Monthly Archives: June, 2007

Governor Carcieri Challenges Nurses to Unionize

In today’s Providence Journal — Nurses hoped the Governor would support a bill to ban mandatory overtime, but they were looking in the wrong place, as he instead promised a veto.

‘I think we’re all feeling kind of crushed’,said Barbara Hunger, a registered nurse at Women & Infants Hospital. Hunger said she and a group of nurses had met with the governor’s policy staff a day earlier to urge him to sign the bill rather than merely letting it become law without his signature, as he does with the vast majority of bills. Hunger said they knew a veto might be in the cards, but had remained optimistic.”

I don’t know why the nurses are so surprised. Gov. Carcieri ran as a businessman. There’s a big audit he’s supposed to do sometime that’s going to solve all our problems. If he could run the state like a business he’d just lay off Providence and give a raise to East Greenwich. Why would he sign a bill that would give more power to workers and put pressure on management? Nurses, get real, he’s a Republican.

Republicans have a philosophy of individual responsibility, (unless you’re born rich), and the Governor actually had some good advice for nurses and other health care workers – organize.

“Carcieri wrote in his veto message that forced overtime is something that ‘should be negotiated through the collective-bargaining process.’

There are no workers more skilled, smart and essential than health care workers. We are the part of the labor force best equipped to unionize.

For those who don’t like the idea of a union, I have to point out that no matter how good you are, your individual voice won’t carry very far against a large corporation. Over and over nurses discover that while love motivates a lot of what we do, money talks. Countless programs that provide excellent and necessary medical care are cut or dispersed when the budget needs trimming. We know what we do, and we can sleep at night because we give good care, but as workers we are a commodity. That’s why they call it, ‘Human Resources’.

If you are cynical about unions, that’s good. Unionizing is only the first step. You have to participate and hold your union accountable. Self-government is a lot of work. That’s why only 40% of us vote and no one knows who’s on the Supreme Court. Your government, local and national; and your union, is as good or bad as you let it be.

Nurses, don’t take this lying down. The Governor has thrown out a challenge because he thinks you are too nice, and too tired to take him up on it. Another Governor tried to ‘kick butts’ and despite his muscles and superpowers got his own butt kicked instead. California nurses beat the Terminator. Let’s see what Rhode Island can do.

Jametta Alston Fights for Children in Foster Care

Jametta Alston was our city solicitor here in Cranston before she was ousted due to a city charter rule stating that the city solicitor must live in the city. Now she is our Child Advocate here in Rhode Island, and she is doing a bang-up job of calling attention to the issue children’s safety while they are in state care. From the Projo:

PROVIDENCE — Children in state foster care are being neglected, molested, beaten, burned with cigarettes and, in one high-profile case, killed, according to a sweeping civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court by the state child advocate, backed by a national watchdog group.

Child Advocate Jametta O. Alston is pursuing class-action status on behalf of the 3,000 children now in state custody, aiming for nothing less than an overhaul of Rhode Island’s child-welfare system, which the suit portrays as overburdened and mismanaged.

“It’s beyond broken,� Alston said of the system. “It’s demolished. It doesn’t work.�

Rhode Island was the worst in the nation in the number of children abused and neglected while in state foster care in five of the six years between 2000 and 2005, according to the suit. “We beat Mississippi and Alabama,� Alston said. “Think about that.�

The suit claims state caseworkers are laboring under “excessive caseloads�; the state places too many children in institutions, group homes and emergency shelters; and children are being “reunited� with parents who have abused them.

Rhode Island has known about the systemic problems for years, the suit claims, citing critical reports dating to 2003.

For example, Alston issued a report in 2005 saying the state Department of Children Youth and Families missed at least five opportunities to rescue Thomas J. “T.J.� Wright, a 3-year-old boy who was beaten to death by his foster parents in Woonsocket. Alston issued another report in 2006, saying the state had failed to make some of the most important changes that a review panel called for following T.J.’s death. Mostly notably, the state had not held caseloads to recommended levels.

