Happy Saturday! Here’s one other version of my weekend column for WPRI.com — as all the time, ship your takes, ideas and trial balloons to [email protected] and observe me on Twitter and on Facebook.
1. Storm clouds are gathering on Rhode Island’s financial horizon, but it surely’s nonetheless unclear if the state will expertise solely passing flurries or a full-blown nor’easter. Close observers level to some regarding indicators. URI’s Len Lardaro sees “mounting proof” that the state’s economic system is slowing in employment information, and calculates that the unemployment fee was 5.2% in December when adjusted for labor pressure participation. RIPEC’s Mike DiBiase had an analogous takeaway from the most recent employment report, warning that “the information usually is just not superb,” and mentioning that the state remains to be down by over 10,000 jobs versus earlier than the pandemic. (Massachusetts has made up practically all of its pandemic job losses, whereas Connecticut remains to be lagging.) Some firms at the moment are cutting jobs because the Fed’s inflation-fighting crimps income: Hasbro simply introduced it’s going to eliminate roughly 1,000 jobs worldwide as a result of disappointing vacation gross sales, with a small share of the layoffs in Rhode Island. Many forecasters anticipate a recession this 12 months, although others suppose the economic system will sluggish with out shrinking. Speaker Shekarchi has been the loudest cautionary voice on Smith Hill, counting himself amongst those that anticipate a recession, and saying the potential for a downturn will probably be entrance of thoughts because the House begins reviewing Governor McKee’s $13.7 billion budget proposal.
2. Sheldon Whitehouse returned Sunday from a visit to Ukraine, the place he visited President Zelenskyy alongside together with his Senate colleagues Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal. Whitehouse was already on Zelenskyy’s radar earlier than the journey; in the course of the lame duck session, the Ukrainian chief engaged in a successful bit of last-minute lobbying to get Mitch McConnell on board with a invoice co-sponsored by Whitehouse and Graham. “The backstory was that we had a invoice clogged up,” Whitehouse instructed Kim Kalunian and Kayla Fish throughout a live interview Wednesday on 12 News at 4. “It was bipartisan — it appeared to have a number of help — we couldn’t fairly establish who was blocking it. But what it might do is it might take the cash that we’ve got allowed and inspired the U.S. authorities to seize from the corrupt [Russian] oligarchs, and as a substitute of simply seizing it and freezing it, it might enable it to be diverted over to Ukraine in order that the taxpayers have much less of a accountability and the individuals who prompted this battle have extra of a accountability. And clearly President Zelenskyy likes that concept, and so we had been in a position to manage him making a name to Leader McConnell, the top of the Republican Party. And that broke the logjam, and the invoice bought into the omnibus and it’s now legislation.”
3. Speaking of Senator Whitehouse, he has seen the largest enhance in his stature to date amongst native lawmakers because the 118th Congress begins getting all the way down to enterprise. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer formally named Whitehouse the brand new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, giving the Rhode Islander a full-committee gavel for the primary time in his 16 years on Capitol Hill. Amusingly, Whitehouse has spent years publicly bemoaning how ineffective he finds the panel, which was created in the 1970s in a less-than-successful bid to rationalize the spending selections of the highly effective Appropriations Committees. Whitehouse has described the Budget Committee as “preposterous and meaningless,” even a “nullity,” saying in 2018: “We don’t do something on this committee.” That mentioned, he’s additionally repeatedly appeared for methods to make its work extra helpful. Rhode Island native Andy Boardman, who’s now on the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and has tracked the Budget Committee for years, cited two methods he expects Whitehouse to utilize his new gavel. “One: A committee chair is an enormous soapbox. With this new place, anticipate Whitehouse to construct consideration and proposals round his core points, like how local weather change threatens the federal price range,” Boardman instructed me. “Two: Whitehouse’s document suggests one in all his focuses will probably be attempting to maneuver the committee away from the partisan gauntlet it has change into for price range brawls, and as a substitute reasserting the committee’s traditionally supposed position of budgetary air-traffic controller – unifying appropriations, spending and tax insurance policies round some shared goals. Republicans’ hostage-taking on the debt restrict might give him a possibility to indicate off some concepts later this 12 months.”
4. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries introduced Friday he has named newly elected Congressman Seth Magaziner to 2 committees: Homeland Security and Natural Resources. Neither is among the many House’s strongest panels, however that isn’t essentially a knock on Magaziner — no freshman bought a spot on high-profile panels like Appropriations, Energy & Commerce or Ways & Means. Additionally, Magaziner was added to House Minority Whip Katherine Clark’s whip workforce as a regional whip monitoring the votes of the New England delegation. The 2nd District Democrat additionally made good on a marketing campaign promise by co-sponsoring a invoice to ban members of Congress from buying and selling shares.
