Platform - Revised 2006
Table of Contents
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Every member of society, every human being, is entitled to several basic rights which include access to the essential requirements of life as well as the rights of life and liberty.
Rhode Island has a long history of respecting minority rights, yet there has been a parallel history of struggle to gain this recognition. From the rights of Catholics, African-Americans, immigrants, women and people with non-traditional sexual orientations, minority groups have struggled for toleration and acceptance. The Green Party of Rhode Island (GPRI) recognizes that this is a constant fight and that there will always be more groups that emerge and deserve recognition. The GPRI Platform will always be a work in progress.
Gay Rights and Rights for People of Non-Traditional Genders and Sexual Orientations
The GPRI proposes making all language in the Rhode Island General Laws gender neutral. This will include Title 15 of the General Laws of Rhode Island which refer to two persons either about to marry or already married, so that marriage and child adoption will be open to all couples without prejudice.
The pay differential between women and men is unacceptable and must be closed through vigorous legal action by the Attorney General's office.
The GPRI opposes all forms of discrimination on any basis.
The right of women to choose the outcome of pregnancy must be protected by law. We must immediately repeal the laws restricting a woman's access to reproductive health care which are still on the books in Rhode Island. However, crucial as it is to preserve and protect these rights, the GPRI also realizes that fewer women would need to terminate pregnancies if there were more family planning options available. Therefore, quality sex education should be mandatory for all Rhode Island middle school and high school children and contraceptives should be subsidized by the government. The right to receive legal emergency contraceptives from pharmacies shall be guaranteed by the government. Pharmacists unwilling to fulfill contraceptive prescriptions and doctors unwilling to perform contraceptive medical procedures because of personal beliefs will receive only a partial license from the Board of Health. They should be required to practice only alongside someone who is capable of performing these duties.
The drug laws of this country and of this state perpetuate grave injustices against minorities and people from lower income groups. For all its laws, regulations and mandatory minimums, the current system also fails to effectively reduce substance dependence. The GPRI demands a change in philosophy and approach to drug policy, favoring treatment over incarceration. Therefore,we call for an end to mandatory minimum sentencing, the decriminalization of all drugs, and the legalization of marijuana. Investing more money in detoxification programs will help people recover from substance addictions. Education will also play an important role in the development of a policy where people who choose to experiment with drugs can make an educated decision and rehabilitation services if they become addicted. The GPRI will therefore set up drug education programs in public and private elementary, middle, and high schools across the state to give children the real facts about substances, rather than programs which rely on demonizing certain drugs without providing much factual information. In keeping with this approach, drug testing as a criteria for financial aid or for after school participation must be protected by the constitution.
Furthermore, the GPRI calls for the legalization of hemp and recognizes the agenda and the interests behind the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and other organizations in favor of the status quo. The immediate legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes will demonstrate that marijuana as a substance is not evil. Like cigarettes, only if used improperly can marijuana be very harmful.
Rhode Island must make a commitment to researching and controlling ethnic profiling by police, schools and other public agencies through legislation, training and monitoring.
The GPRI supports the right to vote for all citizens, especially after they have served prison sentences for felony convictions. The approach of the criminal justice system must be rehabilitative rather than punitive. Prison guards, for their own well-being and for the well-being of prisoners, must be compensated properly for their services and given ample training and recreation time.
People with disabilities are entitled to the same rights and respect as every other member of the community. In many instances certain adjustments are required to enable people with disabilities to participate fully in society, and the GPRI calls for everything to be done that will facilitate this process, from building accessibility to full use of available technology. In education, disabled children should be taught in the same schools as other children, but with access to the services they need.
Every human being has a right to sufficient nutritious food, a safe place to sleep, and medical care. The community has an obligation to make sure that children grow up in a safe environment and not suffer from poverty. Only a comprehensive approach to ending poverty, an approach based on decent wages for dignified work, childcare, and services for those who need them, will end poverty. The Green Party of Rhode Island (GPRI) specifically recommends that RI policy encompass the following:
Rhode Island needs to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, which will be automatically adjusted every year according to the average of the Rhode Island Housing Index and the Consumer Price Index. The living wage will be set at $10.00/hour (2005 dollars).
With current economic needs requiring parents to work long hours, child care must be considered a right, not a privilege. Providing child care has been an important step along the path to self sufficiency for many women. The GPRI supports child care workers in their struggle to form a union. Any family with a combined income below 250% of the poverty line should have access to subsidized child care.
Our society sends mixed messages to mothers and children. Wealthy women are encouraged to stay home and raise children, while women with lower incomes are forced into the workforce. If it is good for children to have their mothers or fathers at home, it is good for all children, not just those with economic advantages. The GPRI calls for a comprehensive analysis of the effects of a system where both adults in all but the wealthiest families must work to support themselves.
Expand the food stamp program and publicize it so that every hungry person in Rhode Island has access to food. People should be able to apply for food stamps at soup kitchens and food pantries as well as at governmental offices. Individuals and families at 200% of the federal poverty level or below should be eligible for food stamps.
Every school in Rhode Island should fully participate in free breakfast and lunch programs. Children learn and thrive on filling, nutritional meals.
No one should have to live without heat and electricity. The GPRI supports programs that limit the amount of money lower income Rhode Islanders pay for utilities to 7% of their income.
Rhode Island should encourage community development corporations, which are local non-profit organizations through which the money that people invest is funneled to local businesses. Despite small returns, these groups are good for the community because they stimulate local job creation. Returns on investments in Community Development Corporations should not be taxed, and the government must take an active role in publicizing these groups.
Earned Income Tax Credit
The EITC has a long and proven track record of getting money into the hands of the working poor. It should be expanded on the state level.
The Green Party of Rhode Island (GPRI) recognizes the importance of public education in developing empowered democratic citizens capable of action for political, economic, and social justice.
Schools should be places where the focus is on what works for each student through a recognition of individual abilities, talents and needs. Schools should teach practical and intellectual skills to all students. Schools should no longer be warehouses producing an obedient, menial labor pool. Neither should they be testing grounds for future entrepreneurs who disregard their responsibility towards the community.
Our educational platform is constructed within the framework of the GPRI's Ten Key Values.
In order to help prepare students for democratic participation, schools should engage students in collaborative rule making and authentic student governance.
Students should have opportunities to examine the root causes of political, social, and economic injustices, to develop plans for addressing these issues, and to have the opportunity to act on their plans.
A strong ecological and agricultural education component is important for teaching children how humans relate to the world around them. Public education should include instruction on the interconnectedness of humans and ecology with a reliance on the best, objective science available.
Dispute resolution is an important part of resolving classroom or after-school disputes, and a life skill that all children should learn. We support the teaching of non-violent conflict resolution at all levels of education to develop positive interactions with peers, decrease bullying and the creation of a secure learning environment.
Decentralization and Community-Based Economics
Our preference is for smaller schools integrated within neighborhoods to help foster meaningful parent and community involvement in fiscal, administrative and educational matters.
Feminism and Diversity
The diversity of human society should be reflected in every curriculum.
Students should have opportunities for a critical examination of the root causes of social and economic injustice toward women and minorities. Students should also be given opportunities to suggest or develop alternatives to these structural problems.
Students should have opportunities to evaluate the existence and effects of patriarchal society on political, social, and economic relationships.
In an increasingly interconnected world and global society, it is imperative for students to learn at least one language besides English.
Children of parents whose primary language(s) is/are not English should have access to courses in their parents' language as well as classes taught in English with native English-speaking peers. Education must have the dual aims of equipping students for the challenges they will face in American society and preserving and stimulating respect for cultural heritage.
Students should have opportunities to critically examine the structural causes of social and economic injustice, environmental destruction, and militarization. They must also be allowed opportunities develop or suggest alternatives to these structural problems. Again, students should be encouraged to implement their alternative solutions.
We view learning as a lifelong process to which all people have an equal right. Education does not end with graduation. Government must take an active role in encouraging adults to pursue learning of both practical and intellectual application.
Libraries should have full public support as resources for the education of all citizens.
The GPRI urges passage of the D.R.E.A.M. Act, (The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2005), which provides citizenship and eligibility for in-state college tuition to everyone who completes high school in the United States.
Consolidation of the Rhode Island School System
Consolidating the 39 school districts of Rhode Island into a single state system using an equitable distribution of pooled property tax funds based on population and educational needs would be a major first step in leveling the playing field for our students.
Charter schools could act as a useful laboratory for finding the best methods of teaching children, and serve in some ways as a model for the Public School system. However, Charter Schools should not act as substitutes for system-wide reform.
We recognize that sports, recreation, music and arts comprise an important part of the healthy development of our youth. Therefore, all students in Rhode Island public schools should have access to a full range of opportunities for athletic and artistic endeavors, with adequate facilities, equipment, and training staff.
Stronger sex education, family planning, and reproductive health programs should accompany available contraception at middle schools and high schools.
Substance Abuse Education
We support an absolute statewide commitment to teaching every child to read competently by the age of 8.
