Philly fiasco continues to have repercussions

Posted 6/22/23

STORY OF THE WEEK: The after-life of the March trip by two Rhode Island officials to Philadelphia continued to echo loudly. After an initial burst of media coverage, the story got picked up by the …

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Philly fiasco continues to have repercussions


STORY OF THE WEEK: The after-life of the March trip by two Rhode Island officials to Philadelphia continued to echo loudly. After an initial burst of media coverage, the story got picked up by the Washington Post, New York Times and any number of other outlets. “A breathtaking case of ‘too rude for Philly’” is how Muck Rack Daily summed up the behavior attributed to the Rhode Islanders. Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Stephanie Farr parried with her own list of rude demands for Rhode Island (“Change your name. Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island. It is a state of lies and Philadelphia demands it change its name. We suggest: Notanisland, Teenytinychusetts, or Quahog.”) And the ProJo’s Mark Patinkin — who’s seen more than his share of local scandals — wrote a spot-on apology to Philly, mixing humor and outrage, while noting how Rhode Islanders are among those appalled by the situation. As the week unfolded, former Department of Administration head James Thorsen released a statement denying that he engaged in bad conduct attributed to him. While David Patten behaved strangely during a meeting with Scout Ltd, Thorsen said, he pressed on with the meeting due to time constraints. Through his lawyer, Patten later revealed he was resigning from his state job. Gov. Dan McKee tried to regain control of the narrative, with his team saying in a statement that McKee initiated the probe into Patten’s conduct, called for Patten’s resignation and expedited Patten’s removal from state service. Regardless, the shelf life of the Philadelphia story is far worse for Rhode Island’s out-of-town reputation than, say, the Cooler and Warmer tourism slogan fiasco during the Raimondo administration. As CD1 candidate Don Carlson noted in a statement, the revelations about the trip include accusations of racism, sexism and corruption. He added: “The people of Rhode Island deserve so much better.”

Sabina Matos’ campaign released a polling memo (but not the entire poll) showing her with a lead in the race

… Aaron Regunberg unveiled what he called the first union endorsement in the race, from Communications Workers of America, Local 1400 … Gabe Amo continued his #GabeontheRoad foray into retail politics, talking with voters in Lincoln, Providence and North Providence … Sen. Ana Quezada formally launched her run with a string of events … Nick Autiello is on the air with what appears to be the first commercial in the race … Sen. Sandra Cano received the endorsement of Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien and a host of other Pawtucket officials.

Amo’s story of going from Pawtucket to Pennsylvania Avenue is well known among political junkies in RI. But the former aide to Gina Raimondo, Barack Obama and Joe Biden faces the same challenge as many of his CD1 peers – boosting his name recognition in a limited amount of time before the Sept. 5 primary. Amo is a good talker and he said he thinks he can win over voters. During an interview on Political Roundtable, we discussed his campaign and related topics. Not surprisingly, he gives Raimondo an A for her previous work as RI governor. Asked about how RI still faces familiar problems, particularly under-performing public schools and an absence of clearly defined engines of job growth, Amo said, “I think government is a marathon and she has now passed the baton. And this is why I'm in the race, because there is work to do. And I think, even though there are certain parts of her mission that weren't necessarily complete, we have the opportunity to elect someone like me, who wants to invest in our people, do everything in their power. I will tap into my experience and the reservoir of knowledge that I have about our federal programs, about our opportunities here in our state to take advantage of this opportunity to invest here in Rhode Island.”

The General Assembly reverted to form on the final day of the 2023 calendar, concluding business at almost 2 a.m. last Friday, well after most people had gone to bed. The $14 billion budget sailed through both chambers, although the respective GOP leaders offered different views on the spending plan. The sharpest debate on the final day centered on iGaming, and a number of issues moved forward – stiffer penalties for wage theft, clarifying shoreline access, and lead pipe replacement, to name a few. Payday lending reform went farther than it had ever before, winning an overwhelming vote in the House, while dying an orphan in the Senate. A LEOBOR update cleared the Senate, but not the House. And to the chagrin of gun safety activists, bills promoting safe storage of guns and a ban on new sales of military-style rifles did not get a vote.

The 30,000+ square foot second floor at 75 Fountain St. -- once filled with reporters, editors and photographers for The Providence Journal -- is being offered for lease. Terms are negotiable.

The RI League of Cities and Towns is calling on Gov. McKee to veto a bill that offers a presumptive benefit for firefighters who develop heart disease and hypertension. Supporters say the legislation is justified, given the nature of the work. In a statement, RILCT head Ernie Almonte said the measure will prove costly for local taxpayers. No comment yet from McKee’s office.

TAKES OF THE WEEK – various views from Rhode Island.

Strategist and consultant CARA CROMWELL:
“On Thursday night, Duffy & Shanley celebrated 50 years in business, an especially notable achievement because only four New England PR and advertising agencies have reached that milestone. I was especially pleased to have a laugh with Dave Duffy, the firm’s founder, who hired me as an intern more than 30 years ago (gulp). “Big Dave” has been delightfully all-in on doing good things for Rhode Island for far more than 50 years and his favorite joke was that pro bono was the firm’s fastest growing book of business. Despite the festive backdrop, the chatter in the room was ‘why we can’t have nice things.’ There was disappointment from the media types that they CD-1 race was not more exciting and that the candidates seemed content to do as little work as possible. Others remarked that the ‘vegan cheese n’ sneakers’ story was another black eye that our state just doesn’t need. There was more than a little disappointment around some of the bills that were and were not coming out of the General Assembly this year. On the ride home (while devouring a Dunkin Donut emblazoned with a D&S logo), I was replaying the discouraging chatter in my head. Maybe I’m a Pollyanna, but I think that if we want committed candidates, ethical government and good policy, we need to engage: help out on a campaign, speak up when someone behaves badly, go to the State House instead of grumbling on Facebook. In other words, be more like Big Dave and there will certainly be more good things to celebrate in the years to come.”

National Education Association Rhode Island Executive Director MARY BARDEN: “As students and educators put the finishing touches on their school year and legislators finalized a flurry of bills, I am completing my first year as executive director of the largest labor union in Rhode Island, with 12,000 varied and indefatigable members who are committed to improving the quality of life in the Ocean State. I’ve learned that whether it’s working with NEARI members, community partners, school committees, or lawmakers, sometimes needs can be met with a quick fix. Many times, and more often, change is incremental, and it takes a willingness to work together. Frustrating, sure, but you advocate, you move the needle, you organize, and you live to fight another day toward effective and meaningful change. Rhode Island’s strength comes from our ability to work together — bringing together people from different places and different races — to fight for the future we envision statewide and in our local school districts. When we elect leaders who deliver better healthcare for our families, resource our public schools, provide the services our families need, protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, and advance respectful wages, we are building communities where we all can thrive.”

Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis@ripr.org

politics, Donnis, op-ed


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