TGIF: 11 Things to Know About Rhode Island Politics + Media

Jun 14, 2013

Welcome back to my weekly column. You can find me on Twitter. Let's head in.

1. Any hopes for an early end to the legislative session have vanished. Speaker Gordon Fox's office puts the explanation on how state revenues are running $30 million below expectations, although House Minority Leader Brian Newberry says debate about 38 Studios is the issue. A number of contentious issues hang in the balance, including the question whether there will be cuts to the RIte Care health-care coverage for families or other social programs. A few of the other lingering issues include Sakonnet River Bridge tolls, clashing visions on economic development, historic tax credits, gun legislation and payday lending.

2. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Gina Raimondo have a few things in common: they've emerged as the new stars of Rhode Island politics since winning election in 2010; They're the most popular elected officials in the state; And each would be a pioneer as the winner of next year's race for governor -- Taveras as the first Latino in the post, and Raimondo as the first woman in the job. Yet we got a reminder this week of one key difference between the two: Taveras presides over a time-bomb factory where thorny issues suddenly emerge; Raimondo leads a quieter place where she has more discretion in charting her path.

3. The Providence Phoenix's new news editor, Phil Eil ("Isle"), knocked it out of the park with one of the week's most compelling reads: an insightful look at the recent case in which a woman attacked an ABC6 news crew. As his story shows, smart observers can interpret the situation in different ways. Eil added complexity by going far and wide in his sourcing, providing an interview with the woman at the center of the controversy, community activists, and by following up with more. (I tried to offer this kind of context in my own time doing media reporting/criticism at the Phoenix.) So while alt-weeklies face an uncertain future, Eil's story shows how they also remain suited for offering reporting not seen elsewhere.

4. Congratulations to Jennifer Paolino, daughter of former mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr., who is engaged to Jon Romano of Fix the Debt (h/t Mike Allen).

5. Freshman Senator William Conley of East Providence emerged as a significant factor in the passage of same-sex marriage legislation. Now he's involved in another headline-grabbing issue. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin's office hired Conley to represent the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH) in connection with the US Justice Department investigation that began with the TTP program for the developmentally disabled. Kilmartin spokesman Amy Kempe declined to specify the conflict that led the AG's office to hire Conley, rather than representing the department itself. Kempe says Conley was chosen because of his experience, areas of expertise, and competitive rates -- $150 an hour.

6. Rhode Island -- better as a measuring unit than a land of smart transportation planning? Jef Nickerson has 10 reasons why the Apponaug Circulator backed by Governor Lincoln Chafee is "not ready to go." (Background from Ted Nesi here.)

7. The Roosevelt Society, which says it's trying to "raise the bar" of center-right politics in Rhode Island, launches a lecture series at the Providence Marriott June 23 with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Crystal Wright, who blogs at Conservative Black Chick. Via news release, the Roosevelt Society says, "Both of our guests will be discussing how the center-right movements can improve their engagement of, and effectiveness in, the inner cities and urban areas."

8. Speaking of Fung, his expected campaign for governor got good news this week when Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said he can't vote for his pal, Governor Chafee.

9. House Minority Leader Brian Newberry joined us this week for RIPR's Political Roundtable and Bonus Q+A. Though Republicans hold just 11 of 113 seats in the General Assembly, he says the GOP's struggles are a bit overstated. Newberry says national races hurt the local Republican cause in 2006, 2008, and 2012. When the party made gains in 2010, he says, it wasn't prepared to take advantage of the situation by recruiting and funding candidates. Newberry hopes for better results in 2014 from a combination of the GOP's 2012 effort and the atmosphere in 2010.

10. Jim Martin, spokesman for US Attorney Peter Neronha, doubles as the PA announcer at the home of the Boston Bruins.

11. This week on Newsmakers at WPRI/WNAC-TV, a conversation with state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist.