Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not? - November 3, 2017
Friday, November 03, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team
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.
The Rhode Island ACLU had a big week.
From taking on the State Police -- filing a federal lawsuit against the state's top law enforcement agency for allegedly abusing their power by retaliating against a woman who declined to serve as an informant for the agency in an ongoing criminal investigation -- to continuing to keep the legal heat on the State of Rhode Island in the UHIP debacle, which saw the naming of a court-appointed special master, Executive Director Steve Brown and his legal team continue to put the pressure on Rhode Island leaders, making the case that the ACLU is leading the charge for good government in the state.
Is the Speaker of the House the only voice of reason when it comes to protecting taxpayer’s interests?
He may have his bruises, but Mattiello has voiced strong concerns about the deal that the Raimondo deal negotiated. The PawSox deal lacks both public support and fiscal responsibility.
"Under the terms of the current deal, I have concerns that the mechanism for Pawtucket repaying the city's share of the bonds is not specific enough and could put the taxpayers of Pawtucket and the state at risk," said Mattiello.
"However, I will continue to assess the situation and communicate with House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin Abney and the committee members, who conducted lengthy hearings. I will continue to work with all parties involved, most importantly the taxpayers, added Mattiello.
Newport Restaurant Week
Off-season? What off-season? Newport finds a way to be hot four seasons a year, and Restaurant Week - starting November 3 -- is no exception.
With more than 50 participating restaurants, offering three-course lunches for $16, and dinners for $35 -- November restaurant week gives Rhode Islanders especially the opportunity to visit a favorite establishment -- or try a new one -- when tourist season isn't at its peak, but that's not to say crowds won't turn out for the culinary offerings.
And what's hotter? When Rick Simone, the host of The Taste on GoLocal LIVE, gets chefs up "off-island" the week before, as he did this one, to give a behind-the-scenes sneak peek into what makes the week so special. The final presentation might look superb, but only GoLocal gives you the backstage tour of what makes the industry tick.
RI Dept. of Health
It's not every day you levy the largest fine from your state agency in 30 years. But this week, the Rhode Island Department of Health sent a forceful message to Prime Healthcare for switching the state of its tax status for its two operations in the state -- Landmark Hospital and the Rhode Island Rehabilitation Hospital -- prior to the approval by the state.
Slapping Prime with a $1 million fine might be just a cost of doing business for the legally beleaguered healthcare conglomerate, but the Department of Health made clear that any abuse or transgressions of the Hospital Conversation Act will not be tolerated -- at a time with the St. Joseph pension fund has collapsed, following the seemingly perfunctory application of the HCA in their case -- which has left thousands of retirees in the lurch, and the subject of court attention.
Maybe if someone had been more diligent in the oversight of the HCA back then, this wouldn't be the case. And in that instance -- that of making sure the pension fund of thousands of hard-working Rhode Islanders was solvent -- clearly didn't rest of the Department of Health, but rather the Attorney General's office and the Catholic Diocese.
Case in point why unions exist. Early Monday morning, fierce storms hit Rhode Island, knocking out power across the state. The announcement of school closures started trickling out, when districts realized they could not feasibly open schools, nor safely transport students back and forth, who may or may not have had electricity.
The problem? Bus drivers found themselves in a lurch. Numbers had already showed up at the bus yard that day, ready for a day of work, not having been told, in the case of Providence at the last minute, that school was canceled. Enter the Teamsters.
"Due to the unique circumstances surrounding the late cancellation of school on October 30, 2017, First Student has agreed to pay those Drivers who had reported, were in the process of arriving to work or were en route to the location the 2.75 hour contractual guarantee. This payment of 2.75 hours will not be included in the calculation of weekly overtime as the time was not actually worked by the Driver. Further, this payment is not applicable to any Driver not scheduled to work or who may have called out on October 30, 2017," wrote Teamsters Business Manager Nick Williams.
It's the City of Providence's prerogative to decide when to close schools; when it does so at the 11th hour, someone needs to pay.
Who would have thought?
