RI State Report: Block v. Raimondo, RI Goes Green + Gun Violence
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Block v. Raimondo
This week, Gubernatorial candidate Ken Block called out State Treasurer and likely 2014 opponent Gina Raimondo over the state’s pension investments.
Lack of transparency
On Monday, Block critiqued the Treasurer over a lack of transparency surrounding the state’s pension investments.
“There needs to be greater transparency around Treasurer Raimondo’s shift towards alternative investments,” Block told GoLocal.
“I am concerned that the retirement system is not getting good value for the fees it is paying to these asset managers,” added Block. “Our investment performance has been lackluster since these changes were made while the fees have increased substantially, and Rhode Islanders deserve to know why.”
On Wednesday, Block released a statement in response to Raimondo's plan to divest the pension fund from investments with stakes in the gun company United Sporting Companies.
"This is an irresponsible and misguided decision by the Treasurer, who is now politicizing the investment decisions of our retirement system. She is using pension assets to score political points and pander to certain constituencies.
"Whatever you think about gun control, this is the wrong approach. The Rhode Island Treasurer's office is getting involved in a public policy decision for which it has absolutely no responsibility."
Block also requested that prior to any new divestment policies being adopted, the S.I.C. should review the existing divestment policies on the books, including Rhode Island's Sudan divestment law enacted in 2007.
"Before the Treasurer starts punishing law-abiding American companies, she should verify that the retirement system is in compliance with existing requirements to divest from foreign companies involved in the conflict in Sudan," Block said.
Block called on the S.I.C. to reject the Treasurer's proposal.
"Investment decisions should be based on what is in the financial interest of the retirement system," Block said. "Treasurer Raimondo should stopping using the pension fund as a political football."
On Thursday, GoLocal reported that Raimondo’s push to divest from the aforementioned gun distributor was not in compliance with an existing state law, which was enacted by the General Assembly in 2007. As part of the law—entitled the 2007 Sudan divestiture law—the Treasurer is required to file annual reports with the state’s Attorney General and General Assembly, which GoLocal found that Raimondo failed to comply with.
Wall Street’s License to Steal Report
Last Friday’s report entitled, "Rhode Island Public Pension Reform: Wall Street's License to Steal” also criticized the Treasurer for an apparent lack of transparency.
According to the report, “There has been a sinister pall of secrecy regarding fundamental investment information orchestrated by state officials and aided by key investment services providers."
The study, which was written by investment attorney and Forbes.com contributor Ted Siedle, goes on to argue that Raimondo “ has intentionally withheld information about soaring investment fees which is material in assessing both whether ERSRI should invest in costly alternative investments and whether benefit cuts are necessary to improve pension funding."
The Office of the General Treasurer responded to the report in a press release stating: "This is clearly another political propaganda piece aimed at discrediting the Treasurer and the state's pension reforms. None of this innuendo-filled report presented today seems new or different from the claims made in the past by Ted Siedle, who is being paid by AFSCME.”
The report was commissioned by Rhode Island Council 94, which is suing the state over pension changes pushed by Raimondo. Council 94 paid Siedle $20,000 to write the 104-page report.
Council 94 is Rhode Island's largest public employee union representing more than 10,000 State, City, Town, and School Department employees, Quasi-public, private sector and retirees.
Check Out More News From the Past Week Below
Chafee Joins Governors Coalition to Spur Growth of Zero-Emission Vehicles.
Governor Lincoln Chafee would like to see Rhode Island’s roads heavily populated with zero-emissions vehicles come 2025. On Thursday, Chafee, along with governors from seven states, announced a groundbreaking initiative to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the roads in their states within a dozen years.
"Rhode Island has already started taking steps and one includes the installation of charging stations throughout the state. We are determined to develop a clean and efficient transportation infrastructure for the future," Chafee said. "Through the Zero Emission Vehicle Memorandum of Understanding, we have created a vital partnership that will reduce our reliance on imported oil, boost our economy, and save money at the pump. This is an important collaboration that works toward the common goal of protecting our environment."
