Discover more from Steve Ahlquist
A desire to serve: Jake Bissaillon wants to be State Senator in District 1
"We think we don't matter or what we do is inconsequential. We're Rhode Island. But with Act on Climate maybe we can serve as a model for California or New York..."
With all the talk about the Congressional District One special election, we might forget that there’s also a special election taking place in State Senate District One to replace Maryellen Goodwin, who passed away earlier this year. A field of candidates is shaping up that at last count includes State Representative Nathan Biah (Democrat, District 3, Providence); political newcomer Michelle Rivera; Mario Mancebo, who has twice run for state Senate; and Niyoka Powell, second vice chair of the Rhode Island Republican Party.
See all my Senate District 1 Special Election interviews here:
Jake Bissaillon currently serves as the Chief of Staff for Senate President Dominick (Democrat, District 4, North Providence) Ruggerio, one of the most powerful and influential electeds in state government. I was eager to find out how many candidates Bissaillon wanted to both reflect and differentiate himself from his boss. We spoke at LaSalle Bakery on Smith Street. The interview has been edited for clarity, but not for brevity.
Steve Ahlquist: I'm trying to ask everybody in the race the same set of questions, but I have one question that's specifically for you. Right now you work as Senate President Ruggerios’s Chief of Staff and you're paid pretty well. If you are successful in your bid to represent Senate District 1, as far as I can tell, your pay will be cut by about 90%.
Jake Bissaillon: Correct, although legislators got an 8% raise this year.
Steve Ahlquist: I'm asking, is this job financially worth it? You've got a powerful position as far as influencing policy in the Senate. What is the logic behind this move? Can you speak to that?
Jake Bissaillon: I think it's a fair question. It would be a huge pay cut. I would go from full-time employment to part-time employment, which our state legislature is. I took that into account. I have no other job lined up or anything like that. I haven't even thought about that. It came down to a few motivating factors. One, it's an area I call home. I've called home for the last 16 years, save a few years, where I lived downtown renting. I'm a homeowner in the district now, after having rented in the district for a long time. I like the area. I think it's a cool little district. It's compact. It's like a slice of pizza that starts at the State House and works its way up, encompassing Chalkstone Avenue, Charles Street, and pretty much River Avenue, right over there.
It's an area I love. I have a desire to serve. I've worked in government for the better part of a dozen years. I see this as a way to exercise my voice and my own beliefs in a different way that I think also closely aligns with what folks in our district want and need. In a lot of ways, that's carrying on the things that the late Senator Maryellen Goodwin cared about too. Gun violence prevention is a real plague throughout our capital city and is something I feel strongly about. She was a strong voice in leadership on that issue. I want someone who cares vociferously about that issue to take the seat I'm running for.
Secondly, public schools. Both my parents are public school teachers. Senator Goodwin was always a staunch supporter of Providence Public Schools. Education is a hot topic right now in the city and the state. I think the person that represents this area needs to strongly believe in a good public school system. I think our system right now is almost at a tipping point. When I go door to door, I find fewer and fewer folks have kids that go to our public schools. We're forgetting about a whole generation of kids moving through Providence schools and we cannot allow that to happen. One of the core values of government is to provide public safety, public schools, and general well-being. On that last point, Senator Goodwin was always a staunch supporter of baseline, working-class, socioeconomic worker justice issues. I feel just as strongly about better wages, better benefits, and improved working conditions.
One of the last things I worked on with Senator Goodwin was safe staffing standards in our nursing home. She was a huge proponent of safe staffing standards, which benefitted workers and patient care. Wanting to exercise my voice on issues was also a key component of my decision to run. I want to carry forward some of the issues that aligned with Senator Goodwin and are important to this district, the district that I love and have come to call home. I’m also at an interesting point as a 36-year-old person going through life and having invested a lot, whether it was working at the Providence City Council or the State House. I wanted to get out and knock doors on my own two legs and talk about the issues that I care about and feel strongly about which, in my current and previous roles, I've only been able to advise on. I have my own views. It's important to put your name on the ballot if your views align with the people you're seeking to represent. I have a lot of respect for anybody who decides to run for office and now I have a unique, bittersweet opportunity to do it myself and I'm going to work my hardest.
Steve Ahlquist: I was going to ask you what you thought of the job Senator Goodwin did in the seat, but I think you kind of answered that.
