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

Friday, January 31, 2014


HOT: Former Mayor Joe Paolino

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.


Michael Solomon - Wait? Did I just hear an elected official say he would fix our broken, leaky, peeling paint, and moldy closet school buildings? In his Mayoral campaign kick-off City Council President Solomon announced, "Let's make a ten year plan to invest $250 million in rebuilding our city schools. This plan will start now with making our schools warm, safe, and dry. Then, we will work with the community to make a plan to rebuild the schools that need it the most... Look at the impact rebuilding Nathan Bishop has had on an entire neighborhood." Let's start tomorrow.

Patricia Morgan/State Representative - Good for starting a debate! Morgan, along with her RI GOP colleagues, are calling to exempt Social Security benefits from Rhode Island state taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, Massachusetts currently exempts Social Security from state taxes and Connecticut exempts Social Security benefits from taxation if household income is less than $60,000.

Joe Paolino - "I'm pretty excited about this. This is now the only locally owned high-rise," former Mayor Joe Paolino said about his recent purchase of 100 Westminster St, along with adjacent properties at 110 Westminster and 30 Kennedy Plaza. 110 is the vacant lot adjacent to the Arcade. Let's hope Paolino turns the asphalt space into some place worth visiting- or working! Good luck.

Home Schooling - "You taught them how to eat, how to talk. You don't have to stop at age 5," Brenda Polion, of the Rhode Island Guild of Home Teachers, told GoLocal's Kate Nagle. Nearly 1500 Rhode Islanders are being home schooled for the 2013-2014 school year, an increase of 200 from the last academic year.

Warren Simmons/Annenberg Institute for School Reform - "The “silver bullet” mentality must be replaced by an evidence-based approach that strengthens the whole system," Warren Simmons told Boston's NPR. Simmons, Executive Director of Brown University's Annenberg Institute since 1998, recently was chosen to be on the Board of Directors for the Nellie Mae Foundation, the largest education-focused foundation in New England. Simmons argues, "Poor children who succeed should be the rule, not the exception, and they deserve the resources they need to be successful."

Will Farrell - Farrell, one of Mayor Taveras' lead go to for lobbying and outreach to both the General Assembly and City Council, is leaving his position to start a " government relations practice." Farrell was a successful city advocate committed to positive results. He will be missed.

Jennie Johnson/City Year - The executive director of City Year RI is a mover and shaker in the day to day work of education reform. Johnson facilitates support and funding for energetic, red-coated, young Americorps members to serve as tutors and mentors in Gilbert Stuart, Roger Williams, and DelSesto Middle Schools, as well as Plainville Elementary. Johnson is committed to improving student attendance in Providence, and is working to partner with Hedy Chang of Attendance Works, a San Francisco organization dedicated to reducing chronic absenteeism. Check out City Year's local work here.

NOT: Patch


Gordon Fox - Mr. Speaker, who has over $200,000 in his campaign account, received a $1500 fine for violating the state ethics code. Fox failed to report income for legal work with the Providence Economic Development Partnership between 2007-2009, the quasi-public agency that became engulfed in public scrutiny in 2011. Not to mention, the state's jobless rate remains the highest in the nation.

Patch - "Unfortunately, your role has been eliminated and you will no longer have a role at Patch and today will be your last day of employment with the company." As GoLocal reported, an undisclosed number of Patch editors across the country were laid off from the hybrid centralized/hyperlocal news platform. East Greenwich Patch editor Elizabeth McNamara posted, "I've been laid off. I knew change was coming. I have LOVED covering my communities. I have not loved Patch, so ... onward!" Bob Plain of RI Future notes that Newport Patch Editor Olga Enger is planning to launch a new media site, the Newport Wave.

Peter Petrarca/Club Karma - The former state representative, who earlier this year represented the scandal-plagued strip club Cheaters before the city Board of Licenses, is part owner of the violence-plagued Club Karma. Karma is a downtown nightclub whose license was suspended this past Saturday following a recent shooting which left two young men, 24 and 26, wounded and in the hospital.

Neon Addicts - The state is addicted to gambling revenue. As State Senator Mary Ellen Goodwin recently argued of Twin River and Newport Grand, "We will continue to be sensitive to the need to maintain the viability of the facilities and preserve the revenue stream they provide to the state.” The state receives over $390 million in Lottery Transfers from the window scarce gambling facilities.

Richard Godfrey/RI Housing - RI Housing was sued this past week by Gayle Corrigan, the former deputy director who was fired shortly after raising questions about the financial practices of the Urban League. The Urban League failed to pay staff members working at its homeless shelter in Pawtucket, and has a recent history of poor services at its shelters, including lack of hot water and bed bug infestation. Corrigan alleges RI Housing, ‘‘fell down on the job and tried to sweep its failings and those of its partner organization under the rug.’’

