Bishop: A Fine Whine?
Thursday, November 09, 2017
Brian Bishop, GoLocalProv Guest MINDSETTER™
Indeed we see hurricane Gina tryin to bring swift justice to those slackers. The nerve of them not having hundreds of trucks at the ready to rush into the teeth of the gale. The Lieutenant Governor is right behind, or in front, hard to keep track. These petulant politicians are displaying their usual talent for bread and circus, as if our Don Quixotes to slay the evil corporate demons.
Where were all of you when we were fighting stuff that mattered, like massive overspending on the Deepwater Wind contract where National Grid folded for a piece of the pie. And now you don’t like them because it took them 4 days to put the state back together after a hurricane. Move to Puerto Rico why don’t you.
If you’re a politician complaining who has, you know, a staff, let me give you a hint. They have this thing called the internet which reveals, with barely as many clicks as it took you to read this article, that the outages from last weeks storm were more widespread than superstorm Sandy which preceded it by 5 years to the day. During Sandy, approximately 116,000 Rhode Islanders lost power on October 29th and it was restored by November 2nd. During last weeks little dust-up, as many as 155,000 lost power in Rhode Island the night of October 29th and it was restored by November 2nd. And this is a catastrophe because?
The Governor who has bravely resisted the cattle call to oppose the Clear River gas energy plant was stampeded on this. Where oh where are the public officials who will say to folks who live on dead-end roads in the middle of nowhere when 15 million people are out of power in the northeast to shut up and get to the back of the line.
How can we claim to be the independent problem-solving descendants of a nation borne of proud self-reliant stock? Three days without electricity and we’re ready to melt down as if the Wicked Witch with a bucket of water thrown her way. God forbid a real catastrophe came along, an electromagnetic pulse or cosmic ray shower. All these post-apocalyptic television dramas couldn’t hold a candle to what a basket case this country would be.
Several weeks ago I recommended that Puerto Rico seriously consider how much of a grid it really needs, because the grid is not itself a civilization. It is the things the grid provides, light, refrigeration, systems operation. These days you can help the fortunes of Xi Jinping by buying some Chinese LED lights that will run for hours on a single rechargeable battery with lumens sometimes equivalent to your installed lighting. And then you can take the batteries to somewhere with power and charge them and transport the power back.
That solves the dark, what about the cold. We were fortunate that the weather last week during the power outage was a balmy 70 degrees and even one cold night didn’t come close to the freezing mark. But that was not the case in winter storm Nemo that knocked out power to 191,000 Rhode Islanders. The lesson of storms like this, coming when we aren’t about to freeze, is that homeowners ought to determine how they can run their heating systems in case of a power outage. In other words, we should remember how to take care of ourselves.
Most heating systems can run on a fairly small amount of power. Modern pumps and blowers are quite efficient and can often be retrofitted onto existing systems although one shouldn’t write off the good old-fashioned steam system. If you have one with a millivolt gas valve you don’t even need any electricity to run your heat. Your good old fashioned gas hot water heaters don’t need any power either. Even gas hydronic heat can often circulate a bit on its own without pumps running. If you have electric hot water or heat, you are out of luck. Maybe that should make you think twice about whether you should have gas or oil instead.
But what about the lack of cold, i.e. your refrigerator? Don’t open it. That’s rule one. Nanny state types tell you start throwing stuff out after 4 hours. I don’t know what they are smoking. Ours left closed last week made 24 hours without thaw in the freezer and I still ate the crab bisque at that point that was pushing its expiration date. Of course, if the outage will be extended, think of using the more perishable items, e.g. thawed uncooked meat. But essentially, avoid opening it; think about what you are going to take out before you open it so you can do so quickly; but don’t slam the door in a rush to close it as this encourages air exchange where warmer room air is forced into the fridge displacing cooler air. Three days without electricity though, you need a solution. You could throw a party in the dark the first day and eat it all, but as with your heating system, it likely would take only a modest amount of electricity to run just your fridge
Various forms of backup power are available. Installed automatic switching generators are the Cadillac, but they cost like it. Small portable generators are quite inexpensive albeit they need to be run out of the horrible ethanol gas they make us use these days after each use. But you can also use an inverter attached to your car electic system to do the job. For that matter, if you own a hybrid car, you own a generator. The car companies have been typically behind the curve in recognizing that so-called plug-in hybrids ought to work in both directions, power out as well as power in to the car. This could be a permanent solution for the rugged rural areas of Puerto Rico but it is a potentially elegant solution for those on the mainland who will have a nervous breakdown if their power is out for a week.
Of course you need to work with knowledgeable folks to institute these strategies and to make sure you don’t try to run more than your back-up can handle which can harm those appliances so they won’t work when power does come back. But simple things, like making it so you can get to the cords on your refrigerator so you can plug it into a generator go a long a way. And creating a switch and jack which allow you to isolate your boiler from the house electrics and plug it in aren’t much of a challenge but always easier to do before the power goes off.