Jake Bissaillon: We didn't align on all the issues, but we did align on a lot of socioeconomic justice. She was an ever-present fighter for the area. One of the final things that tipped the scale for me, as to whether I wanted to do this, came during the week she passed away. We saw the faces of a lot of people she had helped out over the years, folks that go to St. Pat's and walk across the street to Dunkin Donuts and she buys them a coffee, that sort of thing. I got to know a lot of those folks and I keep seeing them. After a while, I’m thinking, “I know these folks too. Who is in this seat matters so much to these folks when need help. If I'm fortunate enough to win this seat, I can make sure they have a relationship with the person in this seat.”
Steve Ahlquist: I was here after a shooting in this district and Senator Goodwin was out there talking to and meeting people, and helping to lead a march. I was impressed by her the way she handled herself there.
Jake Bissaillon: I don't know if it's been talked about or not, but she was the voice in Senate leadership on gun violence prevention. We can talk about whether enough has been done on that issue or not…
Steve Ahlquist: We will.
Jake Bissaillon: …but it was front and center for her.
Steve Ahlquist: My first question to every candidate I talk to is usually: Why you and why this job?
Jake Bissaillon: I uniquely know the role of a state senator. I know the issues that state senators can make a difference on. I know how important it is to be accessible as an elected official, having served alongside elected officials and seeing the difference that accessibility can make. The issues I care about most align with the needs of the area that I’ve called home for the last 16 years and I think I can make a difference on those issues in the State Senate. For example, housing and gun violence prevention.
Steve Ahlquist: That anticipates my next question. What are the biggest problems and/or opportunities facing Rhode Island on which you could have a positive impact as a state senator?
Jake Bissaillon: Housing security without a doubt is the single biggest issue facing Rhode Island. Whether it's the ability to purchase your own home after breaking a cycle of rent that's had you locked for a decade because rent is so astronomical, being able to save your first home, being unhoused and needing a shelter, and everything in between, such as low and moderate-income housing or deed-restricted housing and percentage of income housing options. In the district I'm hoping to represent, you will see developers and off-campus student housing providers buying up what little housing stock is available.
For example, I hear stories about Strive Realty offering over the asking price, and then the property is immediately sold and rented out. That encroaches on home ownership availability in middle-class and working-class neighborhoods. You have to address housing from different angles. You've seen that at the State House over the last two years. We've made some great strides in the General Assembly, more than has been done in decades. That said, legislation passed in the General Assembly will help the development side of things, but I don't necessarily know how much we've moved the needle on the affordability side of things. There are down payment assistance programs, that sort of thing that can help.
The approach so far has been a supply-side-minded approach to the housing issue. There are plenty of other ways to address it. I think there are some good advocates on the issue, whether it's in the Senate or the House. I think of myself as a forward-thinking individual on a lot of the housing proposals.
Steve Ahlquist: Demand-side ideas seem difficult to implement because they run up against landlord lobbyists that do not want things to change, and oppose things like limits on the amount and frequency of rent increases. I live on the east side and on my street there used to be apartments for families, students, and professionals. Now they are Airbnbs.
Jake Bissaillon: Those units aren't available to families anymore.
Steve Ahlquist: And if we build more housing, what's to guarantee that they don't get snatched up and turned into Airbnb or owned by rich landlords? Every dollar we pay in rent is a dollar we're not saving for our own home, if there were reasonably priced homes available.
Jake Bissaillon: This is somewhat anecdotal. I talked to a family right off Admiral Street. They were so thankful they were able to buy their house in 2019. They told me they paid $210k for it and the similar house down the street is being rented out for $3,500 a month. How do you even afford that rent, let alone get into the housing market discussion?
Steve Ahlquist: We bought our house many years ago, and could never afford a house on East Side today.
Jake Bissaillon: I live in Elmhurst, maybe half a mile away, and it's a real fixer-upper.
Steve Ahlquist: That’s the other thing. When people pay too much, they might not have enough money to improve or fix their houses.
Jake Bissaillon: We have older housing stock in the state. I've been very lucky. My dad's helping me fix it up and we're painting it and doing all sorts of good stuff.
Steve Ahlquist: Let’s talk about guns. We did not do an assault weapon ban this year. The Senate President, at a Boston Globe event, declared he opposed it and called for a national ban, which seems unlikely given the current climate in Washington.
Jake Bissaillon: The Senate President underscored that he doesn't support an assault weapons ban at the Boston Globe podcast event. When folks ask how I’m not going to be like the Senate President, I would say there are a lot of issues where we have disagreed in the past and there are a lot of issues where we'll disagree in the future. I believe we should ban assault weapons right here, on the state level.