House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan is on a roll. Fung was expected to be the clear front-runner for the GOP nomination, but it looks like Morgan is capturing the early momentum with a strong launch and out fundraising Fung in their first head-to-head quarter.
Now, the test will be can she build an organization? Can she raise money at an even higher pace? Cash on hand Fung leads her 2 to 1 and Raimondo leads her 30 to 1.
Raimondo + UHIP
Can anyone right the ship? Governor Gina Raimondo has struggled with the ever-growing liability that is the new UHIP system, to deliver benefits to Rhode Islanders -- nor is more and more becoming the case, not.
After congratulating themselves on recouping nearly $60 million when vendor Deloitte was found to have misplaced boxes of unprocessed applications, the Raimondo Administration was found de facto incapable of overseeing the state benefits system on Thursday, when a special master was appointed to take over and to rectify the situation.
Raimondo blamed her predecessor, Lincoln Chafee, for tapping Deloitte for the project way back in 2012 -- all the while, Raimondo still goes to Deloitte-sponsored events -- and ultimately was responsible for allowing a program to go live when the federal government warned against its launch due to lack of readiness).
Racial incidents. An intolerant political culture. Questionable -- and embarrassing -- incidents continue to land Providence College in the public eye, after the school was just ranked -- by students -- as the most segregated in the country for lack of class and racial social interaction in the last Princeton Review.
From a racist Snapchat, to a debauched effigy of the President (seen here), Providence College is quick to respond in some instances, and slower in others. Some might say its just kids being kids, but when you're #1 -- for the wrong reasons -- it's time to take a hard look at the campus culture, and what's being done about it.
A recent New York Times story has raised serious questions about financial giant TIAA — a company that RI has investments in of nearly $700 million. The Sunday feature by Business writer Gretchen Morgenson of the Times flagged that TIAA positions itself above all others, but those claims are now coming under fire.
“Calling itself a ‘mission-based organization’ with a ‘nonprofit heritage,’ TIAA has enjoyed a reputation as a selfless steward of its clients’ assets for almost a century," wrote Morgenson.
But, as the NYT unveils, TIAA’s claims are being called into question as the company fails to disclose its fees and a number of lawsuits and whistleblower actions claim the company is pushing clients into products that generate high fees, but are inappropriate for those they have been targeted to.
Elorza and Pare
The laissez-faire approach to law enforcement is catching up to the capital city and undermining its effort to bounce back.
Providence is the wild, wild west. ATV gangs roam the streets intimidating pedestrians and bikers. The regulation of night clubs is haphazard and smells of politics.
Mayor Jorge Elorza and Public Safety Commissioner Steve Pare seen incapable or unwilling to deal with these and a host of other issues.
Is Brett Smiley a public employee or a political consultant?
Political foes, reform groups, and the public are questioning how Smiley can own multiple political firms and have his clients come before Governor Gina Raimondo simultaneously.
“Smiley's continued ownership of the firm raises the questions that have yet to be answered. In the past we've told GoLocal that Common Cause believes Smiley should seek an advisory opinion from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission with respect to his continued ownership of the consulting firm,” said John Marion, head of Rhode Island Common Cause.
In 2017, companies that Governor Gina Raimondo’s Chief of Staff Brett Smiley owns received payments from many prominent Democrats, including payment from one of the House Democratic Leadership PACs and a $2,030 payment from then-federal inmate and former Rhode Island Speaker of the House Gordon Fox.
Smiley earns $176,419 as Raimondo's Chief of Staff.
Over the past five years, Rhode Island state and local candidates have paid a web of Smiley-owned companies just under $300,000. Federal candidates both in Rhode Island and around the country have paid Smiley’s firms hundreds of thousands in additional payments.
The British-owned company seems to be proficient at seeking rate increases, but less than competent at planning for and responding to storms.
Stories from Rhode Islanders unveil that National Grids storm response is chaotic, disorganized, and lacks communication.
Massachusetts has been far better at holding National Grid's feet to the fire, investigating their failures and sanctioning them.