On Politics
4:56 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

TGIF: 19 Things to Know About Rhode Island Politics & Media (Ghost Dog Edition)

Thanks for stopping by for my weekly column. Your tips, insights, and thoughts are always welcome at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org, and you can follow me on the twitters, too. We're up to something special this week. (Why Ghost Dog? It's a riff on my nickname of being the I-Dog) So let's get right to it ....

1. The conventional wisdom holds that reporters don't get picked as jurors. Well, so much for the conventional wisdom. Yours truly is presently doing his civic duty on a case expected to wrap up late next week. Fortunately, a galaxy of guest contributors has graciously offered to help populate my column this week. But first a brief note on jury duty. While some see this as an unwelcome hassle, my experience reminds me of the role that jurors play in our criminal justice system. For a cinematic treatment, consider 12 Angry Men, the 1957 Sidney Lumet film about the difference that one person can make. And for a noteworthy precedent, former ProJo politcal columnist M. Charles Bakst wrote about running into a number of local politicos while serving as an alternate on a jury in 1991: Jury duty has its ups and downs - you spend a lot of time lounging, waiting to be tapped for a trial - but being around the courthouse itself is a trip. In the halls, snack bar and elevator, and sometimes, of course, in the courtrooms themselves, you're tempted to pinch yourself and wonder: Did the entire Rhode Island political populace abandon the State House and the 1025 Club and move to the courts?

2. From Arianne Lynch (communications strategist and board VP of the Women's Fund of RI): Renowned national pollster Celinda Lake is set to headline a March 4 event (9 am) at the Providence Journal’s John C.A. Watkins Auditorium, sponsored by the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island and dubbed, "She Said He Said." The topic: research by Lake's firm showing how sexism against women candidates can affect election outcomes. As a woman who has worked in and around politics and the media for a decade, I can say with confidence that these findings are spot-on. Misogyny comes in many forms; it is sometimes subtle and without malice, and at other times just the opposite. In any form, it impacts perception and the ability of women to succeed. "She Said He Said" will also feature a panel discussion on the research, moderated by Boston Globe political editor Cynthia Needham, ex of the ProJo. After the event, the Women’s Fund will look to local Twitterati for help tracking instances of sexism during the 2014 election cycle, asking social media users to report on what they see on the campaign trail using the hash tag #shesaidhesaidRI. To attend She Said He Said, RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/he-said-she-said-tickets-10578541703. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited.

3. From Justin Katz (research director for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity): Students of politics and policy could do worse for a case study than the saga of the Sakonnet River Bridge toll: A couple of budget cycles ago, it entered Rhode Island law through a contentious House debate in which representatives from other parts of the state gave the impression that tolls in the East Bay would help to fund infrastructure in their districts. Fear that angry residents from the targeted region would express their displeasure the only way they could -- by unseating the Democrats whom they had contributed to the State House’s ultra-majority -- produced a debacle that saw the tolls postponed in the next budget only to be resurrected in an unusual “rider” bill, implementing a “placeholder” toll of 10 cents. Now, the East Bay legislators have put forward legislation (H7432 [http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText14/HouseText14/H7432.pdf] and S2335 [http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText14/SenateText14/S2335.pdf]) that would remove the tolls, but require replacement money to be skimmed from the general fund, redirected from the gasoline tax, collected as another 5 percent surcharge on motor vehicle fees, and added as another eighth-of-a-percent sales tax (if the Internet becomes taxable). Meanwhile, the fund will be supplemented with even more debt. In other words, the same legislators who liked the idea of imposing a toll on people who can’t vote against them would have to prefer the idea of taxing and surcharging people who can. That doesn’t seem likely. Many East Bay voters would have been happy to see their senators and representatives become single-issue voters, voting against all other legislation until the toll was eliminated. Instead, we’ve witnessed an elaborate performance that seems fated to end with full-priced tolls and East Bay legislators with clean hands. Students of politics and policy should inspect under the politicians’ fingernails and consider whether we’re really electing our representatives to the government or the government’s representatives to us.

