Don Roach: 5 Big Stories Facing RI in 2014
Wednesday, January 01, 2014
I’ve decided to take a look at the top 5 stories in 2014. At the end of 2014, we’ll take a look back and see if I was right or if other stories dominated the headlines.
Governor Chafee has had three years to proactively help the economy or create an environment where businesses want to come to Rhode Island. In my opinion, he has done neither in three years. The latest unemployment figures show that RI Unemployment is at 9.0%. When Chafee took office RI unemployment was at 11.4 percent so should we consider a 2.4 percentage point movement (about a 20 percent decrease) a victory? Well compared to national numbers we’ve pretty much moved with the trend, if not a little behind. In January 2011, national unemployment was at 9.1 percent and as of November 2013 it was at 7.0 percent . That is about a 23 percent decrease.
That says to me, nothing our Governor has done, nothing our General Assembly has done, has affected our local economy above and beyond the national movement of jobs. That’s not good enough, and it’s my hope that in 2014 someone will make the economy a priority. I will say this to as many people who will listen, our government needs to talk to buisinesses as ask what we can do to create a pro-business environment . Check out what the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and others released last month as Rhode Island’s advantages for the business community. We’ve got to do a better job in bringing jobs to RI so the 5,000 people who are about to lose their unemployment benefits can go back to work .
Our economic progress or not will be a huge story in 2014. Huge.
The 2014 Governor’s race will be one of the most interesting races we’ve been in a part of in decades. In the race, you have a who’s who of RI political talent. From Gina Raimondo to Ken Block, choices – viable choices – abound for us. While I think the choices and candidates in 2014 represent one of the strongest fields in recent memory, the story in 2014 will be who is best able to get their message out to Rhode Islanders in a way that connects with voters. Each of the major candidates – and Ken Block, I’ll include you as a major candidate – has their supporters and their detractors. On the GOP side, will Ken Block be able to lure Republican voters from Allan Fung? How will he answer the questions around his commitment to be a Republican when you might remember this commercial from his 2010 campaign? Will Rhode Islanders care as our sitting governor has been a Republican, Independent, and Democrat within the last 10 years. Next week, Block & Fung will be presenting their case to the Cranston Republican city committee. I’ll be providing some analysis of that event in next week’s column.
On the Democratic side, both Taveras and Raimondo have made major moves – Taveras moved the city away from bankruptcy (thank you again, David Cicilline) while Raimondo led pension reform. However, each candidate has a growing group of disaffected Rhode Islanders who no longer trust them. I suspect that during the 2014 primary, each will swing hard at the other and that may damage both of them in the general election.
This is going to be fun.
Education has been and will continue to be a significant issue in 2014. I’m going to do my best to keep it at the forefront with “My Education Crusade” series as I go across the state speaking with with parents, students, teachers, and administrators. But like the economy, I believe many Rhode Islanders feel helpless to do anything about education for whatever reason.
I’m going to keep this one short as I hope we step up in Rhode Island and really make this one of the feel-good stories of 2014.
The GOP Renaissance
I’ve been waiting to use “GOP Renaissance” for a long time. If you’d asked me in 2006 would we ever see the day when GOPers could seriously impact General Assembly/local races, I’d have said that day would never come. But, one of the stories in 2014 will be that Republicans became relevant in Rhode Island again. Maybe “again” is the wrong word. Perhaps better would be that Republicans will become relevant for the first time in Rhode Island in 2014.
Voter ID Law or something else
We haven’t heard too much about the Voter ID law that passed in 2011 since its passage. Just kidding! Since 2011, many on the left have been trying to get this law repealed, amended, and have tried to tell us all how bad it is for poor people and minorities. Side note - I’m beginning to think that the left believes any action that has any hint of individual responsibility attached to it is bad for minorities and poor people. I’m really offended by that notion. Nevertheless, the Secretary of State website lists the valid ID’s that will be accepted at polling locations beginning in 2014. But just yesterday, Speaker Fox said he supports repealing the law so we’ll see if anything happens during the 2014 legislative season to change the law.
If the General Assembly makes an issue of this it’ll be a significant story in 2014 and how the gubernatorial candidates address the issue will be interesting as well considering the position of each candidate’s base with respect to Voter ID.
Or…something else will be a major story in 2014.
Call me chicken, but I figured I couldn’t do worse than one outta five if I included an “or something else” that will dominate the headlines in 2014. It’s my column so I can do that. In the comments section below, what you can do is say what you think we’ll be talking about in 2014?
We’ll check in at the end of 2014 to see who was right.
Don Roach can be reached at email@example.com . Feel free to follow him on Twitter @donroach34
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