Free breakfast should be served at every school to increase the attention span of students and improve their performance during the school day. School breakfasts and lunches must be balanced, nutritional meals. School administrators should be effectively required to fully support and publicize breakfast and lunch programs.
Alternative Teacher Certification
Teaching should be open to those who have life experience and professional expertise in the field as well as those who come from a traditional teacher training program.
Students With Disabilities
Rhode Island schools should comply with all Federal regulations regarding the education of students with special needs. This includes providing services to disabled student in the least restrictive environment with full access to the services they need to thrive.
We believe that health care should be a right of every resident of Rhode Island, regardless of citizenship status. Clearly, however, under our capitalistic system, access to adequate health care is the privilege of an increasingly small proportion of our population. Although the medical care and pharmaceutical industries invested close to one million dollars in Rhode Island in 2005 simply to pay their lobbyists to maintain the status quo and increase the returns to those industries, almost no money whatsoever was available to lobby for true health care reform. This reality must be addressed in any discussion of health care reform.
We believe that health care is not an insurable commodity such as auto liability. Certain segments of the population (especially the elderly approaching death) consume an inordinate amount of health care services, along with certain others such as the chronically ill, the poor, child-bearing women and other high risk sub-groups. Yet the insurance industry constantly seeks to eliminate these high risk pools and provide less expensive insurance coverage to the healthier segments and unaffordable coverage to the high risk. For this and many other reasons, we believe that a single payer system must be created that covers everyone in the same pool, eliminates competing plans, streamlines paper work and thus reduces the huge investment in record keeping, accounting and marketing required under the present system.
Under the existing system, health care reimbursement rewards providers for treatment of illness episodes and provides no incentives for maintaining client health. Thus, the system is directed toward expensive specialty and sub-specialty care, leaving the primary providers understaffed and overworked.
Universal Health Care
The GPRI fully supports the Single Payer Rhode Island Health Care legislation. This legislation would enable Rhode Islanders to go to the providers of their choice while enabling them to receive a comprehensive package of health care services as outlined below. The costs would be born through a variety of mechanisms outlined in the legislation.
Under the Single Payer Rhode Island plan there will be only one administrative staff. This will eliminate the need for most of the complex record keeping required under private fee-for-service care that currently serves the majority of citizens. Nor will there be a need for marketing and competition. Quality of care will be systematically monitored. Savings will thus be engendered through a single payer system. Given the finite nature of health care resources, a more rational allocation of resources will be possible.
We strongly condemn the federal government decision to make its hospital assistance grants contingent upon the hospital's agreement to ask all inpatients whether they are citizens or legal residents and to report those who are not citizens to the INS. We believe that health care must be completely accessible to all Rhode Islanders, regardless of immigration status.
Each child has the right to a good start in life through the full time care of its mother during its first three months. The GPRI will seek legislation that will guarantee each employed mother (or her spouse) the right to three months of fully paid child care leave following the birth of their child. This amount of time is actually still less than that given in other developed countries and would be in addition to the current sick leave system.
Licensed child-care providers who, for religious, moral or other reasons, are unwilling to provide legitimate services otherwise offered by similar providers should be required to practice only in the company of colleagues not so challenged.
Certificate of Need Program
The Office of Health Systems Development (HSD) in the Department of Health administers the state's Certificate of Need program. The program is designed to prevent unnecessary duplication of expensive medical services and equipment. It needs to be strengthened and no longer used as a rubber stamp for all healthcare infrastructure spending. HSD should put a halt to unnecessary hospital spending for bricks and mortar. HSD should become more responsive to the needs of the community and not simply to those of the health care institution.
The GPRI supports the current restrictions on tobacco.
A Single Payer System
This system is similar to the Rhode Island Health Care Insurance Act as introduced by Senators Perry, J. Cicilline, Roberts, Sosnowski and Gibbs on February 9, 2000. The language used is sourced from that bill.
All Rhode Islanders will receive a standard universal benefits package which will include:
- (A) diagnostic tests and treatments including mental health services, general medical services, emergency medical care, hemodialysis, pediatric services, and medicinal and durable medical equipment prescribed by licensed health care providers;
- (B) preventive and rehabilitative services-including physical therapy;
- (C) inpatient, one day surgeries and residential treatment services for medical and mental health disorders;
- (D) hospice care;
- (E) home-based and office-based services by individual providers;
- (F) long-term care and treatments;
- (G) medications;
- (H) prenatal, perinatal and lactation care, family planning, fertility and reproductive health care;
- (I) dental, hearing and vision care, including corrective devices and procedures;
- (J) alternative methods of health care by practitioners licensed by the state of Rhode Island such as, but not limited to, a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine;
- (K) surgery required to correct a congenital defect, restore or correct a part of the body that has been altered as a result of injury, disease or surgery, or determined to be medically necessary by a qualified, licensed health care provider in the system.
The exact level of care necessary shall be determined by:
- · The strength of the medical literature of clinical effectiveness; and, when indicated, in consultation with academically and clinically qualified medical experts and appropriate representatives of the Department of Health.
- · Cost effectiveness, considering both short range and long range influence on the health of the individual and the public, and when indicated, in consultation with clinical and economic experts.
The program will be funded through the following:
The creation of a Rhode Island Health Care Trust for the purposes of developing an infrastructure that creates a single payer system to pay for comprehensive health care services to all state residents.The Trust shall seek to maximize all sources of federal financial support for health care services in this state. The Executive Director of the Trust shall obtain waivers, exemptions or legislation, if needed, so that all current federal payments for health care, including Medicare and Medicaid, shall be paid directly to the fund.
The state of Rhode Island shall pay into the fund the monies it currently pays for health care services and all administrative functions to be assumed by the Trust currently carried out by the state of Rhode Island. The Executive Director of the Trust will annually review the total appropriation for these health and administrative services through negotiations with the director of the budget and the general assembly.
Taxes shall be imposed on items that contribute to increased health care costs. Surtaxes, to be determined by the General Assembly, in conjunction with the Executive Director of the Trust, are imposed on tobacco products, alcohol, and facilities operating in the state of Rhode Island that generate pollutants determined to increase the health care costs of the residents of the state of Rhode Island.
All employers shall pay a trust fund premium, based on their payroll, starting with the enactment of the benefit plan of the Trust, as determined by the Trust and the Department of Business Regulation. The amount of this premium shall be in line with, or less than, the average contributions that employers make toward employee health benefits as of the effective date of this act adjusted to a rate less than national health care inflation or deflation. Employers who offer no insurance or minimum insurance shall pay premiums limited to 50% of the average premium paid by employers. No employer may reduce benefits on the enactment of this legislation.
Families or individuals who are self-employed, or unemployed receiving approved health care under the Rhode Island Health Care System shall contribute premiums on a sliding scale as determined by the Trust in consultation with the Department of Business Regulation. The premium shall be collected through the current state income tax system. There shall be no premiums for families of individuals with income below 185% of federal poverty level guidelines. The premium for employed workers shall be negotiated to be less than the amount such an individual or family would pay through an employer or private insurance plan for a comparable approved for payment package. Premiums for Medicare-eligible individuals shall be limited to less than the cost of private insurance to cover those services which are benefits of the trust but not of the federal Medicare program.
The trust shall seek grants from all appropriate and available sources, including bonds, to fund research and administration relevant to the Rhode Island Single Payer Health Care System.
The Trust shall retain any:
- (A) charitable donations, gifts, grants or bequests made to it from whatever source consistent with state and federal laws.
- (B) rebates negotiated or established.
- (C) income from the investment of Trust assets.
Any additional funds the state of Rhode Island shall distribute.
The Trust shall use its funding to:
- 1. Reimburse eligible health care providers and health care facilities for approved payment services rendered to eligible patients.
- 2. Pay for preventive educational and outreach programs, as well as related health care activities, not to exceed five percent of the Trust income in any fiscal year.
- 3. Fund education and assistance programs for current workers in the health care sector displaced as a result of administrative streamlining gained by moving from a multi-payer to a single payer health care system, not to exceed one percent of trust income in any fiscal year provided, such funding shall terminate June 30th of the third year following full implementation of this chapter.
- 4. Fund a reserve account to finance potential budgetary shortfalls, epidemics and other extraordinary events, not to exceed more than five percent (5%) of the Trust income in any fiscal year.
- 5. Pay for its own administration, not to exceed six percent of trust income in any fiscal year (not including monies transferred to the Trust from the state of Rhode Island).
America is a nation of immigrants, and this is especially true of Rhode Island. People come to live and work here from all over the world and this diversity is an asset to the state. The Green Party of Rhode Island (GPRI) is committed to making Rhode Island laws fair for all immigrants, regardless of country of origin or legal status, and to ensure the input of immigrant communities into the decision-making process.
The laws of Rhode Island affect everyone who lives here, not just citizens who vote. We therefore will seek to expand the vote for officials serving at the state level to all permanent legal residents of legal voting age; And to permit undocumented immigrants the right to vote and run for office in local elections.