More has been done on gun violence prevention over the last four or five years, under his tenure as Senate President, than any of the previous Senate Presidents since the role was created in 2001 or 2002. And his rating from the NRA [National Rifle Association] has moved from an A to an F.
Steve Ahlquist: The other big bill this year that didn't pass was safe storage. I was surprised that didn’t pass. It seemed like lower-hanging fruit.
Jake Bissaillon: I can't speak as to why something like that did or didn't pass. What I can tell you is that I support the safe storage bill as well. The goal of safe storage is to keep firearms out of the hands of those that shouldn't have access to them, whether it's youth or folks in a moment of crisis seeking to do the unthinkable. On that last point, I was uniquely situated to help with the red flag law, which I know has been used by police and is critically important.
Steve Ahlquist: Attorney General [Peter] Neronha speaks about it highly. Anything else on guns you want to talk about?
Jake Bissaillon: I've worked on justice reinvestment stuff in the past, and there are collateral consequences for people who have criminal records. I support the bill to prohibit the possession and purchase of firearms by felons, for instance, but we have to be careful about how we talk about things like that.
Steve Ahlquist: When we propose bills that carry extra penalties, we have to be careful.
Jake Bissaillon: Like mandatory minimums.
Steve Ahlquist: Right. I worry because they look good to politicians. Red meat for the base…
Jake Bissaillon: Discretion is sometimes important. You've seen that with some of the sentencing reforms we've done here. On the whole, if you were to empirically look at something like banning felons from purchasing or possessing a firearm, it would without a doubt help when it comes to gun violence. But I get nervous. State law is painting with a broad brush and we can’t lose sight of fairness.
Steve Ahlquist: Let's talk about economic issues, specifically, minimum wage, payday loans, and “taxing the rich.” What are your thoughts on the minimum wage? Because last year, purchasing power for people who lived on minimum wage went down because of inflation.
Jake Bissaillon: I remember having a discussion with the Senate President and then-Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey about a suite of economic policy proposals, and the cornerstone of that was a $15 minimum wage. We had incrementally raised the minimum wage, seven out of the previous eight years or something like that, through one-off bills. But it became clear that there needed to be a pathway to $15, that people were demanding it. So we put that in place. That was Senate Bill One in 2021. Senator Ana Quesada (Democrat, District 2, Providence) was the sponsor of it. That bill is currently running its course. [Note: Senator Quezada is currently running for Congressional District One]
There had been talk about whether to build in a CPI [Consumer Price Index] adjustment into the bill. Businesses like it because that is predictable, they can forecast the increases. Some workers would enjoy that too. They know that they're not going to have to come and ask for an increase year after year. At the end of the day, policymakers decided not to include that. $15 an hour now is not what $15 an hour was in 2020. Not even close. Wages across the board are too low, which is why you're seeing a disruption in the workforce now.
The Teamsters at UPS [United Parcel Service] just negotiated a good contract. I would support raising the minimum wage. I don't know what that number is. I filled out a survey with the Young Democrats of Rhode Island. I think that they're positing a pathway to $20 an hour and raising the tipped minimum wage. Both have to go up. I worked on the tipped minimum wage. That's important. I just don't know what the number is.
Steve Ahlquist: On payday loans. The House passed a repeal this year.
Jake Bissaillon: The House, in fairness, passed it very late, in the session. I don't think there was ample opportunity to discuss it from a policy standpoint.
Steve Ahlquist: It was never heard in a Senate committee.
Jake Bissaillon: I think, maybe, there was an expectation that it was not going to get acted upon. I can tell you this, I've used personal loans in the past, whether it was to supplement school loans while I was in school or while I was working. Personal lending options are important, but they can't be predatory. When I used personal loans the rate on that was 14%. The APR that gets charged on payday lending is nowhere near that. When you start talking about APRs at that level, it is without a doubt predatory. More importantly, you have to make sure people don't get involved in that cycle of borrowing, especially if it's someone living on working-class wages.
Steve Ahlquist: You can't have a payday loan company within a certain number of miles of any military base…
Jake Bissaillon: I didn't know that.
Steve Ahlquist: Senator Jack Reed [Democrat, Rhode Island] passed that in 2006. In his mind, predatory loans put military personnel at risk and threaten national security.
Jake Bissaillon: It's interesting that in all the debate about payday loans, I haven't heard that until just now.