“This, to me, is a last resort,� Alston said of the suit. “But I hope, I pray, we will change the system of how we protect our children, and not just put on a Band-Aid.�

In the past, the state has faced court orders aimed at eliminating “night-to-night placements,� in which children in state care don’t know from one night to the next where they will sleep. But this suit addresses the entire system. “Let’s not look at a symptom of the problem,� Alston said. “Let’s look at the whole disease.�

Alston is suing the governor who appointed her child advocate in 2005. “That’s the strength of the office of child advocate,� she said. “I may be appointed by the governor, but I’m not in his cabinet. The only loyalty I have is one I gladly embrace — the children.�

Lupino Proposes Law to Require Big-Box Impact Studies

Tony Lupino has proposed legislation in Cranston which would require potential developers to pay for impact studies on how big-box stores would impact the local community and environment. The Projo article stated:

With opposition to a “big-box� proposal for the site of the Mulligan’s Island golf complex surging, the City Council is weighing an ordinance that could make it more difficult for developers to build large-scale retail projects in the city.

The measure, which would require developers proposing a project larger than 75,000 square feet to pay for a study of the potential impacts on the local economy and environment, is part of a nationwide push to curb the influence of Wal-Mart, Home Depot and other giant retailers.

Last week, Maine became the first state to require impact studies, like those contemplated in Cranston, in every municipality. Legislators in California, Oregon and New Jersey have proposed similar measures. And cities and towns across the country have passed their own local laws aimed at big-box stores.

Westerly officials are weighing a “dark store� ordinance designed to prevent chains from leaving big boxes empty when they go out of business. And in Middletown, developers must pay for an independent consultant, selected by the town, to review possible effects on traffic, town services, the environment and community character.

“I think there’s a lot of concern across the country and in a number of Rhode Island communities about the impact of big-box stores,� said Sheila Brush, director of programs for Grow Smart Rhode Island, a public interest group fighting sprawl.

Anthony J. Lupino, the City Council member proposing the Cranston ordinance, said he was inspired by a flood of calls from Mulligan’s Island neighbors opposed to the retail project proposed by Providence developer Churchill & Banks.

The question of what is going to become of the American suburbs is an interesting one. Jim Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, argues that along with peak oil, we may now be experiencing the onset of peak suburbia, and that we may not need to worry about the specter of further development for very long. Soon it will be obvious that there is no need for more retail development. Home sales continue to slow. Durable goods orders are weaker than expected. First quarter growth for 2007 is the weakest in 4 years. Americans already have 20.2 square feet of retail space per person, compared with 3.3 square feet in Sweden and 2.5 square feet in England. If you believe Jim Kunstler, we can stick a fork in the suburbs — they’re done.

Michael Moore’s “Sicko” Available Online

I just watched “Sicko,” which is available here at Atlanticfreepress.com. Michael Moore provided the following statement with regard to how he views “sharing” his film:

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, I don’t agree with the copyright laws and I don’t have a problem with people downloading the movie and sharing it with people. As long they’re not doing it to make a profit off it, as long as they’re not, you know, trying to make a profit off my labor. I would oppose that. But um, you know I do quite well and I um…I don’t know, I make these books and movies and TV shows because I want things to change, so the more people that get to see them the better, and um, so I’m, I’m happy when that happens, OK? Should I not be happy I don’t know? It’s like if a friend of yours has the DVD of my movie, gave it to you to watch one night, is that person doing something wrong? I’m not seeing any money from that. But he’s just handing the DVD to you so that you can watch my movie. A DVD that he bought, but you’re not buying it, yet you’re watching it without paying me any money. See I think that’s OK, and it’s always been OK, we share things with people. And I think information and art, ideas should be shared.

Sicko is a frightening trip on the nightmare ride of American health care. It made me wonder if one day we will need to take up residence in Canada in order to get decent health care. Anyone who has ever received a “denial” from their insurance company for a health issue will certainly relate to the unbelievable situations of the people featured in the film. I also experienced “socialized medicine” envy, watching people in Canada, England and France talk about their positive and free health care experiences. Even Cuba, where the 9/11 workers end up getting health care after Gitmo turns them away, gave them more than they got in America.

Moveon.org is doing a “Pledge to see Sicko” drive, if you want to stop by and pledge to see the movie. This is supposed to be for seeing it on the big screen, but whatever way you end up seeing it, the point is to take in the message and figure out what you can do to improve health care — or just improve your own health, so you can avoid this broken corporate-profiteering-perverted system as much as possible.

h/t Pat-crowley.org for the link.

Al Gore Cancels Trip to Taiwan

From the Taipei Times:

Former US vice president Al Gore will not be able to make it to Taiwan this September to address the issue of global warming, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said yesterday. Tien, who invited Gore to visit Taiwan to promote awareness on global warming, told reporters yesterday that she received an e-mail from the Harry Walker Agency, which has the exclusive right to arrange Gore’s speeches, saying that Gore had canceled all his scheduled events in the next six months. The visit to Taiwan had been postponed to next year, she added. Tien said the reason for the cancelation was that Gore was considering a presidential bid.

So it’s looking like Gore is going to enter the race after all. May the best man (or woman) win, or else join in political matrimony as a wholly new and more feminine ticket for Clinton/Gore.

Paris Hilton’s Cranston Connection

Sometimes you get the best news from The Globe. I’m not talking about the Globe and Mail, or the Boston Globe. I’m talking about the small, square Globe you read in the checkout line. The Globe is the only paper that covers the Bush’s impending divorce, which may be impending for the rest of their lives if they stay married, but no matter.

The Globe had the story the Journal didn’t find fit to print– Paris Hilton’s half-aunt is a graduate of Cranston University. If you pursue sex and drugs and the wild life and you don’t have mega bucks you might end up like the Hilton black sheep, Elizabeth Avanzino, who didn’t get special treatment at the A.C.I., and is not being interviewed by Larry King.

I could get snippy about the values of obscenely rich people who let one of their family live on the street, but money doesn’t cure everything. Families break their hearts and bank accounts trying vainly to save loved ones from self-destruction, so who knows? It doesn’t look like the Hiltons tried, but maybe they did.

I’m just glad Paris didn’t run anyone over. I hope they don’t let her have the car keys.

Whitehouse Supports Employee Free Choice Act

This bill is being discussed on the Senate floor today. Here is Whitehouse’s statement:

For more than one hundred years, organized labor has been a strong voice, and a powerful advocate, for the working men and women of America in their fight for fair treatment, safe workplaces, and honest pay for an honest day’s work. But in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for workers to organize and gain that voice.

Today, the Senate has an important opportunity to begin to reverse this trend: by voting in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which takes several critical steps to ensure that all American workers have the right to form and join a union.

When a majority of workers wish to organize, they should have that right. This legislation would require the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to certify a bargaining representative if a majority of the employees sign authorization cards. The bill would also direct the NLRB to issue guidelines for selecting a bargaining representative via majority sign-up – including model language for authorization cards and procedures to verify the validity of authorization cards.

Newly-formed unions shouldn’t face stalemates and stall tactics as they advocate for their members. The Employee Free Choice Act would set a waivable timeline for reaching a first contract agreement once a representative has been certified and bargaining has commenced. Parties would be required to meet and begin bargaining no later than ten days after receiving a written request from the newly certified bargaining representative.

And this bill would strengthen existing penalties for unfair labor practices, making it easier for workers to organize without fear of reprisal or backlash.

The Employee Free Choice Act is good for American workers – and for our economy. As a group, union members make 30 percent more per week than their non-union counterparts. They are 63 percent more likely to have health insurance, and they are a staggering 386 percent more likely to have a guaranteed pension. At a time of growing income inequality, when everyday families in this country are stretched to the limit just to afford health care, or the mortgage, or gas to drive to work and to school, we can’t let this opportunity slip by. The Senate must pass this bill.

