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Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in RI Politics?

Friday, June 07, 2013


The Mayor of Providence had his ups and downs this week, but continues to work toward improvement.

Every Friday, Dan Lawlor breaks down who's rising and who's falling in the world of Rhode Island politics. Check out who made the lists this week.

Who's Hot

Deborah Gist: At the end of the day, Deborah Gist won the hearts and minds of the State Board of Education. With the support of the RI business community and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Gist was able to overcome well-organized opposition among teachers and education activists. For now, Gist and the Race to the Top style reforms have been re-affirmed. Good luck to the Commissioner—but to be a bigger change agent, she needs to better cultivate support among teachers and in the community at large.

Ted Siedle: The Forbes Columnist and money management analyst has been a powerful critic of hedge-funds and Raimondo's role in the state pension overhaul. The local AFSCME branch is in talks to retain him to do more in-depth investigation of Rhode Island's pension reform. Raimondo can't be too excited.

Wayne Kilcline: Congratulations to Wayne Kilcline, Providence's teacher of the year! Kilcline has spent his entire career–17 years–at Lillian Feinstein at Sackett Street Elementary School, where he has been a phenomenal, and well-loved, music teacher. Kudos!

Angel Taveras: Thanks to the Mayor and City Council for asking the Providence Redevelopment Agency to acquire the thin, brick, burnt-out Arnold Building on downtown's Washington St. With some polishing, the 1923 building will be a gem (don't let anyone–including Paolino–knock it down)!

Lincoln Chafee, Angel Taveras, Allan Fung: In 2011, the average unemployment rate for Rhode Island youth ages 16-19 was 29.0 percent. Alongside Mayors Angel Taveras and Alan Fung, Governor Chafee announced a partnership for over two million dollars to invest in summer jobs and training program for over 1500 RI youth. It's a small step forward, but at least it's a step.

Gina Raimondo and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams: The House passed on a 70-1 floor vote a bill sponsored by Williams on behalf of the treasurer to allow victims of violent crimes to receive funds for relocation in cases of continued danger. Onto the Senate, where hopefully passage will be swift. Well over 8,000 Rhode Islanders experienced domestic abuse last year.

RI GOP: As GOP State Senator Dawson T. Hodgson puts it, "We have a fiduciary obligation to our citizens to oppose gratuitous transfers of public wealth to private hands." Good for the GOP for joining those asking why Rhode Island tax money should be sacrificed for 38 Studio's private investors while public needs are growing.

Senators Elizabeth Crowley and Juan Pichardo: Crowley and Pichardo are calling to lift the moratorium on state reimbursement for new school building construction. Considering a recent RIDE report which found 14 active schools in "poor" condition, action must be taken–too bad the state has a multi-million dollar budget deficit. See http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText13/SenateText13/S0530.pdf.

Alan H. Litwin: The managing director for Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co, a major accounting firm in the city, has announced the team will be hosting a small business incubator in its N Main St. office. A great way to build up the Renaissance City!

Blackstone Academy Charter: Blackstone is an enriching, community-based charter serving students primarily from Pawtucket and Central Falls. Blackstone Academy is 1 of 12 schools "commended" by the state for student success. Good work!

Who's Not

Gordon Fox: Does Massachusetts have a cabinet-level Secretary of Commerce? Why not simply talk with small business owners about what needs to happen to jump start business growth?

Court Advocate Cuts: Due to state budget cuts, starting this past week, the Court Advocacy Office for victims of domestic abuse is closed every Monday. Court Advocates are a vital support to navigate the judicial system. If there is state money for catering, there is money to fully fund this program!

Angel Taveras: The Mayor consistently works hard against a horrible fiscal situation–yet, at the end of the day, schools like Mt. Pleasant and Esek Hopkins are still struggling with the results of decades of delayed maintenance. Sewage was leaking into Roger Williams Middle School cafeteria this past month! This wouldn't be happening in Warwick–or on the East Side.

Providence Public School District: According to Susan Smulyan of New Urban Arts, since 2002, Providence Public Schools have had a 54% decline in the number of art and music teachers, from 155 to just 72 teachers serving 23,561 students.

Thomas Falcone: Mr. Falcone is the executive director of the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, essentially the management wing of our General Assembly, a $39.5 million operation. Mr. Falcone, how many staffers are really necessary to run the "day-to-day operations" of the General Assembly?


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