Dream Deferred - The vision of the American Dream is that children do better than their parents. Yet, some new stats are sobering. Those born in the bottom fifth income bracket of Rhode Islanders have a 8.8% chance of joining the top fifth of Rhode Islanders- a lower mobility rate than Boston (9.8%) or Manchester, NH, (9.9%) but a higher rate than Springfield, MA (7.8%) or Dover, DE (6.4%). What happens to a dream deferred?


Related Slideshow: 7 Strategies for Rhode Island Economic Development in 2014

What will it take to move the Rhode Island economy forward in 2014?  GoLocal talked with elected officials, candidates, and leaders for their economic development plans in the coming year. 

Below are key elements of the economic priorities for Governor Lincoln Chafee, Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed, House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, gubernatorial hopefuls General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Ken Block, and RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity's Mike Stenhouse.  

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Governor Lincoln Chafee

"My goal is to have the state continue to focus on the fundamentals.  We will invest in education, workforce development and infrastructure , and provide aid to  cities and towns to lessen the burden on property taxpayers.  I’m confident that these investments and our focus on the basics will allow Rhode Island to exceed Moody’s predictions.”
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Speaker Gordon Fox

"Among the many pieces of legislation the House will address will be issues of higher education affordability, expanding apprenticeship opportunities, and offering help to our manufacturers.  We will also look closely at our tax structure to make sure we are competitive with our neighboring states, including the corporate tax and the estate tax, and I will carefully review the recommendations of the commission studying our sales tax.”

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Senate Pres. Paiva-Weed

Greg Pare, spokesperson for the Senate President, said that the Senate is planning to issue recommendations soon on workforce development initiatives to address the skills gap among Rhode Island job seekers.

"An example of a proposal anticipated in that report is the elimination of state’s Indirect Cost Recovery on the Job Development Fund, which is about $1.2 million this year. Those funds would be directed towards job training and skills development programs to provide immediate impact and help workers gain the skills necessary to succeed in today’s economy."

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Gen. Treasurer Raimondo

"To grow our economy, we need to make Rhode Island a leader in manufacturing again.  Great things can happen at the intersection of government, higher education, and the private sector.  Rhode Island is lucky to have thriving institutions in each of these three sectors, and we need to foster collaboration among them to find solutions to our challenges, and spark our economy.  

By promoting partnerships in high-growth areas, [Rhode Island Innovation Institute] will help grow our manufacturing base, and create new, high-quality jobs."  

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Ken Block

"First, we need to fix Rhode Island’s broken Unemployment Insurance program. The state’s Unemployment Insurance tax, paid by employers, is ranked worst in the country by the Tax Foundation. It is one of the factors that makes Rhode Island an uncompetitive place to do business. Also, it is inherently unfair that a large group of businesses are effectively subsidizing the payrolls of a small group of businesses who misuse the system. There is a simple change to state law that can fix this problem."

"Rhode Island’s temporary disability tax (TDI) is broken, and places an unnecessarily high tax burden on Rhode Islanders. This tax, paid for by employees, will be reduced by changing the way we manage the program. As Governor, I will substantially reduce the cost of purchasing this insurance by requiring that Rhode Island’s program adhere to national norms."

"To best encourage new job creation, I propose the following tax incentive: exempt from future capital gains taxes any new investments in Rhode Island-based businesses. This change would create a powerful incentive for investors who are deciding where to locate a new business, or where they relocate an existing one. This proposal has the potential change the economic playing field for Rhode Island."

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Minority Leader Newberry

“It would be overly ambitious to set being #1 as a goal right now, but we think 25, the middle of the pack, is a reasonable goal to set, one we think we should pursue, and one we can achieve,” said Newberry. "One of the initiatives is a requirement that every bill receive a fiscal evaluation before it can be heard by committee, better insuring that legislators know the real cost of the legislation they are acting on."

"Another proposal would exempt social security income from RI state income tax, making Rhode Island more tax-friendly for our seniors and keeping them here rather than migrating to more tax-friendly states."

“Strong action is way overdue here. Nearly 60% of Rhode Islanders now believe that the state is headed in the wrong direction. We think they’re right, and our central goal is to get it turned around."

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Mike Stenhouse

"As part of the Center's 2014 Prosperity Agenda we recommended that the state:
Repeal or rollback of the state’s regressive sales tax; or the requirement that families have no choice on what schools best educate their children; or punitive estate taxes that drive wealthy people to other states; or restrictions on out-of-state companies to sell health insurance in RI; or the minimum franchise tax, which stifles entrepreneurship; or corporate welfare, to level the playing field; or even renewable energy mandates that drive up costs for every family and business …"

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