4. Scott MacKay has the word on the retirement plans of longtime WJAR-TV investigative reporter Jim Taricani.

5. A TGIF exclusive: the favorite organized crime movies* of WPRI-TV investigative reporter Tim White (and why "The Godfather" isn't one of them): The best Mob movies are ones that don’t glamorize organized crime, but reveal it for what it is: a treacherous business where only the select few ever see actual wealth, and most of them die in a hail of gunfire. Before we dive in, let’s get this out of the way: you won’t see “The Godfather” on this list. Great movie? Yes. Amazing writing? Yes. Acting? You bet. The problem I have is what isn’t in it: drugs. Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece depicts a Mob boss – Don Vito Corleone – who will make money on just about anything but the narcotics trade. In the real world, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is La Cosa Nostra was one of the biggest driving forces of injecting illicit drugs into neighborhoods; particularly in minority and poor areas. If there was money to be made, they were all in. So while it’s one movie that I can’t shut off, I can’t add it to the list simply for principle. (If you want a great explainer on why Coppola made that decision, read the essential mob tome “Five Families” by Selwyn Raab).

FIFTH BEST. “Donnie Brasco” The number five spot is harder than the others. I had a long list for this slot, among them "Pulp Fiction," "The French Connection," and "Once Upon a Time In America." But I landed on "Donnie Brasco" because it’s an almost unbelievable true story. FBI agent Joe Pistone infiltrates the Bonnano crime family in New York for years. Johnny Depp, as Pistone, is scary good in this. A confession: I’m not a huge Al Pacino fan (why are you yelling at me all the time, sir?), but his depiction of ‘Lefty” Ruggerio is phenomenal. You almost feel for the mobster when Brasco ultimately betrays him.        

FOURTH BEST. “Casino” Apparently in the mob’s case, what happens in Vegas … turns into a blockbuster movie. The film is based on the true story of La Cosa Nostra’s infiltration of casino gambling in Las Vegas. Unlike his height, Martin Scorsese doesn’t do anything short, so carve out plenty of time to watch -- or re-watch -- this three-hour epic. But it flies. The enormously entertaining first half depicts the meteoric rise of two wiseguys (and a hooker) and their wild successes in Vegas, while the second half … well you get the idea. This also happens to be Sharon Stone’s best film.

THIRD BEST. “The Wire*”: “Wait a minute,” you protest. “This isn’t a mob movie.” Ah, recheck the intro for this item. It clearly states “organized crime,” and this, my friend, is 100 percent that. I do concede it’s not a movie. But if you want to see a series that depicts organized crime in the raw, this is it. Masterfully written by former Baltimore Sun scribe David Simon, this HBO series has it all: police corruption, violent drug gangs, politics, and the news business. If you’re a member of any of those categories, "The Wire" does not shine a positive light on your industry. If you haven’t watched it, I guarantee you have a friend who owns the box set. Get through the first two character-building episodes and you won’t be able to stop.

SECOND BEST. “The Sting” I have a personal attachment to this film; As a wee lad, I was allowed to stay up late when it came on network television every year. Much to the chagrin of my mother: “Jack, he’s got to go to bed,” Dad: “It’s almost over” (when we both knew it wasn’t). This isn’t your average shoot ‘em up wiseguy flick. And the only real gangster in the movie is the subject of an epic con. But It’s got one of the best cinematic duos of all time (Paul Newman and Robert Redford), and takes place in a fascinating era when the mob was finding it’s foothold in this country. I admit, I fell for the ruse in the end when I first saw it. But in my defense, I was 8.

THE BEST. “Goodfellas” First of all: it may have the best line in cinematic history: “but I'm funny how? I mean, funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?” The acting throughout is brilliant (h/t Ray Liotta) and the storytelling is superb. This film strikes the perfect balance of showcasing the Mob in its powerful heyday while also shining a light on its scummy underbelly. You’d be hard-pressed to want to “make your bones” after watching this flick. Especially after Tommy DeVito’s (Joe Pesci) fate when he thinks he’s being “made.” And unlike "The Godfather," guess what happens when a wiseguy feels abandoned by the family? That’s right, he sells drugs.

