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Monday, August 3, 2020

Short takes on Rhode Island life in the pandemic

Charlestown unemployment at 12%
By Will Collette

US Employers Laid-Off 7.7 Million Workers in April | Voice of America -  EnglishThe good news is that Charlestown’s unemployment rate for June, the most recent data available, dropped to 12% from 16.2% in May and our all-time high of 18.9% in April.

The bad news is Charlestown’s unemployment rate is 12%. 

Until the pandemic trashed the economy, we had not seen double-digit unemployment in Charlestown since March 2014. At 12%, we are still up to our nostrils in economic desperation.

Plus, as of last weekend, special federal pandemic unemployment benefits (and eviction protection) have expired with no new bill likely to be passed in time to prevent more pain for the unemployed.

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) which has controlled Charlestown for the past decade, has no plan to use town resources to boost the local economy and create jobs. Instead, they have an assembly line of proposed open space land purchases, usually at inflated prices from people connected to them.

In the same way that Republicans seem to think tax cuts are the answer to everything, the CCA Party's solution to all of Charlestown's social problems is to buy more open space, preferably at twice the value.

I’ve offered suggestions, such as a town version of Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps where we use the town’s budget surplus to hire unemployed residents to spruce up the huge existing inventory of town properties.

Charlestown just put off renovating Old Mill Road when the bid for the project came in at $1.5 million, well over the $1 million budget. Why not use that $1 million through the Department of Public Works to hire local unemployed construction workers to get the job done?

In my earlier Short Takes, I’ve repeated the wish that the town of Charlestown would bring a laser-like focus on our unemployment crisis and suspend our land buying shopping spree for the duration.

Click HERE for some other ways Charlestown can help itself.

Job killing jerks are why we can’t have nice things

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor
Show me in the Constitution where it says you have the personal right to spread disease within the community. But some selfish idiots claim just such a right by asserting they do not have to wear mandated face coverings because freedom.

Inconsiderate jerks have forced Brinkley’s Ice Cream to close its Wakefield shop, caused Two Little Fishes in Westerly to end indoor and patio dining and most recently, shut down public access to the Watch Hill Light House.

While I have been proud to see the vast majority of people in South County shops, stores and offices complying with mask-wearing and social distancing, it only takes a few Trump-quoting assholes to disrupt businesses and make store clerks, servers and owners wonder why they come to work every day.

The reason why Rhode Island is not getting trashed by COVID-19 (e.g. Florida, Texas) is our high level of compliance with mandated safety measures. But the reason why we are seeing an uptick in cases is because of the increased number of people who decided they didn’t need to worry about the coronavirus during the summer.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and outdoorRhode Island has passed the 1,000 mark for coronavirus deaths. We are closing in on 20,000 cases. Our daily count of new cases has gone from a low of 60 to the current mid-seventies - and higher.

Again, we are nowhere near as bad off as Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, etc. but this pandemic has demonstrated that things can go badly very fast.

One of the measures of pandemic intensity is a metric called “case positivity.” The national average – which is terrible compared to other countries – is about 10%.

Rhode Island, by comparison, has a positivity rate of only 1.7%. The worst off municipality in the state is Central Falls where 28% of the population has been tested has a positivity rate of 21%.

Charlestown has had only 14% of its population tested with a positivity rate of 3%.

The Independent analyzed Post Office change-of-address data for North and South Kingstown, Narragansett and Block Island, finding that around 760 people from Florida alone filed forms to list a Rhode Island address (it was 793 total last summer).

Florida is the source of most of our summer people. About half that number – 383 – come from New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Independent reports the biggest increase in summer people are those from New York, seven times higher than last year.

While the Independent’s analysis does not include Charlestown, I believe they are representative of what we are experiencing here.

Real estate Top Gun, Charlestown’s Ray Mott, told the Independent that it looks like some of these out-of-state visitors are likely to stay:
“We are experiencing unprecedented buyer demand as people look to move from urban areas…It could be a place near the shore, a great suburban property with a yard or a condo that has private entrances.”
His partner Judy Chace said:
“People are going to be continuing to look for investments a little closer to home, hoping to find a place outside the urban areas and ride out any type of situation we might find ourselves in in the future.”
I’m not sure if this is good news or bad news. I guess it depends on how you feel about summer people.

The race for the vaccine

Coronavirus: First patients injected in UK vaccine trial - BBC News
BBC photo of the first vaccine trial volunteer in the UK
Unless you’ve been asleep for the past couple of months, you know there are now more than a dozen vaccines and treatments under development in a race to bring the pandemic to an end.

We all know that while masks, tests and social distancing help, we need a way to stop COVID-19 and that means a vaccine. Anti-vaxxers be damned.

Many of the more promising vaccines are going into the phase where they are being tested on human volunteers. If you’ve thought to yourself, “Hey, I want to get in on that,” maybe you can.

There is an on-line registry where you can sign up to volunteer for a trial. It’s called the COVID-19 Prevention Network and you can reach them HERE. Note that if you are taken into a trial, you will not know if you are getting the actual test vaccine or a placebo. Half of the trial participants get the real stuff.

And if we do get a good vaccine or two….

Ryan Health | It's Not Too Late to Get Your FLU SHOT!The authoritative Motley Fool investment website is predicting the vaccine will be administered for free, at least while the pandemic is raging. Our tax dollars are, after all, paying for the development and production of the vaccine.

Later, there will probably be a charge similar to the flu vaccine.

Most Rhode Islanders get flu vaccine for free – and remember to get your damned flu shot! It’s more important than usual to do that this year. Why? You don’t want to get the flu and have it confused with coronavirus and you DEFINITELY don’t want to catch the flu AND COVID-19.

Get your application for mail-in voting NOW

CLICK HERE to get your application for mail-in ballots for both the September 8 Primary and the November 3 General Election. 

You can either fill it in on line and then print it out or just print out the form and fill it in by hand. Either way, you need to mail the form to your municipal board of canvassers.

The deadline to request a mail in ballot for the primary is August 18, but do it sooner.

Part of Trump’s re-election strategy is to suppress mail-in voting which he claimed – contrary to all evidence – is rife with fraud. 

Since few but his true believers believe his fraud argument, he is monkey-wrenching the US Postal Service. He installed a crony as Postmaster General and he is slowing down the mail. So mail early!

The US Federal Court granted the ACLU’s suit challenging Rhode Island’s archaic rule requiring either two witnesses or a notary to certify mail in ballots. The witnesses/notary requirement is tossed, making mail-in voting easier.

We don’t know if the Republican National Committee or Rhode Island Republican Party will appeal the judge’s ruling to hold up mail-in voting. They are taking their lead, as well as their arguments, from the Trump campaign. 

Among the local lawyers working to undermine your right to vote are Charlestown state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi and Charlestown Indian Affairs Counsel Joe Larisa.

We can’t do much about Flip since he is running unopposed, but Charlestown can and should fire Larisa. Not just for his participation in the Republican efforts to against the ACLU’s petition but to attack institutional racism in Charlestown. Read more detail on that subject HERE.