Cup o’ (Pro)Jo: December 9, 2011

If you caught The Daily Show’s hilarious recap of Chafee’s coming under fire from Christians for refusing to add “Christmas” before the name of the state’s holiday tree, you may remember John Stewart mentioning that the Founding Father’s cared so little about the holiday that they actually held sessions on the 25th for 67 years. According to the ProJo’s PolitiFact Rhode Island, the American Civil Liberties Union and the History Channel have made similar claims—which are apparently false.  After checking Congressional journals between 1789 and 1856, PolitFact investigators concurred that each chamber only met once on Christmas during that period.

The North Providence town council voted Tuesday that anyone addressing the council must now be “sworn in,” drawing a concerned response from the American Civil Liberties Union’s state director Steven Brown. While Brown argues that the measure will create a “chilling effect” on public input to the council thus forward, advocate Councilwoman Alice Brady said the new policy would support a more professional atmosphere in the council.  Even so, the council has yet to determine what the technicalities of “swearing in” would entail.

Cup o’ (Pro)Jo: December 7, 2011

Governor Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 lit the state’s holiday tree in a ceremony last night, with hundreds of protesters in the audience condemning Chafee for refusing to refer to the evergreen as a Christmas tree. Bishop Thomas Tobin, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, hosted an alternative, pointedly religious tree-lighting ceremony just blocks away at St. Francis Parish.

The Narragansett City Council passed an ordinance last night to address increasing complaints of rowdy University of Rhode Island students. If the city responds to complaints about a party multiple times, it can begin to collect fees to cover the costs of law enforcement and emergency response. Proponents of the measure argued that it is not a “double tax,” but instead a way of more equitably distributing city costs.

Westerly Hospital, a small hospital located in Westerly, has filed for state receivership, a process that would allow the institution to continue to function as it resolves its financial troubles. The struggles of the hospital — which is the second to file for state receivership in the past 4 years — highlights the myriad of economic challenges facing hospitals in the state.

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 30, 2011

Yesterday, Rhode Island became the first state to receive a Level-II multiyear grant to develop a health-benefits exchange under the new federal healthcare law. The exchange will be operational in 2014 and will allow individuals and small business owners to search for health insurance plans and apply for federal subsidies through an online marketplace. The $58 million grant follows an initial $1 million planning grant in 2010 and $5.2 million granted in May to begin creating the exchange.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority has noticed a recent surge of 300,000 to 400,000 rides per year attributed to using free-ride passes provided to elderly and disabled citizens. RIPTA officials said that they suspect fraud, although the lack of evidence makes such claims difficult to prove.

With many Rhode Island cities facing budget crisis, Cranston has developed a unique solution for raising cash. City officials have requested an amendment to current city law to allow corporate advertising on the sides of public school buses., which could generate $300,000 in revenue.

And with November coming to a close, the war on Christmas is firing up again. Governor Lincoln Chafee ’71 P’14 described the 17-foot Colorado spruce standing in the rotunda of the State House as a “Holiday tree” when he announced next week’s tree-lighting ceremony. Republicans in the House of Representatives have accused him of disregarding a resolution passed in January specifying that the specific term “Christmas tree” must be used. In response to criticism from Republicans and Catholics, Chafee encouraged Rhode Islanders to enjoy the spirit of the season, regardless of the words used to describe it.


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