Equal Access to Health Care
Health care must be completely accessible to all Rhode Islanders, regardless of immigrant status. The GPRI strongly condemns the trap set up by the federal government through its hospital assistance grants. Under the current system, in order for a hospital or health center to receive new federal funding, it must agree to ask all inpatients whether they are citizens or legal residents; if inpatients are undocumented immigrants, the hospitals are required to report their cases to the INS.
The GPRI urges passage of federal legislation granting immediate citizenship to everyone who completes high school in the United States. [D.R.E.A.M. Act]
Children of parents whose primary language(s) is/are not English, should have access to courses in their parents' language as well as classes in English with students who come from English-speaking backgrounds. Education must have the twin goals of equipping students for the challenges they will face in society while preserving and stimulating respect for cultural heritage. [See Education, Language]
Equal Access to Education at All Ages
Rights for Immigrant Workers
All protections and laws established with respect to worker/employer relations and complaint processes must apply to all workers regardless of their national status.
End to Racial Profiling
Rhode Island must make a commitment to researching and controlling ethnic profiling by police, schools, and other public agencies through legislation, training, and monitoring.
Amnesty for Community Heroes
Undocumented immigrants who risk deportation and their lives in order to testify in important cases should be rewarded by the community with amnesty, not threatened by deportation. The Governor and State Legislature must do everything in their power to protect such community heroes.
Not Implement the Real ID Act
The Real ID Act, passed by the United States Congress in 2005, presents a significant fiscal burden on the state government for purposes of spying on the citizens and deporting undocumented immigrants, with no real security benefit. The GPRI believes that it is within the power of the state to refuse to allocate funds to fulfill the unjust Real ID Act's mandate.
The Green Party of Rhode Island (GPRI) always prefers nonviolent solutions to every human problem. Nonviolence is a philosophy beyond opposition to war and extends into many areas of human life. We live in a state in which a detective can be shot with his own gun within police headquarters. Where the mentally ill alleged perpetrator of this act is brought into court the next day visibly badly beaten. We live in a state in which the head of the Adult Coorrectional Institution charges that guards in his own system have systematically beaten prisoners. We live in a state heavily economically dependent on defense spending and thus we live off the proceeds of officially sanctioned violent approaches to international social issues.
Shut Down the Military/Industrial Complex
Redirect the monumental spending and infrastructure currently used to kill toward peaceful activities and interactions with the planet.
Recall the Rhode Island National Guard from Iraq
The RI governor has the power to do this immediately.
Prevent Violence by Public Employees Entrusted with Keeping the Peace
This requires vigilance, research, and record keeping to ensure compliance with all laws and regulations covering the behavior of police, prison guards, teachers and all other public employees.
End Domestic Violence
Positive actions to end elder abuse, spouse and partner abuse, and child abuse require funding, record keeping, and vigilant action. Every community needs to be aware of the signs and symptoms of domestic violence, and committed to eliminating it.
Teach the skills and attitudes of nonviolence everywhere, but especially in schools.
Return hope to felons with effective programs to return them to their communities safely and sustainably.
Allocate More Money for Violence Prevention
This should include training for citizens of all ages on nonviolent problem resolution, and good support for anti-violence community workers.
The Green Party of Rhode Island (GPRI) believes that our nation's continued reliance on fossil fuels harms our environment and jeopardizes our national security. Burning fossil fuels increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere where it helps trap the sun's heat and contributes to climate changes. Reliance on oil requires a reliance on other countries, some in the Middle East whose internal politics border on dictatorship, leading to a foreign policy inconsistent with American values.
Safe, clean, renewable energy systems exist now and are being deployed throughout the world. The challenge is to stop the vested interests of coal, petroleum, and nuclear power from preventing a strategic, structured transition out of the Petroleum Era into the Clean Renewable Energy Era. The United States must move rapidly toward energy independence, address global climate change and create high quality jobs all at the same time through an accelerated program to obtain energy from cleaner renewable sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass.
Energy efficiency is the most immediate way that the U.S. can address energy management. In fact, the technology already exists for dramatically improving our energy efficiency; We just have to put it into practice!
Energy efficiency simply means maximizing the productivity out of a given unit of energy and minimizing waste.
Citizen Power, a non-profit energy research organization, estimates that if the 109 million households in the U.S. replaced four 100-watt bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, the energy output of thirty 300-megawatt power plants would be saved. That's enough energy to power another 9 million energy-efficient homes.
Combined with simple conservation measures such as turning off power when not using it or insulating your house, energy efficiency will greatly reduce the waste of limited resources in the near future and help the transition to renewables. We can make major gains by retrofitting existing systems and integrating new efficient improvements into building design and transportation systems.
The state should plan a phase-out of incandescent light bulbs in favor of compact fluorescent light bulbs, as soon as the price and technology of CFLs is comparable. Also, insulation standards and energy efficiency standards should be higher for new buildings and vigorously enforced through informed and cooperative code enforcement.
Clean Renewable Energy
Clean and renewable energy is the key to long term energy sustainability. Energy generation systems that borrow molecules from the water cycle to store energy (i.e., hydrogen power) or make use of energetic photons streaming from the sun (i.e., solar power), and which do so without adding contamination to the environment or subtracting from natural cycles, are superior prospects for energy use. Because these systems are inexhaustible, we can count on wind, solar and other sources for long term energy solutions.
When power is produced locally, it is more secure since it is not at the mercy of huge grid systems. (As we saw in the summer of 2003, such extensive systems can and do fail). Energy production on a smaller scale also has less of an impact on the local ecosystems; Though in some cases, as with wind turnbines, the efficiency of larger systems might be more important than specific local impacts.
Energy and Clean Jobs
The GPRI wants Rhode Island to become the capital of clean energy equipment. All clean energy producing firms, (defined as any company deriving 50% or more of its profits from selling clean energy equipment) should not be taxed at all for at least the next five years. The Slater Technology Fund should focus on clean energy, manufacture of more recyclable durable goods, and housing innovations.
Note: The Slater Technology Fund was created in 1997 by Governor Lincoln Almond and the Rhode Island General Assembly to stimulate the creation of new technology-based companies in Rhode Island. The Fund is financed annually by the General Assembly.
Incentives should support clean renewable energy.
The Green Party of Rhode Island supports:
- · Federal, State, and local policies which help fund clean energy research and deployment.
- · Tax credits for solar, wind, clean hydrogen, biomass and other clean renewable energy systems.
- · Taxes and fines for energy waste; and efforts to develop inexpensive solar cells and hydrogen fuel cells.
- · Federal and state governments should fund the development of school curricula on energy efficiency and clean renewable energy for all levels of public schools.
The Rhode Island government must commit itself to statewide use of 10% clean, renewable energy by the year 2010, and 100% by 2030. The energy intake of the whole state should be 20% renewable by 2020, and 100% by 2050. Where possible, the GPRI supports locally-generated power. Technology is not the primary barrier to achieving this goal. What is needed is enough political will.
Encourage construction of local wind turbines. Residents in areas where turbines are built will be financially compensated for the (minor) inconvenience by receiving a part of the wind-generated revenue. The rest of the revenue above initial expense and maintenance expense can go to a fund to improve building efficiency and buying back pristine wilderness to prevent overdevelopment (and to preserve possible future turbine sites). A share of the proceeds from wind energy sales will go to the people affected by new wind turbine construction with the remainder beyond initial costs and maintenance going towards improving the energy efficiency of houses around the state, and the construction of solar panels where appropriate.
Wind Turbine Research
Commit the state to taking on the challenge of designing deep-water wind turbines for use around Rhode Island's shore. Use our state's marine industry as a springboard to become the wind energy production center for the east coast.
Big Car Tax
Any car that weighs more than 4000 pounds and is not licensed for commercial use should be subject to a 5% fuel efficiency tax. In other words, the GPRI proposes to tax cars at the point of sale rather than by taxing them through gasoline usage, which penalizes those forced to rely more on their cars for transportation.
Less Reliance on Petroleum Gasoline
Solar, Wind, and Hydrogen should replace oil and other carbon based fuels. Producing this sort of energy would create jobs and stop the emissions that threaten life as we know it.
RGGI: The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Support the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which Governors of all northeast states have signed onto except for Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The RGGI would be a commitment to reduce emissions from power sources while setting up a mechanism to protect low-income energy consumers.
PIPP: Percentage of Income Payment Plan
The proposed PIPP would enable low-income Rhode Islanders to pay for their utilities on a percentage of income basis, rather than demanding full back-payment on bills they can't afford. This program will be financed by reducing the profits of the shareholders, not by increasing energy rates. [Read about PIPP in Ohio.]
We need to end our addiction to fossil fuels, rather than talking about increasing Rhode Island's capacity for usage. Placing LNG terminals in urban areas is an especially bad idea given the real risk of terrorism and accident.
No Nuclear Plants
Halt construction of nuclear plants, and halt government research and support of nuclear energy.