Clearing a path
This multi-state effort is intended to expand consumer awareness and demand for zero-emission vehicles. As a first step in this plan, the governors of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont signed a cooperative agreement. In this agreement, the governors identify specific actions they will promote within their states and joint cooperative actions these states will undertake to help build a robust national market for electric and hydrogen-powered cars.
The governors agreed to pursue the following efforts:
- Harmonize building codes to make it easier to construct new electric car charging stations
- Lead by example by including zero emission vehicles in their public fleets
- Evaluate and establish, where appropriate, financial and other incentives to promote zero emission vehicles
- Consider establishing favorable electricity rates for home charging systems; and
- Develop common standards for roadway signs and charging networks.
Creating a market
These states are among a group of states which have adopted rules requiring about 15 percent of new vehicles sold to be zero-emission vehicles by 2025. Collectively, the eight signatory states represent more than 23 percent of the U.S. car market, and expect to have at least 3.3 million of these vehicles operating on their roadways by that time.
Promoting a healthier environment and economy
According to the governors coalition, these clean vehicles will provide a major foothold in the battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and their consequences, which include sea level rise, increases in extreme weather, and wildfire intensity.
There are economic advantages as well. Electricity is the most widely available source of power and typically costs about two-thirds less than gasoline on a per-mile basis. By 2025, the average zero-emission vehicle driver will save nearly $6,000 in fueling costs over the life of the car.
RI's zero-emissions standards
Although all new vehicles for sale in the United States are certified to meet either Federal emission standards, set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Rhode Island has adopted the stricter California Low Emission Vehicle II (LEV-2) emission standards for new vehicles sold in the state in 2004. Rhode Island is one thirteen states to adopt California's vehicle emissions standards. For more information about California's zero emissions program visit: http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/zevprog/zevprog.htm
EPA Chief announces new green infrastructure grants to help RI invest in clean water.
On Friday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy joined U.S. Senator Jack Reed, U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, Governor Lincoln Chafee, and other state and local officials to announce a new $75,000 "green infrastructure" investment to support Rhode Island's efforts to reduce water pollution.
“Investing in green infrastructure pays off for our environment and our economy. It reduces water pollution and energy consumption. It creates jobs and boosts local economic activity,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “And these investments help local communities build resilient systems to protect from severe storms, floods, and other impacts of climate change.”
“Through supporting the design and building of ‘green infrastructure’ to address the detrimental effects of stormwater runoff, Rhode Island will be able to improve efforts to protect local streams and rivers, as well as our beautiful coastline,” Chafee said. “In addition, the project will help raise public awareness of the innovative solutions available to reduce flooding and stormwater pollution.”
EPA’s assistance will support the design and construction of up to four projects in the Providence metro area to showcase what green infrastructure actually is, how it works, and raise awareness of the challenges associated with stormwater management. Ultimately, the projects will help protect Narragansett Bay, as well as local streams and rivers from the type of dirty water and even raw sewage overflow caused by heavy rainfalls.
Green infrastructure uses natural and constructed features to remove contaminants, reduce the intensity of the runoff, and treat stormwater in a way that mimics nature. Polluted runoff – or stormwater – is one of the nation’s most challenging and widespread sources of continuing water quality problems.
In order to remedy this, green infrastructure techniques use vegetation and soil to manage rainwater where it falls. By weaving natural processes into developed infrastructure, GI/LID provides not only stormwater management, but also flood mitigation, air quality management, and much more.
Rhode Island receives federal research grant to assist military and overseas citizen voters.
Rhode Island has received a $50,000 grant from the Federal Voting Assistance Program to provide military personnel with online access to blank ballots.
Rhode Island, along with Idaho, Kentucky, Nevada and Texas are recipients of the second round of grants for the Effective Absentee Systems for Elections 2 (EASE 2) research grant program.
