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TGIT: 22 Things to Know About Rhode Island Politics & Media

Welcome to July and a brief respite from politics. Happy Fourth of July to all my readers, and thanks for stopping by. Your tips and thoughts are always...

Welcome to July and a brief respite from politics. Happy Fourth of July to all my readers, and thanks for stopping by. Your tips and thoughts are always welcome, and you find follow me through the week on the twitters. A quick program note: I'm embarking on summer vacation, so TGIF will be on hiatus until July 24.

1. If construction jobs and Governor Gina Raimondo's truck-toll plan are on the line, will Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed really resist calling the Senate back into session later this year? "Yes, because we've passed a truck toll proposal at this point, and anything else is theoretical," Paiva Weed said during a taping Thursday of RI Public Radio's Political Roundtable. "I mean, that is an impossible question to answer ..." The Senate president was loath to publicly delve into the causes of last week's impasse between the House and Senate, although she seems peeved about the House's inaction on the truck-toll plan. Pressed on whether she will rule out coming back for a Senate vote on a House version of the plan, Paiva Weed said with a laugh, "Well, the House will have to pass the House version of the truck-toll bill for it to go forward. It's a mythical document at this point. There is no House proposal. There is one proposal. It is a good, solid proposal." (FWIW: Paiva Weed said she intends to seek another term as Senate president in 2017, and has not given any thought to a potential opening for a magistrate in US District Court.)

2. Back in 2013, same-sex marriage proponents waged a savvy Rhode Island campaign that coincided with broader shifts in public opinion. While SSM supporters are still cheering the US Supreme Court's recent decision, and Bishop Thomas Tobin is calling for civil disobedience, the takeaways in this Huffington Post piece seem straight from Politics 101: 1) "Convey a bold, inspirational vision;" 2) "Have an overarching strategy;" 3) "Focus on values and emotions;" 4) "Meet people where they are;" 5) "Find the right messengers;" 6) "Build state campaigns designed to win;" 7) "Invest heavily in local organizing;" 8) "Accept this political reality: politicians care about re-election above almost anything else;" 9) "Be serious about reaching across the aisle;" and 10) "Build momentum every day." In Rhode Island's case, #s 1, 2, 4, 7, and especially 8 seemed particularly important.

3. Former House speaker Gordon Fox, due to report for the start of his federal prison sentence next Tuesday, has been assigned the BOP identifier 09914-070.

4. Amid the ongoing tiff between Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Paiva Weed, it remains to be seen if Governor Raimondo will veto anything that cleared the General Assembly this year. At minimum, the landscape marks quite a contrast from 2010, when the Legislature overrode 27 (!) of then-Governor Don Caricieri's vetoes.

5. Media fascination with shark attacks carries at least a faint echo of the era preceding 9/11, the so-called vacation from history, when cable networks generally focused on less-than-vital stories. Yet there's something primordial about the fear inspired by a predator near the top of the food chain (and even a former Boston Herald editor was injured while fighting off a shark attack in North Carolina). As it happens, this summer marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the classic movie "Jaws" (budget: a mere $7 million), which helped usher in Hollywood's obsession with finding the next blockbuster.

6. I-195 Redevelopment Commission chairman Joseph Azrack, the key point person in the state's talks with the PawSox, is listing a property he owns on West 11th Street in Manhattan for $20 million, according to the New York Post. The tabloid reports: "He bought the five-story, four-bedroom, 5½-bath townhouse for $12.21 million in 2009, records show. The home, in a row of seven Greek Revival townhouses, was gut-renovated. It includes a private landscaped garden, a fourth-floor terrace, as well as an elevator, an oak and steel staircase, a wine cellar and three woodburning fireplaces."

7. Speaking of Joseph Azrack, he's part of the host committee for a July 12 Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser at the Narragansett home of Bill and Helena Foulkes. The event features -- count 'em -- five US senators: Al Franken of Minnesota; Chris Coons of Delaware; and Joe Donnelly of Indiana (whose 2012 campaign was piloted by West Warwick native Paul Tencher; along with Rhode Island's own Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse. (Suggested contribution levels run from $1,000 to $5,000.) Other host committee members include Bernie Buonanno; Liz Chace

Libba and Paul Choquette; Amato DeLuca; Gerry Harrington; Jean and Paul Moran; Suzanne and Terry Murray; Liz and Michael Perik; Tom Quinn; Mary Sadlier and Steve Rosa; Cathy and Tom Ryan; Sally Lapides and Art Solomon; Alison and Charlie Townsend; Chris Vitale; Marilyn and Jim Winoker.

