energy. Back in his mayoral days, he would go from morn until night, doing the mayor thing as well as making appearances at civic and social functions, the joke being that Buddy would go to the opening of an envelope. All this Taurus makes him fixed and resolute. Tauruses are earthy and sensual, loving their creature comforts. They are also loyal and capable of hanging in when all others throw in the towel. At each felony conviction his resignation came at the very last minute. He wasn’t giving up until he absolutely had to.

His Mars in Aquarius is perfect for the hand-shaking and schmoozing that a politician has to endure. With this placement, it is not endurance, but fun and natural to him. With his Moon in airy Gemini he needs to communicate, talk and exchange information. Radio is the perfect place for him.

He announced his intention to run for mayor again on June 25, 2014, at 3:32pm. Astrologers erect a horoscope using these announcement times to gauge the success or failure of the outcome. The transiting planets at the moment of his announcement have some significant connections to his natal planets.

The strongest planet in his natal chart is Venus in Taurus. Venus has the most dignity, meaning she operates at full power. Venus attracts, is sensual, and rules love and money. At the time of the announcement Pluto traveling through Capricorn was in very close alignment with his Venus in Taurus. Pluto in the picture provides impetus for a push for power. It also indicates some powerful backing with lots of money.
Saturn in Scorpio opposes his collection of Taurus planets. Saturn has been in Scorpio for the past couple of years and is indicative of hard time as well as hard work. He’s been through a couple of tough years due to health issues and a campaign is not a walk in the park.

Retrograde Mercury in Gemini sits upon his Gemini Moon. Mercury retrograde is not the ideal time to launch a new enterprise because the information is not all there. Once Mercury goes direct the missing pieces surface, changing the situation. Mercury retrograde on his Moon also clouds his true intention. Does he want to be the mayor again or does he simply want to stir things up?

His announcement also comes at a time when the Moon is on the wane. Traditionally if you want something to grow you initiate when the Moon is in the waxing phase. In these charts the Moon rules the pubic and public opinion.  In Gemini the indication is of an indecisive public which could work to his advantage.

The Gemini influence, Mercury retrograde and Moon in Gemini both close to his natal Moon in Gemini imply a change in plans.

It is early days yet, the field is filled with candidates and this is being written under that pesky Mercury retrograde. Will he win or will he fold? Buddy Cianci may be a lot of things but he is not a quitter but with all that Taurus energy he is a practical, pragmatic man. The situation is going to change. Under those changing circumstances Buddy Cianci will pull a classic Buddy move with a lot of splash, flash and media coverage. What that move will be is anybody’s guess.




Phenomenons in Politics — Tri-Partisan Support in RI? The Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act

Bill: H-7506 “Held For Further Study”

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On May 16, a RI House Judiciary Committee recommended that the Marijuana Regulation, Control & Taxation Act (Bill: H-7506) be “held for further study” along with six other marijuana-related bills. What this means is that they will wait for those who proposed the bill to come back with more convincing research that would warrant an actual vote. What this really means is that the committee most likely will not vote on the bill during this session and it will be pushed aside, never to be spoken of again. Many people involved with the movement to end prohibition in our fine state consider this recommendation to be a defeat of the new bill. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is tri-partisan support for H-7506, which is a phenomenon in itself, and this is the second year in a row that such legislation has been presented to the house. Over 53 percent of Rhode Islanders support legalization. Bob Plain, Editor/Publisher of Rhode Island’s Future, writes, “Legalizing marijuana could mean $82 million in annual revenue for RI.” The statistics from Colorado and Washington have all been encouraging in matters concerning revenue, crime and adolescent use. The same can be said for those states with decriminalization and medical marijuana laws. What more convincing research could this committee need?

You have to ask what the true motivation behind such a decision could be. With any politician, it is essentially votes, is it not? Morals and values definitely play a huge part in any politically held position, but in order to get to that position — and stay there — you ultimately need to win the popularity contest. This means listening to the constituents in your district and representing their popular views. Therefore, one can assume that those who are opposed to legalization are being more vocal about their views in all of the right places.

To counteract this type of influence, be more vocal about your personal views and make them known, not only to your local politicians but to the people in your community. Those who oppose an end to prohibition are often just misinformed or influenced by the stigma associated with marijuana use. Present those who are unaware of the facts with sources and research that prove an end to prohibition is a move toward progress. Become active in local politics, contribute to your community and present yourself in a responsible manner. Lead by example and others will follow, especially when the example is just.

Here are a few great resources for anyone interested in the legalization movement:

Contact Regulate RI and join the coalition to end prohibition in RI. regulateri.com
The Marijuana Policy Project (mpp.org) is a invaluable resource to the movement. They have a vast database of reports, studies, bills and other cannabis-related news and information.
The Drug Policy Alliance has an impressive blog, as well as a plethora of facts concerning individual rights, drug war statistics and more. drugpolicyalliance.org
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is an organization that has front line experience in the war on drugs and seeks to stop it. leap.cc