Ellen Liberman

The Tipping Point

Should the minimum wage increase for servers?

Tipping goes back at least to the Middle Ages, but it arrived here after the Civil War, with wealthy Americans who wanted to burnish their social credentials with a well-placed coin. By the turn of the twentieth century, tipping was condemned as much as practiced, giving cause to groups such as the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving. Six…

Strength in Numbers

Crunching the Numbers to Avoid Costly Mistakes

In 2007, a cash-strapped Governor Donald Carcieri and the General Assembly did a back-of-the envelope calculation and determined that the state could save $3.6 million if it prosecuted and incarcerated seventeen-year-old offenders as adults. The math was simple: $40,000 annual cost to house an adult offender versus $98,000 a year in the Training School. Nobody totaled up the long-term costs…

Guns Drawn On Campus Safety

URI is arming its campus police this spring in the wake of a false alarm. It’s the last large, four-year state public university to do so, but will it make the campus safer?

There were 350 witnesses to the events of April 4, 2013, but nobody knows what happened. According to news accounts, at 11:19, in Room 217 of the Chafee Social Science Center, a man standing outside the door, or perhaps somewhere in the lecture hall, said: “I’m a good guy and I have a gun,” or “You’re a nice guy! You’re…

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,…