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

Friday, April 04, 2014


HOT: Karen Macbeth

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.


Donna Walsh - From magistrate reform to environmental stewardship, Walsh has consistently argued for legislation that puts people before inside power plays. The new leadership team would be wise to listen to her.

Karen Macbeth - The controversial State Representative, a strong critic of disgraced Speaker Fox, has been promoted to the House Oversight Committee. She has expressed interest in issuing subpoenas to former officials connected with the 38 Studios deal- including RI Health and Human Services Secretary, Steven Costantino. MacBeth has publicly argued that the state is not obligated to pay back the debt owed on the failed video game company. She replaces Michael Marcello as House Oversight Chair.

Michael Marcello - Marcello may be out as Oversight Chair- but he's right on H-7512. No other New England state has a "Master Lever," or automatic Straight Party Voting. In fact, only 16 states in the country still use this option. The Master Lever confuses voters and discriminates against Independent candidates. Hopefully, Speaker Mattiello will heed his former opponent's vision for our ballots to be clear and succinct. Representatives Newberry, Nunes, Hearn, and Valencia are co-sponsors.

Constitutional Convention - As GoLocalProv reported, this past weekend a who's who of good government - Common Cause, League of Women Voters, Roger Williams University School of Law, and the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University - sponsored a summit at Bryant University on the wisdom of a potential Constitutional Convention. Check out Marion's speech on the history and mechanics of Rhode Island's constitutional conventions.

Debbie Schimberg/Special Commission- Swim Instruction and Public Pools - The Special Commission to Study Swim Instruction and Public Pools reviewed their final report on March 28th. The results will hopefully provide a clear guide to the council and Mayor going forward to make sure all neighborhoods have access to safe, quality neighborhood services.

Margaret Kane/Operation Clean Government - "We need to develop new leaders and problem solvers to help address the big challenges facing the state. We encourage anyone who wants to make a difference, to RUN FOR OFFICE. Attending our school will give you a better chance to win,” argues Margaret Kane. If you're a regular commentator (online, at home, or in the office), and have the time, consider finding out the mechanics, and run for office yourself- or support a friend or two. We can be a different state- but we need to participate and organize.

Jean Paul Valencia/Central Falls High School - Congratulations to CFHS Senior Jean Paul, his family, and his community, on news that he was accepted into Brown, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and Columbia. To paraphrase Anna Cano Morales, in our urban districts Latinos are not special populations, they're the majority. We need to invest in the future today - a great success story from little Rhody's smallest city.

RI PBS - As GoLocal reported, "Since January 1, there have been almost 70 overdose deaths Rhode Island, more than twice as many as last year." Carrying on the public service modeled by late WSBE CEO Susan Farmer, this past week RI PBS broadcast "No Hero in Heroin," a one hour special designed to "put the intimate, human faces on the startling statistics," as well as offer solutions for treatment.

Sierra Barter and Julie Sygiel/The PVD Lady Project - As Barter and Sygiel say, "The PVD Lady Project connects, inspires and showcases awesome women doing amazing things in Providence." On Saturday April 12, from 9-6pm at the Southside Cultural Center, the PVD Lady Project will be hosting its first summit - featuring speakers like education advocate Tammy Tibbets , Olympian Michelle Kwan, and former head of Talent Development at SNL, Meredith Walker, alongside well over a dozen workshops. Sign up for "an amazing day filled with awesome speakers, professional workshops and amazing connections."

NOT: Nick Mattiello


US Supreme Court - McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the latest 5-4 ruling from the US Supreme Court, drastically changes election law. Previously, individuals were limited to donating no more than $123,200 during a two year cycle to candidates, parties and political committees. That limit is now gone with the wind. Is this a “substitution of the rule of cash for the rule of law”?

Nick Mattiello - The Speaker has expressed an eagerness to reduce the estate tax to ease the burdens on folks with a lot of money- it would be great if he expressed the same desire to ban excessive payday lending to ease the burdens on folks living paycheck to paycheck.