6. The Fix's list of best presidential biographies.

7. From Bill Fischer (head of True North Communications, amateur meteorologist, and spokesman for Clay Pell's gubernatorial campaign): As the debate to increase the minimum wage makes headlines at the national and local level, I’m reminded of the late Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, who led this fight for many years. During his tenure in the Senate, the minimum wage increased 16 times. His last victory came in 2007, after a 10-year struggle resulting in the minimum wage increasing from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. At the time, Kennedy gave a rousing floor speech where he famously asked, “When does the greed stop?” Having worked on his son Patrick’s first Congressional campaign in 1994, I was lucky to spend some time with the senator and always enjoyed his stories. He told one of my favorites while giving a tour of the JFK Library, to a group of Rhode Islanders. Kennedy pointed to a painting and recalled how it made its way to the library. President Reagan had learned that Rose Kennedy had never been back to the White House after the death of JFK and he wanted to invite her to dinner. The senator accompanied Rose to dinner with the president and first lady. During the dinner, Mrs. Kennedy looked at a picture hanging on the wall and declared that her son had brought it to the White House when he moved in. As Ted Kennedy told the story, Reagan stood up, took the picture off the wall and handed it to her. No one was going to quibble with Rose Kennedy on this matter – including the President of the United States. Kennedy’s famous January 2007 floor speech is worth re-watching today, as his words and arguments are still timely. Here's a good link to the speech: http://wapo.st/1l1WLUG You’ll notice Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who was presiding over the Senate that day, at the beginning of the clip.

8. From John Marion (executive director of Common Cause of RI): Last week, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote a piece, headlined, "Professors, We Need You!" -- arguing that academics need to come down from the Ivory Tower and engage in current debates over public policy. Kristof was summarily lambasted by a lot of academics, including the political scientists who write for the very smart Monkey Cage Blog. Whether you agree with Kristof’s thesis or not, I want to share how academic work informs government reform. On one of my first nights at the General Assembly, I introduced myself to a committee as the executive director of Common Cause, and was greeted by the reply, “You’re the group with the facts.” That’s true, as much as possible. For instance, people ask why a left-of-center organization supports elimination of the master lever. Well that’s simple, the empirical evidence suggests it actually confuses the voter and interferes with their ability to express their preference on the ballot. Or how about something more timely, like our push for a "People’s Pledge"? While certainly not as rigorous, the work of our Massachusetts chapter shows it can be effective at changing the flow of money in campaigns. The same holds for publicly financing of campaigns, and many other issues. We do try to inform our arguments with good research, but sometimes it’s not conclusive. Take the debate over redistricting. Some focus on redistricting reform as a solution to polarization in our politics. Well, Rhode Island is, by one measure, the least polarized state in the nation. And research suggests that gerrymandering only accounts for a small portion of polarization in Congress. Nonetheless, even skeptics of redistricting as a solution to polarization admit there are other good reasons to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians. Whether or not academics themselves are speaking out on issues of government reform, their work is being heard. Sorry, Nick.

9. From Chas Walker, elected organizer at SEIU, District 1199NE: Across the country, thousands of low-wage workers – including at a Wendy’s in Warwick – have been mobilizing to win a $15 per hour wage and a union. The workers have grabbed headlines and won some victories, and they show little sign of stopping -- making clear that despite many setbacks, the rumors of labor’s demise are at least partially exaggerated. The movement is also having an undeniable impact on national and local debates about poverty and income inequality. A recent Pew survey found that 73 percent of Americans would support a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour -- a finding not lost on many elected officials and candidates. Legislation co-sponsored by Rhode Island’s entire congressional delegation would bump the federal hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, though passage seems unlikely in the current Congress. RI’s state minimum wage recently rose to $8, and bills now before the RI House and Senate would raise it over two years to $10 and then index it to inflation. And while RI’s GOP gubernatorial hopefuls are opposed, all of the Democratic candidates support raising the state’s minimum wage (with differing approaches as to how, how much, and how soon). The issue of low-wage work is also taking center stage in downtown Providence, where workers in the Renaissance and Hilton hotels (both owned by The Procaccianti Group, whose lawyer sits on the board of the conservative RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity) are forming a union with UNITE HERE Local 217. The hotel workers -- like most low-wage workers -- are mostly women, and many are Latino immigrants. Given the significant clout that women, Latinos, and labor all have in local Democratic primary elections, the hotel workers’ struggle could provide candidates with a chance to show (and not just tell) what they stand for and who they stand with.