5. Rhode Island actually doesn’t lack for affect within the nation’s capital as of late, with Gina Raimondo serving as commerce secretary, Jack Reed main the Armed Services Committee and Mike Donilon on the president’s proper hand as his senior adviser. Another Rhody transplant with an enormous White House gig is Pawtucket native Gabe Amo, a particular assistant to the president who serves because the administration’s lead liaison with the nation’s mayors. My photographer Corey Welch and I visited Amo in Washington to get an up-close take a look at what it’s wish to work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — here’s our profile of him.
6. Jake Auchincloss just gave the first-ever congressional speech generated by AI.
7. Here’s a dispatch from my Target 12 colleague Tim White: “When he was simply 6 years previous, Hugh Clements and his household had been compelled out of their Smith Hill triple-decker as a result of the state needed the land for presidency buildings. He moved to Coventry, and his childhood house grew to become a car parking zone throughout from the State House. Two many years later, in 1985, Clements returned to the capital metropolis to take an oath as a Providence patrolman. ‘I solely needed to be a Providence police officer,’ Clements instructed me in an exit interview at police headquarters this week, following his choice as the brand new head of the federal COPS program. Clements spent years as a beat cop, then joined the Detective Bureau, doing undercover work like gun stings focusing on members of organized crime. He additionally helped to dismantle the dreaded gang The Latin Kings. And he estimates he’s investigated practically 100 homicides, most of them solved. ‘There’s one or two that also trouble me,’ he mentioned. Initially reluctant to affix the brass, Clements finally accepted a place as a district commander on the daybreak of town’s neighborhood policing motion. On Friday he walked out the door of headquarters for the ultimate time, eradicating the ‘1’ badge from his shirt after 12 years as colonel. (As Dan McGowan found, you need to return the Civil War period to discover a chief who led the division longer.) Having lined legislation enforcement for practically a quarter-century, one level about Clements stands out to me: his capacity to stability the significance of police accountability with letting his rank-and-file know he had their backs. Clements was the proper antidote to his predecessor, Col. Dean Esserman, who actually rubbed many on the division the mistaken means. Former Mayor Jorge Elorza, too, mentioned and did issues that raised the ire of officers, as did Commissioner Steven Paré. Clements efficiently cast relationships inside the neighborhood, even in the course of the unrest of 2020, and was a full-throated supporter of body-worn cameras regardless of grumblings inside the ranks. But he was additionally the primary to remind individuals simply how laborious a job policing is, and what it’s wish to need to make a split-second resolution. ‘I by no means forgot the struggles of the job,’ he instructed me. ‘When you’re on the market at 2:30 within the morning on a automotive cease, or 10:30 at night time within the north finish, the south aspect, the West End. Policing in such a surroundings … it’s troublesome.’ The displaced child from Smith Hill by no means forgot what it was wish to be a beat cop. And his management confirmed it.”
8. Bernie Buonanno is out as Rhode Island Convention Center Authority chairman, on the request of Governor McKee; Buonanno’s daughter, Helena Foulkes, challenged McKee in final 12 months’s election. Buonanno says McKee relayed the request by AFL-CIO President George Nee, who serves because the authority’s vice-chair. No phrase but on who would be the new chairman, however McKee press secretary Olivia Darocha mentioned, “The workplace is working to fill this seat and can have an announcement within the coming weeks.”
9. Eye on Smith Hill … state reps have spent the month of January nervously awaiting phrase from Speaker Shekarchi about their committee assignments, often out by now; the lists are due subsequent week following passage of the House rules package … the Rhode Island Senate will proceed tiptoeing into the twenty first century by doubling the number of hearing rooms fitted out with broadcast capabilities … Senate GOP Leader Jessica de la Cruz joined 12 News at 4 for a live interview on her 2023 agenda.
10. Speaker Shekarchi welcomed an uncommon customer to the House to present a lecture on Thursday: famed historian Douglas Brinkley, who spoke to reps and different visitors about states’ roles in advancing environmental coverage, keyed off his 2022 e book “Silent Spring Revolution.” Shekarchi mentioned the inspiration for the invitation got here from Democratic National Committeewoman Liz Beretta-Perik, who met Brinkley by her service on the Library of Congress basis board. She mentioned Brinkley was impressed by Rhode Island’s latest efforts on environmental coverage, together with the 2021 Act on Climate, in addition to the comity on the House flooring between Shekarchi and GOP Leader Mike Chippendale. “It was a pleasure to see them spotlight all their laborious work,” Beretta-Perik mentioned. You can watch Brinkley’s remarks to the House here.