Angel Taveras - "With the closing of the Vartan Gregorian G Pre-K, the school district leadership and the Mayor are leaving an entire neighborhood, from Fox Point to Mt. Hope, void of a public Pre-K option. To make matters worse, they did not feel the need to involve the families and community in this decision making process," local parent Kira Green told GoLocal.

Graduation Rates - Within Rhode Island public schools, Latino-American (69%), European-American (78%), and Asian-American (82%) public students are all graduating at lower rates than the national average of their peers (71%, 83%, and 94% respectively). Positively, graduation rates among Rhode Island African-Americans and Native-Americans are higher than the national average. What are we doing (and not doing) to respond to this crisis?

Lack of Coordination - In Providence, we have the appointed School Board, the City Council Sub-Committee on Education, and the City Council that passes education resolutions. In Fall River, Massachusetts, the City Council and School Board recently held a joint session to discuss budget issues and priorities. Could something like that happen in Providence?

OSHA - It's good that OSHA is investigating a potential asbestos issue on the East Side. Does OSHA investigate asbestos in the public schools?

Perpetual Fundraising - As GoLocal MINDSETTER™ Don Roach argued, "I can’t be the only one mildly annoyed by the rush of campaign contribution spam – and it is spam – from political candidates at the end of each quarter am I?" Annoyed or not, money's impact in politics is not mild. In the last cycle, disgraced former Speaker Fox spent well over $100,000 for a position that earns less than $20,000 dollars.


Related Slideshow: Fox Scandal: Winners and Losers

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Peter F, Neronha, U.S. Attorney

The bold action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation coupled with Internal Revenue Service investigators raiding the Speaker of the House's office was a major statement by federal authorities.

The investigation tied to now-former Speaker Fox sets expectations of a far broader probe.

Neronha has also indicted developer Richard Baccari and was key to the http://www.golocalprov.com/news/9949/">Google Settlement that brought $230 million to Rhode Island. 

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Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed


Generally, the Senate President plays second fiddle to the Speaker of the House, but with a new Speaker to be voted on as early as Tuesday, Paiva Weed's influence will shoot up in the transition.


She will be more influential in the budget process.


Look for Paiva Weed to make a move on controlling the Joint Committee on Legislative Services - the proverbial legislative grab bag for jobs and grants.

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Majority Leader Nick Mattiello


As GoLocal Tweeted on Friday, the Cranston Representative and Majority Leader has the edge to take control of the House.


Mattiello (as of Sunday Night) has approximately 40 votes and the momentum necessary to replace Fox.


Mattiello has strong support from former Speaker and lobbyist Bill Murphy. A Mattiello Speakership may cause a big shake up in Committee Chairs and senior staffing.

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Former Speaker Bill Murphy


Murphy and Fox worked together for more than a decade and their relationship had both ups and downs. Nick Mattiello, if elected Speaker, is a close ally to former Speaker Bill Murphy.


Murphy had served as Speaker from 2003 to 2010. The former legislator has a successful criminal defense practice and is a lobbyist for notable clients (2013) for UTGR (Twin River), Advance America Cash Advance, and the Brotherhood of Correction Officers.


Murphy will emerge as an ever greater influencer with Mattiello as Speaker.

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Gina Raimondo


The resignation by Gordon Fox is a political hit to the General Treasurer who went big for Fox in his surprisingly tough re-election against story teller Mark Binder.


Binder hit Fox both for his role in 38 Studios and his legal work for PEDP applicants.


Raimondo decided to publicly support Fox and walk his district with the embattled Speaker.


It should be noted that Providence Mayor Angel Taveras also supported Fox, but Raimondo claims to be the reformer in this race.

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Fox's Committee Chairs (if Mattiello wins)


Fox loyalists who have pledged their support to Michael Marcello will be in trouble as will their agendas if Mattiello is in fact elected Speaker on Tuesday. 


Committee Chairs like Helio Mello, Edith Ajello, and Arthur "Doc" Corvese might all be replaced as they backed Marcello. 

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Providence's Budget


For the past decade, Providence could always count of Gordon Fox to help bail the Providence Budget out of trouble.