10. From WPRI.com digital reporter Ted Nesi: A long, long time ago – in a TGIF last March – Ian solicited my take "on the balance between information overload and the effectiveness of reporters' digital intake." For a while I planned to reply in TGIF's companion compendium on a Saturday morning. But I always ended up scrapping the unfinished item because I couldn't come up with something profound to say. The truth is, I struggle like most people to keep up with today's fast-flowing flood of information. I try to make sure my news diet is "high fiber," by reading a wide variety of sources and weeding out those that waste my time. There's no way any of us are ever going to read even a fraction of what's out there. We have to be ruthless in protecting our limited time and attention. How else can we keep up? That's why I don't follow too many Twitter accounts, and to manage the ones I do follow with lists. I also lean heavily on Instapaper, the indispensable save-for-later reading app. All day long I ship promising articles and posts into my Instapaper account, then dip into them on my browser, iPhone or iPad when I actually have the time to concentrate. (I also have my iPhone read the saved articles to me when I'm otherwise engaged, though Siri's robotic VoiceOver narration is very much an acquired taste.) Still, I think dealing with the challenges of modern time management is a small price to pay to get to live in an era where so much terrific content is available in an instant, most of it free. It's a boon not just to journalism, but also to citizenship, and it's opened up new opportunities for new voices to get heard. Reporters need to adapt like everyone else, and I think the ones who do so successfully will thrive.

11. From WPRI.com digital reporter Dan McGowan: When I was a kid, I really wanted to grow up to become a professional wrestler. But I wasn’t a giant or a millionaire or perfect, so I became a reporter. What I’ve learned is that Rhode Island politics and the WWE actually aren’t all that different (including the backstabbing, but minus the chair shots), and the storylines I was infatuated with growing up are eerily similar to the ones playing out in the Ocean State today. Here’s one: Every January, the WWE hosts its 30-man over-the-top-rope Royal Rumble where the winner gets to fight the world champion (think the incumbent) in the main event at WrestleMania (wrestling’s general election). But in 1992, there was no sitting title-holder, so the rumble match decided the world champion. While 30 wrestlers entered the match, even five-year-old Dan McGowan knew there were only really five possible winners (Rick Flair, Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Randy “Macho Man” Savage). Twenty-two years later, a real-life version of that match is playing out in the governor’s race with Governor Chafee (the defending champion) not seeking re-election, and five credible candidates (Raimondo, Taveras, Pell, Fung and Block) lining up to replace him. It’s too soon to say who’s who yet, but here’s hoping the winner’s victory speech matches this one.

12. From Bob Plain, major domo of the RI Future blog: Maybe those pesky Occupy Providence protesters were on to something. At the very least it seems they had their facts right. A state-by-state breakdown of the 1 percent released earlier this week showed that income inequality in Rhode Island had increased substantially in the two years, prior to local activists staging a months-long camp-in at Kennedy Plaza's Burnside Park. From 2009 to 2011, Rhode Islanders who make more than $287,311 a year (a.k.a., the 1 percent) saw an average increase of 17.3 percent, while those who make on average $41,958 a year (a.k.a. the 99 percent) saw a decline of 4.1 percent. That wasn't the most dramatic discrepancy in the nation, but in only four states did the 1 percent do better, and in only one (Nevada) did they do worse during that period. That ragtag collection of political activists and social misfits who occupied American cities for a spell in 2011 and 2012 have either moved on to other causes and adventures, or gone back to being ignored now that they aren't being a public nuisance. But it's worth noting that the president, the pope and the mainstream media (if not the General Assembly) are all talking about income inequality these days -- and oftentimes in the very terms made popular by the Occupy Wall Street movement. And here in Rhode Island, Occupy Providence, it was revealed earlier this week, had the facts on their side, too.