The Employee Free Choice Act would allow workers to choose a union without fear, facilitate contract negotiations, and prevent the anti-organizing scare tactics that, unfortunately, still exist today.

Mr. President, the Employee Free Choice Act is the first step towards realizing the dream of fairness for every American worker. I am proud to support this legislation, I ask my colleagues to do the same, and I yield the floor.

Quo Usque Tandem Abutere, Napolitano?

It’s the opening line of Cicero’s first oration to Cataline. The full sentence is “Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra?” It essentially means, “How long, Oh Cataline, will you abuse our patience?” It’s an age-old sentiment for expressing frustration with the powers-that-be. My high school Latin teacher, Mrs. Murray, would be proud that this was the sentiment that struck me today as I reviewed the events of the rally yesterday to stop the concrete plant in Cranston.

The rally was about the size of the one last September but seemed less populated with political big wigs and more populated with families and children. As things got organized, Geoff Schoos quickly filled me in on exactly where things stood legally. As detailed in today’s Projo, legislation was passed to expand the city’s zoning board and one of the additional zoning board members was appointed last night, a lawyer named Steven Minicucci. Now we are waiting for the Mayor to choose the second zoning member appointment, and then there should be enough members of the zoning board to form a quorum and review the building permit issued to Cullion (and hopefully revoke it).

Suzanne Arena deftly wielded the bullhorn and organized the children. The Mayor benevolently crouched down and greeted each child as he or she handed over their petitions and asked in one way or another for the preservation of their neighborhood. Our ward councilman, Emilio Navarro, was there in a full suit and spoke emphatically on behalf of his constituents. Frank Mattiucci, President of CCRZD, reminded everyone that it has been a full year with little progress on resolving the concrete plant issue. Then there were questions. One woman asked why there are vehicles parked at the site of the concrete plant every day if they are not building it. The Mayor responded that there is an existing business there that they are continuing but that if they try to start building the concrete plant, the city will file a “cease and desist” motion or make some sort of blocking legal action.

There were some other good questions, but the question that really cut to the chase was the last, asked by the young gentlemen with reddish hair. I don’t remember his exact words, but the gist of the question was, “How long? How long before we know that this concrete plant will not be built?”

The Mayor’s response was that he guessed the Supreme Court ruling would be postponed for about a year. This was when you could hear the collective groan of a community whose patience is already on life support. But he quickly added that the zoning board should be able to rule on the matter long before then. So people could take heart in the knowledge that at least in terms of our local government, we weren’t going to be waiting for an answer too much longer.

But the article in today’s Projo reveals Cullion’s counter strategy to this game plan. John O. Mancini, the lawyer for Cullion (and former Democratic Mayoral candidate in Cranston), implied that Cullion will try to get a restraining order to prevent the zoning board from convening. If this restraining order is granted, could things really be stalled for another full year?

Perhaps it’s not worth worrying about. Perhaps the restraining order won’t be granted and Cullion will give up and the concrete plant will go away after the zoning board rejects the building permit.

But I wouldn’t count on it. Which means the community is still in limbo. People who were planning to sell their houses are in limbo. Buyers interested in moving into the area are probably holding off. People all over the city and state are waiting to see if our government can function to protect a residential area from environmental hazard.

One reason why people are losing patience is because this is the Mayor who promised to revoke the building permit for the concrete plant once he was in office. Now he says the Supreme Court’s stay on the case prevents him from doing this. Soon, a restraining order may be filed to prevent the zoning board from convening. Basically, whatever the city does to try to move things along, the Cullion team is going to block.

So, the question remains. How long will government abuse the patience of the people it supposedly serves? How long will the citizens of Cranston have to wait to get this issue resolved?

A Politician’s Brave Stand for Paganism

I was surprised and touched to read in the Providence Journal that Rep. Richard W. Singleton made a brave stand for teaching our children Paganism, and prevailed in the General Assembly.