8. Not surprisingly, Providence native Tad Devine (who is advising Bernie Sanders) was among those re-tweeting the Washington Post story headlined, "In Bernie Sanders, an Unlikely -- but real -- Threat to Hillary Clinton." Excerpt: “ 'He’s connecting in a way that Hillary Clinton is not,” said Burt Cohen, a former New Hampshire state senator and Sanders supporter who attended Sunday morning’s event, where a nasty rain didn’t seem to deter many people from coming. 'He’s talking about things people want to hear. People are used to candidates who are calculated, produced and measured, and they see through that. Bernie’s different.' ”

9. Serious research is the signature of the regular op-ed by Steven Frias in the Providence Journal, like this week's piece tracing the evolution of firefighters' work-weeks in Rhode Island. In this case, Frias begins his narrative in 1967; that's almost 50 years ago -- long before the Journal or other news organizations started thinking about online archives. So how does Frias do it? Does he have photographic recall, or a network of on-staff local historians? No. For starters, Frias said he's reviewed every Cranston Herald from the 1920s through the mid-1980s, and City Council records dating to 1910. "Regardless of whether you agree with my political opinions, I hope people learn more about RI history from reading my columns," Frias said via email. He also combs microfilm to review past articles from the ProJo and bygone Evening Bulletin: "That is where I get access. I have a file cabinet in my basement full of copies of these newspapers' articles I got from microfilm. You may be asking how do I locate particular articles. I generally research RI newspapers in these ways: 1) Currently, I am researching RI modern history, post 1900, for a book that will probably take me to end of  the decade to write. As a result, I am systematically going through the ProJo from 1/1/1901 to the  mid-1980s, with a focus on when the General Assembly is in session, the two months leading up to the election, and Sunday newspapers. So I found interesting tidbits that way; 2) I do an electronic search of ProJo stories post mid 1980s; 3) If there is an event that interests me, I read the ProJo for that period in which I believe it occurred, and I will sometimes read the Evening Bulletin for that same overlapping period. The information usually overlaps but the Bulletin can sometimes provide a few additional details or better editorial quotes; 4) The Providence Public Library has a card index of the ProJo/Bulletin by topic. It was compiled over the years by various librarians. As a  result, it is very hit and miss as to the topic and the time period. Some topics and some time periods are better organized than others. The entries on the cards can be very cryptic. Sometimes they have nothing, sometimes they have a lot, many times it is scattered among various topic entries."

10. With the General Assembly on hiatus, the PawSox are stepping up their outreach efforts, scheduling the following appearances as part of a "listening tour" featuring Red Sox exec Charles Steinberg, who is taking on more of the outreach responsibilities formerly held by the late Jim Skeffington: "July 7, Smithfield Senior Center, 5 pm; July 9, Portsmouth Senior Center, 5 pm; Middletown VFW, 7 pm; July 14, Richmond Council Chambers, 5 pm; East Greenwich Senior Center, 7 pm; July 16, Johnston Senior Center, 5 pm; Woonsocket Public Library, 7 pm."

11. Ted Nesi has been diligently bird-dogging the path of the big South Street Landing project, and how it doesn't yet have financing. "We are close," a spokesman with Connecticut-based CV Properties told Nesi.

12. Tim Groves, executive director of the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools, rejects the idea public opinion has turned against charter schools in Rhode Island. In this interview with RIPR's Elisabeth Harrison, Groves said spending on charters is less than 2 percent of the $1 billion+ spent each year on education in Rhode Island. He said charters serve the same fundamental purpose of educating students while trying to scale up new approaches. "There is not an inequity," Groves insisted, despite how critics see charters as a drain on traditional public schools. Still, it seems clear that Groves -- who started in his role in June -- will have his hands full in advocating for charters after the end-of-session snit short-circuited the General Assembly's clear intention to restrict charters.

13. The Wall Street Journal has a fun read about the other Brown University grad in the presidential race: "Taste Test: What Happens When We Feed Bobby Jindal Hillary Clinton's Cookies?"

