Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not? - January 18, 2019

Friday, January 18, 2019


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Every Friday, GoLocalProv takes a look at who is rising and who is falling in Rhode Island politics, business, culture, 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 about 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 18, 2019

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Jobs in RI

Rhode Island added 2,200 jobs during the month of December, while unemployment rose to 3.9 percent, according to the RI Department of Labor and Training (RI DLT).

The job increase comes after RI lost 900 jobs in the month of November.

In December, the number of Rhode Island-based jobs totaled 505,000, an increase of 2,200 jobs from the revised November job count of 502,800.

According to the RI DLT, Rhode Island has averaged a gain of 800 jobs over the past three months and has 7,100 more non-farm jobs than a year ago.

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Joe McNamara

A man with a bone. Good for the Warwick State Representative for sticking to the issue of improving RI’s failing schools.

Representative Joe McNamara joined GoLocal News Editor Kate Nagle on GoLocal LIVE at the Rhode Island State House, where he spoke to legislation he recently introduced to develop new statewide academic standards that would be aligned with a common curriculum -- as well as address chronic absenteeism.

“Students who are frequently absent are far more likely to miss important learning opportunities, are less likely to stay engaged, and are of far greater risk of dropping out,” said McNamara, who Chairs the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee. “According to the most recent Kids Count Factbook, 22 percent of middle school students and 32 percent of high school students were considered truant by the Department of Education, which defines truancy as 10 or more unexcused absences in a school year. This legislation would strongly combat this troubling trend.”

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RI Spirits

A new distillery is set to open in Pawtucket.

RI Spirits, located at 59 Blackstone Avenue in Pawtucket, will open for tours, tastings, and cocktail sales on March 8.

“Flavor matters to us. We forage and work with local growers of unique botanicals to create drinks that couldn’t come from anywhere but the Blackstone Valley and Rhode Island. In our tasting room, we’ll be able to tell the story of our ingredients and their connection to local farms, fields, and coastlines,” said co-owner Cathy Plourde.

Original plans for the opening have been delayed due to the government shutdown.

“Instead of a full roll-out, we’ll now have to open in a sort of preview mode. We can make vodka and a distilled gin to serve at the tasting room, but until the government has someone in the office to approve our local ingredient formulas, the really interesting spirits will have to wait. And, of course, since our labels need government approval, too, we’ll only be able to serve by the taste or cocktail for the time being.  Bottle sales and distribution will have to wait on the Feds,” said co-owner Kara Larson.

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New Lobbying Shop

Law firm Duffy & Sweeney is getting into the lobbying business — this week it announced the expansion of their practice to include DS Government Strategies, LLC as an affiliated entity of the law firm.

The new entity will be headed by former Rhode Island Senate Majority Leader Daniel Connors.

He will be joined by Michael Ryan, Jr.

Both Connors and Ryan left the lobbying firm Advocacy Solutions.

“As the overlap between business and government continues to grow, adding Dan and Mike positions us to provide even greater value to our clients. They will take our representation of clients beyond the boardroom and the courtroom to the legislative halls of government,” said Mike Sweeney, founding partner.

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DaSilva and Quinterno

East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva has named Anne Quinterno as his chief of staff/operations.

“Anne Quinterno’s years of experience drafting policy and creating structure in municipal government will be invaluable to this administration, which is focused on getting results and moving the city forward. Quinterno will be an asset to this administration as we continue this transition from a city manager form of government to a mayoral form of government,” said DaSilva.

She will oversee the departments of the city’s Executive Branch of government.

Quinterno was once a top aide to Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, Jr.  She handled government relations at the State House for the Cianci Administration.

It is just the latest “A” lister staffer the new EP Mayor has tapped.

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Global Political Upheaval

GoLocal was in Paris this week and saw the first hand the anger and frustration of tens of thousands of French residents marching against the government. Paris was chaotic on Saturday when an explosion rocked one sector of the city killing two. At first, many thought the explosion was tied to the yellow vest protests or a terror attack.

More than 84,000 yellow vests marched last Saturday -- the protests have gone on for nearly three months,

But, the explosion that killed four firefighters and 37 injured was reportedly gas related. 

French publication The Local reported, "The explosion, which smashed windows in surrounding buildings and damaged a number of parked cars, occurred at around 9 am at a bakery (boulangerie) on Rue de Trévise in the busy 9th arrondissement of the city." 

