Ellen Liberman

RI, the One-Party State

With a scant ten Republicans at the State House, checks and balances are long gone; will accountability follow?

Into every political life comes a reckoning. June Gibbs’ moment came right after the polls closed. On Election Day, the longest-serving Republican state senator was stationed, as she had been for the last twelve elections, at her own polling place. At about nine o’clock, Gibbs stared her numbers in the eye and she knew. “I won. But not by the…

The Tax Mire

Years of silly policies have helped create a record fiscal crisis. But if state budgets reveal what matters to us, it’s time to carefully consider our priorities.

On a late October day, Rhode Islanders surrendered $25 million to a cause they held dear. The state was but a month away from an empty till, and State Treasurer Frank Caprio rallied the citizenry to stave off penury with a one-day sale of tax anticipation notes. Governments use TANs to bridge short-term gaps between their spending and tax collections….

Chief Executive Governor

Why CEOs make good political leaders—and why they don’t.

Dennis Grilli wasn’t shocked that the vote went down or that it went down hard. But Grilli, executive director of the state’s largest municipal employees union, was surprised that even those who would have benefited from it rejected the four-year contract on which Governor Don Carcieri attempted to balance the state budget.Council 94, the American Federation of State, County &…

Pie in the Sky

While T.F. Green’s neighbors wonder whether their houses will go next, political and economic forces buffet plans to expand the airport.

The northern-most tip of Greenwood is a lost world, but Irma Carolan remembers well the Capes and bungalows that once populated it. Carolan has lived at the corner of Greeley and Bedford for forty years—long enough to raise three children, bury her husband and watch T.F. Green elbow the neighbors out.Patches of summer-scorched grass have healed over the foundations of…

A Mighty Wind

Special interests want to do them in, but wind farms could save us big money. Let’s ponder that as gas approaches $4.50 a gallon.

The Portsmouth Abbey wind turbine is not among the tourist attractions on the Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau website, but perhaps it should be. Instead of turning left off Cory’s Lane toward the historic Brayton estate and its famed animal topiary gardens, many now bear right into the Abbey parking lot, in search of a different sort of green…

What’s in a Name?

The “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” was founded on the principles of freedom. Now that name suggests slavery and it’s time to change it.

Slave monuments are common in the South; Rhode Island has but one. It’s an uncut chunk of quartz, leaning in the farthest corner of Prince’s Hill Cemetery. On its rough white face is a bronze plaque inscribed with the thanks of a grateful town: “In memory of the slaves and their descendants who faithfully served Barrington’s families.” The memorial was…

The Silly Season

Sunbathers red as beets, manic lawn waterers, and all those drivers determined to park in tiny downtown Providence.... Why summer is no day at the beach.

Summer, as everyone knows, is Rhode Island’s shining moment. Each year, the state attracts 16 million visitors. They don’t all come in July. But it feels as if they do. Then, there’s us. We gas up the Jet Ski, load the cooler and kids into the Explorer, and head out on the highway. Life’s a beach, right? With the legislature…

A Not So Simple Plan

Rhode Island ought to be the perfect incubator for testing universal health insurance. So what’s stopping us?

Eddy Perez is a very, very good diabetic. Every month, he visits the Blackstone Valley Community Health Center to have his blood sugar level checked. He swapped the chicharon—fried pork skins—he loved for low-cholesterol eggs and vegetables. And Perez takes his insulin religiously. His blood sugar levels are now so steadily in the normal range that he may be able…

Watching Your Waste

Once, Rhode Island led the country in recycling. Now we trail the pack, and it could cost us more than just big money.

In 1992, the town of South Kingstown went to a pay-as-you-throw system at the Rose Hill Transfer Station. There was no charge for residents to recycle old clothes, some plastics, metal and paper. The town even built a cinder-block repository for discarded books and magazines for the taking dubbed the “Rose Hill Free Library.” Garbage bag tags were about a…

Growing Pains

Not enough cabs; no place to park; and street signs, where? As more visitors discover our piece of paradise, we can’t keep up with the deluge.

On a wintry Saturday afternoon, Tom Reil, sales director for the Providence Renaissance Hotel, mans the luxe lobby and bemoans the lack of taxis. A quarter of a mile away, cabbie Damien Goris waits on West Exchange Street and bemoans the lack of fares. Their mirrored dissatisfaction reflects some of the tourism industry’s current growing pains.“I still haven’t made the…