Local communities need a real say in all intended facility developments, improvements, renovation, and expansion. Energy companies planning to cite plants in new areas or complete any sort of work on pre-existing plants must seek substantial input from the affected local neighborhood community boards. [See Government Reform, Neighborhood Boards.]
Reducing suburban sprawl will be important for reducing our energy consumption. We must compact dwellings and leave more land for production and nature. The mass transit system should become more accessible, through investment in buses as well as local and long distance rail. Direct development of rail / walkable / bicycle options. Enhance town center / modal development.
A good model for a bus rapid transit system can be found in Curitiba, Brazil.
The state's transit system and development strategy should work together to make commuting easy and contain sprawl.
RIPTA should establish enough public transportation stops to be within one mile of every citizen's residence. Also, public transportation must remain affordable for everyone.
Public Transportation is essential from an environmental perspective and a human needs perspective. The mass transit system should become more accessible, through investment in buses as well as local and long distance rail. We need development of rail/walking/bicycle options as well as a dependable and far-reaching bus network.
RIPTA should have a public transport stop within one mile of every citizen's house. Also, public transportation must remain affordable for everyone.
Install safety lighting, shelters, and bike racks at all RIPTA stops. Invest in RIPTA stations to send a signal to the areas surrounding the RIPTA stops that the routes are permanent and reliable.
Again, a good model for a bus rapid transit system can be found in Curitiba, Brazil.
Install a light rail commuter system with hubs in Warwick, Fall River, and Lincoln for easy transportation of commuters eager to avoid rush hour.
Support use of fuel-efficient vehicles through purchase of public (Police, Fire, City, State, School etc.) vehicles, parking preference and other supportive mechanisms.
Bio-diesel is a cheaper alternative for buses and should be encouraged. Establishment of anti-idling provisions will save valuable fuel, beginning first with public vehicles and moving later toward private vehicles. Anti-idling practices such as excessive warmup and waiting time idling will also contribute to less emissions contributing to climate change.
Ban all ad-trucks, trucks or vans that drive around and have no cargo, but serve only to advertise, are a complete waste of fuel and unnecessary contribution to urban pollution.
Establish and maintain safe bike lanes and paths in and between urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Rhode Island is facing a housing crisis. The price of housing keeps rising, making it hard for many Rhode Islanders to buy a home. Rents are rising rapidly, to the point where half of the renters in RI are paying more than they can safely afford. The housing that's getting built is very expensive; Most RI jobs do not pay enough to actually afford many of these units. In fact, during the last two years housing prices have risen 6 times as much as average income. For people at the very low income level, this presents a dire choice; They often must decide between rent and heat, food or medicine. The number of those who cannot even pay their rent is increasing, with more families and children among the homeless population each year.
Every person in Rhode Island needs decent housing. No one who is working or temporarily unemployed should ever be forced to spend even a single night in a shelter, and any person requiring supportive housing should have access to it. Housing is much cheaper than shelter, so it makes sense to support more housing whenever possible.
Housing is a key issue if we want sustainable development and equitable development. If we do not want the state to be over-run with subdivisions with a destroyed environment, and low-income people crowded into unsafe houses in the urban centers, we must seriously address the housing issue.
Although Rhode Island will need to invest a lot of money to produce enough affordable housing for everyone, there will be a return in the long-run because affordable housing will help revitalize neighborhoods, provide safe homes for RI children, and allow people to focus on getting the job training they need to help grow the state's economy, rather than just focusing on shelter. Affordable housing is tied to the future prosperity of our state as a whole; businesses will simply not move to Rhode Island if the housing is too expensive, and businesses formed here may leave if housing costs for employees cannot be kept down.
The real goal of the affordable housing movement is to build and reinvigorate communities. It is not enough to build a house if there are no jobs or transportation, or if the family living in the house spends too much on other expenses.
The legislature must begin with a three-pronged approach to providing more housing for low and moderate income Rhode Islanders. More money must be given to the Neighborhood Opportunities Program, Community Development Corporations must be expanded, and a Temporary Assistance Fund should be created to provide more options to the state's low-income residents. Rhode Islanders must be willing to discuss the importance of affordable housing in the public forum, so that people will understand how crucial it is for everyone in the state that Rhode Island develop more affordable housing. Furthermore, new and effective solutions are required to end homelessness through housing and counseling in place of last-resort shelters.
Neighborhood Opportunities Program
The Neighborhood Opportunities Program has been provided with $5 million in funds for the past two years, $2 million the year before that, and $1 million the year before that, to assist in the production of housing units. However, with increases in the costs of materials and land, more money for this program and other ideas will be necessary. At least 5,000 new units are needed just to catch up with the current demand, and another 18,500 by 2010 would be necessary to provide a real alternative to struggling lower-middle class and middle class Rhode Island workers. The current waiting period for an affordable home is now over 5 years. The Neighborhood Opportunities Program is a good step in the right direction, but it simply needs more money. The market alone just will not solve this problem.
Community Development Corporations
Create and fund more partnerships with Community Development Corporations (CDCs) which are non- profit organizations committed to creating affordable housing, both rental and for purchase, in their communities. CDCs receive tax incentives and grants from state and federal governments which enable them to produce housing for which they will charge below market prices; in other words, this is housing that will be affordable, to rent or to buy, for people with low or moderate incomes. Generally CDCs build homes in areas of the state where there is the possibility of mixed-income housing, a crucial element of any comprehensive housing plan.
CDCs produce affordable housing both by constructing new buildings, and, more often, by renovating older ones. The Elmwood Foundation is a Community Development Corporation committed to developing home ownership and rental opportunities that preserve and enhance the architectural heritage and cultural diversity of the Elmwood community in Providence, Rhode Island.
Temporary Assistance Fund
The Temporary Assistance Fund would be a fund set up by the state to help individuals pay their rent on a short term basis through providing no-interest loans; This program would help people who generally have had good records remain on their feet during difficult times. The State of Rhode Island would set up a trust competitively invested to compensate for any losses. (The Department of Housing and Urban Development already has such a program but given the recent trends in federal spending Rhode Island needs its own fund.)
Rental Assistance Program
Homelessness is a big problem in Rhode Island. Current estimates suggest that over 2500 people were homeless at some point or another during the past year. The first step is to make sure everyone has a safe place to live. Under the shelter system, life can be very difficult and surviving day-to-day takes precedence over working on larger issues. The Rental Assistance Program (RAP) will provide state funding to individuals who are currently homeless in order to give them a place to stay; Under this program, the government will pick up the tab for 40% of the monthly rent until the recipient is able to work full-time again. Some of these housing units will be supervised to ensure that the proper care will be available to everyone who might need it.
Part of the current resistance to affordable housing plans is the lack of general awareness about the need for and nature of affordable housing. The Rhode Island Housing Resources Commission needs to take a more proactive role in informing the public about affordable housing.
Funding for all these programs can come from the tax revenues on current and proposed high-income housing developments if only the government would stop giving out tax incentives to build this less crucial housing. Transfer taxes can also provide some money for these purposes. Given the amount of development pressure being felt all over Rhode Island, including in our cities and rising Rhode Island property tax rates, incentives to develop high end housing and for large corporations are no longer needed and are a waste of our money. Inclusionary zoning requirements are needed, which prevents the spatial separation of the rich and poor (i.e., high-end and low-end developments). Linkage fees through which high end downtown development are taxed to pay for affordable housing would also help finance housing production.
Tenant Issues & Protection
The GPRI supports legal protections for tenants, the formation of a tenants' union, and a ban on landlord discrimination against tenants on the basis of receiving government vouchers or of previous drug use or criminal conviction.
Those federal HUD projects that remain should not be slated for demolition but instead maintained for use as directed by the Rhode Island Housing Resources Commission. As housing project contracts expire, Rhode Island needs incentives to encourage the owners to maintain their buildings for low-income housing.
Right of Refusal
Right of Refusal to purchase federally-financed projects in long-term Section 8 housing leases (when the leases expire) should be available to tenant organizations, the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Corporation, Local Housing Authorities, and then the city or town government in that order. (See RI General Law 34-45-8)
GPRI supports funding for tenant organizers in Community Development Bloc Grants, at the city or state level, to assist tenants in developing strong tenant associations capable of self-governance.
Government at all levels should only issue enhanced housing vouchers that include provision for utilities. The definition of “market rent” used to determine the acceptable ceiling of rent a person can pay in rent to receive a housing voucher should be changed to a fair rent definition that takes into account local fluctuations in rent prices.
Property Tax Relief
Rhode Island must re-assess its dependence on the regressive property tax for the funding of municipal services, and develop laws that allow municipalities to distinguish between single property owners and multiple property owners (landlords) for taxation purposes.
Housing investment by the government and CDCs should be directed into transit-accessible areas. Public transit must be available to people all over the state, most especially to people in affordable housing. Lower cost mass transit must be made available and long-term solutions must be found to make transit responsive to public need.
Tax Lien Sales
Unpaid utility bills should not be grounds for eviction. The current tax lien sales situation victimizes lower-income people to the benefit of wealthy investors, some of them state legislators.
