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Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in RI Politics?

Friday, April 11, 2014


HOT: Providence Mayoral Candidate Brett Smiley

Every Friday, Dan Lawlor breaks down who's rising and who's falling in the world of Rhode Island politics. Check out who made the lists this week.


Representatives Ruggiero, Gallison, Craven, Serpa, and Trillo - How can we attract business to Rhode Island? This group of legislators offers a bill to eliminate the minimum corporate income tax and franchise tax on the businesses "for the first three (3) years following the date of incorporation." Considering the high failure rate of many start ups, this is a great incentive to support people looking to open up shop, especially during their difficult early years. The bill ( H7139) has been referred to House Finance.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, and Representatives Marcello, Hearn, and Lima - At the behest of the Attorney General, this Democratic trio is calling on the formation of a specific unit within the State Attorney General's Office to investigate white collar crime and and public corruption via H7459. The bill declares, "Abuse of the public trust erodes the public's confidence in public servants, as well as, undermines the ability of government to work towards the public good."

Carmen Castillo/Providence City Council - On behalf of those who make the hip economy work, over 1,000 signatures have been presented to the City Clerk's office calling on the Council to pass a $15.00 minimum wage for hotel workers across the city. Organizers say rising wages will promote more investment in the neighborhoods, as one notes, " No one on my block has any disposable income right now, so we suffer just like the business owners in our community.” Castillo, an organizer and Housekeeper elected to City Council, vowed that the ordinance for the wage raise,"quickly deserves the City’s attention." One recurring target of worker protests in the city, The Renaissance Hotel, has been fined by OSHA for health violations.

Brett Smiley - "Too many basic systems and record keeping have yet to be automated, and all too often, finding and getting the right city employee to locate a record, pull a permit, or conduct an inspection is like pulling teeth. It shouldn’t be this hard!" Mayoral candidate Smiley recently issued a policy paper for streamlining city government to help build a "Providence-specific" economic development plan. It's worth a read.

Declining Teen Pregnancy - Good news! As Elizabeth Burke Bryant of KIDS COUNT presented this past week, "Following national trends, we've seen the average teen birth rate decline. In Rhode Island, the average five year rate declined 24%, from 30.7 per 1000 girls between 2004 to 2008, to 23.3 per thousand girls between 2008 and 2012."

Kathleen Magill - Consider a moment to recall a trailblazer who recently passed. In 1979, Magill became the first woman elected to the Pawtucket City Council, and, in 1987, the only woman so far to run for Mayor of the city, losing in a close contest against the infamous Brian Sarault. Her husband described her as, "a very busy lady." She was a founding member of the Pawtucket St. Patrick's Day Committee, and served on Pawtucket's Planning and Redevelopment Agency.

Neva Lumpkins-Jackson (aka Ms Sunflower)/West End Community Center - Neva Lumpkins-Jackson, a program assistant at the West End Community Center, prepares the best art projects, zippers coats, models responsibility, stays late, arrives early, plans trips, chaperones, supervises homework, and leads up story time, among other things. For over twenty years, "Ms Sunflower" has been a sparkling gem at the West End Community Center, where alum have gone on to work in every field from aviation to education. "Ms Sunflower" -or Mrs Jackson- is moving back South. Thank you for what you've done for West End youth!

Ashley Belanger/Executive Director, RI Urban Debate League- The who's who of political events, this past week's Urban Debate League's Community Debate (which I was a happy participant) teamed up numerous politicos, writers, reporters, activists, and elected officials (from Arianne Lynch to Sam Zurier) with high school debate partners, in a spirit of competition, community, and fundraising. (Congratulations to the winner, Kelley Babphavong of Woonsocket High School!) Supporting the Debate League has a real impact on student success, as research finds, "Students who join the debate team are 42% more likely to graduate from high school than those who do not. The impact is even greater among African-American male participants, who are 70% more likely to graduate and three times less likely to drop out." Donate here.

NOT: Rhode Island's Government Spending Transparency


20% - "...of the state's approximately 224,000 children, nearly 20% -- 41,645 -- are living in poverty," Go Local reported. Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Kids Count, argues, "We know that poor children do worse in the areas we cover. Early intervention is key -- not waiting until it gets to a serious level, especially in the arena of mental health. It's the wise investment of early education, versus remedial education down the line."

D+ - While our people may be hip, our government operations are not. Rhode Island received a grade of D+ for government spending transparency according to the latest Public Interest Research Group report. “Open information about the public purse is crucial for democratic and effective government,” a senior analyst told GoLocal. “It is not possible to ensure that government spending decisions are fair and efficient unless information is publicly accessible.”

Lincoln Chafee and Gina Raimondo - The state's pension overhaul plan has gone done in defeat via vote of the police union. Back to court for the State and the interested unions. Communications from the Governor and Treasurer's Office stated, "For over a year the Governor and Treasurer participated in good faith in court-ordered mediation leading up to the February 14 settlement agreement. This morning, in court, we learned the results of the first round of voting from the plaintiffs. The court has ordered all parties back into mediation. The state will continue to participate in this court-ordered mediation."

State Senators Jabour, Lynch, Lombardi, Goodwin, Nesselbush and Metts - The Shameful Six on the Senate Judiciary Committee all voted to "hold for further study" the bill which would bring a Senate floor vote to eliminate voting the straight party ticket (or master lever) from the ballot. No other New England state still has the "Master Lever"- known to confuse voters and cause under voting in non-partisan races. Statewide candidates from Nellie Gorbea to Dawson Hodgson have publicly called for its removal. Let's hope the majority on the House Judiciary Committee aren't as evasive.

