Op-ed: The collapse of 38 Studios

By Occupy Providence

Once again, the people of Rhode Island have suffered from an insider deal marketed as “economic development”. Rhode Island’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) awarded $50 million to a video-game company that has now collapsed.

It’s not enough to dump the blame on 38 Studios and Curt Schilling, the company’s well-connected but inexperienced founder.  Most Rhode Islanders are aware that the problem goes wider than that.

To finance the Curt Schilling deal, the EDC helped secure a $75 million loan from Wall Street.  It was not listed as a taxpayer bond, but RI state leaders have now promised a taxpayer-funded bailout if the financial firms can’t get their money any other way.  We at Occupy Providence believe that job-creation projects shouldn’t end with a bailout, and we realize that the bailout was probably a result of Wall Street pressure on politicians.

This deal never made economic sense.  Curt Schilling’s company promised to create 450 jobs in Rhode Island. It never had more than 300.  But even if Schilling’s company had kept its promise, the cost would still have been over $100,000 per job created.  That’s more than double what most Rhode Islanders make in a year.  A deal which pays that much per job isn’t about job creation.  Instead, it’s at the level that’s normally considered corporate welfare.  For that much money, you could have given jobs to more people than Schilling promised to employ, and they could have been jobs that left a lasting benefit for the whole state in fixing roads or helping the schools.  So even if this deal had worked out and didn’t leave taxpayers on the hook for repaying Wall Street with interest, spending $100,000+ per job still amounts to a bogus form of economic development.

Occupy Providence sees this latest scandal as only one example of a much wider problem: the power of insiders in Rhode Island.  When Curt Schilling got his great deal, he was an insider. He was a prominent supporter of then-Governor Carcieri’s Republican Party, and Carcieri chaired the EDC that arranged the $75-million loan for him. It’s not just the Republicans, of course. Both parties have given plenty of examples of how they’re ready to abuse whatever amount of power they have.  And the power of insiders goes beyond political parties.  Dan Doyle’s Institute for International Sport seems to have used his insider position to evade financial controls at URI.  Wall Street firms are able to use their insider status to increase their wealth and make us cover their losses with money from the real economy.  In the Schilling deal, Wall Street firms didn’t only lend the money – some of them took a share of the proceeds to facilitate the deal.

Occupy Providence promotes the voice of the 99% because Rhode Islanders continue to suffer from insider deals.  If the 99% had been consulted about the Schilling deal, it wouldn’t have happened – only 28% of Rhode Islanders favored it at the time.  The 99% would have done many other things differently, too. It was insiders who made a deal with Achievement First to run schools in RI, even though Achievement First’s questionable record led many residents to oppose it.

The EDC, a board of business, government and nonprofit leaders who are appointed by the governor, is great at promoting their deals. One year it’s Curt Schilling, other years it’s been a biotech firm like Alpha Beta (another flop) or the troubled Wyatt jail that was supposed to help save Central Falls.  Meanwhile the EDC engages in what economists call a “race to the bottom”, competing with other states to give tax breaks to big business, and borrowing money from Wall Street to fund whatever deals the insiders like. They call it economic development, because it’s true that economic development requires spending money. But when we leave it up to the 1% to spend that money, we don’t get any more real prosperity than a mediocre video game.

We in Occupy Providence believe that economic progress comes from cutting out the insiders.  We keep hearing that there’s no more money for the concerns of the 99%, like education and transit, but these are the things that bring real economic development.  Once we work together to put the 99%’s concerns into practice, Rhode Island will have a brighter future.

(A somewhat edited version of this statement was published by the Providence Journal as an op-ed on June 4, 2012.)

A Victory for Occupy Providence and the people of Rhode Island!

We the people of Occupy Providence have successfully occupied Burnside Park since the 15th of October, 2011. After maintaining a 24-hour-a day-protest, 7 days a week, for more than 100 days, we proclaim that the park is truly the people’s park. Today we celebrate another victory; Occupy Providence has reached an agreement with the City of Providence to open and fund a day center at Emmanuel House for Rhode Islanders who are currently without housing for the duration of winter; in exchange for Occupy Providence agreeing to temporarily suspend the overnight tent occupation in Burnside Park.

Occupy Providence is energized and committed to continue organizing, defending the right to protest, and bringing awareness to economic injustices in our country. We are looking to 2012 as a year of great change for the working class, and we intend to be pivotal to that change.

Our decision to accept the City’s counter proposal for opening the day center does not reflect upon the entirety of our goals in protesting a system where the top 1% controls 46% of the wealth, and the richest 10% controls more than 90% of the wealth. Homelessness is a profoundly important issue that our city, our society, and our country needs to address. For too long, homelessness and poverty have been treated like a personal deficiency rather than a failure of our economic system. The day center is a first step in recognizing the needs of marginalized Rhode Islanders who find themselves homeless. The City, the diocese and advocates all coming together on this agreement is an encouraging new beginning.

However, this is only the beginning. We will continue to go after this culture of corporate greed, “too big to fail” banks, government bail outs, and economic inequality; which is especially egregious in regards to race, sex, gender, age, and class. We will take every opportunity to stand against man-made climate change and the systematic destruction of our global eco-systems by the exponentially expanding industrial and military pollution now threatening our world. We find these issues to be self evidently interconnected and we are proud to announce the victory of opening a day center for persons who would otherwise be up against the elements day in and day out during the harsh New England winter.