The GPRI disagrees with the interpretation of the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London; Government does not have the right to evict citizens from their homes just to build developments which might bring in more tax revenue. Rhode Island should immediately pass strong laws to prevent such eminent domain takings. Eminent domain should only be for projects that are clearly in the public interest, such as roads, bridges, and hospitals. Even in these situations broad community impact is crucial.
Lead paint in the homes of small children is a serious health risk that creates known behavioral disorders in children who grew up in homes with lead paint. The Government must work with landowners and tenants to actively reduce lead poisoning in this state. (The Rhode Island GPRI applauds the February 2006 court ruling in favor of forcing the lead paint companies to play a role in this process.)
The affordability of housing is not just a function of the cost of rent or a mortgage payment -- it is also the function of the cost of living in a house or apartment. All new housing and rehabilitated housing should be meeting the highest energy efficiency standards. Skyrocketing energy prices are also contributing to homelessness in Rhode Island. Thousands of people lose utilities each year because they cannot afford heat, cooking fuel, and electricity; And of course, greater energy efficiency (especially if obtained with the help of Rhode Island companies) will lead to greater savings over the long run.
The state's institutions of higher learning should be prohibited from admitting students for whom they do not have beds for in their own facility. They should treat faculty and graduate student housing the same way. This would cut down on students competing for housing resources with lower-income Rhode Island residents. Alternatively, universities could build supplementary affordable housing to offset the effect of their own students on the local housing market. However, such housing would have to pass a series of tests to preserve safe and viable local neighborhoods. Universities could also try innovative live study spaces, such as housing college students with people with disabilities.
The other end of the housing spectrum is also a critical issue. High-cost housing on large lots is eating the Rhode Island countryside and contributing to our energy and community problems. Clustered housing with set-aside open space reduces the ecological impacts of housing, and makes our communities stronger and more harmonious with mass transit systems. Land preservation, rehabilitation of already existing housing and village centers, and new approaches to the siting and planning of developments are all needed. The recent proposals to increase affordable housing met great resistance in the suburbs and rural towns. Those towns must take on more of the burden of the increasing Rhode Island population, but this can be combined with stronger efforts at channeling development to the best and most ecologically compatible places rather than letting everyone build wherever they can buy the land.
There is no place for some elderly people to live and no one to help them. Many elderly Rhode Island residents are not ready for nursing homes, but the only assisted living options are expensive. Rhode Island elderly stay in their homes longer than the national average even if they are no longer truly safe at home. They may not know what programs are available to help or know where to go to find out. The state needs mechanisms which enable people to live in their own communities, by providing them with the services they need, or encouraging affordable communal living situations for seniors in their own communities.
Rhode Island, like many other states, faces a serious absence of citizen electoral participation. We believe that involvement with the political process is key to a functioning democracy. Further, at least on the national level, voting frequency is correlated with income. Therefore, we will implement the following policies to increase voter education, participation, and impact:
Elections as Mechanism for Restoring Democracy
Fundamentally, the Green Party of Rhode Island (GPRI) demands that every American be able to run for and serve in office, regardless of economic background.
A Fair and Open Election Day Process
In recent years, Rhode Island voters have often had to wait for hours at the polls because of machine malfunction, poll worker incompetence, or inadequate polling machines and locations, especially in lower income neighborhoods.
We demand that the Board of Elections:
- 1) Hire more poll workers.
- 2) Train them earlier and more thoroughly.
- 3) Hold a session each election cycle for representatives from every city and town police department to review election law.
- 4) Clarify all aspects of the election law and take extra steps to publicize it.
- 5) Screen every poll worker and warden for bias, and be prepared to discharge such workers and wardens who may display bias in carrying out their election day duties, on the day itself.
- 6) Ensure that voters vote where they actually live, based on vigorous investigation of all challenges.
- 7) Develop a statewide voter registration list.
- 8) Monitor the local Boards of Canvassers to ensure that all voter records are kept up-to-date and that the appropriate notifications are sent on time.
- 9) Check all election materials for language comprehensiveness.
- 10) Adequately pre-test voting machines beforehand and keep back-up paper ballots on hand.
- Finally, the Board of Elections itself provide equal opportunity to all candidates without bias towards incumbents or major-party candidates.
The Boards of Canvassers should widely publicize how to register to vote, in all the appropriate languages.
Same-Day Voter Registration
Rhode Island citizens must currently register at least one month in advance in order to vote for state and local candidates, or they must show up one of a few particular locations. Given that people often get excited about voting only towards the end of the campaign season when the energy begins to build, we advocate same-day voter registration, where voters would be able to register at the polling place by signing an affidavit. While we recognize that this will present some extra work for the Board of Election and Boards of Canvassers in respective towns and cities, we believe it to be an important step in making Rhode Island a more democratic state.
The current absentee ballot system is very flawed. Candidates can approach voters and obtain their votes at their places of residence without any supervision of the Board of Elections or Boards of Canvassers. Instead, absentee ballots should only be accessed in person or by mail to the Board of Canvassers, which should ensure that absentee ballots are received in a timely manner.
Eliminate Undemocratic Straight—Ticket Voting
We must eliminate straight — ticket voting, in which the voter votes for all of the candidates of his or her chosen party by pulling the "straight ticket" lever. This method is unfair to voters because there is not always a candidate of their choice party in every race; and even though the law still allows them to cast a vote for their favorite candidate in the other race, straight—ticket voters often do not realize this and are effectively disenfranchised. Furthermore, small parties are greatly disadvantaged.
Statewide Election Day Holiday
Low voter turnout can be attributed to insufficient time to vote during the working day. One of the reasons that voter turnout is so low may be that people do not have enough time to vote. Therefore, we will set aside election day as a state holiday to encourage people to go to their polling places and vote, eliminating the disadvantage to those with less flexible work schedules, multiple jobs, and multiple shifts.
State funding shall be available to candidates who meet a series of minimal requirements and who agree not to accept either Political Action Committee donations or corporate donations. We will also require that all radio and television stations provide candidates with at least 2 hours of 8am — 10pm air time per week during the month before elections. This time would be distributed equally among all eligible candidates for each contested office. Candidates receiving clean elections money (as well as all other candidates) should be able to use campaign funds to pay themselves a stipend for the 3 months immediately preceding election day, equal to 3 months pay of the office for which they are running. http://www.cleanelectionsri.org/
Restore Voting Rights for Felons
Every citizen has the fundamental right to vote living in their community. The GPRI opposes the prevailing view of our criminal justice system as a means to punish offenders rather than rehabilitate them. Taking away the right to vote is a barbaric punishment unfit for any system that seeks to cure offenders rather than criminalize them further.
Rhode Island law affects everyone who lives here, not just citizens who vote. We therefore seek to allow all permanent legal residents of age to vote for officials at the state level; and permit undocumented immigrants the right to vote and run for office in local elections.
Districts Drawn by Disinterested Experts
Redistricting, which by law occurs once every ten years to reflect population changes, must be performed by disinterested parties who will be sensitive to drawing districts according to demographic data, but will not factor in any political bias. This will help to provide Rhode Island with competitive elections where incumbents will have to actively defend their record each election.
Ranked Choice/Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)
Ranked Choice Voting is a method of voting where, instead of voting for just one candidate, voters get to rank all of the candidates in the order of their choice. This allows for people to vote for the candidates who they like best, without worrying that this may benefit the candidates they like least. When the ballots are counted, the candidate who got the lowest number of 1st place votes is discounted, and his or her votes are then allotted to the other candidates based on who those voters' second choice. Again, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and the votes are redistributed, now based on second and third preferences. This process continues until one candidate has a majority. Ranked Choice Voting in this way ensures that the candidate who wins has the support of a majority, even if it is not a majority of first - place votes. Ranked Choice Voting will be used for all elections where there is only one position to be filled, such as mayor, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state, state assembly, and city / town council where members are elected from individual districts.
Proportional State Senate
The GPRI believes that a proportional state senate would better meet the needs of Rhode Island. Under proportional representation, the members of the state assembly would be elected through their party, rather than through a series of individual races. On Election Day, voters would select both the party of their choice and rank this party's candidates. Each party would then get to send a number of state assembly members proportional to how many votes they received, and the preferences of the voters would determine which candidates win. Proportional representation would permit parties which cannot win majorities in individual districts but still have strong support to be represented in the state government. There will be a threshold of 5% for a party to gain any representation, so that the assembly does not become dominated by a series of small issue-based parties. For example, if three parties fielded candidates and the distributions were 48%, 48%, and 4% of the vote, that 4% would be discounted and the remaining percentages would be recalibrated to equal 100% (i.e. 50%- 50%). Permitting voters to choose their favored order of candidates within the party will ensure that the leaders of the state senate are responsive to the needs of the whole state, not just their particular districts. The State Assembly, however, will be elected in a district-by-district manner to provide some direct accountability to citizens.
The media — print, television, radio, and increasingly internet — provide a vital service to the public in providing information and acting as a check to governmental abuses. The public puts great confidence in information provided by media, therefore, the media must meet certain standards of accuracy and fairness.
