The Scoop: Block Critiques Raimondo Over Lack of Transparency
Monday, October 21, 2013
Block Takes Raimondo to Task over Pension Investments
Gubernatorial candidate Ken Block is calling on State Treasurer and likely 2014 opponent Gina Raimondo to be more open and honest about the state’s pension investments.
“There needs to be greater transparency around Treasurer Raimondo’s shift towards alternative investments,” Block told GoLocal.
“I am concerned that the retirement system is not getting good value for the fees it is paying to these asset managers,” added Block. “Our investment performance has been lackluster since these changes were made while the fees have increased substantially, and Rhode Islanders deserve to know why.”
Last Friday’s report entitled, "Rhode Island Public Pension Reform: Wall Street's License to Steal” also criticized the Treasurer for an apparent lack of transparency.
According to the report, “There has been a sinister pall of secrecy regarding fundamental investment information orchestrated by state officials and aided by key investment services providers."
The study, which was written by investment attorney and Forbes.com contributor Ted Siedle, goes on to argue that Raimondo “ has intentionally withheld information about soaring investment fees which is material in assessing both whether ERSRI should invest in costly alternative investments and whether benefit cuts are necessary to improve pension funding."
The Office of the General Treasurer responded to the report in a press release stating: "This is clearly another political propaganda piece aimed at discrediting the Treasurer and the state's pension reforms. None of this innuendo-filled report presented today seems new or different from the claims made in the past by Ted Siedle, who is being paid by AFSCME.”
The report was commissioned by Rhode Island Council 94, which is suing the state over pension changes pushed by Raimondo. Council 94 paid Siedle $20,000 to write the 104-page report.
Council 94 is Rhode Island's largest public employee union representing more than 10,000 State, City, Town, and School Department employees, Quasi-public, private sector and retirees.
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Smiley Slams Taveras
Chairman Smiley Blasts Mayor Taveras over Handling of Davey Lopes Pool.
Republican Chairman Mark Smiley released a statement today slamming Providence Mayor Angel Taveras for deliberately refusing to repair the Davey Lopes Pool.
“The outcry from the citizens of Ward 11 in Providence has been loud and clear and they want the Davey Lopes Pool open. Given the funds are available to repair this pool and the Black Contractors Association has stepped forward to donate the labor, Mayor Taveras is just being unreasonable," Smiley said.
The Davey Lopes pool was closed this summer after Mayor Taveras determined that it would cost too much money to repair and maintain the pool. In August, City Councilman Davian Sanchez announced that $64,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds could be used to pay for repairs of the pool. Other Providence City Council members proposed allocating additional grant money for the same purpose.
“It will now cost more money to cement over the pool than to repair it, given the donations and grant money. These children rely on the pool for entertainment and exercise and it’s an important part of the community. Clearly Mayor Taveras needs to stop using the children of Providence as pawns in his political games. This is a major error in judgment on his part and now he just appears to be spiteful,” Smiley added.
Mayor Taveras has announced other plans for the pool as he wants to replace it with a water park.
Chafee and RI GAP
RI GAP Report: Chafee Continues to Increase Female Representation on Boards, Commissions, and in Staff and Cabinet Level Positions.
Governor Lincoln D. Chafee joined the Women's Fund of Rhode Island and Vision 2020 today to release the third RIGAP report, which revealed that the Governor made good on his promise to grow the number of women represented in senior positions within state government and on boards and commissions.
"As Governor, I am thrilled that I have been able to keep my promise to tilt the scales of state government in favor of gender equality. Many talented and valuable members of my staff and cabinet are women, and I am grateful that a large number of Rhode Island women have agreed to serve on state boards and commissions," Governor Chafee said. "I recognize that women are still under-represented in Rhode Island government, and I will continue to work to toward equal representation."
The 2013 RIGAP report released today by the Women's Fund and Vision 2020 reveals that of the 166 commissions and boards closely monitored, women now hold 34 percent of the appointments. Since taking office, Governor Chafee has appointed 441 women to boards and commissions out of 1,071 appointments.
The 34 percent figure is a marked contrast to 15 percent representation in 2010 when Governor Chafee took office. Three of the Governor's eight senior staff members are female.
Three years ago, Governor Chafee signed a pledge to increase the number of women serving in government, through a Women's Fund initiative called Rhode Island Government Appointments Project (RIGAP), which monitors the representation of women appointed to boards, commissions, and cabinet level positions. He said today that he will continue to honor his promise to achieve equal representation across all boards, commissions, and cabinet and senior staff positions.
Earlier this year, Governor Chafee signed an Executive Order specifically designed to ensure a more diverse workforce and grow the number of contracts awarded to minority-owned businesses.
RIGAP is an initiative aimed at ameliorating the gender inequity in Rhode Island government and was modeled after MassGAP, where many women who applied and gained positions there went on to run for state elected office.
Sen. Whitehouse visits HealthSource RI.
Earlier today, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse visited the HealthSource RI contact center to hear how the health care law is helping Rhode Islanders.
"It was great hearing from HealthSource RI employees today about the Rhode Island families who are being helped by the new Obamacare insurance marketplace. Rhode Islanders who don’t already have insurance through an employer or a government program like Medicare can visit www.healthsourceri.com to see what options are available to them," said Whitehouse via Facebook.
HealthSource RI provides a range of health insurance options for individuals and small businesses.
Riley on Pensions
Former congressional candidate Riley talks about the public policy implications surrounding Rhode Island's pension debate.
Mike Riley, board member for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity and former congressional candidate, issued the following statement today regarding the ongoing debate of Rhode Island’s pensions.
"While questions about corruption and mismanagement of state public employee pension fund portfolios continue to swirl, our Center is concerned about the larger public policy implications.
"First, whether or not hedge fund and other alternative investments are a legitimate allocation tool to protect taxpayers and retirees against devastating economic downturns like we saw in 2008: If the answer is yes, it is important that the negative political climate on this topic does not dissuade state and local finance officials from pursuing this course in an open and transparent way.
"Second, whether or not this controversy will undermine the positive pension reforms taken by our state in 2011. Rhode Island must continue to move forward with pension reform, not backward."
Mike Riley is a hedge fund manager and Director of the RI Association of Hedge Fund Managers. He has served on the Center's board since February of 2013.
Candidate Santana planning first fundraiser.
Republican candidate for the House of Representatives Ana Santana has announced that she is currently planning her first campaign fundraiser, which will take place in December.
"It's a night all about Spanish food and politics in the inner city," said Santana in a Facebook post announcing the event.
The 21-year-old Santana is running against Rep. Anastasia Williams, who has represented District 9, Providence since 1992. Williams is currently Chairwoman of the Rhode Island Black and Latino Legislative Caucus.
The upcoming election will mark the first time a Republican has challenged Williams since 2008.
Santana, a recent college graduate, is hoping to eliminate the state's sales tax if elected.
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