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Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not? - January 5, 2018

Friday, January 05, 2018


Every Friday, GoLocalProv breaks down who is rising and who is falling in Rhode Island politics, business, and sports. 

Now, we are expanding the list, the political perspectives, and we are going to a GoLocal team approach while encouraging readers to suggest nominees for who is "HOT" and who is "NOT." 

Email GoLocal by midday on Thursday anyone you think should be tapped as "HOT" or "NOT."  Email us HERE.


Related Slideshow: Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not? - January 5, 2018

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Gina Raimondo

Was Thursday's storm Gina Raimondo's plaid shirt moment? Or just another storm clean-up? During the Blizzard of 1978, then-Governor Garrahy wore the same plaid shirt throughout the response to the massive storm.

Raimondo and state agencies tackled a difficult winter storm this week, and provided access and information in a timely and nearly constant manner.  From closing state offices and keeping shelters open, to banning tractor-trailer trucks from the roads (after a number of accidents) and making the decision to halt RIPTA bus service, the state grappled with tough choices -- including not to declare a state of emergency -- and not all of the calls were met with public approval.

The big test will come with more arctic temps and high winds, which could pose a bigger threat to Rhode Islanders this weekend.

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The Flu

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) announced on Wednesday that the flu is "widespread" in Rhode Island, triggering the state's requirement for unvaccinated healthcare workers in hospitals as well as other types of healthcare facilities to wear surgical masks.


"The masking requirement is critical in protecting healthcare workers from catching the flu, and also in protecting patients who are often dealing with other serious health issues. For people who have not been vaccinated yet, it is not too late. The flu vaccine is the best way to keep yourself and the people you love safe from the flu,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH.

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Haven Brothers

The downtown Providence icon is diversifying.  Most Rhode Islanders and visitors know the gleaming silver truck sitting next to City Hall for its late (OK, late-late night) fare, but new mobile versions -- and a brick-and-mortar establishment -- are bringing the Lil' Rhody classic to new audiences. 

Patrizia Prew, the daughter of Sal Giusti, the owner of Haven Brothers, talked about her role and vision in expanding the brand on GoLocal LIVE. 

In a day and age when once venerable institutions are disappearing (Benny's, anyone).

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The ACLU of Rhode Island has filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that participants in a Medicaid program run by the state are not being given proper notice before being kicked off the program, leading to a loss of income.

It is another UHIP disaster and another, if possible, blackeye for Governor Gina Raimondo.

The suit says that the loss of income puts low-income residents “at risk of losing their homes and their utilities and deprives them of funds needed for their daily living expenses, including food.” 

“State officials keep on talking about how hard they are working to fix UHIP. Nobody should find that response acceptable anymore. It’s been fifteen long months for many of the state’s poorest residents, so our response is: you clearly aren’t working hard enough,” says ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court by ACLU of RI volunteer attorney Ellen Saideman on Wednesday, involves the Medicaid Payment Program (MPP).

The two named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Christopher Scherwitz and John Figuried.

According to the lawsuit, Scherwitz receives Social Security Disability because of his disabilities. Last June, his MPP benefits stopped, and the Social Security Administration began taking $134 out of his benefit check every month. The suit claims he never received any advance written notice from the State that his MPP benefits would stop, and the reduction in benefits has required him to borrow money from his mother, who as a result, has fallen behind in her own utility payments and fears a utility shutoff. 

Figuried is 82 years old, and he receives Social Security benefits because of his age, and has received MPP benefits for many years. In October, he received a notice from the State that his MPP benefits would be ending as of October 31, but the space on the notice for the reasons why his benefits were ending was blank. 

The lawsuit argues that the state’s failure to “provide adequate advance written notice and opportunity to request a fair hearing to MPP recipients prior to terminating their MPP benefits violates” federal Medicaid laws and the clients’ rights to due process.

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Tony Maoine

When Tony Maione, President & CEO of United Way of Rhode Island (UWRI), announced that he will retire from his position as of December 31, 2018, supporters of the nonprofit leader's role in helping the community lauded his impact on the community during his tenure.

"We will work through the year to find his replacement and begin a new chapter," said Kyle Bennett, who has worked with Maoine at United Way, on Facebook. "There have been so many successes but here a few I have personally witnessed: The move to Olneyville, the merger with 2-1-1 and supporting RIers through 3 major storm in 4 years, the creation of #YoungLeadersCircle and #WomenUnited, and the passage of 3 housing bonds. You have paved the way for our team to up the level of support for RI in so many ways. I appreciate you!"

