Tag Archives: Rhode Island

Bill to Privatize Providence Water Raises Objections

Source: Tim Faulkner, Eco RI News, June 11, 2018
Drawing comparisons to Flint, Mich., and other cities that have suffered from privatizing public water systems, environmentalists oppose the latest legislative effort to monetize the Providence Water Supply Board and its source, the Scituate Reservoir.  The Conservation Law Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the Rhode Island Land Trust Council and Audubon Society of Rhode Island all raised doubts about changing ownership of the state’s largest public water source. Without protection, the move threatens open-space land buffers and risks polluting the watershed and public drinking water, according to opponents of the idea.  Mayor Jorge Elorza recently made the annual mayoral Statehouse plea to monetize the city’s public water system and real estate worth some $400 million — all to pay down Providence’s unfunded pension liability. …


Providence to look at sale of water system
Source: By Daniel Barbarisi, Providence Journal (RI), Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The city is considering selling the Providence Water Supply Board and the network of reservoirs and treatment plants it controls in order to pay down the huge debt in the city’s pension system.

…… The money from a sale would be used to pay off the debt to the city’s pension system, which is owed roughly $700 million.

No ‘snow day’ after ‘decisive victory’ for lunch workers

Source: Ethan Shorey, The Valley Breeze, September 27, 2016

The city’s school lunch workers said they achieved “a decisive victory for all women who feed the kids and the fight for equal pay” after agreeing to a new contract with food service provider Aramark last week. The pay gap for local lunch workers, all women, will “dramatically shrink” as they receive $1.20 in raises over three years,” said the workers in a release. … The agreement, a new three-year deal covering the 81 school lunch employees, was reached last Thursday afternoon in an effort to prevent a one-day strike the school lunch workers had planned for Friday. School officials were planning to treat Friday like a snow day if the strike went forward with their strike. The Breeze reported earlier last Thursday that the lunch workers had struck a tentative deal with Aramark on Monday of last week. … The union originally prepared the comparison of 76 cents for women to $1 for men by using available data of the Pawtucket school support staff positions that are primarily filled by men (custodians) and the pay rate data members have for local school lunch members. The figures compare the hourly pay rates. The local lunch workers are represented by Unite Here, Local 26, a Boston-based union representing 9,000 hotel, food service, airport, and casino workers across Rhode Island and Massachusetts. …


Pawtucket school cafeteria workers threaten to go on strike
Source: Crystal Bui, NBC 10 News, September 21, 2016

School could be canceled for Pawtucket students on Friday due to an ongoing battle between lunch workers and their food service company. Workers are saying there isn’t fair pay, and if they don’t get better contract negotiations, they plan on striking. NBC10 News spoke to Lori Foti, a cafeteria worker who has been serving students breakfast and lunch for more than 20 years. She said if things don’t change, she’s not sure she’ll be able to stay. … The mostly female cafeteria workers said they’re not receiving pay that’s comparable to what male food service workers receive. They’re asking their employer, Aramark, to increase pay and benefits. … Contract negotiations begin Thursday, with a very tight deadline for progress. The cafeteria workers plan to go on a one-day strike if needed. Pawtucket Schools Superintendent Patti DiCenso would not confirm or deny if the city’s six schools would close, but other unions may honor the picket line. The decision may come late Thursday, causing many families to find child care with little notice. …

Lincoln will privatize recycling this fall

Source: Brittany Ballantyne, Valley Breeze, May 18, 2016

After the town unsuccessfully sought two bids for privatized recycling after last year’s Financial Town Meeting, Lincoln residents may finally see their recyclables picked up by Waste Management as early as this September. Replacing the small bins Lincoln residents now use for their recyclable materials will be 95- and 65-gallon carts which will be picked up biweekly in conjunction with the town’s trash pickup schedule. Town Administrator Joseph Almond explained residents can opt for the smaller of the two sizes depending on their needs. … On Tuesday night, the Town Council voted in favor of awarding a five-year contract to Waste Management for $2,072,457 for the privatized service following the recommendation of Finance Director John Ward. … The annual cost will increase incrementally according to the contract, for a total $2.07 million by the end of fiscal year 2021. Almond explained that the town went out to bid for the service twice, once after last year’s FTM and again in fall 2015.

