Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 07-30-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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12 OPINION JULY 30-AUGUST 5, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION Bill Belichick fans know that the "Patriot Way" is a term to describe the team-first culture of the New England Patriots. The "Rhode Island Way," regret- tably, is the way that political business is done in this state without concern for taxpay- ers. The two things that seem only to matter are that some politicians take care of their friends and the friends take care of them. As you read this, you are still paying for the 38 Studios fiasco. If Smith Hill contin- ues on its present pursuit to give a 20-year, no-bid con- tract to IGT-Twin River, you will lose $2.5 billion in lost opportunity, $520 million in general fund contributions, $130 million in retailer com- missions and $1.7 billion in prizes, according to a gaming consultant. The consultant was paid $165,000 which included his return flight to Rhode Island and expenses to testify about his findings to the General Assembly. He wasn't called as a witness. Gov. Gina Raimondo and Democrat legislators are poised to reward a chief campaign contributor to their races and her colleague at the Democratic National Committee who also was the IGT former chairman. They have more loyalty to fund his company stock than to you or the small businesses which sell lottery products despite their rhetoric about helping them. Pensioners could be hurt again Now, another injustice may happen to the pension- ers of the St. Joseph Pension Fund. The participants first were betrayed by Bishop Thomas Tobin, who stopped making necessary pension contributions to the retire- ment fund. He then mugged them anew by selling the hospitals without a properly funded pension, which he and the purchaser knew was underfunded. Thereafter, the retirement fund petitioned for a receivership and sought a 40 percent cut of every- one's pension from nurses to housekeepers. Before the pensioners knew of the dire situation of the underfunded pension, the purchaser exchanged its nonprofit status by selling the hospitals to a for-profit entity. Then-Attorney General Peter Kilmartin allowed the sale and apparently didn't protect the assets of each hospital since the new inves- tors paid themselves about $500 million in bonuses and operating fees, imperiling the financial stability of its 17 hospitals including those in Rhode Island. Now, two of those investors want to buy out the third partner and set up another for-profit entity to own the hospitals. At a hearing before the Health Services Council advising the R.I. Department of Health on such a transfer, the proposed new, for-profit owners paint- ed a rosy picture of its "com- mitment" to the community. The representations were not verified and the monitor who was supposed to oversee the initial for-profit sale as of July 2020 couldn't verify essential information about the own- ers' "finances." Nobody on the council asked about the alarming monitor report or the opposition to the change, including, fortunately, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. The concern, of course, is that more assets will be drained out of the hospitals into the pockets of these venture capitalists, thereby defeating the class action law- suit on behalf of the pension participants seeking to secure funds for the pension. I don't receive a penny since I am a pro bono attor- ney for the elderly retirees on limited incomes, but unless the present attorney general stops this shell game, the pensioners may get beaten anew. Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general. It's the Rhode Island Way With air conditioning work- ing overtime, this week's heat wave in Rhode Island brought some of the highest energy usage of the summer. That means expensive utility bills. Under our current fossil fuel dominant energy system, it can also mean some of the dirtiest power, when coal plants get called up to help meet peak electricity demand. Creating a livable, sustain- able climate will require broad societal changes to how we power our homes and busi- nesses, and that transition is well underway. As someone who works in clean energy policy, my hope is that local communities and residents make better-informed deci- sions about energy use – yes, to help our planet, but also to unlock bill savings and other local economic benefits. The following are three ways to start. • Expand energy efficiency investments. It only makes sense that the cleanest, cheap- est megawatt hour is the one that isn't even needed. (Think of it as a "negawatt.") Energy efficiency is about more than just lightbulbs. Deep efficiency measures such as weatherization and heating and cooling system upgrades can significantly lower energy bills, decrease emissions, and even help improve commu- nity health. Participants in the state's energy efficiency programs enjoy the most direct savings; even those who don't participate benefit from lower overall energy prices. Low- income customers can access many efficiency improvements at no cost. If you haven't had an energy audit lately, call National Grid, the program administrator, at 1-888-633- 7947 to schedule one. • Support local solar access. My household went solar 18 months ago. Our array, installed by a Newport-based small business, has lowered our monthly electric bill (especially during sunny sum- mer months!) and our carbon footprint. On an annual basis, we now spend zero dollars on electricity. But as with energy efficiency, the benefits of local solar can accrue to non-solar customers, too. During periods of high electricity usage, roof- top solar helps keep overall electricity usage down. By keeping usage down, utilities have to build and maintain fewer poles, wires, and other costly infrastructure – which is paid for by ratepayers. Unfortunately, most com- munities in the Blackstone Valley didn't take advantage of Rhode Island's Solarize program, a missed opportu- nity to spur residential and commercial solar conversions at discounted costs. Other policies and programs like Renewable Energy Growth, the Renewable Energy Fund, and net metering are still avail- able. The offerings can seem complicated, but it's possible to structure financing so you can enjoy bill savings from Day One. Of course, not everyone can put solar on their roof. Community solar, a subscrip- tion share of a larger local installation, is one option that provides clean power and bill savings no matter the suit- ability of your roof or credit score. Rhode Island's Office of Energy Resources is expected to petition regulators this year to extend the state's commu- nity solar pilot program. An equitably designed program that ensures low-income participation can make solar accessible to all. I strongly urge cities and towns to support it. • Explore community choice aggregation. Rhode Island has joined Massachusetts in allowing community choice aggregation, or the abil- ity to purchase electricity in bulk on behalf of residents and businesses. Benefits can include stable longer-term pricing, more clean energy options, and even lower rates. Municipalities includ- ing Providence, Newport, Central Falls, and others have approved or are moving toward adopting CCAs. I hope my community does, too. After you get your sum- mer electricity bill and catch your breath, remember these suggestions. And arrange for your home efficiency study, comparison-shop local solar companies, or visit OER's Community Solar Marketplace for cleaner ways to power your future. Our guest columnist Erika Niedowski, a resident of Lincoln, works in clean energy policy in Rhode Island and across the Northeast. You can power change on energy use Poli-Ticks ARLENE VIOLET ERIKA NIEDOWSKI Volume XXI, Number 49 July 30, 2020 valleybreeze.com @ Breeze THE VALLEY ABOUT US The Valley Breeze Newspapers are a locally operated group of free weekly newspapers serving the people of Cumberland, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Woonsocket, Smithfield, Scituate, Foster, Glocester, North Providence, Pawtucket, R.I., and Blackstone, Mass. Each Thursday, 58,500+ copies are distributed to retailers, banks, offices, and restaurants and other busy spots. Circulation is audited by the Circulation Verification Council of St. Louis, Mo. and has earned its "Gold Standard Award." OUR MISSION It is the Mission of The Valley Breeze to facilitate a positive sense of community among the res- idents of Northern Rhode Island by providing a forum for the free exchange of ideas, and to provide information of local events and neighbors. It is our further Mission to provide the highest quality advertising at the lowest possible cost to retailers, professionals, tradespersons, and other service providers in order to enhance the economic well-being of our community. James Quinn, Deputy Publisher jquinn@valleybreeze.com Jack Birolini, Director of Sales jack@valleybreeze.com Ethan Shorey, Managing Editor ethan@valleybreeze.com Barbara Phinney, Controller accounting@valleybreeze.com

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