Rhode Island’s Woman of the Year

Thursday, January 04, 2018


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Governor Gina Raimondo, RI's Woman of the Year

Gina Raimondo is the most divisive person in Rhode Island. She won the Governor’s office with just over 40 percent of the vote, after winning the Democratic primary with about the same percentage.

In 2018, after serving in office for three years, she would be happy to have a 40 percent approval rate.

She is either trying to force Rhode Island’s economy into a modern structure -- more diversified and more aligned with the future of business -- or she is a handing out taxpayers subsidies to wealthy cronies, like she is running a ‘candy store.’

The truth may be somewhere in the middle. 

One thing for sure is her wins are big -- or claim to be -- and her losses are gruesome.

On the success side, her RI Promise program to provide two years of free college tuition to all in-state students at Rhode Island colleges and universities got pared down to just the Community Colleges of Rhode Island. The smaller program looks to be an early success -- somewhere under 2,000 students are now attending the Community College for free.

Other "wins" including economic development subsidies to Johnson & Johnson, Wexford, General Electric, Infosys, and Virgin Pulse. The total subsidies are in the tens of millions for companies that do billions annually in revenue. The impact won’t be known for some time — and the subsidies are always controversial.

The third area in which Raimondo can take a bow is infrastructure. Between RhodeWorks, historic tax credits, and Rebuild Rhode Island, her initiatives have put a lot of Rhode Islanders in the construction trades back to work -- but again, not without controversy. The danger is that all of the projects are subsidized and when the subsidies go away, so will the trades jobs. It may be an artificial economy. No one builds a significant project in Rhode Island with just tens of millions in subsidies.  The sad truth.

On the failure side, the loses are starting to mount. First, the UHIP techno-nightmare is a staggering black eye for a Governor who if nothing else claims competency as a top trait. Now, the federal court has intervened and the control of the program has been placed in the hands of a special master. This raises questions about both about Raimondo’s instincts -- and compassion for Rhode Island’s most needy.

Like UHIP, the Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) has blood on its hands and much of it is tied to the failure to properly staff the department by Raimondo appointees like Jamia MacDonald.  By trying to show a budget windfall by not filling vacancies, the impact caused greater costs and harm. Babies and the most vulnerable have died because Rhode Island did not properly staff the state agency.

Similarly, management of the state budget has been inconsistent at best and directionless at worse. Is the PawSox a priority? Is staffing DCYF? No one knows for sure. The only thing one can expect is a $200 plus million deficit this coming fiscal year.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, questions are emerging about ethics. GoLocal has unveiled a vast web of business interests being directly tied to top Raimondo staffers. The most blatant is “Smiley, Inc.” — the complex network of political consulting businesses owned by Raimondo’s chief of staff Brett Smiley. At a bare minimum, it looks terrible and reeks of a structure of political favoritism. One cannot imagine this continuing under an ethical Governor.

Raimondo is a lightning rod. Nothing she does is grey. Some like her, but according to polling conducted by Harvard’s John Della Volpe in October commissioned by GoLocal, the vast majority of Rhode Islanders think is only doing a “fair” or “poor" job as Governor and most think that state is on the wrong track.  Just six percent believe she is doing an “excellent “job as Governor.

To win re-election Raimondo must connect to Rhode Islanders — they must feel that she is working in their best interests and not in the best interest of donors, large out-of-state corporate entities, and Smiley Inc.

Her talents, initiatives, failures, and controversies make her relevant to everyone in Rhode Island.  And out of Rhode Island -- the Republican Governors Association has her high on their list of targets in 2018. 

For all of these reasons, Governor Gina Raimondo is the 2017 Rhode Island Woman of the Year.


Other nominees:

Helana Foulkes - CVS. For involvement in helping to create one the biggest corporations in America.

Carolyn Rafaelian -- Forbes dubbed her the "Bangle Billionaire." Now she is launching a new restaurant venture.


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