Cup ‘o (Pro)Jo: November 16, 2011

Mayor Angel Taveras requested that Providence Community Action Program Executive Director Frank Corbishley resign yesterday. In a letter, Taveras wrote that the program’s capabilities to help the impoverished and at-need have been damaged by “mismanagement,” including misuse of State funds. In his letter, Taveras also appointed five new members to the Board of Directors of ProCap, expressing his hopes that they would be able to work with a new executive director to lead ProCap in a direction to better help the city. Corbishley refused to resign, denying the charges levied against him and accusing Taveras of trying to take over the agency.

The state actuary released an analysis of the new pension bill, to come to a vote to a vote Thursday, that shows that the overhaul would save municipalities across the state a combined $101.9 million next year. The bill, which limits cost-of-living adjustments and raises the retirement age, among other cuts to benefits for state employees, has faced opposition from unions upset abput the violations of established contracts and garnered support from lawmakers who see the cuts as necessary for the protection of state taxpayers.

Governor Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14, who worked with Secretary of Treasury Gina Raimondo to structure the bill, expressed frustration yesterday at Raimondo and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed for amendments added in deliberations last week that dropped support for municipal retirement system. This represents a resurfacing of tensions that plagued the initial discussions when forming the pension overhaul.

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 11, 2011

The revised Chafee-Raimondo pension bill passedstate House and Senate finance committees in separate votes yesterday 13-2 and 10-1, respectively.  The revisions allow an earlier retirement age for some workers than allowed in the original bill, as well as partial reintroduction of cost-of-living adjustments, pension increases based on inflation rates.  The bill moves on to the entire General Assembly Thursday in separate House and Senate votes.

Tensions between the city and the Occupy Providence protestors of Burnside Park are heating up. Literally. GoLocalProv revealed Wednesday that Providence public safety officials used infrared heat-sensors last week to determine how many tents set up in the park were actually in use. Out of dozens of camps, only seven of the tents were determined to be occupied.  Protestor Michael McCarthy called the figure inaccurate, and said more than 20 of the tents are slept in overnight.  Executive director of the Rhode Island branch of the American Civil Liberties Union Steven Brown blasted the city’s actions, saying the police were unfairly “infiltrating” the park to gather information that would normally be unavailable.

Cup ‘o (Pro)Jo: November 9, 2011

Panicked Undecided about life after Brown? Perhaps you should consider a career in politics. Yesterday Alex Morse ’11 defeated incumbent Elaine Pluta in the mayoral race in his hometown of Holyoke, MA, becoming the city’s first openly gay mayor. His campaign featured support from Rep. David Cicilline ’83, D-R.I., for whom he had interned as a student at Brown.

Over 3,500 Union-members from throughout Rhode Island rallied outside of the State House yesterday in opposition to the pension overhaul legislation currently under debate in the General Assembly. The legislation — proposed by Governor Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo Oct. 18 — would slash benefits to state employees and retirees. The state is cutting pensions in response to a gigantic pension shortfall, which the state has calculated to be $9.4 billion, though researchers at George Mason recently estimated a total nearly double the state’s number. The bill is still under debate due to lawmakers’ concerns about the suspension of cost-of-living increases for retirees and the requirement that many state employees wait until they qualify for Social Security before they retire. It also faces opposition from mayors throughout the state who last week testified before the General Assembly, asking for state support for local pension plans. The General Assembly plans to put a newly-revised version of the state’s multibillion-dollar pension overhaul to vote in the House and Senate Finance Committees on Thursday.

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: November 4, 2011

Occupy Providence activists will join in on “National Bank Transfer Day” by rallying against big banks.  Following a Saturday morning protest at the occupiers’ camp in Burnside Park, participants will march from the camp to the Providence Bank of America headquarters.  The protest is part of a national movement advocating Bank of America customers to close their accounts in a show of opposition to what supporters call unjust business practices. Continue Reading