Cup ‘o (Pro)Jo: November 2, 2011

The mayors of Providence, Pawtucket and Cranston testified before the Joint House and Senate Finance Committees yesterday to explain that the current pension-reform legislation could lead the cities into bankruptcy. The mayors specifically requested that the legislation allow the cities to cut cost-of-living adjustments to pensions which currently raise pensions at a level significantly higher than inflation. According to House spokeseman Larry Berman, the General Assembly is most likely weeks away from taking action on the bill.

Despite the nor’easter that swept through Providence on Saturday night and eviction notices from Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare, some Occupiers remain in Burnside Park. Yesterday the group teamed up with the “We are All Arizona” coalition for an anti-deportation march to the State House. Governor Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 met protesters on the steps of the capitol building and encouraged their advocacy for immigration reform.  Continue Reading

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 24, 2011

Occupy protesters will march on City Hall this afternoon to signal their right to camp in Burnside Park after issuing a statement to Mayor Taveras and public safety commissioner Steven Pare.  Members of the movement have expressed gratitude for the city’s cooperation, which has resulted in zero arrests of protestors thus far.  Pare said he might seek a court order to evict the protesters from the park, in which case some of protestors will set up elsewhere in the city, but currently has no imminent plans to do so.

The freeze on cost-of-living adjustments for Rhode Island state employee retirees outlined in the Chafee-Raimondo pension reform bill is unprecedented according to president of Rhode Island American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations president George Nee.  “This is the first time in our state, and one of the first times in the country,” he said of benefit reductions being implemented among people who are retired.

Cup o’ (Pro)Jo: October 21, 2011

Rhode Island Public Transport Authority (RIPTA) will receive a $1.7 million grant from the federal government.  The money will be used to develop a management system to oversee the conditions of RIPTA’s fleet and facilities.  RIPTA will also receive an additional $189,000 through the EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act to develop sustainability.

The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce board of directors voted in favor of the pension plan unveiled earlier this week by Governor Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 and state treasurer Gina Raimondo.  Chafee said the vote “expresses the Rhode Island business community’s commitment to truly comprehensive reform.”

First lady of Rhode Island Stephanie Chafee will perform a civil union ceremony for her friends Lynn McKinney and Ron Margolin November 5.  Chafee, who was one of the first nurses in Rhode Island to work with AIDS patients, was authorized by lawmakers to perform the service.  Lawmakers routinely give authorization to people who are not licensed to wed, but this is the first time they have approved a request for a civil union ceremony.

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 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.