Raimondo says she’d veto bill to restrict charter schools

Source: Matt O’Brien, Associated Press, April 6, 2016

Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday she would veto a bill proposed by Rhode Island lawmakers that would restrict the growth of charter schools. The Democrat told reporters that the bill requiring approval from every city or town that sends students to a new or expanded charter school would “have the practical effect of killing charters.” The House passed the bill 60-11 in January but the Senate hasn’t voted on it. The governor has never vetoed a bill since taking office last year. Democratic lawmakers who introduced the charter school bill and others like it this year have said they’re trying to protect traditional school districts. State aid follows each student who attends a charter school but the schools often don’t bear the same costs as traditional school districts. … Raimondo also said she hopes a new plan to give traditional public schools more say in their operations will boost the state’s lowest-performing schools. Education Commissioner Ken Wagner detailed the plan to create what’s called empowerment schools in a speech to the General Assembly last week. … But teacher unions are skeptical of the plan that they believe could deny teachers their due process rights.

Welcome to Jobs Inc., Where States Have Little Say in Economic Development

Source: Alan Greenblat, Governing, November 2015

Putting the chamber of commerce or other private groups in charge of economic development has long been common at the local level and has been tried in some states, but just over the past few years it has gained popularity in states with Republican administrations, including Arizona, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin. Illinois and Oklahoma are also considering a similar move. …Of course, commerce departments and other public agencies have been guilty of incompetence and malfeasance as well. Perhaps the most notorious example in recent years involves 38 Studios, a video game company founded by former Boston Red Sox star Curt Schilling, which went bust after receiving a $75 million loan from the state of Rhode Island. … At the same time, purely public agencies continue to be responsible for some of the biggest scores in development, including Nevada’s billion-dollar deal with Tesla last year to build a ginormous battery factory outside Reno. This points to what may be the fundamental problem with the whole privatization push: There’s no proof that this approach works any better — or really all that much differently — than old-fashioned development agencies.

GOP-led think tank backs privatizing, not tolling, R.I.’s bridges

Related: Katherine Gregg, Providence Journal, October 16, 2015

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity suggests the state partner — as other states, including Pennsylvania have done — with a private company willing to finance, design and manage the replacement of worn-out bridges for a set contract amount. … The debate over Rhode Island’s crumbling bridges has centered, so far, on the new tolls Governor Raimondo is seeking to levy on large trucks, at multiple highway locations. Her plan: to raise an additional $500 million for bridge repairs with a $600 million toll-financed revenue bond that would cost taxpayers — without a public referendum — a projected $1.1 billion over 30 years. … To reduce taxpayer costs, the center suggests the General Assembly provide a “case-specific exemption from project labor agreements (PLAs), minimum apprenticeship requirements, and ‘prevailing wage’ laws.” “With these exemptions, the contractor could hire subcontractors at market rates, avoiding existing closed-shop and artificially inflated wage requirements,” the center suggests. Using the same interest-rate assumptions Raimondo’s team used, the center believes its public-private partnership proposal could knock the total project cost — including interest — down from $1.1 billion to $570 million.

School district changes food service provider

Source: Pam Schiff, Cranston Herald, September 2, 2015

At the August School Committee meeting, Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse brought forward the recommendation that the committee rescind its contract with Sodexo, and instead follow U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requirements and give the contract to Aramark. The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) requires that a food service contract be renegotiated every five years, and this year the committee received bids from Aramark, Chartwells and Sodexo. While Aramark’s lower bid had initially received the highest score based on a review of the proposals and was recommended, questions arose, and committee members sought more time before making a final decision. … Aramark is hoping to keep many familiar faces in the schools. The company has offered employment to all existing staff, and they have been doing so over the past week. Employees do need to pass a required background check and drug screening process.


Sodexo staying on as school district’s food service provider
Source: Pam Schiff, Cranston Herald, July 1, 2015

….After several months of meetings, presentations and samples, the Cranston School Committee recently opted to continue with Sodexo, approving a new contract with the company…. Cranston Public Schools CFO Joe Balducci said the new agreement with the company, approved by the committee in June, guarantees the first year of Sodexo’s service at $438,238. Years two through five of the agreement, he said, “must be discussed as part of each subsequent year’s renewal process.” …. Ashley Hall, the food service manager for Sodexo, said the company employs close to 90 staff for Cranston’s school. Currently, it provides 2,820 breakfasts daily, and 4,818 lunches. The high schools have a choice of 12 items, the middle schools have 11 and elementary schools have four choices. ….

