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Carol Anne Costa: Off You Go - You Are Not Alone

Thursday, May 01, 2014

 

Well this week provided a plethora of topics to set my sights on; Donald Sterling’s reprehensible and racist remarks and subsequent lifetime ban from the NBA, the RI House Judiciary voted to abolish the master lever, the canonization of 2 Popes and a botched execution in Oklahoma. So to weigh in briefly on these happenings: Donald Sterling is an ignorant jerk, Doc Rivers is a class act, and NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver did the right thing. Thank heaven the House Judiciary voted to abolish the master lever and will send it to the house floor, will it survive floor and will Senate have the fortitude to make new election law? We shall see. The canonization ceremony and Mass from the Vatican was packed and beautiful but, Popes JPII and John XXIII still have detractors. Last time I looked, we as a nation still abhor cruel and unusual punishment and the Constitution remains clear on that point. Are you listening Governor Fallin? As important and moving these events are, it is the new college sexual assault initiative pushed by the White House that I find most timely, important, personal and compelling.

The Migration to College is Underway

As we speak, so many families, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and loved ones are dealing with angst, as the kids they love are getting ready to leave the nest on the way to the next step on their education journey. Like any voyage the path has twists turns and speed bumps, and sadly dark stretches of road. As grown ups we are keenly aware of the dangers that can face young students in the college setting and Golocal’s Kate Nagle addressed the ambiguous choices for assault victims on campuses in a recent story . Rape and sexual assault are crimes, and experts in law enforcement are doubling down by repeatedly denouncing the temptation for colleges and universities to employ “dual justice systems” for enforcement of criminal acts like sexual assault. I weighed in on the bursting numbers of sexual assaults at colleges earlier this year. The Obama administration’s White House Council on Women and Girls and the Office of the Vice President released a report detailing the staggering figures of sexual assaults particularly on college campuses. The report and the path forward are something I have kept my finger on, as my niece makes her way this fall. Believe me this is a very scary issue and is personal to so many people.

It seems like only yesterday when I was watching a group of kindergarten girls grow and thrive in the halls, playgrounds and classrooms of Saint Mary Academy Bay View. What they are today is part of the the Class of 2014; eager, full of promise, vim & vigor, confidence, smarts, skills and oh yes a good bit of swagger. To them, I am just a doting old Auntie always ready to listen, cheer and occasionally scold, but to me they are the world, the future and in a word, precious, as is every young man and young woman heading off to college. It is incumbent upon us to protect them to the degree that we can, as they make their way to change the world. So given the new waves of students who soon will be flocking to school what tools do we give them to be safe and protected amidst the confusion and danger that apparently exist within the halls of academia?

The White House has a Plan

The fact sheet developed to combat the epidemic of sexual assault in college should make everyone shiver, as the opening paragraph reads, “ One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. Most often, it happens her freshman or sophomore year. In the great majority of cases, it’s by someone she knows – and also most often, she does not report what happened. And though fewer, men, too, are victimized.”

The newest initiative of the Obama Administration called notalone.gov When the Obama administration released the portal it was with this mission: “Perhaps most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted: you are not alone. We have your back. I’ve got your back.” President Barack Obama, January 22, 2014. With that, the White House a has created a website that is a resource for schools, parents and students. The comprehensive material that is a mere click away spans empirical data, Title IX guidelines, law enforcement tips, 3 hot lines including live chat capability, policy guidelines, prevention resources and so much more.

Arming our Children

As startling as the data and first hand accounts are surrounding this issue how do we more effectively arm our children to combat this plague? We all must listen up, educate ourselves and spread the word. The battle will be waged with education,support and tools delivered way before they get to college, and yes it takes a village. By strengthening enforcement efforts and greater cooperation between varying constituencies, schools and agencies the conversation and action plan can begin. Communication is extremely valuable in this plan, as open and free dialogue with victims, survivors, parents, schools law enforcement and the general public can only give all of us more tools and the confidence to act.

I urge everyone to speak frankly with your kids, visit notalone.gov together and give them the ammunition they may need to get through the challenges which may lurk ahead. These numbers don’t lie. As the doting Aunt, I know my niece, her friends and their families are expecting an onslaught of information from me in the months to come, so be prepared for my invasion of your in boxes. All I want for them is a safe, fun and rich college experience and this Auntie will not send them forward unaware, uneducated or unarmed.

Carol Costa is a public relations and community outreach specialist; she has experience in both the public and private sectors. She is the Chairwoman of the Scituate Democratic Town Committee and has extensive community affairs and public relations experience. She previously served in the Rhode Island Judiciary for nearly 17 years. Carol also enjoyed a successful development stint at the Diocese of Providence as Associate Director for Catholic Education and is currently a public housing manager. Her work has been published in several local outlets including GoLocal, Valley Breeze, The Rhode Island Catholic, and Currents Magazine.

 

Related Slideshow: RI State Report: More News of the Week - 4/26/14

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Franchise Tax

In an effort to attract new businesses to Rhode Island, Sen. James C. Sheehan released an op-ed this week urging lawmakers to pass legislation—which he introduced—to cut the state’s franchise tax.

"Under existing tax structure, all Rhode Island businesses face a minimum $500 per year business corporations (franchise) tax,” said Sheehan. “This year, I have introduced legislation that would suspend the imposition of the annual franchise tax of $500 for a period of three years from the date a business incorporates with the Secretary of State.”

