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

Friday, April 18, 2014


HOT: Nuala Pell

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.


Flo Jonic -The former RI Public Radio employee has been making waves after filing a sex discrimination complaint against RI Public Radio over pay equity. Jonic alleges, despite her seniority, her salary is thousands less than Ian Donnis, her male counterpart, "We perform the same duties, and I have 32 more years experience than he does." She told GoLocal's Kate Nagle, "I like Ian, he's done nothing wrong. The station says they're paying him the $75,000 due to a grant from the Hamblett foundation. I make two-thirds that. I don't think that's a valid excuse."

Representatives Valencia, Ajello, Marcello, Blazejewski, and Walsh - This is an idea whose time came thirty years ago- an Inspector General's Office for Rhode Island. H7121 would establish "an independent administrative agency charged with the purpose of preventing and detecting fraud, waste and abuse, and mismanagement in the expenditure of public funds." Despite the politics, hopefully supporting oversight and fraud prevention won't be lost - I mean held - for further study.

Representatives Walsh, Valencia, Marcello, Chippendale, and Ferri - On Tuesday, April 19, the House Judiciary Committee will hear H7864, a bipartisan bill that says that RI lobbyists and political heavyweights shouldn't be on the committee that nominates judges. We can't make a perfect process- but we certainly can make a better one, with more folks from the general public, and fewer from the inside game. Which reminds me...

Jorge Elorza - "Approximately 1% of city contracts go to Women & Minority Business Enterprises (WMBE’s) despite minorities making up approximately 60% of the city population and women making up more than 50%...With unemployment rates higher than 20% in some of our neighborhoods, we must do a better job of creating equity in business opportunity," declared Mayoral candidate and former Housing Court Judge Elorza. From "subdividing large contracts to allow contracting opportunities for small WMBEs businesses" to creating "a system that processes vendor payments within 30 days of delivery," Elorza hopes to expand the pool of city contract applicants and streamline internal administration. Speaking of the city ...

Michael Solomon - "Schools like Roger Williams Middle School, Mount Pleasant High School, Alan Shawn Feinstein Elementary at Broad Street, Reservoir Avenue School, and Classical High School are in terrible condition and do not reflect the high expectations that we have for our students and teachers," revealed Mayoral candidate and City Council President Michael Solomon . In response to this crisis of mandated neglect, Solomon proposed a long term investment in rehabbing the city's schools, including a revision of the Master Facilities Plan, arguing, "In 2006, the city’s facilities master plan identified 22 schools, currently operational, which were in “poor” condition. Over the last eight years, these poor conditions haven’t changed. They have only gotten worse."

#6 - "Rhode Island is one of the best states in the nation when it comes to providing access of local food to its residents," according to third annual The Locavore Index. Among others, Southside Community Land Trust and Farm Fresh RI facilitate and connect thousands of local people with local produce. As GoLocal reported, "This year's ranking marks the first time Rhode Island has made the top 10 in the Locavore survey. The past two years the Ocean State has finished 11th and 24th respectively. "

Providence Community Library and the League of Women Voters- “Choosing a new mayor is an important decision and we hope these forums will help voters make the right choice," Deborah Schimberg, president of the Knight Memorial Library Friends said. The first of three Mayoral Candidate debates sponsored by the Community Library Friends groups and facilitated by the League of Women Voters was held this past week in Elmwood's historic Knight Memorial Library. Future forums will take place at 6pm in Rochambeau (May 22nd) and Wanskuck (June 12). As Schimberg said, "Please tell your neighbors- we want to fill the room and have our concerns be heard!"

Nuala Pell - As US Secretary of State John Kerry declared, " Nuala Pell was the genuine article. She was a great lady and a class act to the core. I think of Nuala and Claiborne, and I think of old fashioned words like ‘grace’ and ‘generosity....She cared about people, she cared about Rhode Island, and she believed in an America where women are respected and where the arts are cherished, and she succeeded in advancing both of those causes."

NOT: RI GOP Chair Mark Smiley


Jim Langevin - The Guardian and Washington Post won Pulitzers for their "revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency" and "aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy." Instead of aiding and abetting the security state and accepting donations from defense contractors, Congressman Langevin should heed the legal and civil liberties concerns from these investigative reporters - and take a strong stand against domestic surveillance.