The ‘Easter Bunny Protection Act’ will ensure that Pagans can organize seasonal events around our holidays, including the venerable fertility festival of Ostara, in the public schools yet. I’m not going to personally lobby for that, since I’m an advocate of comprehensive sex education, including abstinence and birth control teaching in the cause of encouraging our schoolchildren not to be fertile until they are graduated and well established in life. Still, I was impressed when I saw the following in the Providence Journal.

Singleton’s bill responded to an incident in which Tiverton Schools Supt. William Rearick prohibited a parents’ group from sponsoring a photo booth featuring the Easter Bunny at a middle-school craft fair in March. A costumed Peter Rabbit appeared instead.

The bill would have prohibited cities and towns and their subdivisions from enacting regulations “requiring the alteration of the name or concept of any religious or secular holiday or any religious or secular figure or symbol associated with any such holiday.�

“What this bill does is codify common sense and reduce political correctness,� said Rep. Arthur J. Corvese, D-North Providence.

I do appreciate Rep. Corvese’s support. I can’t count the times I have had to tone down my Paganism because Christians didn’t find it politically correct. Now I feel free to let it all hang out.

Some claim that the Easter Bunny is a Christian symbol, but I know better. I happen to own a Bible concordance I found at a yard sale. Whether yellowed and crumbling, like mine, or accessed online, I can guarantee that a search of any biblical concordance will not uncover a scriptural reference for ‘Easter Bunny’.

It’s so unusual to find people of my faith in politics, and so exciting to hear a Pagan voice, that I hesitate to admit that I don’t agree politically with a special bill to save the Easter Bunny.

I am an American, and I hold our Constitution and our cherished principle of freedom of religion right up there with my own religious practice. I can’t think of any better way to demonstrate ethical behavior than to respect the rights of others in spiritual matters. I don’t want any little kids in public school to feel that they are less American because they are the only Jew, Hindu, Muslim or Pagan in their class, and they are trying to study math or something in a classroom that is decorated with holiday symbols from a majority religion (not naming any names).

Here in the state that Ann Hutchinson and Roger Williams fled to — after they failed to be the right kind of Christian — we have a wonderful heritage. Our founders were deeply religious people, and they also knew from their own hard experience that the tyranny of the majority is a terrible thing in personal matters of conscience. In the spirit of the Golden Rule, they did unto others as they wanted done to themselves, and took a chance on a lively experiment in religious freedom.

It’s lively all right. Every generation has to work out a balance between free expression and the claims of law and order. There are people who would solve this problem by declaring us a Christian nation. They seem to think our Founding Fathers were only kidding when they instituted freedom of religion.

I’ll take the freedom over favoritism, even when it’s my religion that is favored. And if some school officials are clumsy in trying not to impose a religion on a captive audience of public school children, I won’t take it as an invitation to move in for the kill. There’s nothing scarier than a majority with a sense of grievance. My experience as a member of a minority religion makes me very sensitive to the rights of people, especially children, not to be bullied into going along with the group.

So with appreciation to Rep. Singleton and Corvese, I’d rather have freedom for all than privilege for some.

Children Rally to Stop Concrete Plant

From CCRZD:

MEDIA EVENT

Presentation of over 2000 petitions to the Mayor

Monday 6/25 4:30 – 5

In front of City Hall

Please make every effort to attend.

Over 20 children will present the Mayor with 100 petitions each, tied with a ribbon.

The Mayor will be asked to answer our questions and bring us up to date.
What are he and his administration are doing to prevent this concrete plant from opening?

I’ll be there with friends and a gaggle of at least 7 girls who want to participate. What I have heard about the current status of the concrete plant’s progress is that they are continuing to bring in pieces for building the plant, but they have not begun actually building it because they can’t without a city inspection of the foundation. Since we have no building inspector (the city was in the process of forming a search committee in the spring) and this is such a controversial case, I imagine that the city is going to proceed very carefully with that foundation inspection.

I’ll provide another update on this issue tomorrow, when hopefully I will know more.

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