Cup o’ (Pro)Jo: December 5, 2011

Betting that the New England Patriots will make the playoffs this year is, as usual, one of the safest bets you can make. But for fans of the Foxboro, Massachusetts team who may be looking for riskier bets, the opportunity could soon become a reality. The team’s owner Robert Kraft, along with Las Vegas casino operator Steve Wynn, has been speaking to Foxboro residents to gauge support for their plans to build a casino resort across the road from Gillette Stadium. Though Wynn explained the resort would not be as large or “flashy” as its Nevada counterparts, there’s no word yet on how residents of the town are responding to the proposal.

Back here in Rhode Island, Michael Riley, a Narragansett businessman, has announced his intention to run as a Republican against current Democratic Congressman James Langevin in next year’s elections. Riley, who has served on various board and commissions in his home town, has set aside $109,000 in personal savings for his campaign and also hired two consultants.

And finally, good news for those receiving mail in the Ocean State (all of you, I imagine)! Rhode Island’s only mail-processing center was not on the list of 252 centers that may be shut down by the U.S. Postal Service in its effort to cut costs and avoid bankruptcy. Regardless, the agency’s spokeswoman says delays in mail delivery may still occur due to the closures at other sites.

Cup o’ (Pro)Jo: November 28, 2011

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) announced his resignation from Congress earlier today. Initially elected to the House in 1980, Frank has served on numerous committees and panels during his over three-decade tenure, most recently as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Known for his liberal views and outspoken personality, he was instrumental in steering Congress’ response to the banking collapse in 2008. Frank also spoke at Brown earlier this semester about the need for U.S. support of Israel.  His decision was to be announced at a news conference in Newton, Mass.

Policymakers and members of the general public are being encouraged to stop by the Rhode Island State House’s redistricting office to look at census data and experiment with mapping software to design potential boundaries for the state’s congressional districts. But when asked to release the names of people who had actually come into the office, House spokesman Larry Berman would not speak up, which for some reason, the Providence Journal seems to think is an issue. Possible maps for the state’s redistricting were released last week and the final meeting to discuss redistricting is set for December 19. The General Assembly’s proposal must be finalized by the filing deadline for next year’s election cycle.

In other news, gas prices in Rhode Island dropped another five cents last week to $3.42 a gallon, still significantly above the national average of $3.30. And finally, in Warwick, Representative James Langevin is hosting a forum for local farmers to gather and discuss the state’s agricultural economy, which has seen somewhat of a revival in recent years.

Cup o’ (Pro)Jo: November 22, 2011

Two activists representing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will be promoting a vegetarian Thanksgiving holiday by handing out tofurkey to interested passerbys in downtown Providence Tuesday afternoon. The move is part of a national PETA campaign to curb the use of turkeys this week and similar events have been planned for  various cities across the U.S., including San Francisco. One activist quoted in the Providence Journal called Thanksgiving a “murder on turkeys” that needs to be avoided. And if your trip home includes a stop at Kennedy Plaza, you’re in luck. The group will be stationed at the corner of Dorrance and Washington Streets so you can stop by and pick up a tofurkey for the road! They will be wearing “sexy” Pilgrim costumes that are apparently “anything-but-puritanical.” Believe me, I could never make that up. Continue Reading

Cup o’ (Pro)Jo: November 14, 2011

Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse are in full support of a bill that would require retailers without a physical presence in a state to collect state and local sales taxes, which they are currently exempt from doing. These businesses, referred to as “remote retailers,” sell their products online and through catalogues to people across state lines, and the absence of these taxes makes their total prices cheaper than those of the local competition. If passed, the law is predicted to increase Rhode Island’s revenue by as much as $70 million. Continue Reading

Cup o'(Pro)Jo: November 7, 2011

At about 2:30am Saturday morning, a drunken Johnson & Wales student charged through the Occupy Providence campsite in Burnside Park, damaging two tents and attempting to steal food. The protesters detained the student until police officers arrived at the scene, but no charges were filed. The student was invited to a meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss his actions and learn more about the Occupy movement but he did not show up. And although he agreed to pay for the damage he inflicted on the tents, no money has been forthcoming.

State lawmakers were scheduled to meet at the State House on Monday to discuss Rhode Island’s policies on coverage of medical treatments for autism. Though the General Assembly enacted a law mandating insurance providers to cover the cost of procedures associated with the diagnosis and treatment of autism, Representative Peter Palumbo thinks this coverage should be expanded to include more therapists. Treatment for the disorder can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

In other local news, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will be providing significantly expanded service to T.F. Green Airport starting November 14, which should make going home for Thanksgiving a bit easier for those who have to fly. And, in sports, the New England Patriots, who hadn’t lost a regular season home game since November 2008, fell to the New York Giants in Foxborough on Sunday afternoon. (Just in case anyone forgot, the Giants famously ended another Pats streak just a few years back.)

Cup o’ (Pro)Jo: October 17, 2011

Late on Saturday afternoon, Rhode Island joined the international Occupy movement, a protest against the corruption and greed of the wealthiest 1 percent of the population and their marginalization of the remaining 99 percent. The movement, which began last month on Wall Street, has had hundreds of supporters here in Providence, with protesters gathering in Burnside Park for the past three days. By Saturday night, about 25 tents were set up in the public park downtown. And just this morning, members of the Occupy Providence group marched to the Bank of America building, where they plan to close their accounts and “take their money back.”

The state will be getting a new batch of much-needed primary care doctors, dentists and mental health providers this year, thanks to an expanded federal program which repays up to $60,000 in student loans in return for service in under-served areas of the country. In 2011 alone, twenty-seven health care workers in Rhode Island received awards with a combined total of $1.7 million from the National Health Service Corps. Last year, an additional 15 awards were made. Recipients work in community health centers, prison-affiliated clinics and other high-need locations.

In other local news, the state’s Special Commission on Reapportionment is holding a public hearing this Monday night to receive feedback on their proposed changes to Rhode Island’s political districts. And north of the State House, a laundromat was robbed by a man wearing a Halloween mask on Saturday night. There’s probably a joke in there, but for now, let’s just say it’s too soon.