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Metro Roundup, Sept. 12

Providence School District spends $187,000 on books before deciding not to use them

Interim Providence Superintendent Frances Gallo spent nearly $200,000 on the inspirational book “Shoot Your Shot: A Sport-Inspired Guide To Living Your Best Life” to distribute to all middle and high school students this month before asking educators to pause the use of the book in class, according to the Boston Globe.

After paying for 16,500 copies, teachers and school board members criticized the strong religious overtones of the chosen text. The book focuses on inspirational basketball stories of triumph over struggle. Gallo had hoped to unite the district behind one text in the new school year.

The expenditure of $187,000 amounts to a small portion of the $400 million school budget. The district had to cut $6 million to balance this year’s school budget

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha rejects Sackler opioid settlement

Yesterday, R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha declined the settlement offered by members of the Sackler family, the makers of OxyContin and donors to the University, in hopes of reaching a better agreement. Neronha joined attorney generals across the United States earlier this month in a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family for their part in fueling the opioid crisis.

Other states like New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts have opted out of the settlement as well. As it stands, Purdue Pharma is expected to pay upwards of $10 billion in settlements.

R.I. finishes spraying state for mosquitoes after breakout of EEE

A breakout of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a mosquito-borne virus, struck the state earlier this month and killed one person. The state, in response, scheduled spraying to curb mosquito numbers in Providence, Warwick, Westerly and Woonsocket. Officials were careful to ensure sensitive areas, like organic farms or bodies of water, were not sprayed.

Rhode Island last used aerial pesticides to combat mosquito populations back in 1996, but officials think that the increased risk of EEE warrants the tactic now. Rhode Island has not seen any lethal cases of EEE since 2007. According to the CDC, EEE causes swelling in the brain, fever and coma.

Certain Providence properties receive $12 million in city tax breaks

Some Providence business leaders are receiving tax breaks equal to $12 million, according to an analysis by WPRI’s Target 12. These breaks are allotted in the form of tax-stabilization agreements, which over 100 business owners now hold citywide. The agreements require that the owners pledge to create jobs by constructing or renovating properties.

By granting TSAs, the city intends to offer businesses greater stability in their investments while they are developed in exchange for collecting higher taxes once the agreement ends. Victor Morente, a spokesperson for Mayor Jorge Elorza, told WPRI that TSAs “yielded increased property values, construction value and local spending and (have) made Providence more competitive with neighboring municipalities.”

The tax rate applied to owners who hold TSAs amounts to $16.69 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. The regular commercial tax rate is twice as much, at $36.70 per $1,000.

U.S. Senate confirms R.I. District Court Judge after four-year delay

The U.S. Senate confirmed Mary McElroy, Rhode Island’s first female chief public defender, as the state’s latest district court federal judge on Wednesday.

The confirmation follows a four-year process overseen by Sen. Jack Reed  (D-R.I.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Reed and Whitehouse oversaw the nomination of McElroy by former President Barack Obama in 2015, which stalled in January 2016 at the objection of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.).  President Trump renominated McElroy in 2018, but she did not have a confirmation hearing before the Senate recess that summer. In June, the Judiciary Committee approved McElroy to replace U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi, who retired in 2015. Five other nominees were confirmed alongside McElroy.


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