14. When I was living on College Hill some years back, a couple residing nearby left for the suburbs, due, they said, to their concerns about public schools. Providence has many fine qualities. Yet another of my former neighbors, Brown physicist Brad Marston, recently tweeted some exasperation with the capital city. I asked him to elaborate about what was on his mind, and here's what he wrote: "With its location along the northeast corridor, fine universities, surrounding natural beauty, and low housing costs, Providence could attract vibrant start-ups with talented young workers, lifting the economy and improving the City for all. Why doesn’t it? Our failed City government is one major obstacle. Set aside for the moment the long line of corrupt politicians. The City flaunts the rule of law, is not responsive to the wishes of its residents, and undermines democracy with appointed boards. Consider the City's lack of respect for pedestrians. Mayors past and present have told residents to remove snow from sidewalks, yet the City itself is the worst offender, failing to clear sidewalks along its own properties, including public schools (see #PVDsidewalks on Twitter). Walkers and bicyclists know that many Providence drivers don't obey the laws that protect them. Councilman Terry Hassett was nearly killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing Atwells Avenue. Yet how many times have the Providence Police enforced the state statute (31-8-3) that requires motorists to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks?  In 2014, only 8 times out of a total of 10,282 traffic stops. The City flaunts the rule of law in other ways. For years the unelected Historic District Commission has blocked installation of solar panels in historic districts, harming both the environment and the local economy. Yet highly visible panels were installed on top of Hope High School within the College Hill historic district without the required permit. Only after heavy pressure did the City retroactively issue itself a Certificate of Appropriateness. Another damaging City policy has been the effective elimination of school recess in public elementary schools. This harms our children and is another reason why families leave Providence.   Concern about the policy is widespread: "What happened to recess?" was the topic of a standing-room only meeting of parents at the Providence Athenaeum in 2013. No one from the school administration or the unelected school board bothered to attend the meeting. Each of these problems could be solved by a City government that respects the law and responds to all of its citizens instead of the entrenched interests that have failed the City so miserably." (City Hall declined to offer a response to Marston's concerns.)  

15. As Rhode Island's truck-toll debate waxes and wanes, it's worth noting Scott MacKay's point -- that tolls don't seem to have impacted business in Newport or in Massachusetts (where the Mass Turnpike runs through many towns with economic profiles like that of Rhode Island on the way from the Berkshires to Boston).

16. Via @FitzProv: Ken McKay, who ran two winning gubernatorial campaigns for Don Carcieri and briefly led the RI GOP, has signed on to manage Chris Christie's presidential campaign. FWIW, McKay was on hand (although not commenting) when Christie stumped in Johnston last year for Allan Fung's gubernatorial campaign.

17. Where are they now? Back in the day, William Pierce ran for the General Assembly and was involved with Ken Block's 2010 Moderate campaign for governor. Nowadays, Pierce is leading a move to draft VP Joe Biden to run for president.

18. Making Providence into a more-bicycle friendly city has been a work in progress for a long time. So it's worth noting how the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition has hired its first staffer, Alex Krogh-Grabbe, as program director. Via news release: "While organizational development and member recruitment will be RIBike’s biggest focuses in the initial term of Krogh-Grabbe’s time with the organization, he said he will also prioritize building relationships with other organizations in the state and nationally, both bike organizations and affinity organizations in other issue areas. He began work on June 29th. 'There are so many benefits of bicycling, both for individuals and Rhode Island as a whole,' Krogh-Grabbe said. 'it’s our goal to make bicycling a fun and attractive option for transportation and recreation for everyone in the state.' "

19. The man best known as Dr. Seuss -- Theodor Geisel -- had a lot of accomplishments beyond his best-known whimsical creations, including being the creator of Chief Gansett. Yet he also drew World War II editorial cartoons.

20. Media critic Dan Kennedy is out with his annual Muzzle Awards. The locals in the mix include Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare and Brown University.

21. Track 84 in Warwick justly gained a reputation as one of Rhode Island best beer bars, so we were saddened to hear of its closing. Lou Papineau has the details.

22. How do you like celebrating the Fourth? The famed Bristol parade? Reading aloud from Leaves of Grass? Tipping a cap to George M. Cohan, or remembering the efforts of veterans? Regardless, we hope you have a happy and safe holiday.

TGIT: 22 Things to Know About Rhode Island Politics & Media
TGIT: 22 Things to Know About Rhode Island Politics & Media