NEWS

Renew Rhode Island advances agenda to address racial, economic injustice

By ARDEN BASTIA
Posted 1/14/21

By ARDEN BASTIA A progressive advocacy group, Renew Rhode Island, announced its arrival Tuesday with an ambitious, $300 million agenda that seeks to address "e;racial and economic injustice."e; The group is part of a larger coalition across New England,

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NEWS

Renew Rhode Island advances agenda to address racial, economic injustice

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A progressive advocacy group, Renew Rhode Island, announced its arrival Tuesday with an ambitious, $300 million agenda that seeks to address “racial and economic injustice.”

The group is part of a larger coalition across New England, with hopes to address a “severe shortage of affordable housing…a rapidly accelerating eviction emergency, widespread food insecurity, and climate change.”

The coalition, made up of 15 organizations including frontline communities, organized labor, Indigenous tribes, environmental justice advocates, youth groups, and racial justice organizers, aims to “introduce bold legislations to take on the crisis we face across our state…like mass unemployment, racial injustice, the Coronavirus pandemic, and climate change,” said leader of the group Monica Huertas, executive director of The People’s Port Authority.

Emma Bouton, an organizer with the Sunrise Movement, also heads the group.

Members include Sen. Cynthia Mendes of East Providence, Sen. Jeanine Calkin of Warwick, Jennifer Rourke (the Warwick progressive who waged two unsuccessful campaigns to unseat Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey), Senators Tiara Mack, Jonathan Acosta and Kendra Anderson, as well as Representatives David Morales and Brianna Henries.

The group has big aspirations, which at $300 million is described as “2.5 percent of the state budget.”

Among the revenue-raising approaches suggested by the group:

- Raising the top marginal tax rate by five percent on the richest one percent of Rhode Islanders, who all make over $460,000 each year, which would generate over $170 million per year.

- Raising the tax rate by 1.5 percent on high-end real estate transactions, when people are buying a house or mansion worth more than $500,000, to generate more than $34.3 million each year.

- Legalizing recreational marijuana and freeing all nonviolent drug offenders from prison would generate at least another $76.5 million annually.

- Cutting the Commerce Corporation’s handouts for big businesses will save the state millions more in revenue each year.

The “Rescue Rhode Island Act” will include three bills: “one for green housing, one for sustainably-produced food, and one to protect clean air and water,” according to a news release issued Tuesday. The package is designed to “create jobs, advance racial justice, promote economic fairness, and begin the systemic transformations necessary to secure an ecologically sustainable future in which every Rhode Islander has housing, food, and clean air and water.”

Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey said that while he doesn’t know much about the group, they seem to be following the goals of the senate.

“As of right now, I’m not aware of any bills submitted by them, but many of the issues they discussed, we were planning on moving forward and pursuing,” he said in an interview. “I don’t know much about the coalition, but there are a number of different coalitions in the state that push different legislations, and we’ll learn more about them in the coming months.

During the launch of the coalition on Jan. 12, Senator Kendra Anderson said she has “been noticing the increasing events of violence and terrorism, that may not seem to be connected to the climate crisis, but they really are. We don’t just have problems of global warming and environmental destruction, but a problem of our connection to the Earth and the interconnection to each other. The problem runs deep.”

Anderson said she ran for office because she has a “responsibility” to future generations. “I know we need to take action on a larger scale than ever before.”

Over the course of the decade, the Rescue Rhode Island Act will “create thousands of dignified, well-compensated jobs to equip workers with the skills necessary to join expanding green industries” as well as dismantle polluting industries, build high-quality, affordable green housing, establish a network of community gardens and rural farms, as well as “jump-start the high-paying unionized green industries, like energy efficient housing construction that will create unprecedented, widely shared prosperity throughout the state.”

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