R.I. transportation officials say taking over Wickford rail station ‘no-brainer’

Source: Patrick Anderson, Providence Journal, August 25, 2015

Rhode Island’s top transportation official Tuesday said he doesn’t know why his predecessors at the Department of Transportation kept renewing a contract to run the Wickford Junction commuter rail station in North Kingstown that, by his estimate, paid more than three times what it would cost the state to do the work itself. … Making current RIDOT employees clean bathrooms, shovel snow, cut grass, make repairs and watch over the Wickford Junction station and parking garage will cost the state $112,200 each year, the agency said, instead of the $488,984 it was paying the owner of the surrounding shopping plaza.

Public or Private: Are RI Charter Schools Trying to Have it Both Ways?

Source: Stephen Beale, GoLocalProv, Thursday, August 06, 2015

Their teachers are not unionized. They don’t pay into public pensions. And they are exempted from some of the rules that apply to traditional public schools. But they are funded by taxpayer dollars, are free of charge to students attending, and cannot expel students. Are charter schools public schools or publicly funded private schools?… He offers the example of classroom that ‘loses’ a few students to a charter. The ‘money follows the child’ but not all the costs do: the district still has to pay the teacher and has other fixed costs, such as pay the utility bills to keep the lights on in that classroom. … That logic explains why 17 school districts are claiming they lost $5.4 million in tuition payments to as many as two dozen charter schools then in Rhode Island in 2014. … Sheehan said districts are being forced to cut extracurricular programs, sports, school supplies and the like to make up for the losses. In a previous interview, Frank Flynn, the president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, noted that even as such programs are cut in the district, they are being added by charters.

Friendly FIRE

Source: Chris Maisano, Jacobin, Jacobin, Issue 15/16, Fall 2014

Social impact bonds offer private interests yet another opportunity to enrich themselves at public expense. …

Goldman Sachs wants you to know that it’s not just about plundering the globe for profit — it wants to do a little good along the way. That’s why the vampire squid has started founding seemingly innocuous philanthropic outfits like the Urban Investment Group (UIG).

Established in 2001, the UIG is the perfect embodiment of what labor journalist Bob Fitch used to call “friendly FIRE,” per the old shorthand for the finance, insurance, and real estate industries. Always attuned to the public-relations value of its activities, UIG promotes itself with a gauzy language of community uplift centered on the buzzword “double bottom line”: the simultaneous pursuit of social change and return on investment.

In a gesture of exquisite irony, its first investment was in the Dorothy Day Apartments, an affordable housing development in Harlem named after the founder of the anticapitalist Catholic Worker movement. Since then, it has invested billions of dollars in projects such as community health centers, charter schools, early childhood education, low- and moderate-income housing units, small business loans, and community development grants. As Alicia Glen, the former UIG chief currently serving as deputy mayor for housing and economic development under Mayor Bill de Blasio, put it: “We’re not all evil squids. We’re nice little calamari.”

Glen’s highest profile deal as head of UIG was a $42 million investment in Citi Bike, the privately funded bike-sharing program whose signature blue bicycles have become ubiquitous throughout Lower Manhattan and the gentrified zones of north-central Brooklyn. But bikes may not be the most important legacy of her tenure at Goldman. The bank, together with some of the biggest names in social policy, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector, has led the way in establishing the burgeoning field of social impact bonds (SIBs)…..

…The SIB market is still rather small in terms of dollars, but its promoters are intent on achieving rapid growth. The current total value of SIB transactions in the US is estimated at approximately $100 million; sixteen states and Washington, DC either have an active SIB underway or are considering implementing one…..

….Public-sector unions are increasingly aware of the threat SIBs pose and have begun to rally against state-level legislation that would expand their use. AFSCME Council 94 in Rhode Island has been outspoken in its opposition to a bill that would allow the state to implement a $25 million SIB program….