News sources must acknowledge when press releases have been received and printed without further investigation
Retractions must be printed in the same area of the paper as the original story, not wedged into a smaller “corrections” section.
The public owns the airwaves even though the government has in most cases leased them away to corporations. Decisions to lease this vital means of communication should be in the hands of the community, and airtime should be available to all qualified candidates during election season.
Media consolidation presents a serious threat to democracy. The GPRI supports publicly-owned cooperative media outlets, which would be ultimately accountable for editorial content to a board democratically elected from the readership. This would combat the growing trend of media consolidation and ownership by a few key companies with ties to those in power.
The internet should not be regulated beyond a complete ban on child pornography.
Reporters must be free to uncover government and corporate wrong-doing without fear of having to divulge their sources, leading to retaliation and less access in the future. At the same time, shield laws should not be interpreted to protect journalists who willing abet in the leaking of classified information for purposes of smear campaigns and unwarranted attacks against innocent individuals.
Rhode Island is sick and tired of government corruption; yet citizens are so used to this abuse of their trust and taxes that it is difficult to imagine any other scenario. The GPRI believes that it is possible to eliminate corruption even in a small state.
Conflict of Interest
All giveaways to friends and relatives of government officials must end. Ex-officials and companies with which they are financially tied cannot be permitted to bid for state business until the expiration of two terms after their departure from office. The Ethics Commission needs more citizen oversight.
Separation of Powers
In accordance with the wishes of the majority of Rhode Islanders, expressed in the 2004 elections, the GPRI supports the full enactment of separation of powers legislation.
Oversight Over Public Boards and Performance of Public Employees
The public deserves a role in monitoring public boards and assessing the performance of public employees. The GPRI additionally calls for openness in all aspects state government; The question should not be, “Do we have grounds to classify this information?”, but rather, “Why should this information not be made public?”
Citizens who serve on boards or commissions should be compensated for their service.
The state government should permit the people of Rhode Island's towns and cities to decide on a number of local issues, including:
- · Rent control
- · Ordinances requiring only union companies for certain contracts
- · “First Source Hiring Ordinance” requiring municipal workers to live in the cities or towns in which they work
- · Raising money with an income tax or a sales tax, rather than just property and food taxes
This would shift the tax burden away from the working class; Often, the homes of working class people are their most valuable asset, or else they are renters to whom the landlords pass the higher property tax bill.
The State of Rhode Island must invest its reserve funds in a responsible manner, that is, only in corporations that adhere to high ethical standards in their internal affairs, their environmental and labor practices, and their concern for the consumer. Also, the state funds and pension funds administrators should use the power of all investments towards positive social change through shareholder resolutions.
A shareholder resolution is a vote sponsored by the owner of a share of a given company's stock. Any stockholder has the right to issue such a resolution, which could cover anything from corporate governance to doing business in Burma. Then, everyone who owns stock may vote on the question, and if the proxy obtains a majority, the company is forced to adapt the resolution.
Grassroots democracy means that the power to decide what happens in a community must reside with members of that community. The GPRI will establish democratically elected neighborhood boards to decide upon public investment, major private development, and zoning matters. For larger cities, these neighborhood boards may in turn be complemented by block councils. Decisions of these bodies shall be subject to appeal to a popular referendum by submission of signatures of more than 4% of the residents in the area. All residents over eighteen years of age regardless of legal status shall be entitled to participate in neighborhood elections and campaigns provided they have lived in the neighborhood for at least one year prior to voting / running. Elections shall be every year.
Every government office, at the state and municipal levels, shall be required to remain open into the evening at least once per week to provide a chance to people who work during the day. This time may be compensated by opening late that day or another.
The GPRI re-affirms the principle of Jury Nullification, where a jury can choose not to convict if they judge the law to be unfair.
[DEFINITION: Jury Nullification is the principal that when a jury is judging a criminal trial, they are empowered to decide not only whether the defendent broke the law, but also whether the law was fair to begin with. If the defendent did break the law, but the law was repulsive to the minds of the jury, then it is possible for them to still find the defendent innocent.
Recent instances of nullification include a jury in California who refused to convict a man of statutory rape; He was 18, his girlfriend was 17, and the sex was consensual. In Colorado, a juror refused to convict on the grounds that he considered purchasing drugs for self-medication to be constitutional. A jury in Philadelphia attempted to acquit a woman guilty of unwittingly transporting cocaine that her boyfriend had put in her bag yet the judge forced a conviction.]
Mandatory Minimum sentencing is unconstitutional and unfair to defendents. Consistency in the application of the law is important, but not inflexibility.
Recourse through the courtroom should be open even to people who can't afford fancy lawyers.
All interrogations of criminal suspects must be videotaped, eyewitness criminal identification proceedure should be improved through the use of blind line-ups.
[DEFINITION: Blind line-ups are when the police officer working with the witness does not know which of the people in the line-up is the suspect, and therefore can not give any conscious or unconscious clues to the witness.]
Grand jury indictments must be obtained only in those cases where there is sufficient evidence.
Young drivers make up a far greater percentage of causes and victims of highway accidents than any other group. Raising the minimum driving age to 17 would protect these lives. Many undocumented immigrants need to drive each day to get to their jobs. Driver's Certificates should be issued to everyone who needs to drive but lacks proper documentation.
Legalize Marijuana, decriminalize drugs and punish big dealers, not recreational users.
[Refer to Civil Rights, “Drug Policy”]
Public Finance, State Investment Commission, Section 35-10-15 (proposed)
1. No assets belonging to the State of Rhode Island may be invested in companies of which the primary manufacture is tobacco products.
2. The Treasurer shall implement part 1 through direct investment policy and in consultation with all fund managers responsible for investing Rhode Island public and pension money.
Public Finance, State Investment Commission, Section 35-10-16 (proposed)
1. The Treasurer will instruct all Fund Managers to follow the Guideline on Proxy Issues (part 2) in representing the interests of the State of Rhode Island on all Shareholder Resolution questions.
2. Guideline on Proxy Issues. Read how the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investing at Brown University makes shareholder proxy voting recommendations to The Brown Corporation.
[Read more about Socially Responsible Investing.]
There is no distinction between economy and ecology. We make our livings in conjunction with the natural resources of the planet that underlies all economic activity. This is especially important to those of us in the Ocean State.
Our water, food, shelter, and air, in addition to the well being of our families all depend upon the health of the ecosystem. In turn, the health of the ecosystem depends upon our actions as well. Therefore, our approach to environmental and economic issues is to think about human society and our economy as part of the larger global ecology, not isolated from it. We must think about the environmental implications of every action we take. The Green Party of Rhode Island's (GPRI) environmental and economic policy will link local and regional issues with global issues.
Financial well-being is enhanced when every community shares in the bounty, every household has enough to eat, everyone has access to good medical care, and everyone has a warm dry place to sleep; Not when corporate profits are high. A prosperous country is one where every child has the opportunity to succeed.
Too often there is confusion between growth and prosperity, with growth seen as the only road to prosperity. But in a world of 6 billion people we are reaching the limits of the planet to support life, and we need to develop better ways to distribute resources. Something approaching a steady state or sustainable economy is the only way to maintain prosperity on this planet.
A prosperous, sustainable economy for Rhode Island would encompass small businesses, democratic cooperatives, public and private investment, full-cost pricing, clean technologies and practices, economies focused on local needs, and a practical understanding of how a healthy environment is essential to humans. It will also spring from understanding how meaningful work that supports families is essential to human beings and how that fits in with a healthy community and ecosystem.
Bringing economic activity into line with the requirements of a healthy ecology will bring greater prosperity to Rhode Island. This means creating abundant jobs while at the same time producing clean air, clean water, healthy forests, productive farms and fisheries, clean transportation systems, clean production systems, clean energy, and affordable housing.
Stop the fragmentation of forests and protect their health. Protect forests that protect aquifers and water supplies, while growing fiber for the Rhode Island economy. Forests are also a critical place for recreation and its role in our prosperity and community life. Rhode Island should have an enforceable goal of being at least 60% forest with more of its forests in larger tracts. Rhode Island construction projects should primarily use wood grown in Rhode Island from certified sustainability programs. Tree-free paper must become the standard. Key forests should continue to be set aside as conservation lands and for recreation, while other forests should be managed for fiber as well as wildlife and clean water.
Reducing suburban sprawl will be important for preserving open spaces and making urban spaces more walkable and small-business friendly. We must compact dwellings and leave more land for production and for nature. The mass transit system should become more accessible, through investment in buses as well as local and long distance rail. Enhancing town-center and modal development will increase livability and also encourage walking and biking. The state's transit system and development strategy should work together to make commuting easy and contain sprawl. [See Energy]
A good model for a bus rapid transit system can be found in Curitiba, Brazil.
