Rhode Island

Rhode Island's Biggest Stories Of 2015

Dec 21, 2015

1. Gordon Fox Goes from State House to Prison

Gordon Fox rose from humble roots to hold what is often called the most powerful job in Rhode Island politics. That's because the Speaker of the House has enormous influence over the state budget and which bills get passed or rejected.

About one in every 35 adults in Rhode Island was on probation last year. That according to an initial report from the working group focused on overhauling Rhode Island’s criminal justice system.

The Justice Reinvestment Working Group has released legislative recommendations for reducing the number of people in the system, and easing the high associated costs. The group found rates of probation sentencing far outpace the resources available to manage them.

Arbitration is set to begin Wednesday between Providence and its firefighters, as the two sides wage a legal battle over work schedules.

This spring, Mayor Jorge Elorza announced a new staffing protocol to reduce the costs of overtime payments. City firefighters criticized the move, saying the change should be made through collective bargaining.

Last week the state Supreme Court denied an appeal by the city to delay the arbitration, but the mayor’s office says it is ready to use the process to enforce its right to restructure the fire department.

RIPR FILE

High temperatures in Providence broke several records over the last two days, and meteorologists say White Christmas is exceedingly unlikely.

Around 11 p.m. Monday night, the mercury hit 61 degrees to beat out a record for that date of 59 degrees set in 1991.

Just a few hours later, at 4 a.m. Tuesday morning, temperatures climbed even higher, reaching 64 degrees. That was two degrees warmer than the record. It was even warmer than the same early morning hour this past July 4th.

RIPR FILE

  The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority board is set to vote Monday on a controversial new proposal that would eliminate no-fare passes for some rides. The issue has faced vocal opposition.

Currently, seniors and some people with disabilities qualify for free bus services through RIPTA. Under the proposed change, those currently eligible for the free passes would have to pay half fare, or one dollar.

RIPR FILE

Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse took an active role in the overhaul of the “No Child Left Behind Act”. That’s the federal education law that ushered in a new emphasis on standardized testing in public schools. The new law, known as the “Every Student Succeeds Act” is supposed to reduce the focus on testing. It got a signature last week from President Barack Obama. Senator Whitehouse joins Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison now to discuss the new law.

Mark Turek / Trinity Rep

In 1989, playwright Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Heidi Chronicles” won a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Now, Trinity Rep in Providence has revived this very personal play. Rhode Island Public Radio Theater Critic Bill Gale says maybe they should have left well enough alone.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Language immersion programs known as “dual language” programs are a growing trend in public elementary schools. They allow students to become bilingual in English and another language, like Spanish. 

Providence school officials have just announced a plan to offer new dual language programs in Spanish and possibly Mandarin at Carl Lauro Elementary School.

The programs would begin with two Kindergarten classrooms in each language, then add a grade every year until fifth grade.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Rhode Islanders are reacting to the passage of new federal legislation for public schools. The "Every Student Succeeds Act" is expected to get a signature Thursday from President Barack Obama. Rhode Island Association of School Committees Executive Director Tim Duffy said a new law will help state and local officials move forward with their efforts to improve public schools.

RIPR FILE

Rhode Island government agencies are among the state’s top energy consumers, spending about $35 million a year on energy bills.

Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order to reduce that energy consumption. She’s committing state agencies to get 100 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025 and to reduce energy consumption by 10 percent by 2019.

John Bender

After months of street construction, new traffic patterns have been introduced in downtown Providence. Two major roads that used to be one direction only are now open for two-way traffic. The streets are Dorrance Street in front of the Biltmore Hotel and Exchange Terrace leading toward the Convention Center.

RIPR FILE

Tickets for the Newport Folk Festival go on sale Wednesday, about six months before the event. As usual, no artists have yet been announced for the 2016 festival. In previous years, a limited number of early-bird tickets were sold first. This year, all tickets will be released at the same time, (though the first ten percent sold will be discounted.)

Organizers expect tickets to go quickly, as the event has sold out in recent years. The Folk Festival is limited to about 10,000 people per day, making it smaller than many other high-profile music festivals.

Providence Business News Editor Mark Murphy joins Rhode Island Public Radio's Dave Fallon for our weekly business segment, The Bottom Line.

This week Mark and Dave sit down with president and CEO of Collette of Pawtucket, Dan Sullivan. Sullivan is a travel industry veteran, whose company organizes guided vacations and tours all over the world. The three talk about how the travel industry has been affected by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, what travelers should know about security, and the growing popularity of Cuba as a travel destination.

When to listen:

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Police are maintaining extra patrols this weekend in an attempt to reduce cases of impaired driving.

Law enforcement calls the Thanksgiving holiday weekend one of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the roads. In an effort to fight that, State Police and local departments are teaming up as part of what they call Operation Blue RIPTIDE.

This effort is funded by the state Department of Transportation. Extra police patrols will be on the lookout for impaired drivers in high-traffic, high-incident areas.

Chuck Hinman / RIPR

This month we bring you a special, Thanksgiving Rhode Island  Artscape. We take look at the art and the history of the Thanksgiving menu, and how it’s changed

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