The EASE 2 grants fund two research areas:
- The development and effect of online blank ballot delivery tools.
- The establishment and effect of a single point of contact in a State election office for the transmission of election materials.
Rhode Island will enhance its current online system where military and overseas voters from Rhode Island will be able to access their blank ballot via online systems. These updated systems will be available prior to the States’ primary election in 2014.
“I am pleased to be able to provide online blank ballot access through this enhanced system, which will make the voting process easier for military personnel and overseas voters, said Secretary of State Ralph Mollis. "Everyone should have the opportunity to vote, and feel their voice has been heard.”
The EASE 2 research grant program awarded a total of $10,531,898.00.
This effort is sponsored by the Department of Defense Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP). The content of the information does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Government; and no official Government endorsement should be inferred.
Hurricane Sandy Funding
Rhode Island to receive over $6 million in Interior funds for Hurricane Sandy relief.
Approaching the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment, announced on Thursday that Rhode Island will receive an additional $6 million from the U.S. Department of the Interior for restoration projects and to help prepare for future storms. The funds may be used for a variety of projects, including restoring marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuilding shorelines, and researching and modeling mitigation of storm surge impacts.
The funds are part of a new $162 million investment the Interior Department is making in 45 restoration and research projects up and down the Atlantic Coast.
Reed noted this funding comes on top of $4.488 million in Interior funding Rhode Island received earlier this year for restoration, repairs, and preservation activities related to the storm damage, bringing the state’s estimated total to nearly $10.5 million to help clean up public lands and wildlife refuge areas.
“I appreciate Secretary Jewell’s commitment to helping Rhode Island recover and improve the resiliency of our coastal areas. These federal funds will help Rhode Island repair and rebuild areas impacted by Sandy. Sandy took a heavy economic and environmental toll on our coastline and these funds will help reduce vulnerabilities to future damage,” said Reed, who led the effort to secure this funding as part of the Sandy relief Appropriations bill.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which oversees the National Wildlife Refuge system, will work with a coalition of partners on various restoration projects, including the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), the Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC), and the Army Corp Engineers.
A network of non-profit groups that assist with environmental monitoring and habitat restoration will also be part of the effort, including: The Nature Conservancy, Narragansett Bay Estuarine Reserve, The Norman Bird Sanctuary, the Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association, the University of Rhode Island, Save the Bay, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, and Ducks Unlimited.
To date, Reed has helped direct more than $45.4 million in support from federal disaster relief programs to help Rhode Island recover from Sandy, and the Senator expects more help will soon be on the way.
“It’s been a year since the storm hit and while we’ve made real progress, we’ve got to keep at it. Recovery from the storm is still a priority and more Sandy relief for Rhode Island should be coming down the road,” said Reed.
Overall, the Superstorm Sandy Supplemental Appropriations bill included $60.4 billion in federal aid to help homeowners, business, and communities recover, and resources to rebuild coastal, transportation, and clean water infrastructure.
Fighting Gang Violence
Providence receives Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant to help prevent gang violence and gun crimes.
On Thursday, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse joined Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, and other leading state and local law enforcement officials to announce $150,000 in federal funding that is being awarded to the City of Providence from the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program to help reduce gun and gang violence.
The federal grant will support an innovative partnership led by the Providence Police Department (PPD) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the “Street Workers” from the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office, the Rhode Island State Police, and the Roger Williams University School of Justice Studies that will enhance the PPD’s ability to focus on violent gang and gun crime reduction initiatives. Funding will be used to increase targeted enforcement patrols and identify “impact players” that are driving violence in high-crime neighborhoods. A portion of the funding will also be aimed at gathering and analyzing data on anti-crime and violence programs, and evaluating strategies and best practices.
Project Safe Neighborhoods is a nationwide grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Justice to reduce gun crime by networking existing local programs that target gun violence, and providing those programs with the additional tools necessary to be successful. This year, Providence was one of 16 communities across the country to receive Project Safe Neighborhoods funds.
