Cup o’ (Pro)Jo: October 26, 2011

In 2009 Providence officials used a series of ordinance violations – including trespassing and remaining in the park past curfew – to remove “Camp Runamuck,” a tent city in a city park. Now they are considering using a similar civil injunction to persuade Occupy Providence to vacate Burnside City Park. Aware that the city is contemplating their removal, 200 protesters marched on City Hall Monday to request permission to occupy the park indefinitely on the basis of their first-amendment right to free speech. The constitutional issues at stake could potentially make the injunction against the Occupiers more complicated, said Peter DeSimone, counsel for the defendants in the Camp Runamuck case.

St. Francis Chapel on Westiminister Street is slated to close its doors after 55 years due to financial struggles and depleted numbers of Franciscan friars available to staff the church. The number of Franciscan friars in the Holy Name province of the East Coast has been declining steadily – 30 years ago there were about 1,000 friars and today there are only 342, 120 of whom are over the age of 75 and likely to retire soon.

Cup o’ (Pro)Jo: October 19th, 2011

Former Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman will be sworn in as New Haven’s new police chief Nov. 16, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano announced last night. Esserman served as chief in Providence from 2003 until an underage drinking controversy surrounding a party held for his daughter led him to resign June 30, 2011. During this time, murders dropped by 50 percent and overall crime declined by 30 percent, DeStefano noted. He added that as assistant chief in New Haven from 1991 to 1993, Esserman helped construct the effective community-policing model that is in place today, and that he hopes Esserman will repair relations with the community. Continue Reading

Cup ‘o (Pro)Jo: October 12, 2011

A “Circle of Hope” composed of over 2,000 protesters opposed to state cuts that could adversely affect people with developmental disabilities surrounded the State House last night. In efforts to close a $300,000,000 budget deficit, state lawmakers have cut reimbursements for transportation-related costs and to service providers, including significant entry-level wage decreases for direct-service providers and nurses.

A Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union has called for the state to revise its formula for calculating the value of motor vehicles. A recent state law has increased the car tax as well as subjecting vehicles to the tax that were formerly exempt, and was met with opposition in cities across the state. The Rhode Island Vehicle Valuation Commission currently sets “presumptive values” for most cars, taxing the vehicles under the assumption that they are like new.

Cup ‘o (Pro)Jo: October 5th, 2011

State Receiver Robert Flanders ’71 continues to cut costs in an attempt to rescue the ailing city of Central Falls from bankruptcy. His latest measure revokes a 2010 deal with Mayor Charles Moreau that provided retired Police Commander Rudolph Legenza with full medical coverage for the rest of his life.  Last week, Flanders and his team discovered that that unlike all other active and retired firefighters and cops, Legenza was not required to pay 20 percent of his healthcare costs.

The state is petitioning the Rhode Island Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling that state employees have a contractual right to pension benefits. Judge Sarah Taft Carter ruled in favor of unions opposed to 2009 and 2010 state pension reforms Sept. 13.  Governor Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, and the state Employees Retirement System have argued for the public importance of the pension cuts, but it is unclear whether the Supreme Court will hear the case.

Cup o’ (Pro)Jo: September 28, 2011

Governor Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 is considering the creation of a special class of driver’s permits specifically for illegal immigrants.  This announcement follows the Board of Governors for Higher Education’s vote to approve a policy which qualifies illegal immigrants for in-state tuition. Chafee said his goal is to help aliens rise above their status and make a life for themselves. Chafee is consulting officials in Utah, a state that has already created special driving privilege cards for illegal immigrants.

Supporters of the state’s medical marijuana program gathered at the State House on Tuesday to display their frustration with Governor Chafee ’75 P’14. Three care centers were selected to receive licenses to distribute medical marijuana in March, but Chafee has yet to issue these licenses. After the centers were selected, the Governor received a letter from U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Peter Neronha, warning that if he authorized the licenses, the businesses and those affiliated could be prosecuted . The Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Commission has been discussing the possibility of using the courts to force Chafee to issue the licenses.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority voted Tuesday to approve proposed service cuts. This proposal is a part of RIPTA’s attempts to remedy a budget crisis that the group attributes to decreased revenue from the gasoline tax and from past years. Public transit advocates and those inconvenienced by the cuts suggested that the governor and the legislature should help RIPTA attain solvency.