Ellen Liberman

The Rising Latino Tide

Hispanics have been elected to political office in Rhode Island in unprecedented numbers in recent years, but the community still faces daunting achievement gaps and unemployment.

In the mid-1990s, America had one of its periodic anti-immigrant seizures. As the Hispanic population swelled and dispersed, California banned, by referendum, illegal immigrants from accessing public benefits. In 1996, Congress passed legislation barring immigrants caught without proper documentation from returning for as long as a decade; giving asylum-seekers a year to apply; and deputizing local police as immigration officials….

Taking the High Road

Four years after medical marijuana was allowed in Rhode Island, some are pushing to make recreational pot legal, while others says it leads to harder drugs and crime.

From the outside, the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center is more plain-Jane than Mary-Jane. The cedar-shingled, single-story building, once a carpentry shop, minds its own business on the edge of West Main Road amid other Portsmouth retail outlets. Along the length of the building, a large exhaust fan circulates the spicy, mossy air over a small forest of cannabis plants, an…

Reporter: Kickstarting Innovation

In the wake of the fallout from 38 Studios, the future of jobs in Rhode Island may be with smaller entrepreneurs who are finding the state a good place to launch their dreams.

For an object that is part twenty-first-century Swiss Army knife and part appendage, a smartphone can be maddeningly clumsy. It takes great photos. But you don’t know that your hand shook when you shot them until the images are loaded onto a computer. And that’s another thing: It’s always in your hand — except when you drop it. The smartphone’s…

Reporter: Force Under Fire

The shooting of an unarmed teenager in Missouri has sparked a national conversation about the use of excessive force by police.

Elmwood Avenue rarely sleeps, but the sharp cry of pain was enough to rouse John Prince’s curiosity. Outside, Prince saw a man in handcuffs as undercover Providence police officers prepared to transport him. In the heavily policed neighborhoods of South Providence, an arrest was hardly remarkable. But what Prince saw next disturbed him. A community organizer for Direct Action for…

Reporter: Sexual Assault on Rhode Island College Campuses

Colleges and universities have been grappling with how to handle sexual assault for decades and Rhode Island institutions are working to address the problem.

In 1990, the women said “No.” Colgate University student Kristen Buxton filed a $10 million negligence suit against the school over its handling of her sexual assault by three men. The 1986 rape and murder of Lehigh co-ed Jeanne Clery led to passage of a law requiring institutions to disclose crimes committed on and near their campuses. And Brown University…

Reporter: Breaking the Payday Loan Cycle

Critics of payday lenders say the practice preys on the poor, while the industry argues its rates are better than those of some banks.

In 2008, Joy Young and her newly immigrated husband were struggling, but making it. She was an administrative assistant for a community nonprofit; he was a Job Lot cashier. Joy owned a home in Woonsocket that she inherited in 1999. Together, they stretched their $30,000 annual income to cover their weekly living expenses and their monthly payments on a 2004…

Reporter: Little Common Ground

Hannah Laplante is forty-five pounds of math confidence. The rising Peace Dale Elementary School first grader pulls a worksheet from a stack: “Sam has forty cookies. Don has thirty fewer cookies. How many cookies does Don have? You need to show and defend your thinking using pictures, words and numbers.” Hannah just knew the answer was ten. Her mathematical operation,…

Reporter: Dangers of the Wild

Travis Godwin pulls his pickup to a stop on Watson Street, leans out the window and lets out a snort of laughter. “Who’s in that?” he gestures to the man in the tick suit. The Jamestown Memorial Day parade is about to step off. And, amid the assorted fire trucks and military marchers, spit-and-polished in their dress uniforms, is Bruce…

Reporter: Opening the Floodgates

Lawmakers have tried to shore up the national flood insurance program in the wake of devastating storms, but homeowners are bearing the brunt of the burden.

In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita saddled the National Flood Insurance Program with a $24 billion debt. To regain the program’s financial footing, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act, a 2012 law raising insurance premiums to reflect the true actuarial risk for businesses, second homes and properties with repetitive losses, stripping subsidies from homeowners who had…

Reporter: Charting a Future for Health Care in Rhode Island

The state’s health care exchange rolled out more smoothly than those in other states, but some business leaders are questioning the cost of maintaining it.

The trophies in the grocery business are few, but Dunns Corners Market, a specialty store with a loyal clientele, keeps one on the back wall. Mounted on a handsome wooden board, headlined “Living with the Giant,” the Providence Journal article chronicles the struggle of a food-world David with the Goliath of a Walmart across the street. In the story, owners…