We live on one of those dead-end roads, a beautiful backwater, but it took two weeks for us to get power after Irene (and just as long after Nemo). That’s what it is like to live out in the sticks, and if you don’t want to take responsibility for yourself you should think about moving back to civilization. But, for the rest of us, this ought to be a lesson for our own preparation, not National Grid’s.
Grid needs our attention alright, but not their storm response. The communication could be improved and obviously, their computer algorithms for populating their outage map with unreleastic early estimates for power restoration didn’t help everyone’s opinion of them, albeit I think it is pretty cool to have access to the geographical information even if the early estimates are wrong. Anyone who has been through this before took one look at the headlines on Monday that 155,000 people were out of power and knew this wouldn’t be sorted out until the end of the week.
More importantly, we shouldn’t be distracted from continuing the important efforts to remove the perverse incentives that pump subsidies through National Grid’s wires -- with National Grid acting like the Ukrainians with Russian Gas and siphoning off whatever they can for their own coffers. We shouldn’t pull these subsidies because of the storm response, we should do it because it is the right thing to do.
And, if you think National Grid bills are bad now, wait until the state demands action on downed lines within some specified period up to some state-mandated performance standard; and then Grid dutifully trots off to the PUC and asks for sharply increased rates to accomplish that. Or we can all look in the mirror and realize the person staring back at us is the one upon whom we should depend to get through these outages.
Where there are folks with special needs who don’t have the capabilities to prepare themselves as well for such events, that is why we live in neighborhoods. Back in the blizzard of ’78 we all carted cans of fuel oil up blocked streets to our elderly neighbors who were running out. Is it really such an imposition that a troublesome weather event happens every 5 years or so? Or have we really just seen the evidence that because it only happens every 5 years, most of us aren’t well prepared.
Brian Bishop is on the board of OSTPA and has spent 20 years of activism protecting property rights, fighting over regulation and perverse incentives in tax policy.
Kate Coyne-McCoy - In baseball, they call them all around superstars - five tool athletes.
McCoy, who once ran for Congress, is a strong political organizer for EMILY’s List, a proven fundraiser for Raimondo’s PAC, strong with the media, and is a top lobbyist.
She is manages to balance being a partisan with her all-around effectiveness. McCoy can do it all.
Lenny Lopes - Whether you’re looking for someone to navigate the halls of the State House, manage your public relations image, or execute a contract, Lopes can do it all.
The affable and well-liked former Chief of Staff to then-Attorney General Patrick Lynch (and prior to that, Legal Counsel to Lt. Governor Charlie Fogarty) had joined forces with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West before striking out on his own with The Victor Group, taking on such heavyweight clients as Lifespan and online gaming behemoths Fanduel and DraftKings, and more niche healthcare accounts — including the medical marijuana Rhode Island Growers Coalition.
Lopes was tapped this past spring following the tourism debacle by Havas PR to help navigate their way through the Rhode Island waters, and ultimately defend their performance and reputation to stave off their contract cancelation for now. If you’re hired to be a PR firm’s de facto PR brain, you must be on your game.
Two Coast Operative
Matt Lopes - With more than 20 different lobbying agreement Lopes has emerged as a premiere influencer in Rhode Island. His clients range from Dunkin’ Donuts to Amgen to the Rhode Island Airport Corporation.
While managing one of the biggest lobbying practices he is often on the West Coast -- he is a nationally recognized Special Master for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, overseeing prison reform and compliance.
He plays with the big boys on both coasts. Easy for a guy who was a star athlete in high school and at Dartmouth.
Don Sweitzer - IGT (formerly GTECH) super lobbyist plays the game at most every level, with big ties to the Clinton organization that go all the way back to Sweitzer playing a key role with Clinton-Gore in 1992.
Sweitzer’s contacts span the political spectrum - despite his Democratic pedigree, don’t count him out if Donald Trump wins the Presidency as Sweitzer worked for Paul Manafort back in the early 1990s.
Reportedly, Raimondo asked him to serve as her chief of staff - he gracefully declined.
Segal, Bell and Regunberg - These three young Brown grads are emerging as the leaders in progressive causes in Rhode Island and across the United States. David Segal, who served on the City Council in Providence and as a State Rep, failed in a 2010 effort for Congress losing to David Cicilline in the Democratic primary.
In 2016, Segal along with Aaron Regunberg emerged as a powerful force in trying to kill of the Super-Delegate structure in the Democratic primary.
Sam Bell is leading a major effort to re-calibrate the Democratic party to the left the election season. We will know just how good Bell is after September 13’s Democratic primary - Bell is overseeing more than a dozen progressive candidates' campaigns.
Goldberg, Walsh, Ryan and Murphy - These four veteran lobbyists know the pass codes to just about every private office in the State House. For decades they have been the go-to guys. Regardless of who is in power Bob Goldberg, Joe Walsh, Mike Ryan and Bill Murphy are always in vogue.
