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

Apr 11, 2014

Just another quiet Friday in Rhode Island. Thanks for stopping by for my weekly column. Your tips and thoughts are always welcome and you can follow me all week long on the twitters. Let's head in.

1. Barring an unexpected development, the breakdown in mediation means Rhode Island's pension battle will play out in court. As it happens, the September 15 trial date in Superior Court just happens to fall six days after the September 9 primary. So the unsettled nature of the pension dispute promises to become a prominent issue in the race for governor. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo made her political reputation through the 2011 overhaul of the state pension system -- and the fate of that overhaul is now far from certain. Raimondo can argue that she tried to salvage the overhaul through the settlement announced in February. Meanwhile, the campaign of her main rival, Angel Taveras, continues to tout him as someone who prefers negotiating, rather than legislating, pension changes. Each argument will find its share of subscribers -- even if the ultimate fate of the 2011 overhaul won't be decided for a few more years, after ultimately landing with the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

2. The main takeaway from a string of polls over the last year is how the Democratic primary for governor remains very much for grabs between Raimondo and Taveras. Still, it's worth noting how the percentage of undecided voters has increased in the latest Brown poll to 35.2 percent, up from 25.6 percent last October -- and that's since Clay Pell joined the fray.

3. Could the seeming similarity between the main contenders contribute to indecision among voters? During a Monday candidates forum sponsored by the Economic Progress Institute, Taveras, Raimondo and Pell endorsed such concepts as supporting early childhood education, fighting income inequality, and promoting affordable health care. When the EPI's Linda Katz asked the candidates how they'd fund the continuation of HealthSourceRI, the state's version of Obamacare, Pell and Taveras said they would make it a priority as governor. Raimondo was a little more specific, saying that elements of HealthSourceRI that let consumers compare prices and quality might need to be farmed out.

4. Thousands of pages of depositions by former EDC director Keith Stokes and other key figures in the 38 Studios case could become public if Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein agrees to a request by the Providence Journal and the House Oversight Committee. During a hearing this morning, lawyer Max Wistow, who was hired by the state to try to cut taxpayers' losses from the failed video game company, invoked a March tweet by Curt Schilling to buttress his call for making the records public. ("In the 38 case in RI," Schilling tweeted, "Why and how is anyone allowed to keep anything related to any part of this secret or under lock and key #truthsetsufree." The irony is how Schilling has himself opposed making public the depositions.   

5. First, Sheldon Whitehouse went to Iowa. Now, Whitehouse is planning a trip to New Hampshire. Whitehouse "is definitely not running for president -- not even remotely close to a possibility," says the senator's spokesman, Seth Larson. Rather, the Granite State trip is another attempt by Whitehouse to focus attention on the issue of climate change. "It's really about representing Rhode Island on this issue," Larson says, and trying to elevate the dialogue in other states -- just like with his Southern road trip planned for later this month.

6. Did former House majority leader George Caruolo of East Providence and former House chief of staff Frank Anzeveno try to rally support for state Representative Michael Marcello's faction in its attempt to win the speaker fight last month? "I don't even know George Caruolo," Marcello says. "What they did behind the scenes, I have no idea. I'm happy if they did try to support me, but again, I was going to be a reformer no matter who supported me." Marcello commented during an appearance this week on RIPR's Bonus Q+A.

7. If 2002 is any example, the September 9 primary could decide the Providence mayoral race. While a lot can happen between now and then, City Council President Michael Solomon (who has surpassed the $600,000 mark in his war chest) may have the best foundation to succeed Angel Taveras at City Hall. The best-funded candidates in Rhode Island don't always win state and local races. So the broad coalition of supporters assembled by Solomon, including as unlikely an ally as Ward 10 Councilor Luis Aponte, is also worth noting. (In one example of how the two have made common cause, both Solomon and Aponte both supported an override last month of Taveras' veto of an affordable housing ordinance.

8. Don't miss RIPR's environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza report this week on how the liquor industry remains opposed to efforts to develop farm-based breweries and wineries in Rhode Island.

9. The news that Woonsocket-based CVS paid $20 million to settle a case with the Securities and Exchange Commission did not get a whole lot of attention in Rhode Island this week. 

10. Do a higher percentage of people vote in Afghanistan than in the US? Yes. Take it away, Jon Stewart.