We hope this move can inspire the people of Rhode Island to realize that the voice of protest is a powerful one and that together we can achieve the changes we wish to see in our society. Occupy Providence will continue to stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and the hundreds of other ongoing occupations around the country and the world. We send our deepest thanks to those who’ve supported us along the way and we invite you to join us in continuing the struggle in 2012.

We are the 99%. Another world is possible.

Occupy Providence Online Discussion List: Statement of Purpose and Overview of Guidelines

The document below is a statement of our principles and intent regarding online discussions, as voted on by the GA.

Occupy Providence is committed, through its online group discussions, to modeling a truly democratic society, in which all voices are heard and respected.  Occupy Providence is more than a protest, more than an occupation, more than any one given “tactic” or any one “type” of person: it is a new way of interacting with one another. Every tactic should further our goals of true, inclusive democracy.

The online discussion forum is intended to be a space for members to share ideas, plans, and relevant information. It is one of the many tactics that OP has chosen in its struggle for inclusive, participatory democracy. Given our commitment to a true democracy, we expect all participants in Occupy Providence to follow these general guidelines in our online discussions:

  • All comments should respect each other’s points of view, even if we don’t agree with them.
  • All comments should focus on responding to other people’s IDEAS and not comment negatively on their personal character or motivations.
  • We should think about whether or not the information we exchange and the debates we engage in are helping us to meet our goals as an Occupy Movement:  are they contributing to a mutual understanding of the social inequities we are addressing and helping us to determine the best tactics to use to combat these inequities?
  • All comments should respect the commitment against discrimination in Occupy Providence’s statement of purpose (http://www.occupyprovidence.com/2011/10/official-statement-of-purpose/)

 Think also about these specific ways that you can better meet these general guidelines:

  • Think through and re-read your comments before you post them.
  • Assume the best of others and expect the best from them.
  • Recognize and value the experiences, abilities, and knowledge each person brings to the discussion. Value the diversity of the group.
  • Make sure that others have space to bring up what they think is best for OP.
  • Challenge others with the intent of facilitating growth. Never make derogatory comments towards another person in the discussion.
  • Disagree with ideas, but do not make personal attacks. Do not demean or embarrass others.
  • Acknowledge the impact that race, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, ethnicity, age, level of ability, legal status, religious views or position on the political spectrum plays for others.

No one is completely freed from the oppressive habits of society. It is possible to behave in a sexist, racist, or otherwise oppressive manner inadvertently. Try to resist defensiveness and practice active listening when others describe your behavior as oppressive. These are important learning opportunities.

If you feel that other people are speaking inappropriately, be careful to respond to them without excessive negativity.

One good way to cultivate the spirit of community at OP is to say friendly things to others on the list, and to speak respectfully with those you seriously disagree with.

What to do if one or more people do not follow these guidelines:

  • It is the responsibility of the whole group, as well as the discussion group facilitators, to tell someone if they are disrespecting another person, to remind them to focus on commenting upon someone’s ideas and not upon their character or motivation.
  • Remember, you can always send individual emails if necessary, but the public discussion forum is not an appropriate place for personal or angry exchanges. Facilitators in the online discussion group should privately email people who are engaging in such activity and ask them to stop doing so.
  • It is the primary responsibility of facilitators not to end discussions, but to move them in a constructive direction in which all members are respectful of one another.

A note on discussions pertaining specifically to the park:

While Occupy Providence Discussion Group participants are welcome to discuss any issues of interest and relevance to the Occupy Providence movement, we should all be sensitive to the fact that many Occupiers in Burnside Park do not have Internet access and therefore cannot share in these discussions. Those living in the Park are currently holding several 24/7 Community Protest group meetings a week, and those initiating discussions on matters of particular relevance to conditions in Burnside Park or the future of the encampment should also bring up these issues in a 24/7 meeting in Burnside Park so that those directly involved can participate.

As part of an attempt to link online discussions to actual changes at The People’s Park, online facilitators will step in when online discussions pertain specifically to the park. The facilitator’s role will be to ask if it is appropriate to hold a meeting at Burnside Park and to schedule that meeting if participants want.

Solidarity with Occupy Wall Street! Statement & Call to Action

From members of the Direct Action working group:

This is a call for an emergency protest in solidarity with Occupy Wall St.
Gather at 4:30pm Tuesday in Burnside Park at the statue. We will march to City Hall, then up Washington St to the ‘public safety’ complex, then back to Burnside.

Depending on developments at OWS, this does not preclude us from further actions in the next few days in solidarity with OWS. Thursday is being organized as a national day of solidarity with Occupy movements all over the country and world.

These attacks on occupy’s were nationally coordinated as Oakland mayor Jean Quan admitted in an interview yesterday.

Please join us in Solidarity and Struggle!

Full statement in solidarity with our sisters and brothers @ OWS: 

In a surprise, predawn raid, hundreds of NYC police descended on the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park. Using pepper spray, clubs, and other weapons, police beat and arrested hundreds of peaceful protesters who were exercising their first amendment rights to assembly and free speech.

We at Occupy Providence stand in unconditional solidarity with our sisters and brothers at Occupy Wall Street.

We condemn the violence of Mayor Bloomberg and his police against
peaceful protesters.

We demand the immediate release of all people arrested during the raid.
We demand the dropping of all charges.
We demand the return of all illegally confiscated property.
We demand that Occupy Wall St. be allowed to return to Zuccotti Park and remain there indefinitely.

* These statements of solidarity and to action have not been approved by General Assembly, but were released by members of the direct action working group.