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

Friday, February 21, 2014


HOT: Gov. Lincoln Chafee

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.


David Segal/The Day We Fight Back - The federal government, through the National Security Agency, is conducting massive, warrantless surveillance of people's electronic data communications. Segal, a former elected official from Providence, is a Executive Director of Demand Progress, and a lead organizer with the " Day We Fight Back" coalition, which facilitated over 89,000 phone calls to elected officials in Washington and over half a million emails to call for reforms. The Coalition argues, "Together we demonstrated that activists, organizations, and companies can work in unison to fight mass surveillance, and laid a foundation for escalation over months to come." As Representative John Conyers has argued, "A free society should not have secret laws."

Lincoln Chafee - “As we move forward as Rhode Islanders, let us mourn the victims, and work with their families to stop these needless, preventable deaths,” said Governor Chafee in response to the recent spike in overdose deaths across the state. State agencies, particularly the Department of Health and State Police, are making significant moves to coordinate a response: strengthening overdose surveillance, increasing access to naloxone training and distribution, convening stakeholder meetings to improve collaboration, and regularly updating the public.

#1 - Apparently, along with New Jersey and Illinois, we lead the nation in terms of the quality of our anti-corruption laws, according to the Better Government Association. However, the report did find, "There's little evidence that states approach reform comprehensively or proactively. Instead, they tend to be reactionary, cleaning up selected programs or policies in the aftermath of a political scandal...states reform in response to a crisis in public confidence or outrage..."

Unite Here! - A majority of workers at the Renaissance Hotel and the Providence Hilton, both owned by The Procaccianti Group (TPG), are demanding the right to unionize under the UNITE Here! banner. Recently, TPG management at the Renaissance was cited both by OSHA for workplace violations, and by the National Labor Relations Board for interfering with the right of workers to organize. City Councilor Louis Aponte argued, "You've done well in this city. Do good by your workers."

Regulate Rhode Island - "We have been waiting more than 90 years for marijuana prohibition to work in Rhode Island, and we have seen that it does not," wrote Jared Moffat, executive director of Regulate Rhode Island, a coalition of citizens, activists, and business leaders. The coalition is earning support from elected officials like House Judiciary Chairwoman Edith Ajello and State Senator Josh Miller, who told GoLocal, "we support regulating and taxing marijuana as we regulate and tax alcohol, and approaching marijuana as a public health matter rather than a criminal justice problem." For what it's worth, according to the Associated Press , "Colorado's legal marijuana market is far exceeding tax expectations."

Laura Marlane/Executive Director, Providence Community Library - You can finally go back to the library! According to Laura Marlane and the team at PCL, "If you have books or other library items that are overdue, bring a canned food donation to your library anytime during February Fine Freeze Week. In return, we'll waive your overdue fines!" Better hurry up, fine freeze ends tomorrow, February 22nd!

The Dorrance - The Lester Family (Jean, Michael, Regina) and manager Lindsay Houle once again host the Central Falls Chess Team Invitational, and are urging folks to "Come cheer on the players, grab a cocktail, and enjoy complimentary hors d'eouvres ... Help us raise funds for the state's best and brightest!" On Monday, February 24th, the Dorrance doors open at 5:30, tickets are $20, and all proceeds go toward supporting the Central Falls Chess Team. As GoLocal reported, confirmed attendees include Lorne Adrain, Ernie Almonte, Ken Block, Mayor James Diossa, Jorge Elorza, Councilor Hugo Figueroa, Mayor Allan Fung, Councilor Stephanie Gonzalez, Representative John Lombardi, Seth Magaziner, Councilor Tia Risty Siegel, Brett Smiley, Councilman Michael Solomon, and Mayor Angel Taveras.


Angel Taveras - "Providence has dropped 44 spots in the national rankings and is now among the cities in the top 25% for serious crime," GoLocal's Kate Nagle reports. As Teny Gross of the Institute for Nonviolence comments, "...we're a poor city, with 1600 plus gang members, nightlife bringing in people from out of state, highway access with 95 for drugs... We've made progress with group-driven violence. There's still a lot of individuals, without hope -- but with access to guns. It's a bit hard to identify those individuals, it's different than a group dynamic." The Mayor has one year to reverse the trend.

Gina Raimondo - "...the Treasurer has steadfastly resisted calls by four open government groups in Rhode Island and others... for public access to hedge, venture, and private equity documents indicating the risks to the pension related to these gambles. If pension "reform" in Rhode Island means that benefit payments will be based, in part, upon investment performance of these secretive partnerships, fairness dictates that there must be full disclosure of the applicable risks," so argues Ted Siedle , Forbes Magazine columnist.

Allan Fung - The RI ACLU, along with several residents, are charging Cranston's 2012 Redistricting Plan for town elections violates the principle of one person, one vote. The ACLU argues,"... the incarcerated population constitutes a full 25% of the people who make up Ward 6...As a result, every three actual residents of that ward have as much say about city and school affairs as four residents in any other ward..."

Bottom 50 - Generated using data from 2013 US Commerce Department statistics, a trending blue and orange map demonstrates where the wealth in the US is generated- and shows that "50% of all the money generated in the United states comes from a tiny proportion of the country in geographical terms." Rhode Island is not in that tiny proportion that generates outsized wealth.

Opiate Overdose- Dr. Brandon Marshall, Assistant Professor in Epidemiology at Brown, noted, "This is now the leading cause of accidental death in Rhode Island, outpacing car deaths." Kate Nagle reports, "If the pace continues in Rhode Island this year, the number of overdose fatalities tied to heroin and other opiates will exceed 320 deaths, nearly double the 180 deaths reported 2012."

Fundraising DURING Session - "Maryland election law explicitly prohibits legislators and statewide officials ... from raising money during annual legislative sessions," reports John Wagner of the Washington Post . Meanwhile, in the next two weeks alone there will be at least 13 fundraisers for sitting legislators in RI. Why reform when you can have dinner at Camille's?


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