From Finance Committee Chair, then-Majority Leader and ultimately-Speaker, Providence Mayors knew that Fox -- the Mount Hope section of Providence Representative -- would increase aid to Providence in one way or another. 


Providence always found an extra few millions from Fox. That access is likely to end in 2014 further impacting the City of Providence's budget issues.

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Legalization of Marijuana


The pieces were falling together for the effort to pass legislation to legalize marijuana in Rhode Island. Speaker Fox was a social progressive. Judiciary Committee Chair Edith Ajello, who may lose her post in the power shift, was the legislation's sponsor and in command of the key committee.


In addition, Governor Lincoln Chafee has voiced support for the idea.


But, a shift to a more conservative Mattiello would throw a barrier in the way to a 2014 passage.


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The master lever has to go. It should be remembered that this should have been eliminated in the 1990's when then Secretary of State Jim Langevin ,deep into election reform and voting procedures, advanced the "master lever" concept to todays "straight ticket voting" by connecting a single line.

Comment #1 by michael riley on 2014 04 04

I'd wager that if the economy in Rhode Island wasn't at junk bond levels, the need for payday lenders wouldn't be as it is. Until caring democrats start advancing loans out of their own pockets to those constituents that banks shun, the need for payday loans won't go away.

Comment #2 by David Beagle on 2014 04 04

I'd wager that if the economy in Rhode Island wasn't at junk bond levels, the need for payday lenders wouldn't be as it is. Until caring democrats start advancing loans out of their own pockets to those constituents that banks shun, the need for payday loans won't go away.

Comment #3 by David Beagle on 2014 04 04

Sorry Dan--I'll take the Supreme Court's well thought out decision above your ill-informed opinion any day of the week.

Comment #4 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 04 04

Jimmy LaRouche, well thought out? Legally correct? Apparently. The right thing for the United States? Not a chance! This has just become a government that will be owned by the rich. The rules and laws will be written to protect the rich. The middle class in all likelihood will be non existent in the near future if this trend continues. The question is, how do you stop that freight train?

Comment #5 by Patrick Boyd on 2014 04 04


Mattiello wants to reduce the estate tax and you think that's a bad idea?

Don't you think Rhode Island being a high-tax state is precisely why we have the highest unemployment in the US? Don't you think that maybe taxes have something to do with the fact that more and more high net worth individuals take their money and their jobs out of state? Even our retired public sector employees move to Florida taking their pensions with them. They contribute to the booming economy in Florida. Florida is one of seven states that has no state income tax BTW.

Why is New Hampshire doing so well compared to RI? Could it have something to do with their tax rates?

Mattiello is a breath of fresh air. There might just be a future for RI after all. Now if we could only get Ken Block as Governor.

Comment #6 by James Berling on 2014 04 04

Karen MacBeth ... A Strong Critic of Gordon Fox? MeThinksNot .... She is such a strong critic that despite being claimed "She was lied to" in obtaining her Yes Vote For 38 Studios, she voted again FOR Gordon Fox in his last election for Speakah .... She claims she will be have subpoena powers .. Mattiello is already walking that back, gently ... Can you say RINO (Reformer In Name Only)? Let's check back in 6 mos and see what progress has been made ...

Comment #7 by PO Taxpayer on 2014 04 05

Having been a Board of Elections employee to help nursing home residents vote I can note the so-called master lever does indeed confuse some voters and is best eliminated. Maybe it will take a constitutional convention, as noted above, to accomplish this.

I also want to call attention to Margaret Kane's comment above about running for office and the OCG Candidate School. It is a disgrace that despite our problems, and the high level of displeasure with our politicians, there are still so many uncontested seats. Having once run for office myself, I can confidently claim this is one of the easiest states in which to run. For State Rep, just 50 signatures from registered voters in the district of ANY political affiliation; no filing fees; in addition to the OCG school, a Board of Elections quite willing to help candidates navigate all the forms; and no big money needed, just the time and willingness to walk the district and talk to voters, which most of the time is rather fun. I hope a lot of the political Golocal folks will consider running for office or persuading other good candidates to give it a try.

Comment #8 by barry schiller on 2014 04 06

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