Could RI Progressives & Trump Team Up to Cleanup Lead in Providence Water?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

 

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President Trump's budget contains $200 billion for infrastructure funding.

President Donald Trump unveiled his budget proposal this week that would set aside $200 billion for infrastructure improvements across the country over the next ten years.  

Now, Progressive Democrats are pushing for a infrastructure investment and jobs campaign that specifically addresses replacing lead pipes, which would include Rhode Island -- and demand specific stipulations for direct public investment.

Could funding set aside by Trump - and pressure from the Democrats -- help clean up lead in Providence's water?

Prov Water's Lead Issues

The Providence Water Supply Board warned customers in the summer of 2016 that it found elevated levels of lead in drinking water in some homes and buildings, and told customers "they might want to have their drinking water tested."

"I have always said this is an issue that people don't take seriously enough. The data are clear on the correlation between high lead and high crime," said progressive activist Sam Bell. "Rhode Island has high blood lead levels - and that's from lead in houses, soil, and in the water."

"Everyone talks about how to cut, not how to invest -- but there are high costs [associated with lead], from impacting education, increasing crime, and reducing economic output," said Bell. "We need to spend this money. We have no choice. We can't keep poisoning the children of Providence, I'm always surprised how blasé people are about the crisis."

In March, the Trump Administration announced $100 million to Flint, Michigan for water infrastructure upgrades under the EPA and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, which officials say will receive "robust funding" under the Trump budget proposal. 

Pressure from Progressive Dems

"With elevated lead levels in Providence due to old water pipes: Democrats Kick Off Massive Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Campaign in Rhode Island & Congress," announced the grassroots Millions of Jobs Coalition along with Congressional Progressive Caucus members on Friday, unveiling 10 principles that they say "must be true of any jobs plan that passes into law."

The Progressive Democrats are pushing to ensure direct investment by the federal government -- and not privatization, which they say is at the heart of the Trump plan. 

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Aaron Regunberg was listed among those Rhode Islanders behind the national progressive Democrat initiative.

The "Millions of Jobs" coalition cited a recent Washington Post article that claimed Trump's proposal would have a net negative impact on infrastructure funding - which Trump officials refuted. 

An analysis released by the office of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), however, cites $206 billion in cuts to an array of existing infrastructure programs included in Trump’s budget document over the coming decade.

John Czwartacki, communications director for the Office of Management and Budget, said Schumer misunderstood the Trump administration's aims and unfairly characterized a major spending reduction.

“Senator Schumer is missing the point of the infrastructure initiative,” Czwartacki said. “Our budget intends to dedicate $200 billion in federal funding to improve infrastructure but also to re-engineer the way our programs work to maximize co-investment from state, local and private parties and ensure that we can stretch all those dollars further by eliminating red tape.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus resolution, announced Thursday, put for 10 principles that they said "must be true of any jobs plan": 

*Invest in creating millions of new jobs. 
*Prioritize public investment over corporate giveaways and selling off public goods. 
*Ensure that direct public investment provides the overwhelming majority of the funds for infrastructure improvement.
*Prioritize racial and gender equity, environmental justice, and worker protections.
*Embrace 21st century clean-energy jobs
*Protect wages, expand Buy American provisions, encourage project labor agreements, and prioritize the needs of disadvantaged communities -- both urban and rural.
*Ensure the wealthiest Americans and giant corporations who reap the greatest economic benefit from public goods pay their fair share for key investments. 
*It must not be paid for at the expense of Social Security and other vital programs.
*It must not weaken or repeal existing rules and laws protecting our environment, worker safety. wages, or equity hiring practices.
*Prioritize resilient infrastructure that can withstand natural disasters and cyber or physical attacks

Bell said he would be concerned if privatization attempts resulting in a non-governmental corporation taking over Providence water -- which he said would harm efforts to clean up lead.

"If you have a private corporation, they won't address concerns like lead poisoning -- this is a big part of the reason why water privatization is dangerous," said Bell. "You need Democrats to hold people accountable. And especially when there's a natural monopoly it should not be privately owned.  Every time it's been tried, it's been an unmitigated disaster.

 
 

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