Maione led the organization since January, 2005, and his retirement caps a 35-year career as a nonprofit CEO. During his leadership, UWRI raised more than $170 million dollars and faced some of the most turbulent times in nonprofit history, including the 2008 recession.

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GateHouse Media

Dan Kennedy’s Media Nation first reported that Worcester Telegram & Gazette photographer Christine Hochkeppel resigned in frustration with the company. The Telegram is a sister paper to the Providence Journal. The following is Hochkeppel’s letter of resignation.

Dear Ms. Webber,

I am writing to notify you of my intention to resign as staff photographer at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. My last day of employment will be Saturday, December 30, 2017.

I appreciate the opportunities I have received during my 3 years here. I have grown and improved as a photojournalist. I appreciate your support and guidance. However, I continue to have deep concerns about the direction GateHouse Media is taking the T&G. It has been incredibly frustrating to have worked the majority of my career for a company that has never given me a raise, despite my excellent work ethic and accolades. I cannot dedicate anymore of my professional time to a company that will not invest in my future success or any of my talented colleagues. After all of the hard work I have done for this company, I am forced to give up a career that I am passionate about so that I can make a better future for myself. GateHouse has been taking advantage of passionate journalists and dismantling quality community journalism with continued staff reductions and lackluster outsourced design. Their solution continues to befuddle us all with its hypocrisy: cut expenses and jobs but acquire more properties and continue to award handsome bonuses to the top executives. These reckless practices underscore the apparent indifference GateHouse feels toward the hard-working people they already employ. It’s disheartening that when our political and economic climate needs journalists so desperately, that this company has turned so many excellent people away from the industry.

Thank you again for the opportunity to share visual stories with the Worcester County community. It has been a gratifying experience sharing pictures and stories with our readers, despite the morale challenges. I am grateful for all the positive interactions and earned experience.


Christine Hochkeppel

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Nick Autiello

First time Senate candidate Nick Autiello -- who is running for the seat held by Senator Paul Jabour since 20016 -- announced he raised over $50K in Q4, which his camp states is the most any first-time state Senate candidate raised in their first quarter. 

"The message is clear: my neighbors are fed up with politics as usual and not being able to get ahead," said Autiello, a Rhode Island native and current Federal Hill resident who has served as an advisor for RI Commerce -- and  has a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University -- and attended Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Jabour, meanwhile, has filed campaign filing exemptions since 2012, pledging not to accept contributions in excess of $100 from a single source -- or make aggregate expenditures in excess of $1,000 -- within a calendar year, and currently has less than $300 in his campaign coffers. 

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Trump and His Button

Just when you thought President Donald Trump could not sink any lower or be any more reckless -- he hit a new level with his "button" threat against the leader of North Korea — a nuclear power.

It is sad and it all takes away from a high performing economy with the Dow over 25,000, unemployment at record lows, and unemployment claims down to nearly zero. All things Presidents do get to take credit for under their watch.

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Michael Riley

The City of Providence and Mayor Jorge Elorza were already cut down to size this week when Elorza's "projected" $10 million deficit on the year turned out to be more around $5 million, when the costs of the legal battle with Providence firefighters over Elorza's platoon were factored in.

GoLocal financial contributor and pension critic Michael Riley rightly pointed out however that with the state pension board's move to a projected 7% rate of return, that the City of Providence's current 8% assumption makes any talk of strong financial footing -- with an artificially propped-up financial projection -- misleading. 

"Providence's expected investment rate of return is an unheard of 8% and Elorza continues to purposely underfund pensions using delayed payment schemes, inflated assets, and elevated return assumptions," excoriated Riley. 

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Media and Weather

Yes, it was a big storm. Yes, people should not have been driving in it, but the end of the world as we know it?  Not likely.

Local TV seems to be obsessed with storms. And, this one was local TV at its most hyped. New made-up words permeated the reporting and huge effort was made to drive viewers to glue themselves to constant coverage -- when not running out to the stores, clearing the shelves, and brawling in lines and parking lots alike ahead of the impending doom. 

Information and warnings are good.

Overhyping is bad.


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