“The legislation is intended to help small, start-up businesses in our state, the kind that we have been trying to attract through the various reforms and initiatives that have been enacted into law the past few years. If we are putting out the welcome mat to new companies, the last thing those firms need is to find a bill tucked under it, charging them $500 just so they can open their doors and stay open every year. That’s money a new company could better use to build their business,” added Sheehan. 

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Push to Protect Jobs 

With a United Healthcare proposal in front of the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) that would cut 52 northern Rhode Island physicians and Landmark Medical Center from its provider network, Rep. Stephen M. Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket) voiced strong opposition to the plan last week and reached out to his colleagues in the General Assembly for support.

While negotiations are still ongoing between Prime Healthcare and United Healthcare insurance company for Medicaid and commercial contracts (a deal has already been reached with Prime in respect to the insurer’s Medicare program),  Casey said United is threatening to destroy years of hard work that would put the success of Prime’s newly-acquired Landmark Medical Center and the medical community in northern Rhode Island in serious jeopardy.

“Simply put, Landmark should be reimbursed on the same financial scale as other Rhode Islandhospitals,” Casey said. “If United Healthcare decides to drop it from its network, that will not only cause a severe rupture in access to medical treatment for northern Rhode Islanders, but it could also reverse years of hard work exuded by countless factions of people to get the hospital back on track after it fell into receivership. Landmark has not had an increase in payments from United since 2010, and of all the hospitals in the state, United pays Landmark the lowest amount. There is clearly a need here to pay the hospital enough to keep it profitable. This is not the old Landmark, and United needs to understand that.”

Casey has reached out to other state lawmakers and asked them to call, email and write to DOH Director Michael Fine last week on behalf of the hospital and affected physicians.

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Agricultural Grants

Earlier this week, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) joined officials from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), the Rhode Island State Farm Service Agency (FSA), and Farm Fresh Rhode Island to celebrate Earth Day and announce new efforts to promote, research, and market Rhode Island agriculture. Reed announced a series of federal grants coming to Rhode Island to improve nutrition in schools and help increase demand and consumption of local, nutritious, and sustainable Rhode Island-grown food.

“There’s a lot people can do to protect the planet, like recycling and conserving energy.  And another smart way to help Rhode Island’s environment and the economy is to buy local and support your local farms and farmers markets. Because supporting sustainable agriculture here in Rhode Island also supports a healthy economy,” said Reed.  

This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making a $255,000 Specialty Crop Block Grant available to DEM and to food and other specialty crop growers for a variety of projects.  Specialty crops make up the bulk of what we eat -- all of our fruits and vegetables -- as well as things like nursery crops.  Past recipients of these federal grants include: Farm Fresh Rhode Island; the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island; Beanhouses Inc.; and the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension.

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Advocacy Group Critiques Pell

Rhode Island Taxpayers, an advocacy group that recently endorsed Ken Block for Governor, has questioned the seriousness of proposals put forth on Wednesday by Democratic Candidate Clay Pell. 

“Taxpayers and all voters need to be skeptical about a candidate claiming he is capable of bringing positive reforms to education when his campaign is being managed by the largest state teachers’ union,” said R.I. Taxpayers spokesperson Monique Chartier. “Innovation ideas for school districts and union management don’t normally go hand in hand.” Among the education related ideas put forth by Pell was the creation of a new state internship program at high schools, as well as a broad proposal to give more RI students exposure to careers in the defense industry.

The group is also skeptical about Pell’s proposal to direct more state taxpayer funds for start-up financing to new businesses when efforts such as business loan programs of the state Commerce Corporation, and the state’s Betaspring financing program for technology businesses already exist.

“Redundant proposals for more taxpayer financed business incentive programs for new businesses need to be viewed skeptically by taxpayers,” Chartier added. “A better business climate with an overall lower tax rate for existing businesses needs to occur before advocating for additional taxpayer funding for unproven new business enterprises.”

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Renewable Energy Grants

On Wednesday, Governor Lincoln Chafee announced The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) has awarded $1.16 million in grants to support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects at local public and private schools throughout the state.

"By participating in regional initiatives such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, our state is able to benefit from projects that provide Rhode Island students with a 'living laboratory' to learn about clean energy and environmental protection," Chafee said.

East Greenwich, Chariho Regional, and Lincoln school districts were funded for energy efficiency investments totaling $538,000. These investments included energy-efficient lighting upgrades, replacement of boilers, and installation of controls for heating systems and fans. These projects will provide substantial energy reductions and cost savings for the schools. Chariho estimates that they will save approximately $14,000 annually and reduce their electricity use by 30 percent.

Rocky Hill School (East Greenwich), Community Preparatory School (Providence), Meeting Street School (Providence), and West Warwick High School were awarded a total of $622,250 in grants to install a total of 613 kW of solar capacity – solar photovoltaic systems ranging in size from 33 kW to 235 kW. West Warwick High School will use its grant to install systems on both its field house and ice rink – for a total annual energy bill savings of $31,000.

These awards were funded through Rhode Island's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is the nation's first market-based system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI puts a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the electric power sector in participating states and sells tradable allowances at auction. Rhode Island uses our portion of the proceeds from the auctions to support energy efficiency measures and programs as well as projects focused on renewable energy, grid modernization, and innovation.

 
 

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