“Our outstanding police officers, law enforcement officials, and prosecutors are on the frontlines every day trying to make our community safer. This Project Safe Neighborhoods grant is designed to provide them some additional backup. We can always do more to combat gun violence, but this strategic approach to targeting gun crime and gang activity by linking together local, state, and federal law enforcement officials, resources, and community partners is a welcome step,” said Senator Reed.
“We must work together at the state, local, and federal levels to ensure that our cities and neighborhoods are safe for Rhode Island families. I'm pleased to announce this $150,000 federal grant, which will help the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety and its partners reduce gun and gang violence in Providence, and will help protect the safety of Providence residents,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
“This Project Safe Neighborhoods grant will enhance the Providence Police Department's community policing efforts and its strong partnership with Providence's esteemed Nonviolence Institute,” said Mayor Taveras. “I thank Senators Reed and Whitehouse for securing this federal grant and for their tireless efforts on behalf of Providence, and I commend the Providence police and our partners in law enforcement for their ongoing efforts to serve and protect neighborhoods across our city.”
This year, Providence was one of only 16 communities across the country to receive Project Safe Neighborhoods funds.
Mayoral candidate Harrop courts Latino vote.
Providence Republican mayoral candidate Daniel Harrop—who recently called out the Rhode Island Republican Party over its failure to reach out to Hispanics— announced on Friday that he will hold a fundraiser at Mi Guatemala, which is located in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Providence.
Earlier this month, GoLocal reported Harrop's displeasure with the RIGOP over lack of Hispanic outreach, as well as its stance on immigration.
“The RIGOP is going to make no significant headway in the General Assembly without picking up some seats in the urban core in Rhode Island,” Harrop told GoLocal.
Harrop also told GoLocal that the RIGOP's poor handling of the topic of immigration has hurt the party's standing amongst Hispanics. “We are losing generations of new voters in failing to support immigration reform, as Ronald Reagan did,” Harrop told GoLocal.
Harrop's fundraiser will take place on Thursday, November 7, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Mi Guatemala, 1049 Atwells Ave., Providence. Any donations will be accepted, but organizers are asking for $20 per person.
For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/DanHarrop?fref=ts
Further Hispanic Outreach
Aside from announcing his fundraiser via Facebook earlier today, Harrop is also currently promoting the Roosevelt Society's "Engaging Latinos in Your Community & Political Organizations," which is being held next Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Wyndham Gardens hotel in Providence.
The event features Paulo Sibaja of the Leadership Institute in Washington DC, which trains conservatives in campaigns, fundraising grassroots organizing, youth politics, and communications.
The gathering will center around how to effectively and respectfully engage the Hispanic population in community and/or political efforts. The event will feature seminars on public speaking, public policy, economics, education, and faith.
Defense industry trade group calls on Rhode Island to beef up its cybersecurity.
A Rhode Island-based defense industry trade group is urging the state to expand its defense resources by developing a Maritime Cybersecurity Center.
The proposal was unveiled at Thursday’s meeting of the Rhode Island Defense Economy Planning Commission, which is tasked with coming up with ways to improve the local defense sector.
"We had an extremely informative meeting in which the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance detailed a very intriguing proposal for the development of a Maritime Cybersecurity Center for Rhode Island,” said Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), who co-chairs the commission.
“This would be a public-private partnership that takes advantage of our state's great military and defense industry resources and would potentially involve our academic institutions, the State Police and our National Guard in protecting the security of computers and technology utilized by the military and defense contractors. I believe this is certainly an idea worth exploring and would be beneficial to our state. We already have excellent cybersecurity programs in place and this would involve expanding those resources by obtaining significant federal funds that may be available," Gallison added.
The commission's next meeting will take place in January. Members of the state's federal delegation will be invited to attend, Gallison told GoLocal.
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