According to the French Department of Interior, an estimated 84,000 protested on Saturday.  In America, the shutdown of the federal government pushed towards in fourth full week.

In England, the government and the economy are paralyzed by the Brexit vote — 2.5 years ago.

All this turmoil is during an overall positive economy with low unemployment — what will the protests look like is unemployment rises?

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Agoda -- We Hardly Knew You

It was billed as one of the big economic development wins by Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo.

Agoda, a division of Booking Holdings that also has Priceline, KAYAK and OpenTable, was coming to Rhode Island and was bringing with it hundreds of jobs.

But as GoLocal as first to report this week -- it looks like it is packing up its bags,

“We are aware that Agoda has filed a WARN notice with the State’s Department of Labor and Training. We are in communication with the company and understand that their Rhode Island decision is in the context of broader corporate decision making,” said Matt Sheaff in response to questions from GoLocal.

In February 2017, Raimondo pushed through $7.4 million in subsidies for Agoda. The company was moving and expanding operations previously located in Florida,

The deal was going to be worth millions to the Rhode Island economy — nearly $20 million. The company describes itself as "Agoda, one of the world’s fastest growing online travel agents (OTAs)."

“Based on a third-party analysis, direct and indirect economic and fiscal benefits of the proposed project include increased annual state GDP in 2018 of $19.5 million, related to 32 construction and 311 ongoing direct and indirect jobs created, and increased personal income, as well as sales and business corporation tax revenues during the construction phase and ongoing operations over the 12 years of the agreement, with a combined estimated value of approximately $7.4 million,” said Commerce RI.

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RI’s Sports Betting

RI was going to be first to market. Governor Gina Raimondo promised $23.5 million to the state coffers in the first year. #RIWinning

But the reality is sports betting was another bungled rollout, with delays, delays, delays, joining the ranks of UHIP, Cooler and Warmer, and other government missteps. 

Now, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is planning to file legislation that would allow people in the state to bet on professional sports.

Baker’s proposal would use the existing regulatory structure for gaming licensing in Massachusetts, including enforcement powers of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), the prohibition on wagering by anyone under 21 years of age and penalties for various violations.

“Expanding Massachusetts’ developing gaming industry to include wagering on professional sports is an opportunity for Massachusetts to invest in local aid while remaining competitive with many other states pursuing similar regulations. Our legislation puts forth a series of commonsense proposals to ensure potential licensees are thoroughly vetted and safeguards are in place to protect against problem gambling and illegal activity. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to pass this bill into law,” said Baker.

Baker's announcement came just one day after Rhode Island Senate President Dominic Ruggerio announced he is pushing for mobile sports betting.

As GoLocalProv reported, Vendors IGT and Twin River were months late in starting Rhode Island's sports betting program and the budgeted revenue of $23.5 million has been downgraded already once to just $11.5 million and the numbers look like they will continue to fall.

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CVS took a hit this week when Walmart dropped out of their partnership citing a price fight.

CVS stock fell 1.5 percent after the announcement.

“At a time when everyone is working hard to find ways to reduce health care costs, Walmart’s requested rates would ultimately result in higher costs for our clients and consumers,” said Derica Rice, President, CVS Caremark, the pharmacy benefit management business of CVS Health. “While we have enjoyed a long relationship with Walmart as a low cost provider in our broad national networks, based on our commitment to helping our clients and consumers manage rising pharmacy costs, we simply could not agree to their recent demands for an increase in reimbursement.”

“CVS is one of the largest administrators of prescription-drug plans in the U.S., covering more than 93 million people. While known mostly for its drugstores, CVS’s pharmacy-benefits management division, CVS Caremark, has come to account for most of its revenue. It administers drug coverage for many large employers as well as numerous Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, “ according to Bloomberg.

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Wealthy Moving

The leading block of Rhode Island’s residents who are moving out-of-state is primarily wealthy, according to a new study.

The study shows that 44.7 percent of those moving out-of-Rhode Island earn $150,000 or more.

And it shows that the largest block of those migrating out-of-state are younger -- they are aged 18 to 34 years-of-age.  As GoLocal has previously reported, the Providence DMA (designated market area) has the second largest exodus of college grads of any metro area in the country — second only to Phoenix.

A second study which was released on Monday finds that Rhode Island is the second worst state in the country to retire.


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