Clean Air and Clean Water
Clean air and water are vital to the safety of our environment and the health of everyone. Clean air will help prevent global climate change and reduce asthma and other pollution- based diseases, saving us millions of dollars each year in heath care costs, and patient and family discomfort and trauma. Clean water will protect the food supply, benefit our tourism industry, and prevent water borne diseases. Protecting water resources also preserves the biodiversity that allows ecosystems to continue to function.
The basic needs of clean air and water are not hard to meet. Most polluting industries can clean up their practices, and in many cases eliminating pollution actually makes businesses more profitable (since technology upgrades increase efficiency). Auto emissions can be dramatically lowered by requiring more efficient cars, hybrid cars, and eventually non- polluting personal transportation systems. Functional mass transit systems are also of critical importance.
Water as a Resource
Water is a critical resource for Rhode Island. Many parts of Rhode Island do not have sufficient water to meet expanding human needs as well as keep ecosystems healthy, so the state should focus development on places with sufficient water to meet future needs. Water rights should be held in common by all citizens and not by private parties or corporations. State economic development incentive programs should take water consumption and pollution factors into account.
Recycling and Reducing Consumption
Two of the country's biggest long-term environmental problems, waste disposal and shortages of energy and materials, are intimately connected. The economy is focused on production and consumption, to the exclusion of all other values. Americans buy and throw away more than we need (and often more than we can afford). This "throw-it-away" mentality shifts our focus from quality to quantity, so products are less durable and landfills continue to grow exponentially.
Intelligent policy would drastically reduce the amount of trash that is produced, especially items that are not biodegradable or that won't break down for some number of years. Everything we build must be designed to be easily repaired and completely recycled when its productive life is over. Rhode Island policies must encourage the production of quality goods that last, and promote an overall "reduce, reuse and recycle" mentality. Composting food wastes needs to be a part of an overall trash reduction strategy and would benefit Rhode Island by creating richer soil to produce healthier food.
Currently, environmental harms as well as economic and environmental resources are unequally distributed to communities and individuals based on socioeconomic background, race, color, or national origin. Residents of potentially affected communities must participate in decisions about a proposed activity that will affect their environment and/or health.
Environmental justice is achieved when everyone, regardless of race, culture, or income, enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process that helps them have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
Local farmlands and farmers are constantly under the threat ofsprawling development. While Rhode Island was once primarily agricultural, expanding suburbs and shopping plazas have replaced most of the vegetable farms, dairies, and orchards which once dotted the landscape. Community food security and the aesthetic of open space are lost when farmlands get paved with asphalt or filled with housing and we buy our food from 3000 miles away.
Community sustainability is important, as is local agriculture. If we can grow food locally, we reduce our dependence on external economies, strengthening our own in the process. We bring the impacts of our actions (the environmental and social impacts of agricultural production) back into our frame of reference. By growing much of our own food here, Rhode Islanders will learn about the food-growing process, and Rhode Island students will always have the opportunity to learn about the natural world in school via trips to the farms and by growing food in school gardens.
Genetically Modified Organisms and Toxins
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should be removed from the marketplace. GMOs present a grave danger to natural eco-systems and have been used to force small farmers from their lands, because many farmers must buy their seeds each year rather than harvesting and replanting their own as farmers have done for millennia.
Organic farming is a key component of economic recovery in rural areas threatened by genetic engineering and the current toxin-based corporate agriculture system. Labeling foods based on soil depletion, effect on communities, and toxic components, as well as incentives such as the WIC farmer's market program and local/organic buying programs for school lunches will help Rhode Island transform its agricultural sector into a more vibrant part of the economy.
All technologies with the potential for damage to ecosystems, such as the threats posed by GMOs, should be controlled tightly and placed under much more community scrutiny. It should be easier for communities to refuse dangerous and health-threatening technologies and technologies.
Preserving open space is of crucial importance if Rhode Island is to maintain a toehold in the booming tourism industry, especially during the summer and autumn seasons when tourists come to enjoy beaches and foliage. Fast food franchises do not attract tourists, but farm stands and pick-your-own orchards most definitely do. It is also important to note that with many urban Rhode Islanders experiencing hunger, urban agriculture can become a much larger part of our food supply and can be most critical for the diets of those least able to afford food at the store.
Food that is eaten fresh or within a few days of being picked delivers a significantly higher portion of nutrients than fruits and vegetables which are picked weeks beforehand and artificially ripened. The consumption of chemical-free foods reduces our risk of cancers from chemical ingestion and exposure. Therefore, eating locally grown foods is healthier and more nutritious, and creates jobs and value locally.
Enhance the connections between educational programs and agriculture through trips to farms, specific classes, and urban gardening initiatives.
Local Agricultural Cooperation
Often, local farmers are frozen out of supermarkets which order food in huge quantities and store it for some period of time in warehouses. Supermarket buyers purchase from one or two large farms and ship the food as far as necessary, even when local farmers may be able to offer similar prices. A few key actions and programs by our state government could secure the blessings of local agriculture for future generations. One of the first should be to use more local produce in state government facilities.
State House Grounds
As an example to the state the State House lawn could be turned into a farm, with organic vegetable and fruit and nut trees replacing grass requiring mowing. Men from the ACI who already tend the State House grounds could grow their own food, which would be healthier and teach them additional skills for the future.
Expand low-interest loan programs to help farms upgrade their technological capacities where necessary, and to convert to organic production.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
CSA is a system where people in a given area pay a small fee and work a certain number of hours at a local farm in exchange for a percentage of that farm's fresh produce, another way to distribute nutritious food. Rhode Island must update state tax and labor codes to encourage this sort of innovative joint initiative, where there is not a clear cut “producer” or “consumer” in the transaction; And the GPRI will find innovative ways to allow low-income families to participate.
Encourage the formation of food-buyer cooperatives throughout the state.
Tax agricultural land as agricultural land and forest lands as forest rather than based on their development potential, with the proviso that if land is removed from agriculture or forestry for development, taxes will be due retroactively based on development values. This will help reduce the pressure on farmers to sell their land to the developers, for a farmer should not be forced to pay more in taxes because of surrounding development.
Fisheries are important to Rhode Island, and will be an increasingly important source of food and income if we care for them. This requires:
- 1) Learning more about water ecosystems.
- 2) Funding the Narragansett Bay Monitoring program at meaningful levels.
- 3) Allowing fisheries to remain on the waterfront as our communities continue to develop.
International Trade Agreements
Rhode Island cannot unilaterally end compliance with trade agreements such as NAFTA, CAFTA, and the WTO, though we support local efforts to call attention to how they negatively impact the state. Rhode Island can gain some independence from globalization by growing more food locally, producing clean power locally, and focusing on development of industries that meet local needs. Rhode Island should also advocate for the replacement of these trade agreements with agreements that encourage local development, uphold environmental and labor standards, and bring an end to poverty.
Research and the Military
The military-industrial complex should be dramatically reduced in size and ultimately phased out. Military spending produces fewer jobs per dollar spent than almost any other type of spending, while simultaneously poisoning communities. No money should be spent on weapons of mass destruction or foreign adventurism. We should only spend money on defending the United States and being part of multilateral efforts for peace-keeping. Technology research money should instead go into curing diseases, improving nutrition, communications, exploration, mass transit, and anything else that adds to the sum of human happiness, not things that kill people, destroy towns and cities, prop up dictators, or eavesdrop on the community.
[Refer to Nonviolence.]
Democratic Control of Research
Research to meet current and future needs is important, but new technologies should be carefully studied before being released so as to prevent unintended consequences. Nanotechnology, genetic engineering, cloning, and nuclear power are among the technologies that need serious study and are excellent condidates for a system of community control.
A portion of the profits generated by government-funded research should return to the taxpayers who initially helped to fund it. Further, life forms should not be patented, nor should information absorbed from indigenous people. Long-standing communities should not be pre-empted by corporations. All software should be open source.
We need to develop and use new methods to measure the economy. The GPRI supports looking at a variety of indices, such as the Index of Social Health Indicators, the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare and the Genuine Progress Indicator, which take into account statistics on housing, income, and nutrition as well as economic measures for taking the pulse of the community. When we measure and report only growth statistics we do not account for the damage that growth causes, which should be deducted from, not added to, the size of the economy. Destroying the environment for short-term gain means long-term loss, and we need to look at the entire equation for accurate indicators.
Full-Cost Pricing, also known as Full Cost Accounting, generally refers to the process of collecting and presenting information (costs as well as advantages) for each proposed alternative when a decision is necessary. Rather than burdening taxpayers with the costs of a product, costs should be internalized by the producer and reflected in the product's original price. If the process required to manufacture a certain item causes damage to an ecosystem or a community, it should be the responsibility of the manufacturer, not the public, to pay for that damage. For example, if cutting down an old growth forest for paper results in massive flooding, instead of the government cleaning it up and all the taxpayers ultimately picking up the tab, the paper would simply cost more to project future costs. Similarly, the cost of dealing with global climate change would appear in the price of oil.