13. From Andrew Morse (contributor to the Anchor Rising blog): Despite the absolute sanctity with Judge Sarah-Taft Carter's gag order on participants in the pension settlement mediation has been treated by those participants, the limits of judicially imposed secrecy in court cases is not a settled matter amongst legal scholars. In the late 1990s, law professor Erwin Chemerinsky argued in a law review article that "gag orders on lawyers and parties are virtually always unconstitutional and thus should not be imposed." His context was criminal trials, and he did not believe even that protecting the important constitutional guarantee of a fair trial was adequate justification for most gag-order speech limitations. Indeed, in a comment very relevant to Rhode Island today, Chemerinsky wrote that "in a case receiving extensive media coverage, a gag order on lawyers might be counterproductive in that it deprives the press of an accurate source of information". A more recent 2006 article by law professor Laurie Kratky Dore directly addressed the issue of secrecy and “alternative dispute resolution” (the formal name for mediation and arbitration processes). When presenting the conventional case made for secrecy in mediation, Dore quoted a circuit-court opinion which argued that the mediation process requires that parties “be able to make hypothetical concessions, offer creative quid pro quos, and generally make statements that would otherwise belie their litigation efforts." While this rationale for secrecy might justify a ban on mediation participants talking about hypothetical concessions and creative quid-pro quos offered by their opposite numbers, Judge Taft-Carter’s extremely broad post-settlement gag-order extending to "any and all information disclosed in the course of the mediation" should not be presumed to be either sensible or constitutional; as Dore wrote, confidentiality “should not be used to shelter evidence relevant…to public health, welfare, or safety."

14. From Jon Pincince (law clerk in US Bankruptcy Court): Lilia Abbatematteo’s RI Future-published story of losing her home of more than 40 years is a sad one; she writes that despite her efforts to communicate with the bank about seeking a loan modification, the bank refused to work with her. As we all know, stories of difficult family and job circumstances leading to a strained budget and falling behind on the mortgage have been all too common in Rhode Island the last several years. What you may not know is that over the last four-plus years the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Rhode Island has helped hundreds of homeowners and lenders reach agreements that prevented foreclosures, kept people in their homes, and minimized costs to lenders. The Bankruptcy Court’s Loss Mitigation Program, in effect since 2009, is designed as a forum for homeowners who are debtors in the court and their lenders to reach a consensual resolution when a homeowner’s property is at risk of foreclosure. The program “encourages the parties to finalize a feasible and beneficial agreement under Bankruptcy Court protection” and “is intended to include the full range of solutions that may prevent either the loss of a debtor’s property to foreclosure, increased costs to the lender, or both.” The court does not force the parties to agree on a resolution; rather, it facilitates and requires good faith participation in the process. Over the first four years of the program, the court supervised the completion of 1,700 loss mitigation matters, and 620 of those cases resulted in loan modifications. While a 36 percent success rate may not sound impressive, homeowners appearing as debtors in Bankruptcy Court are by definition in challenging circumstances, and there is little doubt that many of those 620 homeowners would have lost their homes without participating in the program.

15. From David Dadekian of Eat Drink RI: At this point, raising Rhode Island’s food profile is mainly a matter of marketing and promotion as we as a state have been increasing our production quality, and quantity, exponentially over the past five to 10 years. The USDA has held Rhode Island up as a local farm-to consumer model for other states to take a look at. We have approximately 1,200 farms in Rhode Island, many with their own farm stands and many selling at the over 50 farmers’ markets in RI, several of which run almost year-round now. Our sustainable aquaculture system is, again, one of the top in the nation, thanks in no small part to farmers who wade out into salt ponds in February so that we can eat oysters and clams that rival those from seas around the world. The RI fishing fleet excels at catching great seafood while working as best as they can to make sure we have seafood for the future.Then there’s all the food and drink products created here. In putting together a list of local winemakers, brew masters and artisan food producers to invite to sample their RI-produced products at the Eat Drink RI Festival’s Grand Tasting I easily came up with more than 50 local businesses, and we’re still finding more companies to invite every day. As if all that isn’t enough, I haven’t even mentioned some of the most-acclaimed restaurants in the country are here in RI. So now we need to take our message and tell the country and the world that this is the place to come to not only taste the best, but to see how a community can make a food system that many consider broken, work again. I’m not saying we have all the answers yet but we are working on the right path and we should trumpet that as far and wide as we can. Food will help Rhode Island grow.

