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Spotlight on the Statehouse: April 7, 2015

Technicians reach settlement with RISD

After a five-day strike led by Rhode Island School of Design technicians that began Thursday, RISD administrators and President of the RISD Technical Association Tucker Houlihan reached an agreement Monday that includes a stipulation maintaining the tech workers’ 8 percent retirement contribution, RI Future reported.

Forty-four technicians participated in the strike, protesting breakdowns in contract negotiations that had been in progress since May 2014. The technicians are responsible for operating machines and shop spaces in the school’s studios.

The strike caused the RISD campus to “basically shut down,” said Erik Lack, president of the RISD Student Alliance, The Herald reported Monday. Hundreds of students and supporters marched to encircle the administrative offices, though administrators approached Houlihan before the student-led march, RI Future reported.

Melted but not forgotten

Though most of campus has emerged from the blankets of snow deposited this winter, the emergence of warmer weather will not bring back the money spent by local government and nonprofit organizations to help manage the wintry weather. But with the help of the federal government, they might not be completely out of luck.

On Friday, President Obama declared a disaster for Rhode Island for Winter Storm Juno. The storm dumped just over 19 inches — the fourth heaviest snowfall on record for the city — in Providence Jan. 26–28.

The funds will help defray costs of related emergency work and facilities repair for local governments and some nonprofit organizations in all five of the state’s counties, Rhode Island Public Radio reported Friday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency office in Boston will work with state officials to establish a Joint Field Office in Rhode Island. Municipalities will submit project proposals from which funding will be determined, with 75 percent coming from the federal government and 25 percent coming from state and local governments, NBC 10 News reported Thursday.

Cranston schools open on Good Friday

Despite nearly 25 percent of staff members and almost 40 percent of students being absent from Cranston public schools on Good Friday last week, all of the district’s schools were open barring one middle school, which was closed for lack of staff. New Shoreham was the only other school district in Rhode Island that held classes that day.

Cranston does not have a tradition of being open on Good Friday, but this year the School Committee decided to hold classes. The Cranston school district also voted to remain open on Rosh Hashanah, the Providence Journal reported Friday.

The Cranston Teachers’ Alliance challenged the committee’s decision, and many expressed concerns about it in the days and weeks leading up to Good Friday. An official decision was not made until around 6:15 a.m. Friday morning because the district was unsure how many sick calls it would receive, said Raymond Votto, chief operating officer of the city’s School Department, the Journal reported.

Rhode Island is the most Catholic state in the United States, with 44 percent of its population identifying with the religion, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, WPRI reported in March.

New leadership for I-195 Commission

Gov. Gina Raimondo selected Joseph Azrack as chair of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, replacing former chair Colin Kane, who resigned in January.

Azrack is part of a group of six — including  Beppie Huidekoper, the University’s former executive vice president for finance and administration — that Raimondo selected to replace all of the commission’s members but one.

Though Azrack spent 20 years with AEW Capital Management, a Boston-based real estate investment management firm, he has lived in Little Compton with his wife — a Rhode Island native — for more than 15 years, the Journal reported. Serving as the commission’s chair is a volunteer position, and this will be Azrack’s first experience in the public sector.

“You have to work hand-in-glove as a good partner with state agencies and legislature and leadership, as well as with the city, and then to engage local institutions and private-sector capital,” Azrack told the Journal.


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