11. Ronna Romney McDaniel simply gained re-election as Republican National Committee chair regardless of challenges from opponents who pointed to the 2022 midterm outcomes to criticize her management. Three Rhode Islanders had a vote within the race: state GOP Chair Sue Cienki, National Committeeman Steve Frias and National Committeewoman Lee Ann Sennick. Cienki and Sennick have but to reply to a query about who they supported within the race, however Frias confirmed he voted to present McDaniel one other time period. “There had been numerous the explanation why Republicans underperformed in 2022, however McDaniel was not one in all them. The RNC did its job in 2022,” Frias mentioned in an e-mail. “The two foremost the explanation why Republicans didn’t do higher in 2022 was the Dobbs resolution, which elevated Democratic turnout, and former President Trump’s high-profile involvement within the midterm elections, which value us swing voters. Hopefully we are going to understand this earlier than the 2024 election.”
12. Here’s a dispatch from my Target 12 colleague Steph Machado: “In his State of the State handle, Governor McKee made a promise about the way forward for the ageing faculty buildings the place Providence college students study: ‘I’m proud to say that quickly, Providence can have 50% of its college students in new amenities.’ The pronouncement got here shortly after the state-run faculty district got here out with a brand-new building plan, abandoning beforehand introduced initiatives and proposing to construct a number of new or ‘like-new’ Okay-8 colleges with voter-approved faculty bond cash. In addition to new building, the plan requires closing two elementary colleges this spring and a center faculty in 2025. I used to be curious in regards to the governor’s math, so I requested his administration for the listing of college buildings and enrollment numbers they used to provide you with the 50% stat, and to outline ‘quickly.’ After repeated requests, the reply lastly got here Thursday night time — and it seems the timeline for fulfilling this promise is about seven years away, in the course of the 2029-30 faculty 12 months. The math is just a little fuzzy. RIDE spokesperson Victor Morente says 7,300 Providence college students are anticipated to be in ‘high-quality studying areas’ by 2030 at each current colleges (PCTA, Classical High School, Nathan Bishop Middle School, William D’Abate Elementary School) and new or ‘like-new’ Okay-8 colleges (Narducci Learning Center, Spaziano Campus, Pleasant View Elementary School, Mary Fogarty School, Harry Kizirian School, Gilbert Stuart School). Based on present enrollment of 20,700 college students, that may solely account for just a little greater than a 3rd of Providence college students. Morente mentioned enrollment is projected to drop to 16,800 by 2030, a major lower. But even when that occurs, it might nonetheless imply solely 43% of Providence college students could be in these faculty buildings primarily based on RIDE’s personal numbers. That’s nonetheless wanting the governor’s promise, however Morente mentioned RIDE thinks there will probably be sufficient bond cash to do ‘extra faculty enhancements’ that may convey the entire to over 50%.”
13. Also from Steph Machado: the brand new I-195 Commission chairman, Marc Crisafulli, is skeptical about whether or not the Fane Tower will ever get constructed, and desires to get extra money for the remainder of the vacant freeway land. Read Steph’s full report here.
14. Rhode Island nonetheless has greater than 35,000 lead water pipes, and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio wants all of them gone within 10 years.
15. Veteran Democratic strategist Greg Maynard argues the Massachusetts Democratic Party is no longer fit for purpose in what has successfully change into a one-party state. How a lot of his criticisms additionally apply to the Rhode Island Democratic Party?
16. One of the nice works of American literature, “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales,” is now over 30 years old.
17. Two nice reads from The Washington Post problem the standard knowledge on client merchandise and the surroundings: single-use espresso pods may not be worse than traditional coffee pots, and trendy house home equipment are vastly more efficient than assumed.
18. Next Tuesday would have been the 108th birthday of one in all Rhode Island’s best musicians, the late jazz trumpet legend Bobby Hackett — and even for those who don’t know his taking part in, you’ll probably acknowledge his identify as a result of it graces the theater at CCRI in Warwick. Listen to Hackett here backing up Tony Bennett on “The Very Thought of You.” (And to study extra about Hackett, here’s his NYT obit.)
19. This week our newsroom mentioned goodbye to a real WPRI 12 legend, Danielle North, who stepped down as our morning anchor practically a quarter-century after she first joined the newsroom. As I mentioned on Twitter, there’s no person in information with an even bigger coronary heart than Danielle — or an even bigger persona! She will probably be enormously missed, each on air and behind the scenes. The morning workforce put collectively some beautiful tributes to Danielle to mark her departure, which you can find here. Happily, Danielle handed over the reins to an ideal successor within the AM anchor chair, Kait Walsh, a Southeastern Massachusetts native who’s been with us since 2017.
20. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers — Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements. Watch Sunday at 5:30 a.m. on WPRI 12 and 10 a.m. on Fox Providence, or hear on the radio Sunday at 6 p.m. on WPRO. You may subscribe to Newsmakers as a podcast on iTunes (or wherever you get your podcasts). See you again right here subsequent Saturday morning.
Ted Nesi ([email protected]) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/enterprise editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook