How's that presidential campaign working out for you? Thanks for stopping by for my weekly column. As usual, your tips and feedback are welcome via email, and you can follow me through the week on the twitters. Here we go.
1. To say that Lincoln Chafee doesn't think like most politicians would be a grand understatement. Yet that may be as good as it gets in attempting to explain why Chafee decided to pursue what many consider a pointless quest for the presidency. University of Virginia Center for Politics director Larry Sabato had a prescient take when I spoke with him in June: "[I]n [Chafee's] own mind, and in writing maybe the last chapter of public service in his long career, it gives him the opportunity to say 'I stood for A, B, and C in my career, and that’s what I stressed in my unsuccessful presidential campaign.' " (Sure, the reviews were awful when Chafee finally got a nationally televised audience via last week's CNN debate -- so maybe he was just waiting for a decent interval before making his inevitable exit. Leave it to Linc to reference Aristophanes, President Eisenhower, and a former Vietnam POW in his parting comments.) So what's next for a guy who leads us to expect the unexpected? Does he make a return to teaching at Brown University, or aim to go full circle by one day running again for mayor of Warwick? (Speaking of unexpected developments, a Donald Trump nomination is seen as increasingly likely by GOP insiders.)
2. Providence City Council President Luis Aponte isn't ruling out a tax hike as part of what might be necessary to wipe out ongoing deficits in the capital city. "I think it will be a combination of things that will help us close the deficit, which may include a tax increase," Aponte said during this week's RI Public Radio Political Roundtable. "We are in the midst of a revaluation. It appears that property values are moving up, so that may help lessen the need [for a tax increase]." While Aponte said city officials are trying to manage the budget "the best way we can," he also blames non-profit institutions, in part, for distorting Providence's tax base. "Hopefully," Aponte said, "Rhode Island Hospital, Brown, or any of the other non-profits won't buy any more property in our city."
3. With last session's charter school battle looming in the background, Governor Gina Raimondo has set an aggressive timetable for a review of state education funding. The governor said she wants her panel to present its initial findings and recommendations by January 1 -- a date that will approach quickly due to the proximity of Thanksgiving and the December holidays. Yet examining the return for education spending remains in line with Raimondo's messaging about improving government performance. As the governor told RIPR's Elisabeth Harrison, "The real question is, are we getting the most for our money? The state spends nearly a billion dollars a year distributed to cities and towns, what are we getting for it?" For more background, detail on Raimondo's education-funding panel, and a brief interview with the governor, check Elisabeth's report.
4. Here's the rundown on the seven candidates who have filed to run for the state Senate seat, District 11, recently vacated by Christopher Ottiano (R-Portsmouth), as provided by Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea's office: John A. Pagliarini Jr., Tiverton, Republican; Joan B. Chabot, Tiverton, Republican; Brett N. Pelletier, Tiverton, Democrat; Amy G. Rice, Portsmouth, Democrat; James Arthur Seveney, Portsmouth, Democrat; Gregory Steven Blythe, Portsmouth, Independent; Kenneth Mendonca, Portsmouth, Republican. The primary election is December 1, and the general election is on for January 5.
5. An RIPR exclusive, via Scott MacKay: Lifespan and Care New England, Rhode Island's two largest hospital groups, have quietly resumed merger talks. Dr. Timothy Babineau, president and CEO of Lifespan, tells Scott the talks "are in very early stages" and come in response to Care New England’s request for partnership proposals last spring. Meanwhile, RIPR healthcare reporter Kristin Gourlay takes a look at how hospital mergers affect patient care.
6. Patrick Kennedy and his wife, Amy, are expecting another daughter, in about two months. During a swing through Rhode Island to promote his book, the former congressman stopped in at RIPR for an interview and visited with former staffers George Zainyeh, Chris Vitale, and Kathy Hinckley.
7. Coming Monday, Pt. I: the start of Rhode Island Public Radio's latest One Square Mile series, in which we do a series of stories on different facets of a Rhode Island community. This time around, Burrillville gets the close-up.
8. Coming Monday, Pt. II: Governor Raimondo, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed are set to gather at Slater Mill in Pawtucket (2 pm) to "announce the launch of competitive economic tools aimed at creating jobs and spurring investment."
9. Does the City of Providence have an effective strategy for luring the PawSox to Victory Place? Council President Luis Aponte dodged when I put that question to him during our Political Roundtable conversation, although he made clear that he's receptive to the concept. "If you think about what it represents to us as a city, having 700,000, 800,000 people come through our city during the course of a summer, the economic spin-off and opportunity that can generate has significant value," Aponte said. "So as a city we understand what that value is, and we need to understand what it is the ownership is looking for." .... Other PawSox notes: Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien hasn't heard back on his request to have another meeting with Larry Lucchino ... Lucchino assistant Dan Rea remains oblique on PawSox ownership's process for culling expressions of interest: "Right now we’re still letting the dust settle from our public campaign for the I-195 site," Rea said via email. "Our energies are primarily focused on the 2016 season at McCoy Stadium, but we are happy to receive any proposals regarding the long-term future of the club. We are pleased that there is genuine interest in the PawSox from several places, but it would be premature and inappropriate for us to comment further."
10. Open government groups and representatives of media organizations unleashed tough criticism for the Raimondo administration's approach to transparency when they met Tuesday with the governor's chief of staff, Stephen Neuman. They rapped the rejection of some public-records requests and said getting even routine information has become more challenging. Neuman responded by granting one of the groups' requests -- a memo calling on state agencies to practice a tendency toward disclosure -- and he said the state will do better. Yet as Steve Brown of the RI ACLU noted, it will take time to tell whether things have improved. For her part, Governor Raimondo defends the administration, using a bit of slang popular among business execs to argue, "In every instance I've opened the kimono."
11. While UNITE HERE, Local 217, is an acknowledged force in Providence politics, Luis Aponte is pushing back at the idea that the union blocked the City Council from approving the Procaccianti Group's proposed hotel on Fountain Street. Although the hotel would generate jobs and millions of dollars in revenue, "the other part of that transaction is that it would forgive millions of dollars for the development of a brand-new hotel right across the street from the Convention Center," Aponte said this week on RI Public Radio's Bonus Q+A. "So the generosity of the city's [tax] abatement that the developers are seeking is what's in question .... There are concerns, and clearly we heard the folks at UNITE HERE. But like I said, this is a development where you're knocking down an old building, building a brand new hotel across the street from a publicly subsidized convention center, and seeking 12 years and a significant number of dollars abated in taxes. It's something that the council is doing its due-diligence on." Aponte said a council vote on the hotel project is likely before the end of the year. (Councilman Sam Zurier has a different view on the impact of the hotel workers' union: "The hotel workers are definitely holding up the tax stabilization agreement for the downtown hotel," Zurier said via email, after hearing our interview with Aponte. "The terms of the current agreement were negotiated and approved by the administration, and they match a standard template (in terms of dollars and years) that has been approved for each development in Providence over the past three years. Those terms are less generous to the developer than the City Council approved for the I-195 parcel, which will be cheaper to build on because there is no existing building to demolish. The City Council’s Economic Development Task Force issued a report in 2014 recommending that the standard agreement be available throughout downtown to avoid the haggling currently taking place with regard to the Fogarty Building project. Simply put, the City Council’s approval of a blanket program for the I-195 district basically “sets the market” as to what developers will expect for downtown."
12. Coming and Going: A warm Rhode Island welcome to the newest reporter on Fountain Street, Jackie Tempera .... Six-foot+ tall IGT letters, each weighing between 600 and 800 pounds, are slated to be put in place Saturday at what had been known as the GTECH building .... Marianne Monte, a member of Governor Raimondo's transition team, has been hired to be chief people officer for Shawmut Design and Construction, working mostly from the company's Providence office.
13. With more than a year until the next mayoral election in Cranston, Allan Fung signaled this week that he fully intends to seek re-election. Democratic challenge Michael Sepe is set to formally launch his campaign November 1. While the critical findings of a State Police report made for a tough summer for Fung, the amount of time until the election gives the mayor ample opportunity to restore his standing among voters. Looking ahead, the bigger dogfight in Cranston politics is likely to happen in 2020. Fung (if he wins re-election) will be termed out by then, and a host of Democrats (including possibly Charlene Lima, Paula McFarland, and Michael Farina) can be expected to compete in the primary.
14. A couple of reads for your weekend: "Can Jack Dorsey save Twitter?"; "The Women in the Van [covering Hillary Clinton];" "Newport's New Blood: Wealthy Home Buyers Invest in Rhode Island"
15. Did you hear about the youth hockey league in Cranston where the jerseys featured the name of Speaker Mattiello? The speaker's office told Ted Nesi he was unaware of this, and they called criticism petty, although some see this as part and parcel of what is wrong with the General Assembly leadership's legislative grant program.
16. A special commission studying the prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses is slated to hold its first meeting Monday. Meanwhile, with this issue gaining more attention, there are questions about whether the rights of the accused are being adequately protected. As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, "In the past few months, Middlebury College and the University of Southern California were both ordered to reinstate expelled students. So was the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga after a judge ruled the school was basically upending a fundamental principle of justice by making an accused perpetrator prove he wasn't guilty."
18. Does the federal government's move to regulate recreational drones render moot a House panel on the same subject? Here's the response from House spokesman Larry Berman: "This commission will review current State and Federal law pertaining to the utilization of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles. We will evaluate best practices and ways to work with our AG and other law-enforcement officials to ensure appropriate monitoring of drone usage."
19. The election of a new Canadian prime minister this week was a reminder of how elections elsewhere are sometimes a lot shorter -- and a lot cheaper. Via NPR: "The U.S. system essentially requires candidates to raise millions of dollars to even mount a serious run. 'Voters in [Canada] would not have the tolerance or would not accept a system where that kind of money is spent on campaigns. There would be a huge uproar,' said Don Abelson, professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario. 'The elections tend to be very short. They don't tend to be terribly expensive.' Indeed, Canadians balked even at the country's recent 11-week campaign."
20. So much for the prediction in Back to the Future II that the long-suffering Chicago Cubs would win the World Series in 2015, right? Meanwhile, check this Atlantic story on the cult of conspiracy theories, including those who made a video posting that Back to the Future predicted 9/11.
This post has been updated.