• I believe State’s takeover of the Providence Public Schools has encountered failures due to a lack of accountability. I will support greater accountability and oversight through different channels, including legislative hearings and changes to the Department of Education’s administrative structure to allow outside review of certain key decisions.
• The State’s funding formula does not provide adequate resources to the children in Providence and other urban public school districts. The state aid funding formula needs to be reviewed and improved to address, among other issues, the following:
* The “money follows the child” feature of the school aid funding formulat must be changed to prevent the budgets of traditional school districts from being hollowed out due to increased charter school enrollment;
* The three components of the funding formula (basic instructional budget, adjustments for special needs and cost sharing ratio) each fail to accomplish the stated purpose of the formula, and must be modified to address the needs of urban school districts.
• If elected, I would advocate for the General Assembly to allow the voters to decide whether to amend the Rhode Island Constitution to include a right to education.
The State’s Partnership with the City of Providence
The City of Providence faces daunting financial challenges, including a more than $1 billion unfunded pension liability. Providence will need to build a strong partnership with the State to address these challenges, which threaten the well-being of Providence residents, and which, if left unresolved, would have significant negative ramifications for the State as a whole. If elected, I would make the project of strengthening this partnership a high priority.
Among other initiatives, I will support a review of the State’s program to reimburse municipalities for revenue lost from the presence of tax exempt real property. Rhode Island’s current program restores to cities and towns approximately 27% of this lost revenue. While this is certainly welcome, if elected, I will advocate for a transition to program in Connecticut, where cities and towns receive state reimbursement of 45% of the lost revenue from property owned by the state, and 77% of the revenue lost from real property owned by nonprofit educational institutions and hospitals.
I believe that access to quality health care (including reproductive health care) should not be denied Rhode Islanders based on a lack of resources. Therefore, I support the expansion of Medicaid coverage to provide all recipients with a broader and stronger “safety net” of medical care. I also believe that both private insurance and Medicaid should offer Rhode Islanders greater parity in terms of available mental health treatment to match more traditional medical treatment for bodily health.
I believe that the General Assembly’s passage of the Act on Climate earlier this year, which establishes a timeline for conservation benchmarks to prevent unsustainable global warming, represents an important commitment that must be retained as the Act is implemented over the coming years. If elected, I will be ready to work with stakeholders to ensure that the State meets each statutory benchmark on the required schedule, while also examining experience to look for ways to accelerate the State’s transition to a sustainable and resilient future.
I support Rhode Island’s continued participation in the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which creates a system of “emission allowances” that gasoline and diesel fuel suppliers purchase to fund transportation pollution reduction initiatives represents a valuable tool in the battle against climate change, and I support sustaining and enhancing that initiative as we gain more knowledge and experience.
I believe that an effective response to the current spike in violent crime will require an all hands-on-deck approach. I believe that police reform is not only important for its own sake, but that by building trust between the police and the community, it will also better position us to improve public safety.
I support a comprehensive approach to fighting crime that includes expanded community policing, increased penalties for people who drive All Terrain Vehicles (ATVS) illegally on our streets, stronger gun safety laws(including an assault weapons ban) to combat the influx of guns into Providence, and greater support for effective crime prevention programs, such as after-school programs and more recreation opportunities. We must combine traditional law enforcement with innovative programs that we know work (such as the Nonviolence Institute and mental health counselors).
To equip Providence with the resources needed for comprehensive approach, I will support the increase of State funding for tax-exempt properties (described above).
The murder of George Floyd last year raised public awareness of the need to root out the small percentage of police officers that commit brutal acts and to prioritize de-escalation training which evidence shows reduces injuries for police officers and community residents alike. The Rhode Island Senate appointed a study commission that recommended key reforms to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), including a longer period of initial suspension for misconduct, and a change in the composition of the hearing panel to review cases of this kind. Unfortunately, the General Assembly was unable to develop an agreed upon bill. I support the findings of the study commission’s report, and if elected would advocate for the passage of a bill that will include these much-needed reforms.
Rhode Island has codified Roe v. Wade to safeguard a women’s right to choose. I will strongly oppose any attempts to weaken these protections. In light of the recent United States Supreme Court decision reviewing the Texas statute, states are an essential bulwark of the right to reproductive freedom.
I also believe that a woman’s right to choose should not be limited by her lack of financial resources. For that reason, I support the expansion of Medicaid to provide quality reproductive health services, including those to terminate a pregnancy, at levels comparable to what is available through private insurance.
The American Rescue Plan Act
In March, the federal government awarded $1.1 billion to the State of Rhode Island to support its pandemic recovery effort. Unfortunately, the State has not spent any of that money to date, even as the delta variant continues to rage within the State and the nation. If elected, I will advocate for the use of the federal money on a more urgent basis to protect the public health in the short term, and to build a stronger network of public health resiliency going forward.
In the short term, I believe Rhode Island urgently needs to use the federal funds to (1) encourage vaccination in those communities (many of which are in the urban core) with vaccination rates well below the State average, (2) increase surveillance testing so that everyone receives a test on a regular schedule to catch asymptomatic transmission, (3) increase contact tracing capacity, and (4) enhance ventilation in our public spaces and schools. I also will support vaccine/testing mandates for medical staff, public safety employees and others who come into frequent close contact with Rhode Islanders.
In approving the funds, Congress placed a high priority on addressing the disparities in health and economic outcomes that the pandemic caused. One way that Congress expressed this priority (through guidance issued by the Treasury Department) was to allow states to use these funds to expand the supply of affordable housing. If elected, I will support a massive commitment of this source of federal funding (as in at least $100 million) to advance this priority, not only because Congress prescribed it, but also because our State needs this investment to improve the lives of our citizens in greatest need.
The federal government awarded a number of other grants to Rhode Island at the same time to address specific impacts of the pandemic, including a $50 million fund for rent relief. To my knowledge, this program has not made sufficient progress in saving Rhode Island residents from the looming eviction crisis. If elected, I would advocate for legislative oversight of the administration’s use of the hundreds of millions of dollars of additional federal funds awarded under the American Rescue Plan Act.