Steve Ahlquist: State Senator Melissa Murray (Democrat, District 24, North Smithfield, Woonsocket)'s bill to tax the 1% is an attempt to create a less regressive, more progressive income tax structure.
Jake Bissaillon: A more equitable tax structure. I support revisiting Rhode Island's income tax brackets to make them more equitable. I have a lot of respect for the Senate President because he takes a team approach. For example, on that bill, core members of his leadership team supported it. There was an engaged debate on the issue two years ago when Senator McCaffery supported it. I had worked for Senator McCaffrey previously. When it came to worker justice issues, at least from an economic standpoint, he was a strong supporter.
I think we need more brackets. Some full-time UPS workers will be making just shy of a hundred thousand dollars a year. $95,000 is not what it was before. There's a big difference between $100k and $200k a year, and there's a big difference between $85k and $100.
Steve Ahlquist: When I interviewed House Speaker Shekarchi recently, one of the things that came up was the bill to expand gambling. One of the reasons given for supporting that bill was to generate more revenue. I think the Senate President said it was going to bring in $25 million in needed revenue.
But taxing the rich would've brought in more money, and that money would come from people who could better afford it. We know that the lottery tends to hit people in the lower socioeconomic levels harder. I was just reading this book, For a Dollar and a Dream: State Lotteries in Modern America by Jonathan Cohen. It’s a history of state lotteries.
The statistics Cohen draws on are pretty stark. But my point is that the need for more revenue was not an issue when we eliminated the car tax or decided against taxing the rich, but it is an issue when it comes to expanded gambling. There's a contradiction there. Does that make sense?
Jake Bissaillon: It does. I would point out that gaming is our third biggest source of revenue as a state. The dialogue also centers around economic competitiveness. The landscape of gaming is changing faster than ever. Ever since the United States Supreme Court was poised to throw out the prohibition on sports betting in the United States, something the Senate President was prepared for, and had legislation in anticipation of, the centripetal force of it has evolved faster and faster.
We already had iLottery, which I didn't know we had. You can do scratch tickets and Keno on your phone. iGaming was the next evolution of that that and other states had already started looking into it. From a competitive standpoint, at least from the Senate standpoint, it was about continuing to be on the front edge.
Let me get back to raising tax taxes on the rich, which is something I support. All the federal money [ARPA] that's come in is great. The economy has been strong and has stayed stronger than some folks had thought. The state is now running surpluses. When the state runs surpluses, people immediately think we've got all the money we need. That’s ingrained in our policy decisions. That's why, maybe, the discussion of raising taxes on the wealthy is not getting the attention it got in 2020 and 2021. I hope that’s something I can help resurface as a narrative.
Steve Ahlquist: When I spoke to Senator Sandra Cano (Democrat, District 8, Pawtucket) about her Congressional District One race…
Jake Bissaillon: All my friends are running for CD one.
Steve Ahlquist: True. When I talked to Senator Cano, she said that as head of the Senate Education Committee, she did not bring up any of the bills that I would characterize as “anti-trans.” She said, “… hate doesn't belong in the Senate and I'm not going to hear any of those bills.” What are your thoughts on those kinds of bills? I’ll add to that bills that seek to ban books in school libraries.
Jake Bissaillon: Whose bill was that?
Steve Ahlquist: Representative Samuel Azzinaro [Democrat, District 37, Westerly].
Jake Bissaillon: Senator Cano took the right approach. We live in a democracy where maybe everyone deserves to have a voice, but at the end of the day, bills like that are designed with the intent to heighten rhetoric. When that happens people can feel targeted and can undergo a lot of trauma. Those bills are not necessarily designed for public benefit but for shock. So Senator Cano made the right decision. These were not good bills, so why bother hearing them?
Steve Ahlquist: I suspect that you're going to differentiate yourself from the Senate President on the issue of abortion rights, but tell me your thoughts on that.
Jake Bissaillon: On that issue, which is critical, the Senate President and other folks in Senate leadership have allowed the majority of the chamber an opportunity to vote on it. Starting in 2019 Senate leadership understood that while their view may have been different from the majority of the state, they were not going to impose their will on that. In a lot of ways, we've seen our state legislature grow in that regard, not as top-down. And this year I think the Senate President's views have evolved on that issue, with him being the deciding vote - well, everyone could say they were the deciding vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee that day - he was at least on the prevailing side.
Steve Ahlquist: It's always been difficult for the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass those kinds of bills. It always seems like a struggle. I've made the argument in the past that the Senate Judiciary Committee is constructed to prevent certain kinds of progressive legislation from being passed. The choice of Senators on that skews conservative. It’s like a machine built to reject bills on abortion or guns.
Jake Bissaillon: Having had an inside view, I can say, definitively, there's no extra hurdle. I think it's a committee that considers a lot of bills. I think they consider them in a very thorough way. No other committee in the Senate deals with the broad spectrum of issues that the Senate Judiciary Committee deals with, that impact Rhode Islanders in so many different ways. The members of that committee sit there until all hours in the morning and hear stories that will break or warm your heart and everything in between. Senator (now Justice) Erin Lynch Prada, who I had the opportunity to work with, did an amazing job as a steward of that committee. And I think Senators Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown) and Cynthia Coyne did a great job of taking into account a lot of different stakeholders. At the end of the day, numerous bills come out of that committee that have protected the rights of thousands of Rhode Islanders and done so in a way that they've withstood judicial scrutiny, which is critically important.
Steve Ahlquist: But is the process working when the Senate President has to attend the committee hearing and make the deciding vote on the EACA [Equality in Abortion Coverage Act] or when they have to move a bill from one committee to another as they did with the Reproductive Privacy Act [RPA]?
Jake Bissaillon: The Senate President and Majority Leader are ex officio on every committee and they vote on several contentious issues in several different committees. There was a renewable energy bill last year that the former Senate Majority Leader and the Senate President had to go in and vote on. They voted on the housing bills this year just to make sure they were going to get out of committee. Those were important reforms for dealing with our housing affordability crisis. I think the Senate, as an institution, is operating more democratically than ever before under Senate President Ruggerio. The vote on the EACA was markedly different from what happened with the RPA in 2019.
Steve Ahlquist: A lot of good things happened in the House and Senate on climate these past few years. What more can we do and should we have passed the bottle bill? That was the number one priority of the Environmental Council of Rhode Island.
Jake Bissaillon: When you think back over the last two years, we probably made more headway on climate than any other topic, starting with Act on Climate. We talk about all the issues we're confronting now as a result of climate change, such as sea level rise and its effect on our infrastructure. One of the things that's tucked away in Act on Climate is that we have to take climate into account when we're doing our infrastructure planning. It sounds like a cliche, but Rhode Island has become a leader and stayed a leader in addressing climate change. You and I both remember a former Speaker saying there’s nothing our state can do about climate change.
We're dealing with the issue here and we're showing that you can deal with it as a state, and hopefully lead the way forward for other states to follow. Act on Climate mandates getting to net zero by 2050. That's a great target. I wish the target was earlier, but we got it done. The Senate President’s Renewable Energy Standards bill has a target of 2033. That’s the most aggressive target in the country. It shows that we can do it here and we can lead the way forward. What can we do to continue to be a leader? Recyclables and renewables have been at the forefront of that discussion. Statewide Solar Siting got done this year. That was an amazing collaborative effort that Chair Alana DiMario [Democrat, District 36, Narragansett] led the way on. It's going to protect jobs and ensure the sustainable development of solar throughout the state while protecting our core forests. But certainly more can be done. As someone who's hoping to represent the capital city, I think the discussion starts with environmental justice.
Steve Ahlquist: That was the other bill I wanted to discuss.
Jake Bissaillon: The Senate has acted on that in the past, it just hasn't gotten across the finish line. I would love to play a role in helping it get there, even if it's just in the backseat. It's critically important that the communities that have routinely borne the consequences of climate change, do not continue to suffer the consequences of climate change. It’s as elementary as looking at asthma rates in the state and the relationship between health and canopy in our neighborhoods. We have rural, suburban, and urban neighborhoods in this state so there are going to be differences, but you can almost by census block see the impact that fewer trees have on asthma rates.
Sheila Dormody, when she was Director of Sustainability in Providence and I was City Council Chief of Staff, came and presented on trees and asthma rates, and I took that to heart. People have taken action, but it needs to be attacked with renewed urgency.
I know the bottle bill was a priority. I can remember returning bottles with my dad in Massachusetts. You pick them out of the trash can, get them off the street, and bring them to the center. It seems antiquated to me, but if you walk our streets you see nips everywhere. Recycling needs to be improved, but I don't know if charging someone 5 cents on a can is what's going to do it. We talk about gambling disproportionately impacting those with the least disposable income. So does a bottle bill and so does a cigarette tax. I don't think it curbs behavior in the way that people think it does.
