THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT


While You Were Out: Life in Providence in the Past Month

by by Emma Berry

illustration by by Charis Loke

THERE WAS SOME SNOW
Some time in mid-January, the word “snowpocalypse” stopped being ironic. Birds had fallen from the sky only weeks earlier, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to associate snow and ice in forty-nine states with impending doom. People on buses joked with one another about the end times, laughed, looked out the window at the grey mess piling up on the side of the road, sat back, and became uncharacteristically quiet.
That’s if they could manage to get on a bus—as of February 6, thirteen RIPTA routes are delayed and detoured until
Some time in mid-January, the word “snowpocalypse” stopped being ironic. Birds had fallen from the sky only weeks earlier, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to associate snow and ice in forty-nine states with impending doom. People on buses joked with one another about the end times, laughed, looked out the window at the grey mess piling up on the side of the road, sat back, and became uncharacteristically quiet.
That’s if they could manage to get on a bus—as of February 6, thirteen RIPTA routes are delayed and detoured until further notice, because snow banks have made roads (including parts of Hope Street) too narrow. According to the Providence Journal, 45.9 inches of snow and ice have fallen at T.F. Green airport so far this winter. February is expected to bring more. (The average yearly snowfall in Rhode Island is about 36 inches.)
The accumulated mess didn’t only pose problems for bus commuters. Ten Providence mail carriers have been injured this winter from slipping and falling on the ice or from being struck by cars while walking in the road. Parts of I-95 flooded when rain couldn’t flow into frozen-over storm drains. On February 3, the roof caved in at Capt. Isaac Paine Elementary School in Foster, leaving students worried about the fate of a special stuffed elephant trapped in the rubble. Duck boots are backordered on L.L. Bean.com.
Meanwhile, across the Internet, grizzled Rhode Islanders called us out on our lack of hardiness: the winter of 1995-1996, they say, was much worse. -EB

RI LOSES AMERICA'S CUP BID [SOFTWARE IS THE NEW RAILROAD]
Before Saint Tropez’s Lamborghini races and Cancun’s wet t-shirt contests, Newport had regattas. On July 30, 1937, society’s upper crust prepared for the city’s second America’s Cup race, the world’s oldest and most famous yachting event. Debs lounged on the beach “bare-legged in cork-heeled shoes…with sun tanned men in white flannels, sports coats and yachting caps,” observed a Montreal society reporter. That night at a rustic “barn dance” thrown by the Vanderbilts, everyone dressed up in gingham and munched on novelty foods like corn beef hash and blueberry pie, [What a wonderful party, this was fantastically delicious.] prepared by the 30-some servants of Belcourt Castle. The next day, challenger Sir Thomas Sopwith’s Endeavor II lost to Harold Vanderbilt’s Rainbow, all in good Gastbian fun. [I sailed with Harry in this race. . .the first woman ever to compete in an America’s cup race!] The cup race was held every four years in Newport until 1983, when it was won by an Australian team and moved to Fremantle.
In 2013, with San Francisco team Oracle defending their title, the cup was set to return to the U.S. And while Rhode Island’s hoedowns have weaned, its harbor has remained. When plans with their home city unraveled in mid-December, Oracle pushed Rhode Island to make a last-minute bid for the race. The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) spent three weeks banging out a proposal, despite some obvious kinks, such as how to pay for a $30-50 million renovation of Newport’s Fort Adams in an already strained budget. The deal would have added 8,000 jobs and $1.1 billion to the state’s economy, according to RIEDC director Keith Stokes.
New Years Eve 2010 was not a party at RIDEC. Despite their scrambling, Stokes and co. missed the New Years Eve deadline, hearing the announcement about San Francisco’s win that same day via west coast newssources before they were contacted by the Oracle reps. [ouch!] Oracle insists Newport’s loss has nothing to do with the fact that the RIEDC missed the deadline by a day. They also insist that they were truly considering Newport, not just using it as a lever to get San Francisco to commit to leasing a large portion of its waterfront property to Oracle and its software billionaire owner Larry Ellison.
-AH

SERIOUS BUSINESS
The Rhode Island General Assembly’s new legislative session began on January 4 with more whimper than bang, as per usual. The first bills introduced were routine: a bill authorizing a Tiverton woman to perform a marriage, bills expressing condolences for the deaths of notable citizens, a bill congratulating a new Eagle Scout, a bill declaring January 14, 2011 as “Westerly Lions Club Day.”
On January 6, the House celebrated Epiphany by passing H5005, which reads: “it is the policy of the state that state officials and departments refer to the tree customarily erected or displayed in celebration of the period from Thanksgiving of each year to January of the following year as a ‘Christmas tree’ and not as a ‘holiday tree’ or other non-traditional terms.”
Another semantic question received more notice. Bills to expand the state’s definition of marriage to include same-sex couples were introduced in both chambers on February 11. A Wednesday hearing on the bill followed a number of other hearings on controversial bills that had been postponed because of the snow; this list included a bill that would require the state government and private companies with whom it contracts to use the E-Verify citizenship verification program, and a bill supported by anti-domestic violence groups that would make strangulation a felony. (It is currently a misdemeanor.)
On both days, the hearings lasted for hours. Some questions brought new light to old issues. Others drifted into the arcane or even the absurd. On Wednesday, enough people came to the gay marriage hearing that it was simulcast in alcoves of the State House, where supporters and opponents came together to feign friendliness, check their Blackberries, and try to hear through the television static.
-EB

BUDDY CIANCI'S JANUARY DIARY
Dear Diary,
Governor Chafee, I’m beginning to think you don’t like me. Before you stormed into office last November with a whopping 36% of the vote running as an Independent, you refused to come on my WPRO Radio Show because of my “disgraceful conduct” as a former Mayor of Providence. Your campaign slogan—“Trust Chafee”—was a subtle shot at my kind of Rhode Island politics, the creative governing I implemented for 21 years as Mayor—which coincidentally earned me a 5-year federal sentence for racketeering conspiracy in 2001—what you described as a “criminal enterprise from Providence City Hall.”
Thus far in 2011, you’ve continued to blast me. In January, you rode a high horse to the governor’s chair vowing to clean up Rhode Island’s reputation for “corruption and cronyism,” delivering an inauguration speech flooded with civic virtue, saying: “I will not rest until we reclaim the promise that lay in the heart of our founder Roger Williams some 375 years ago.” It’s true you’re not a two-time convicted felon like yours truly, but what are your plans for Rhode Island’s economy? On the day of your swearing-in, you didn’t speak the words “unemployment” or “jobless rate” once. Economic Recovery? Recession? Stimulus? Nope, nope, not once. Instead, you chose to invoke Roger Williams’s name (who was a puritan reject, I might add) a staggering seven times in your speech. And what have you done on the economic front since Inauguration day? You delayed a state budget proposal until March (the government is estimated to be $300 million in debt), made little progress on pension reform, and paid 38 studios —Curt Schilling’s Video Game Company that was awarded a $75 million state loan last year—another $9.4 million in taxpayer money, despite coming out against the deal in September.
Along the campaign trail, you declined to appear on my show out of an “ethical obligation,” but on January 11th, you stirred national headlines by banning talk radio appearances altogether, for every member of your administration. Previously, you’ve described my Mayoral reign as “a gross abuse of the public trust,” but your ban on talk radio violates a public contract as well by avoiding media scrutiny. According to you, talk radio is “more entertainment than journalism,” but you seem most intent on dodging me, Buddy Cianci. Are you scared, Governor?
-MB