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RHODE ISLAND NEWS IN BRIEF

Convicted ex-speaker of the R.I. House lands a new job helping the homeless

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The former speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, who spent time in federal prison for campaign finance violations, has been hired by an agency that serves the homeless.

Gordon Fox has been named housing development manager at Crossroads RI, agency spokesman Mike Raia told WPRI-TV on Thursday.

“Crossroads has a longstanding commitment to helping people start over and get back on their feet, and we support efforts that give formerly incarcerated individuals opportunities to pursue meaningful work,” Raia said in a statement. “Mr. Fox’s skills and experience in development are well-suited for our needs. Crossroads RI’s housing development efforts help ensure that families and individuals at risk of becoming homeless can find a safe, affordable place to live.”

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The former Democratic lawmaker who served as speaker from 2010 until March 2014, pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery, wire fraud and tax evasion for accepting a bribe of more than $50,000 while a member of the Providence Board of Licenses, and for using more than $100,000 from his campaign on personal expenses.

He spent 2 1/2 years in prison until he was released in August 2017 to a halfway house in Pawtucket. He remained on probation until February.

New COVID cases, hospitalizations rising in Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The number of new coronavirus cases in Rhode Island continues to rise, while the number of people hospitalized has reached its highest level in a month, the state Department of Health reported Thursday.

The department reported 139 new confirmed cases and four more virus-related deaths, for totals of more than 24,300 known case and 1,106 fatalities.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has how risen over the past two weeks from more than 85 on Sept. 9 to 117 on Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

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Gov. Gina Raimondo on Wednesday blamed outbreaks among students at Providence College and the University of Rhode Island, as well as the state’s aggressive testing program, for the rising number of cases. Providence College had reported more than 190 positive cases as of Wednesday, almost all students.

The new cases reported Thursday were out of more than 9,700 tests, a positivity rate of about 1.4%.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from slightly less than 1% on Sept. 9 to 1.56% on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins.

The number of people hospitalized with the disease was 94 as of Tuesday, the latest day for which the information was available, the highest single-day total since Aug. 25. Eight of those patients were in intensive care.

Providence high school seniors to return early

(AP) The Providence public school system is bringing high school seniors back to the classroom two weeks earlier than originally planned, in part to help them with the college application process.

Seniors, who have been learning remotely, will now return to the classroom starting next Tuesday, rather than Oct. 13 as originally planned, school officials said.

To accommodate the early return of seniors, the district is delaying the return of sophomore’s until Oct. 13.

Each high school grade has been split into two groups, with one attending in person while the other group attends virtually, each for half the day. The schedule allows schools to reduce the number of students in the building at any one time.

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So far, only ninth graders have returned to in-person learning in the city’s nine high schools.

Apex department store dropped from proposed soccer stadium in Pawtucket

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The developer for a proposed soccer stadium in Pawtucket has dropped plans to repurpose the Apex department store, which was also spurned as the site of a proposed PawSox stadium.

Pawtucket is considering a proposal from a developer to build a soccer stadium for a team to compete in the second-tier league, along with housing, an indoor sports arena, a hotel and public river walk.

But on Wednesday, the developer, Brett Johnson of Fortuitous Partners, told the Pawtucket City Council that he no longer wanted to incorporate the defunct Apex department store into the development, the Providence Journal reported.

A previous design for the proposed stadium development from Fortuitous Partners envisioned placing the indoor sports arena, hotel and office space at the department store site, the newspaper reported.

Pawtucket and the developer have not agreed on financing for the proposed project. Fortuitous Partners is seeking between $70-90 million in public financing for the project as well as applying to be a beneficiary of the federal Opportunity Zones program, the newspaper reported.

The proposed soccer stadium follows the decision in 2018 by the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston team, to move to Worcester, Massachusetts, which is building a new stadium for the team. Pawtucket failed to keep the team despite proposing to build a new stadium at the Apex department store site.

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At the time, both Pawtucket’s mayor and Gov. Gina Raimondo said tax payers should not have matched the deal that Worcester made with the PawSox.

Before the stadium plan moves forward, the developer must also reach an agreement with Pawtucket to lease some of the land for the proposed development and acquire another parcel from National Grid Rhode Island, the state’s largest utility, WPRI-TV reported.

Providence examines the role of Black, Indigenous peoples

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Providence has assembled a group of historical groups and community leaders who over the course of four months will create a public education program that details the history of Black and Indigenous people in the city.

The initiative announced Tuesday is the first part of the truth telling and reparations process that Mayor Jorge Elorza launched in July.

“In order to plan a truly equitable future for our city, we need to know our history and reconcile our truths,” Elorza said in a statement.

Groups including the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, Rhode Island Historical Society, and the 1696 Heritage Group will work with the city’s African American Ambassador Group Truth Telling Committee to collect and analyze historical documents and artifacts.

They will look at the history of the city through the enslavement and genocide of African heritage and Indigenous people; examine discriminatory state and municipal laws; and examine the continued impact of slavery, Indigenous genocide, racial discrimination, and displacement, the statement said.

The goal is to create a program that will be used to supplement the curriculum in city schools.

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