Bill Murphy - Former Democratic Speaker Murphy once told Ian Donnis, "When a baseball team gets rid of the manager, you don't trade all the players." However, if some players are hurting the team, they should be let go. Murphy's expensive advocacy for pay-day lending hurts the public - he should be ignored.

Mark Smiley - Following the lead of the US Supreme Court, the State Board of Elections voted to eliminate caps on the total amount a person can donate to political campaigns. Prior to the vote, GOP State Chair Mark Smiley's publicly bemoaned that "unions can have multiple PAC's that have an aggregate limit of $25,000 each," but "an individual can only contribute $10,000 total." Seriously? The median household income in Providence is $38,243 a year. If you want to connect with regular voters and improve the GOP brand, sponsor soccer teams and organize fellowships for students, don't cheer for Mr. Monopoly's campaign donations.

Let's Make a Deal - Over 36 private property owners in Providence have special agreements to pay reduced taxes with the City. The total assessed value of Providence properties with Tax Stabilization Agreements, as of December 31, 2012, was $429.5 million. In tax year 2013, total tax payments from these properties were $5.2 million. Amazingly, the City's Internal Auditor found, "no one person is responsible for the compliance monitoring of the Tax Stabilization Agreements." Providence City Councilor Sabina Matos recently introduced a resolution calling on the city to, "impose a moratorium on the acceptance of new applications for tax stabilization agreements" until the Council crafts policy to better monitor the costs of the program. Matos stated, "I'm not against TSAs, but we don't have a clear process."

Re-Naming- Just around the corner from Douglas Ave, near the Ladder 133 Bar and Grill and the abandoned Tim's Horton's, an enterprising graffiti artist found time to white out the "a" - on Crimea St, turning it to "Crime St." We need to fix the crime - and also that sign.

The "Gotta Study Six" Senators Metts, Lombardi, Jabour, Lynch, Goodwin, & Nesselbush- The State Senate bill to eliminate the confusing Master Lever from the ballot was "held for further study" by the Senate Judiciary Committee. As GoLocal MINDSETTER™ Don Roach appealed, "hold the Gotta Study Six accountable for holding this bill... Sign the Master Lever change.org petition and then tell at least one friend in Rhode Island to also sign it. My goal – 5,000 signatures. That’s a bit crazy but we can do it, if you sign the Master Lever change.org petition and tell a friend."


Related Slideshow: The Pell Family Legacy

In 1960, an unknown political force swept Rhode Island and became one of the most unlikely United States Senators in America. 

Claiborne Pell beat two former RI Governors and held the Senate seat until 1997. Now, his grandson who has ties to the White House and a superstar wife, is gearing up for a run for Governor of Rhode Island. Take a look at the Pell family legacy.

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1960 Election

Claiborne Pell was the son of the United States Ambassador to Portugal and later Hungary. 

Pell was considered a long shot when he ran for the United States Senate in 1960, but he out-worked the Democratic machine and defeated former Governor Dennis J. Roberts and former Governor and U.S. Senator J. Howard McGrath in the Democratic primary. It was one of the biggest upsets in RI political history.

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The Legacy

Pell's legacy was two fold: he was one of the most unque members of the United States Senate; and he built an impressive track record of legislative successes.

He was the author of the legislative effort that created the Pell Grants, he created the National Endowment for the Arts, and he served as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

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Senate Support

If Clay Pell decides to run for Governor of Rhode Island, it would be hard to imagine that he would not receive strong support from United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Whitehouse has enjoyed unyielding support from the Pell family and the matriarch Nuala Pell.

Whitehouse's early support would help push Pell into a very formidable position.

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White House

A Clay Pell candidacy would not only get a boost from his family's reputation, but his own resume would make him credible out of the box.

In April of 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Pell to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education.

This Presidential appointment comes after Pell served as Director for Strategic Planning on the National Security Staff at the White House, "where he helped develop and advance a number of the President’s key national security and global competitiveness priorities across the globe."

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Clay Pell attended Harvard, earned a JD from Georgetown and has passed the RI, MA and US Supreme Court Bar exams.

He is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.

Pell also served as a White House Fellow.

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Kwan Factor

Pell married Olympic two-time Olympic medalist, Michelle Kwan in January of 2013 in Newport.

Kwan brings an impressive resume of her own beyond being five-time World Champion and nine-time US skating Champ.

In 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named Michelle Kwan as a public diplomacy ambassador. 
Her diplomatic position has continued for the Obama Administration as she has worked with Vice President Joe Biden and with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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