Steve Ahlquist: On education, is this state doing a good job running Providence Schools?
Jake Bissaillon: I wouldn't even know how to tell you if they are or not. I don't know how we can assess whether we've done a good job handling the schools, which is the whole problem with the takeover. It was done through the municipality just throwing up their hands and saying, “Okay, you deal with it.” It was a lateral, and now we're talking about lateraling it back. I don't know if enough's been done to solve any of the ills that contributed to the takeover in the first place. Has enough been done to support our educators?
There are a lot of teachers living in this district. There are a lot of parents who will be sending their kids to school and I worry about where their kids will go to school. My dad graduated from Springfield College and met my mom there. She's a school teacher too. He was embarrassed to bring home his first paycheck back in 1980 - $250, $10,000 a year as a starting teacher starting. When my parents decided they wanted to start a family he quit teaching after a year and opened a cabinet company with my mom's uncle. A year and a half in [Massachusetts] Governor [Michael] Dukakis passed the Education Improvement Act, which raised the minimum pay for a teacher to $21,000 a year, pretty much doubling the pay that they offered my dad. He got his old job back and taught middle school science for 37 years, at the same school. He loved his job and that provided a foundation for me. When we talk about schools in crisis, it begins by supporting our educators, attracting new individuals into the workforce, and valuing that workforce so pride emanates from our classrooms and parents can feel that pride. A partnership develops there.
I can't tell you that the state takeover of Providence has been a success. At the end of the day, we need comprehensive reinvestment in state education. There's been improvements to the funding formula and education funding has gone up year over year. That's undeniable. But I talk to teachers on the doorstep who, because of the purchasing procedures in Providence schools, go on Amazon and they buy their kids’ supplies. That happens far too often.
The job of a teacher has changed dramatically since my parents started in the 1980s. They're called upon to be social workers and guidance counselors. Having more social workers and guidance counselors will lighten the load on our teachers and allow them to be educators. Any discussion about improving education in the state of Rhode Island starts with improving the lives of our educators.
Steve Ahlquist: My metaphor is that you wouldn't put an aircraft carrier out to sea without nurses and psychologists and support staff. But a school? We get teachers and students in a building and we’re done.
Jake Bissaillon: I might steal that.
Steve Ahlquist: Where's your nurse? Where's your social worker? Where's your guidance counselor?
We’re getting to the end here.
Jake Bissaillon: This is an important seat for me. This is where I live and I think it's a rich, diverse district. There are working-class Irish and Italians, retired. Smith Hill has traditionally been the first area where first-generation immigrants and refugees move. It has beautiful, culturally diverse neighborhoods. It's got Providence College, which is neat. It would be an honor to represent it. I'm going to run hard. I'm going to work hard, and at the end of the day, I hope to win. And if I don't, I look forward to collaborating with whoever does, because I'll be working with them.
Steve Ahlquist: What’s your pitch to voters?
Jake Bissaillon: As Senate Chief of Staff, as a candidate for State Senate, and as a Rhode Islander, these issues, like housing, gun violence, mental health, substance use, and rehabilitating our justice system, seem beyond our comprehension. They are overwhelming. But in Rhode Island, we're uniquely situated. They're not beyond our control or our measure. Talking about the housing crisis, we're last in the nation in developing housing stock. Let's move the needle on that. 2000 units here would make a difference. The number of unsheltered folks that we deal with at any given point seems to be right around 350 people. Let's think about that. Let's digest it. Let's work to address it. We're uniquely situated to be a model for dealing with these issues. Let's be a leader. We showed that by leading on climate change.
Steve Ahlquist: A lot of people think our small size is a disadvantage, but I think it's an advantage.
Jake Bissaillon: We think we don't matter or what we do is inconsequential. We're Rhode Island. What we do on climate change is of little consequence. But with Act on Climate maybe we can serve as a model for California or New York. We’re used to that familiar refrain, “What are Massachusetts and Connecticut doing?” But what if you change that discussion, go to the Massachusetts State House, and hear them say, “Look at what Rhode Island just did!”
Steve Ahlquist: Being a Rhode Islander I’ve always felt superior to everybody from Massachusetts. No offense.
Jake Bissaillon: I'm almost halfway there. I've lived here for 16 years.
Steve Ahlquist: There you go. At a certain point, you're going to develop a sense of superiority over anybody from Massachusetts. Thank you so much for your time.
Steve Ahlquist is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.