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Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in RI Politics?

Friday, November 01, 2013


Mark Smiley and the RI GOP are hot for getting the local HQ ready for action--so let's see how many RIers will join the team for the election season.

Every Friday, Dan Lawlor breaks down who's rising and who's falling in the world of Rhode Island politics. Check out who made the lists this week.


Stephanie Gonzalez, Tia Ristano-Siegel, Shelby Maldanado, Ann Racquier, and Tammi Johnson: Central Falls is notable in that a majority of candidates for its November 5th city council election are women, newcomers, and, oddly enough, without any opponents. While many General Assembly candidates next fall won't have opponents, wouldn't it be great if most running were newcomers and women! 

Ken Block: Love him or hate him, the Moderate turned GOP candidate will be a force in the 2014 race. With a personal investment of $500,000 in the campaign coffers, expect Block to make a big run in the GOP primary - but does he have the team on the ground to beat Fung, let alone the Democratic winner? If politics doesn't work out, he could be a big time RI philanthropist, like the team at Alex and Ani. 

Charles Brent Runyon: The Providence Preservation Society has a new executive director. PPS has a great history of fighting to preserve historic structures. With so many beautiful, decaying buildings throughout the city (from public schools to empty synagogues), join Runyon to help keep that sparkle in the Creative Capital. 

Deborah Perry/Nowell Academy: Kudos to Perry's work with Nowell Academy! The new charter school held its formal dedication this week, celebrating "a quality educational option for students who have struggled to succeed in Rhode lsland's traditional public high schools, especially those dealing with teenage pregnancy and parenting, family care-taking responsibilities, domestic abuse, lack of family support and other family-related challenges." If successful, Nowell could be a national model for alternative learning. 

UNITE Here & Jobs with Justice: The labor coalition scored a big victory this week with a public hearing by the Providence City Council on special tax treaties. Numerous big players downtown - from the Providence Place Mall to GTECH - have been deemed too big to pay property tax. Regular residents are leading the charge in asking: Is this fair? 

Mark Smiley/RI GOP: Congrats to local Republican leaders for spearheading a revamp of their Warwick headquarters to include training space, phone bank rooms, and new computers. Now, how many people can be convinced to join the GOP in their new digs? 

Candy: According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spend over $2 billion on candy during the Halloween season. Don't tell me we can't find $3.4 million to end chronic homelessness. 


Susan Lusi/PPSD: Lusi is proposing to close Alvarez High School, but not because it is built on a monitored toxic waste site. No, because of middle school overcrowding (caused by district school closings) Lusi now wants to put middle schoolers into Alvarez and shuffle the high school students across the city. The district had anticipated the number of middle school students to decline—I guess central office failed the arithmetic portion of the NECAP.

Angel Taveras: The Mayor announced for governor on Monday, and administration powerplayers Arianne Lynch and Matt Jerzyk both gave resignations on Wednesday. Alongside the staff shake-up and just prior to his announcement for governor, a commission to solve the neighborhood pool problem mysteriously appeared. Late timing on neighborhood issues, and losing two trusted aides. Not good. 

Procaccianti Group (TPG): The locally based real estate firm, with a portfolio of $5 billion, was fined by OSHA for exposing workers at the Renaissance Hotel to hazardous chemicals, and has allegedly violated the First Source ordinance. Oh yes, and TPG receives a controversial $9 million tax break from the city.

Magistrates: Despite all the (warranted) hullabaloo around former Lt. Governor Richard Licht's quest to become a Superior Court Judge, at least a separate committee is reviewing his nomination. Magistrates, on the other hand, are simply suggested by a current Judge and voted in by the State Senate. Numerous alums of the legislature are making a lot of money in our judicial system, with very little vetting. 

Department of Administration: The DOA is spending state money to replace 2,000 square feet of grass around the State House with a parking lot. State law actually requires the DOA to implement and report on "a state government plan to reduce "drive alone" commuting and an increase in carpooling, transit use, and walk-to-work modes." I fail to see how more parking spaces meets this goal.

Moderate Party: Ken Block once declared (with truth!), "The two main political parties swipe at each other and play partisan games (as much as one can when one party controls more than 80% of legislative seats), but the parties fail to act as beacons for how to fix our state."  With Block, and his $500,000 campaign money, now in the GOP, is there still hope for the third party? Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."


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