TGIF: 12 Things to Know About Rhode Island Politics + Media

Apr 12, 2013

Happy Friday and welcome back. Your tips and thoughts are always appreciated in my inbox at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org. Let's dive in.

1. One of the quirks in gun debate is the question of whether Americans need to be armed against their fellow citizens. "We have an obligation to defend ourselves, our families, our country, our neighborhoods, whatever, " state Representative Michael Chippendale (R-Foster) said during this week's RIPR Bonus Q+A. He says "a very great example in the use of assault weapons" came when citizens of LA's Koreatown defended that neighborhood from its rooftops during a 1992 riot. Chippendale added a little later, "If I tell you that some time down the road there may be a despotic ruler in the US or in a certain state, you might roll your eyes at that, too.  But that is precisely why the Second Amendment was put in place." Not surprisingly, Teny Gross, head of the Providence-based Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, has a different perspective, as he told me this week: "As far as I know [the US] is the first democracy on the planet that is actually saying you should arm yourself against your own citizens. That is actually outlandish. I'm surprised there's not more outrage about that."

2. The looming Democratic primary for secretary of state between Ed Pacheco and Guillaume de Ramel is more than a little reminiscent of the 2002 tilt between Ed Inman and Matt Brown. This time, Pacheco is the insider with party establishment support. de Ramel is the deep-pocketed outsider touting a civic impulse. The outsider might point to how the insider already raised some money in 2012 while holding his perch as state Democratic chairman. Meanwhile, the ProJo's Kathy Gregg reported on Pacheco giving up his stipend and health benefits in late February.

3. Rep Chippendale says he plans to introduce a bill later this month that would require armed resource officers in every K-12 school in Rhode Island ... The rep also took part in a spirited discussion about guns with Rep Linda Finn (D-Middletown) this week on WPRI/WNAC-TV's Newsmakers (online now).

4. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras calls the final approval Friday of the Providence pension deal "the end of a long, long road." That sentiment is understandable, given the distance traveled since Taveras convened a meeting of retirees at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in March 2012. Yet Providence still faces other fiscal challenges; Taveras won't rule out a property tax hike in his latest budget. He also vows the city will "finish the job" in eliminating a lingering structural deficit.

5. It's easy to forget this in these better-behaved in-between campaign days. Yet if nothing else,Ted Siedle's sharp critique of Gina Raimondo (firmly rejected by the treasurer) is a reminder that Rhode Island's race for governor next year is bound to get quite nasty.

6. Who placed this online ad looking for a finance director for a 2014 governor's race in New England? Moderate Party founder Ken Block tells me it wasn't him.

7. Departing ProJo executive editor Tom Heslin offered some rare public insight into the inner thinking of the statewide daily when he spoke to an annual meeting of Common Cause of Rhode Island in 2009. Heslin started by riffing on how he learned the journalistic credo of THWITB -- The Hard Way is The Best -- as a young reporter. He offered a bullish message to the gathering at Rhodes, saying in part, "We aspire to be the news organization that sets the public agenda. This is the mirror. We are the big picture. Rhode Island needs our news organization to remain alert." Audience members were more skeptical. During the ensuing Q+A, one reader said cuts in local coverage meant his town got mentioned only when there was a bad accident or serious crime there. There were pointed questions about how to remain economically competitive in the Internet era. This is the landscape greeting Karen Bordeleau as she prepares to formally take the reins from Heslin as executive editor later this month. It's worth noting she joined the paper in 1996, around the time when Dallas-based Belo bought the ProJo (mostly for its string of more profitable TV stations). The Journal retains a number of talented reporters, even after waves of departures and cutbacks. In a time of diminished resources, the trick, it seems, is producing more of the  sit-up-and-take-notice reporting that gave the ProJo its good name in the first place.

8. House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed hedged their bets during the introduction Tuesday of a nine-point plan intended to curb gun-related violence. They expressed personal support for the initiative, while also repeatedly calling it the starting point for a broader conversation. Which of the nine related bills might become law remains open to question.

9. Micro-apartments are getting a lot of buzz in Boston, in part since the cost of rentals there is pretty steep; The Arcade is introducing the trend here in RI. Could a wider flowering of these units give Providence a boost?

10. It hardly seemed coincidental that Paiva Weed used a conversation with the ProJo's Mike Stanton last Sunday to outline plans for a vote by the full Senate on same-sex marriage in the next few weeks. If TPW was opaque in reshaping the Judiciary Committee, her specificity on the floor vote sends a different message. The Senate leadership may well want to resolve the issue before the budget and well in advance of the 2014 campaign season.

11. If you love public radio and want to support it, consider RIPR's spring fundraiser, this Thursday, April 18 (tickets $50), featuring NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith, great local food, and some cool raffle prizes.

12. Along with Scott MacKay, Ted Nesi, and others, I'll be part of a panel during a Brown University conference Saturday, April 13 (3:30 pm) on student political participation and empowerment. It's at Room 102 in Wilson Hall on the main campus green.