TGIF: 10 Things to Know About Rhode Island Politics + Media

Aug 9, 2013

Welcome back to my Friday politics + media column. As always, you can reach me at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org. Let's head in.

1. Documents presented to the House Oversight Committee by the EDC for a hearing this week reinforced questions about the viability of 38 Studios' business plan and the ensuing oversight by the Economic Development Corporation. Afterwards, reactions varied. Representative Michael Chippendale of Foster -- the only Republican on the committee -- said a lot more information is need to make sense of the 38 Studios mess. A member of Occupy Providence called the process a whitewash meant to protect the powerful. Oversight Chairman Michael Marcello described the presentation as significant. Although key players like former governor Don Carcieri and former EDC director Keith Stokes have not yet been formally asked to appear, Marcello defended the committee against questions about whether it can conduct a probing inquiry of a controversy involving the General Assembly. "I'm trying the best I can the in the confines we have," he said. "I think we're doing a very good job. We've got [legislative] staff that's working on it, we've got documents. Some of the documents you probably haven't heard from before. I'm trying to be as open and honest as I possibly can be. Look, the facts are going to come out one way or other -- whether they be through this committee or a lawsuit, so there really isn't anything to hide or nefarious about it." 

2. When the sale of Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos crossed my radar screen this week, it was in the form of an initial lone tweet -- making me half-wonder if the news was a joke. A flurry of news and commentary followed, demonstrating how the acquisition was just as factual as Red Sox principal owner John Henry's snapping up a few days earlier of the Boston Globe. The interest of biz savants who know how to make money is viewed auspiciously by some. Yet the long-range outlook for even successful newspapers like the Globe (whose sale price dropped from $1.1 billion in 1993 to $70 million this time around) remains murky at best.

3. State Treasurer Gina Raimondo tells Jim Taricani that if she does run for governor next year, it won't be as an independent. That's a different line from when Raimondo, in an interview with me last December, declined to rule out the possibility of a party switch.

4. Upon his pending departure from the ProJo, Mike Stanton is being remembered mostly for his investigative reporting and his Buddy Cianci biography. But Rhode Island being the quirky place that it is, Stanton can't seem to shake from his head some of the satirical tunes he penned over the years for the annual Providence Newspaper Guild Follies. Two of his favorites were about former governor Bruce Sundlun, a quite colorful character who married multiple times; One was "Viagra," sung to the tune of "Maria" from West Side Story. The other was "Guv Child," sung to the tune of Diana Ross's "Love Child" ("Started my life in the warm backseat of a corporate jet") -- a riff on how Sundlun was the subject of a paternity suit during his second term in office. Stanton also once graced the Venus de Milo stage in the persona of Dominick Ruggerio, but that's another story ....

5. AOL-owned Patch is expected to begin selling or closing 300 underperforming local news sites. It remains unclear what the fallout will be in Rhode Island, following a big expansion in 2010. For one example of the fine work done by Patch reporters hereabouts, consider Mark Schieldrop's recent report on how the son of Cranston Democratic City chairman Michael Sepe got a plum appointment.

6. RI GOP National Committeeman Steven Frias of Cranston has been elected to a spot on the Republican National Committee's budget committee. With the RNC set to hold a regional meeting in Boston next week, Frias says he plans to push Republicans to pursue a 50-state strategy. There's nowhere to go but up in New England, where the GOP has lost a lot ground in both congressional seats and legislatures like the General Assembly.

7. RIPR's Flo Jonic is a great journalistic storyteller. Listen for her feature next Tuesday morning, August 13, on the current state of Rhode Island's jewelry industry.

8. Ernie Almonte, a candidate next year for state treasurer, joined us this week for RIPR's Political Roundtable and Bonus Q+A. Almonte is running as a Democrat, while rival Frank Caprio hasn't yet indicated whether he'll be seeking the office as a Democrat, Republican or independent.

9. Trying to get funding for preventing violence is much more difficult than getting money for the after-the-fact response, as Teny Gross acknowledged when I wrote the first story about the Providence streetworkers program, back in 2003. In the 10 years since, Gross has seen funding for the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence wax and wane. The value of the Institute can be seen in how visitors came from Chicago and Newark this week to learn about its approach. To hear Gross articulate the effort, check his recent interview with PBN.

10. West Warwick was a buzz of industry and Warwick a quieter place when the former split from the latter in 1913. A century later, WW remains on the front lines of municipal financial woes, and Warwick looks pretty good by comparison,. West Warwick is nonetheless preparing for a Centennial Ball on September 20 at -- where else? -- the Valley Inn. Organizers, including co-chair Mike Levesque -- say the proceeds from tickets ($75) will go to charity.