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.


Representatives Ruggiero, Gallison, Craven, Serpa, and Trillo - How can we attract business to Rhode Island? This group of legislators offers a bill to eliminate the minimum corporate income tax and franchise tax on the businesses “for the first three (3) years following the date of incorporation.” Considering the high failure rate of many start ups, this is a great incentive to support people looking to open up shop, especially during their difficult early years. The bill ( H7139) has been referred to House Finance.

Representatives Marcello, Hearn, and Lima - This Democratic trio of leadership past and present is calling on the formation of a specific unit within the State Attorney General’s Office to investigate white collar crime and and public corruption via H7459. The three declare, “Abuse of the public trust erodes the public’s confidence in public servants, as well as, undermines the ability of government to work towards the public good.”

Carmen Castillo/Providence City Council - On behalf of those who make the hip economy work, over 1,000 signatures have been presented to the City Clerk’s office calling on the Council to pass a $15.00 minimum wage for hotel workers across the city. Organizers say rising wages will promote more investment in the neighborhoods, as one notes, ” No one on my block has any disposable income right now, so we suffer just like the business owners in our community.” Castillo, an organizer and Housekeeper elected to City Council, vowed that the ordinance for the wage raise,”quickly deserves the City’s attention.” One recurring target of worker protests in the city, The Renaissance Hotel, has been fined by OSHA for health violations.

Brett Smiley - “Too many basic systems and record keeping have yet to be automated, and all too often, finding and getting the right city employee to locate a record, pull a permit, or conduct an inspection is like pulling teeth. It shouldn’t be this hard!” Mayoral candidate Smiley recently issued a policy paper for streamlining city government to help build a “Providence-specific” economic development plan. It’s worth a read.

Declining Teen Pregnancy - Good news! As Elizabeth Burke Bryant of KIDS COUNT presented this past week, “Following national trends, we’ve seen the average teen birth rate decline. In Rhode Island, the average five year rate declined 24%, from 30.7 per 1000 girls between 2004 to 2008, to 23.3 per thousand girls between 2008 and 2012.”

Kathleen Magill - Consider a moment to recall a trailblazer who recently passed. In 1979, Magill became the first woman elected to the Pawtucket City Council, and, in 1987, the only woman so far to run for Mayor of the city, losing in a close contest against the infamous Brian Sarault. Her husband described her as, “a very busy lady.” She was a founding member of the Pawtucket St. Patrick’s Day Committee, and served on Pawtucket’s Planning and Redevelopment Agency.

Neva Lumpkins-Jackson (aka Ms Sunflower)/West End Community Center - Neva Lumpkins-Jackson, a program assistant at the West End Community Center, prepares the best art projects, zippers coats, models responsibility, stays late, arrives early, plans trips, chaperones, supervises homework, and leads up story time, among other things. For over twenty years, “Ms Sunflower” has been a sparkling gem at the West End Community Center, where alum have gone on to work in every field from aviation to education. “Ms Sunflower” -or Mrs Jackson- is moving back South. Thank you for what you’ve done for West End youth!

Ashley Belanger/Executive Director, RI Urban Debate League- The who’s who of political events, this past week’s Urban Debate League’s Community Debate (which I was a happy participant) teamed up numerous politicos, writers, reporters, activists, and elected officials (from Arianne Lynch to Sam Zurier) with high school debate partners, in a spirit of competition, community, and fundraising. (Congratulations to the winner, Kelley Babphavong of Woonsocket High School!) Supporting the Debate League has a real impact on student success, as research finds, “Students who join the debate team are 42% more likely to graduate from high school than those who do not. The impact is even greater among African-American male participants, who are 70% more likely to graduate and three times less likely to drop out.” Donate here.


20% - “…of the state’s approximately 224,000 children,nearly 20% — 41,645 — are living in poverty,” Go Local reported. Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Kids Count, argues, “We know that poor children do worse in the areas we cover. Early intervention is key — not waiting until it gets to a serious level, especially in the arena of mental health. It’s the wise investment of early education, versus remedial education down the line.”

D+ - While our people may be hip, our government operations are not. Rhode Island received a grade of D+ for government spending transparency according to the latest Public Interest Research Group report. “Open information about the public purse is crucial for democratic and effective government,” a senior analyst told GoLocal. “It is not possible to ensure that government spending decisions are fair and efficient unless information is publicly accessible.”

Lincoln Chafee and Gina Raimondo - The state’s pension overhaul plan has gone done in defeat via vote of the police union. Back to court for the State and the interested unions. Communications from the Governor and Treasurer’s Office stated, “For over a year the Governor and Treasurer participated in good faith in court-ordered mediation leading up to the February 14 settlement agreement. This morning, in court, we learned the results of the first round of voting from the plaintiffs. The court has ordered all parties back into mediation. The state will continue to participate in this court-ordered mediation.”

State Senators Jabour, Lynch, Lombardi, Goodwin, Nesselbush and Metts - The Shameful Six on the Senate Judiciary Committee all voted to “hold for further study” the bill which would bring a Senate floor vote to eliminate voting the straight party ticket (or master lever) from the ballot. No other New England state still has the “Master Lever”- known to confuse voters and cause under voting in non-partisan races. Statewide candidates from Nellie Gorbea to Dawson Hodgson have publicly called for its removal. Let’s hope the majority on the House Judiciary Committee aren’t as evasive.

Peter Wasylyk - By all accounts, Mr. Waslyk personally had a good week. The former state representative is back at the General Assembly as new legal counsel to House Majority Leader John DeSimone. Personal attributes aside, I’m just saying- are there really no other lawyers in the state who could do this job? Was anyone else outside the General Assembly Alumni network asked, or even considered?

Bill Fischer - The lobbyist has seemingly done the impossible. In year where former House Speaker Gordon Fox’s office was raided by the Feds, and 38 Studios payments loom large, there is consistent buzz around acquiring millions in public money to turn the old Industrial Trust Tower into a private, mixed use residential and commercial development . Buff Chace, Cliff Wood, and Evan Granoff all are advocates. That said, from the public’s point of view, it is pretty suspicious that with the stock market booming, there is no major outside private investor willing to supplement the project.

Cozy Oversight - ”When a board gets too comfortable and cozy with the organization’s leadership, it can lead to problems,” declares the Non-Profit Quarterly (NPQ) . NPQ recounted, “a lack of oversight and proper procedure on the part of the board of directors” can and has lead to major difficulties for non-profits, even well-endowed ones. Due to funding challenges and inefficiencies, how many community and recreation centers are a shell of what they once were? Support to regroup and rebuild these institutions is crucial for healthy neighborhoods.

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