Peter Wasylyk - By all accounts, Mr. Waslyk personally had a good week. The former state representative is back at the General Assembly as new legal counsel to House Majority Leader John DeSimone. Personal attributes aside, I'm just saying- are there really no other lawyers in the state who could do this job? Was anyone else outside the General Assembly Alumni network asked, or even considered?

Bill Fischer - The lobbyist has seemingly done the impossible. In year where former House Speaker Gordon Fox's office was raided by the Feds, and 38 Studios payments loom large, there is consistent buzz around acquiring millions in public money to turn the old Industrial Trust Tower into a private, mixed use residential and commercial development . Buff Chace, Cliff Wood, and Evan Granoff all are advocates. That said, from the public's point of view, it is pretty suspicious that with the stock market booming, there is no major outside private investor willing to supplement the project.

Cozy Oversight - "When a board gets too comfortable and cozy with the organization’s leadership, it can lead to problems," declares the Non-Profit Quarterly (NPQ) . NPQ recounted, "a lack of oversight and proper procedure on the part of the board of directors" can and has lead to major difficulties for non-profits, even well-endowed ones. Due to funding challenges and inefficiencies, how many community and recreation centers are a shell of what they once were? Support to regroup and rebuild these institutions is crucial for healthy neighborhoods.


Related Slideshow: 14 Facts from 2014 RI Kids Count Factbook

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Decline in Child Population

Between 2000 and 2012, Rhode Island’s child population decreased by 12%, from 247,822 to 216,962. Rhode Island has the fifth lowest birth rate in the nation. 

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Increase in Grandparent Caregivers

Between 2010 and 2012, there were 6,400 grandparents in Rhode Island who were financially responsible for their grandchildren, two-thirds (66%) of whom had been financially responsible for three or more years. Six percent of all Rhode Island children live with a grandparent caregiver.

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Parental Employment

In Rhode Island, 14% of children have at least one unemployed parent, compared to 9% nationally. Between 2010 and 2012, there were 18,140 Rhode Island children living in families with no employed parents (9% of all families).

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Increase in Child Support Paternity

As of December 1, 2013, there were 83,019 children in Rhode Island’s Office of Child Support Services system. The percentage of children in the Rhode Island child support system with paternity established increased from 84% in 2004 to 90% in 2013.

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Racial/Ethnic Income Disparity

Between 2010 and 2012 in Rhode Island, 20% of all children, 40% of Hispanic children (who can be of any race), 54% of Native American children, 39% of Black children, 22% of Asian children, and 14% of White children in Rhode Island lived in families with incomes below the federal poverty level.

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Increase in Food Stamp Recipients

The number of Rhode Island children participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased by 54% between 2008 and 2013, from 41,421 to 63,971 children. However, the number of children and adults decreased from 2012 to 2013 – the first decline in several years.

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High Rates of Health Insurance Coverage

Between 2010 and 2012, 6% of Rhode Island’s children under age 18 were uninsured, compared with 9.4% of children in the U.S. Rhode Island ranks 10th best in the nation, with 94% of children with health insurance. Approximately 71% (10,792) of the estimated 15,121 uninsured children in Rhode Island between 2010 and 2012 were eligible for RIte Care coverage based on their family incomes, but were not enrolled in coverage.

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Increase in Dental Care Access

Half (52%) of the children who were enrolled in RIte Care, RIte Share, or Medicaid fee-for-service on June 30, 2013 received a dental 4 service during State Fiscal Year 2013, up from 43% in SFY 2005 and down from 53% in SFY 2012. There were 283 dentists in 587 locations accepting qualifying children with Medical Assistance coverage in September 2013, 67% more providers and 118% more locations than September 2009.

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Decrease in Teen Birth Rate

In 2012, the birth rate for U.S. teens fell to 29.4 births per 1,000 teen girls, the lowest level ever recorded. In Rhode Island, the five-year average teen birth rate has declined 24%, from 30.7 per 1,000 girls between 2004-2008 to 23.3 per 1,000 girls between 2008-2012. However, birth rates for both Hispanic and Black teens in Rhode Island continue to be much higher than for White teens.

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Decrease in Homeless Shelter Use

Fewer homeless and runaway youth used emergency shelter services. Fifty single youth ages 18 to 20 and 179 young adults ages 21 to 24 received emergency shelter services though the adult emergency shelter system in Rhode Island in 2013, down from 126 youth ages 18 to 20 and 383 young adults ages 21 to 24 the previous year.

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Decrease in Juvenile Incarceration

Between 2007 and 2013, the number of youth referred to Family Court for wayward and delinquent offenses declined 45% (from 5,275 to 2,926), and the number of juvenile offenses declined by 40% (from 8,301 to 4,964). Between 2004 and 2013, the annual total number of youth in the care and custody of the Training School declined from 1,069 to 498

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Youth Suicide Rates

In 2013, 14% of Rhode Island high school students reported attempting suicide, up from 10% in 1997. In Rhode Island between 2008 and 2012, there were 943 emergency department visits and 396 hospitalizations of youth ages 13-19 due to suicide attempts. Twenty-five children under age 20 died due to suicide in Rhode Island between 2008 and 2012.

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Improvements in Literacy and Math

In October 2013, 71% of Rhode Island fourth graders scored at or above proficiency for reading on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) test, up from 60% in 2005. In October 2013, 63% of Rhode Island fourth graders and 36% of eleventh graders scored at or above proficiency on the math NECAP, an increase from 52% of fourth graders and 22% of eleventh graders in 2005.

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Racial Disparity in Disciplinary Actions

Low-income and minority students are overrepresented in school suspensions and receive disproportionately severe disciplinary actions compared with their higher-income and White peers. In Rhode Island during the 2012-2013 school year, minority students made up 38% of the student population, but received 52% of all disciplinary actions.


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