Only Ryan was not an elected official. Murphy ran the House for a decade, Goldberg had pulled off one of the greatest political coups when he lead a small band of GOP senators and split the Dems to take power, and Walsh was the almost Governor of Rhode Island in 1984.
Combined, they have the lion's share of premier clients and have collected the millions in fees to prove it.
Nicole Pollock - The new Chief-of-Staff for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza certainly has big shoes to fill, with the recent departure of both Chief Operating Officer Brett Smiley and outgoing Chief of Staff Tony Simon but Pollack has gotten off to a strong start. Following the recent summit on Kennedy Plaza co-hosted former Mayor Joe Paolino and Elorza, Paolino told GoLocal, “[Elorza’s] new Chief of Staff, I’m very impressed with.”
Pollock had joined the administration in February 2015 as Chief Innovation Officer and then served as Chief of Policy and Innovation for the administration before being tapped for the top post. Pollock had previously served in a policy and communications role for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. A graduate of Brown University, Pollock currently serves on the Board of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association and the Providence Plan.
The city has no shortage of pressing issues to tackle, from devising a plan to handle the ongoing panhandling, homelessness, and drug use issues in Kennedy Plaza, to the ever-looming issue of the protracted legal battle with the Providence Firefighters that could have monumental financial implications for the city, depending on the outcome.
Matt Bucci - The up-and-comer on Governor Raimondo’s staff was in the mix for Chief of Staff or another promotion this summer, but may chose to take his skills and join the world of lobbying or grab another private sector position.
Made news when he was tied to Governor Raimondo’s ill fated and ultimately canceled trip to Davos Switzerland. Raimondo was going to spend a weekend with the beautiful people and raided the non-profit URI Foundation’s scholarship dollars to fund the trip.
The former staffer to Senator Jack Reed is widely respected. Look for news about Bucci in the near future. Too talented to not make a leap soon.
Chris Hunter - The strategy wunderkind has morphed into a well-established operative in his own right in veteran lobbyist Frank McMahon’s public affairs shop, Advocacy Solutions.
The long-time government and public relations manager for the Providence Working Waterfront Alliance, Hunter is equally adept at the State House, having snagged emerging industry client Lyft and engaged in the hand-to-hand combat that comes with lobbying for the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools.
Election seasons in particular are where Hunter’s know-how comes in handy, having managed a number of successful bond referendum in the state. Hunter is a constant presence networking around town, whether it’s hobnobbing with the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations or serving on host committees for key candidates - he’s the combination of both “who you know” and “what you know."
Nick Hemond - None may be more unabashedly and relentlessly ambitious than Hemond, who landed as an associate at powerhouse DarrowEverett in 2014.
The President of the Providence School Board lobbies at City Hall for high-profile real estate clients including Buff Chace and High Rock Management (i.e. the ownership of the Superman Building) and at the State House for labor interests (RI FOP, RI Carpenters Local Union 94), Big Health (the Hospital Association of Rhode Island) and rounding it out with such interests as AAA, the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, and infrastructure firm AECOM.
If that doesn’t sound like a full load, toss in a slew of crisis communications clients in the way of bars and clubs in varying degrees of trouble (read: stabbings, shootings) before the Providence Board of Licenses. Having so many fingers in so many pies (and some of which could appear somewhat conflicting) has raised eyebrows, but in the meantime if Hemond is winning, the checks keep coming.
Leo Skenyon - The seasoned political operative is the man behind the man. Serving as Chief of Staff to Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, Skenyon helped navigate a more than treacherous legislative session which saw Finance Chair Representative Ray Gallison resign, Representative John Carnevale found ineligible to run at his purported address in Providence, and a slew of financial and ethics issues for a number of Democrats.
The Speaker however emerged from the session having tackled the thorny issue of community service grants, and what had seemed up until this year a nearly impossible task, putting ethics reform — and oversight of the Assembly by the Ethics Commission — before voters this November.
Skenyon has weathered many a political season before, having been the former Chief of Staff to then-Senate Majority Leader Jack Revens in the 1980s, and then a former top aide to Governor Bruce Sundlun and U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell. Now, his boss faces both a Republican and Independent challenger in the general election in November.
Joe Shekarchi - The Chair of the House Labor Committee is running unopposed this year in District 23 in Warwick, marking just the third election season for the powerful politician-lawyer, who first won in 2012.
Given his fundraising prowess, however, one would think that Shekarchi accrued his war chest over a longer tenure, with over $528,000 cash on hand as of the second quarter of 2016, making him far and away the most flush General Assembly member (by way of comparison, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello reported just over $365,000 cash on hand for the same period; Governor Gina Raimondo had $1.4 million.)
It was managing money that helped establish him on the map as a seasoned statewide political operative — he was the campaign manager for statewide operations for Raimondo when she ran for General Treasurer in 2010. With a number of successes in business and on the Hill, keep an eye on Shekarchi's future plans.