Democratic Control of Companies
In the modern mega-corporation, labor is exploited, costs are shifted to tax payers, governments are overwhelmed, and profit is worshipped and kept in off-shore bank accounts. They should be replaced by an array of community oriented businesses including small private businesses, democratically controlled cooperatives, and community enterprises in which the strengthening of community is as important as profit, where local values and communities are supported rather than undermined and exported. Policies that require impact statements should be transformed into policies allowing real community input to have real democratic input on a project's appropriateness, development, and implementation.
Corporations in Rhode Island were originally intended to accomplish a specific goal or set of goals benefiting the people of the state. (For example, the state's Blackstone Canal, and many of our original roads, were constructed by corporations that then dissolved themselves.) Corporations have become large profit-driven entities that consider the good of the CEO before the good of the shareholders, let alone the community or natural environment. We will incorporate social responsibility clauses into the corporate charters to underscore that the rights and privileges of corporate entities also come with obligations to the community.
Revocation of Corporate Charters
Corporations which do not agree to invite all major stakeholders to take part in important decisions will face revocation of their corporate charters. The GPRI further proposes an audit of the relative good performed by all corporations chartered in Rhode Island, with those contributing more to private profit than to public good facing revocation of their charter. The GPRI will immediately revoke the corporate charter of any company of which the majority of the income is derived from weapons sales.
Companies that render certain jobs “obsolete” through technological change and automation must retrain these workers to provide them with new job opportunities.
We encourage the use of Socially Responsible Investment companies, which invest money only in companies meeting a set of socially responsible criteria. State government as well as towns and cities should invest pension funds only in companies that meet socially responsible criteria.
[Refer to Government Reform, “Responsible Investing”]
The cornerstone of a healthy economy is a system where everyone has access to jobs that pay enough to cover their basic needs and respects their rights as workers.
Rhode Island needs to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, which will be automatically adjusted every year according to the average of the Rhode Island Housing Index and the Consumer Price Index. The living wage will be set at $10.00 (2005 dollars). There is little evidence that raising the minimum wage causes inflation or sends businesses out of the state; and the tiny initial rise in unemployment with which an increase in the minimum wage may be associated with will be off-set by more money staying in the community and by greater worker productivity.
Workers are spending more time at the workplace if not working more jobs than in the past. This induces stress and psychological challenges which can be minimized by shortening the workweek or workday, encouraging people to spend more time with their families, hiring more people when there is more work to be done.
With current economic needs requiring parents to work long hours, child care must be considered a right, not a privilege. We support child care vouchers to make child care accessible to all, and we affirm the rights of daycare workers to form a union and receive state health care.
[See Human Needs, Childcare]
Fully fund RIPTA to cover the entire state.
Education and training for productive work must be life-long and accessible to all. Employers and the public have the responsibility to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to advance, acquiring new skills for an ever-changing world. To ensure that our work force will be well equipped, we will implement and encourage adult training / education where appropriate, as well as trade schools.
All state contractors and recipients of tax credits must use unionized in-state labor, whenever possible. If not possible, it will be a company's responsibility to prove so, and pay at least a living wage.
Rights for Immigrant Workers
All protections and laws established with respect to worker / employer relations and complaint processes apply to all workers regardless of their national status.
Clarify the status of independent contractors by applying a set of distinctions defined by the questions:
- · Do you use your own tools?
- · Do you set your own hours?
- · Do you do work that the contracting company doesn't normally do?
- · Are you paid based on the project, rather than the task?
- · Do you provide your work for various different companies?
Workers not meeting these criteria will not be considered independent contractors unless they can provide sufficient proof to the contrary, and companies shall be severely punished for willful misclassification of workers.
The GPRI supports the right to organize at the workplace as a fundamental right.
When a worker changes jobs they should not lose their accumulated pension. It should be transferrable to their new job and continue to accumulate.
The GPRI's economic strategy involves two chief focuses: local job development and sustainable creativity. Rhode Island must design solutions that will create local jobs while improving our environment and society.
Rhode Island has been a center of industrial innovation in the past, and has a program to be one again. Innovation projects must be oriented towards sustainability and produced in clean technology closed-loop systems, where ultimately they are disassembled and reassembled. Toxics would be minimally produced, secure, and would ideally have markers identifying them in perpetuity with their manufacturers.
Micro Loans / Microcredit
Rhode Island should encourage Community Development Corporations, which are local non-profit organizations through which the money that people invest is funneled to help local businesses. Despite small returns, there is evidence to show that these groups are good for the community and do return a steady flow of cash. Returns on investments in Community Development Corporations should not be taxed, and the government must take an active role in publicizing these groups.
Local business owners should use local banks for capital, since large, multi-national corporate banks often have extensive application processes and are not familiar with the community. We need a strategy to encourage the formation of local community banks which will stay in the community and not sell out to larger entities.
Arts and culture are significant to our economy. Ecotourism is a growing part of the tourism market, and is particularly important to a state with lots of beaches. Ecological restoration will often be the leading edge of economic development in an overcrowded and polluted planet. The GPRI supports historic preservation where such preservation does not conflict with the needs of the present.
The state should set up a job training, placement, and employment program that guarantees a job to all high school graduates seeking employment. Participants would work on public works projects. The Community Corps would also include a state version of the AmeriCorps — Vista program.
Rhode Island should take a leadership role in forming agreements with neighboring states to stop under-bidding one another through tax breaks and other hand-outs in the zero-sum game to lure businesses across state borders. Only the business executives benefit from such competition.
Consumer Protection Agency
A Rhode Island consumer protection agency would inform the public of all possible threats to their health linked to various products and services. Private interests and capitalism have given companies incentive to conceal possible harms from the public; and the Food and Drug Administration cannot be relied upon to provide timely and accurate information. A Rhode Island Consumer Protection Agency would not have the power of recall but it could act as a clearinghouse for information.
The Green Party of Rhode Island (GPRI) sees the need to develop a new system of tax and revenue that will provide for our state's needs in a fair and balanced manner.
Office of Tax Policy
An office of Rhode Island Tax Policy would centralize the myriad of exemptions to corporate taxes and look out for the public's interest when tax exemptions are proposed in the general laws.
For example, the current “Project Status” legislation, which gives companies moving to Rhode Island a sales tax break for all purchases needed to set up shop, is granted with almost no review process, to any company that requests it.
An Office of Tax Policy could assess how much revenue Rhode Island is losing each year through such incentives and help to develop policies to reclaim money from those companies that do not deliver on their promises.
Tax Energy, Tax Depletion
We support shifting the tax balance from beneficial indicators such as employment, to that which is undesirable such as depletion, pollution, waste, and inequality. Rhode Island should reduce its dependence on property taxes, income taxes, and gambling. There is no single best place to put a tax within the pollution depletion cycle, though taxes should be directed to the places where they provide the strongest incentives for doing the right thing.
The GPRI believes in the values of responsibility and equality, and therefore proposes the following principles in designing tax policy:
- · Tax intangible property as well as personal property and real estate.
- · Tax stock options.
- · Eliminate property tax abatements, incentives, and exemptions except for conservation purposes at the local level.
- · Exempt all necessities from taxation including food, medicine, and clothing articles (that cost less than twenty times the minimum hourly wage).
- · Raise the minimum income level required to pay income taxes such that families and individuals for which their taxes will present a significant financial burden will be exempt.
The inheritance tax was initially established to prevent the large accumulation of wealth from generation to generation. However, the GPRI recognizes that in some cases the inheritance tax can cause a significant financial hardship and therefore supports raising the minimum amount at which a property transfer to an heir can be taxed. This is a federal issue, but if the federal inheritance tax were abolished we would initiate a similar tax for RI.
Earned Income Tax Credit
An Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a program of the government to put money back into the hands of working lower-income families. The EITC has a long and proven track record of getting money into the hands of the working poor. It should be expanded on the state level.
Property Tax Relief
To re-assess its dependence on the property tax for the funding of municipal services, Rhode Island should develop laws that allow municipalities to distinguish between single-property owners and multiple property owners (landlords) for taxation purposes.
[This is called a split-roll system. Consideration will be given to multi-tenant buildings so that taxes on the dwellings of low and moderate-income residents will not increase the rents.]
In addition, we should:
- · Tax high-end lots according to a progressive property tax model.
- · Consider land use and neighborhood property values in tax assessment.
- · Permit cities and towns to collect revenue through income tax.
- · Close corporate loopholes and shift the tax burden away from the inherently regressive property tax.
Carry Forward Provisions
Carry forward provisions allow companies given tax credits in Rhode Island to choose when to use them, negatively affecting tax-payers when the companies decide to cash-in. We will abolish all carry-forward provisions in future contracts. Every year will stand alone for purposes of tax credit.
Massachusetts recently passed a law making it harder for banks based there to assist companies in avoiding taxes. One such bank, the Investor's Banker's Trust (IBT), decided it would rather move than change its practices; and to the embarrassment of Rhode Island, our Economic Development Corporation encouraged IBT to come here. The Reasonable Standards provision would require the Economic Development Corporation to withhold tax incentives from companies which move to the state to avoid harsher, better enforced laws elsewhere.