16. From Mike Stanton, professor of journalism at UConn and former ProJo investigative reporter: It's not exactly the O.K. Corral, but the Republican primary for Rhode Island governor has turned into a duel of sorts between Allan Fung and Ken Block, two one-time supporters of stricter gun laws now seeking to court gun-rights supporters who could be a potent voting bloc in a low-turnout GOP primary. As the Journal's Phil Marcelo pointed out Tuesday, Fung and Block cited their inexperience to explain their past support of stricter gun laws. Fung voted for a non-binding Cranston City Council resolution calling on Congress to renew its ban on assault weapons in 2004, while Block favored stricter gun measures on a 2010 candidate questionnaire and again after the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Now, both say they've educated themselves on the importance of preserving citizens' Second Amendment rights. Neither candidate this week addressed comments they made to the Journal's Kathy Gregg last fall criticizing the state GOP for raffling off guns at a political fundraiser, including a version of the weapon used in Newtown. Fung expressed "strong reservations." Block said the fundraiser "grossly missed the mark," and that the GOP needed to broaden its appeal to focus on the state's top priority: jobs. Judging from comments from some gun rights supporters, it's not clear how convincing Block's and Fung's conversion will be, or whether it could come back to bite the Republican nominee in November -- though one suspects the focus then will be on experience and the economy. One of last fall's gun raffle organizers, state Rep Doreen Costa, a strong gun-rights advocate, has invited Fung and Block to come out to the firing range with her. Block has accepted. No word yet from Fung, who says that since his 2004 opposition he has spent time at firing ranges and now considers himself a "recreational shooter."

17. From Brian C. Jones, who spent 36 years as a ProJo reporter: I was caught off guard this week Ted Nesi reported that A.H. Belo is close to selling the Providence Journal, with the Texas company expecting a deal by April or May. My reaction: So soon? While a sale was in the distant future, those of us who care about the role that the Journal has played in Rhode Island have been able to daydream about what a new owner might do with the newspaper, sort of the way Powerball players imagine how they’ll spend their jackpot millions -- until the inevitable day a winner is announced. My dream goes this way: the buyer will restore the Journal to its former glory: a news-gathering phenomenon, with hundreds of Digital Age journalists covering everything that moves in every city and town in Rhode Island; investigative teams chasing down scoundrels in courthouses, at  the State House, in the banks, even in hospital operating rooms; writers taking an entire year to find out how Hasbro makes toys; or reconstructing the awful origins of the Station fire; a newspaper, albeit imperfectly, looking into the soul of a state. The buyer’s qualifications? Number One, he or she will be a Rhode Islander, someone who demands state-of-the-art journalism – because it’s done so close to home. Number Two, the buyer will be a hands-on entrepreneur, like the business wizards who used Rhode Island to launch the American Industrial Revolution -- because journalism needs imagination to make reporting the news both indispensable and profitable. Number Three, the owner will be excited by the challenge of reinventing the Journal – and this enthusiasm will reignite Rhode Island’s economy and psyche. Sure, the odds are long. And the days grow short. In the meantime, it’s okay to dream.

18. From Peter Baptista (political operative and sports agent): Men’s hockey has traditionally been one of the most-watched Olympic events and it’s been a while since there wasn’t a Rhode Island connection with Team USA. This year is no different.  Assistant Coach Peter Laviolette closed out his professional playing career with three seasons skating for the Providence Bruins (1994-97) and later spent two years in the capital city as head coach of the P-Bruins (1998-2000), leading them to an AHL championship in his first season. Laviolette, a Massachusetts native, also skated for Team USA in the 1988 and 1994 Olympics.  Team USA’s Director of Player Personnel, Brian Burke, was born in Providence but raised in Minnesota.  He returned to Providence as a member of the PC Friars hockey team in the 70’s and served as their captain in 1977. Burke was General Manager of the 2010 men’s team that lost a heartbreaker in the gold medal game to Canada. There have been nine Rhode Islanders to suit up for the red, white, and blue in Olympic play, but none in the past 16 years.

19. From Thom Cahir (co-chair of the fund mentioned in this item): As this week marked the 11th anniversary of the Station Nightclub fire, the lack of coverage shows that the tragedy doesn't rate as news any more. The ProJo devoted just three inches on A-7 at the bottom inside of the page, and local television news made only cursory mentions. Maybe the local media could update the public on the memorial, highlight a survivor, or list the funds created in the wake of the fire that are still active. The Michael J. Gonsalves ’86 Fund at Rhode Island College is one such fund; set up to assist anyone directly affected by the fire. Details can be found on the RIC Foundation website, or emailing me at thomcahir@cox.net. Applications will be accepted through June 1. Help is still available; those affected just need to find it for themselves.

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