Will RI be prepared to celebrate the country’s 250th anniversary?

Will RI be prepared to celebrate the country’s 250th anniversary?

STORY OF THE WEEK: With 122 days to go before the Nov. 5 election (as of this writing), Democrats are in trouble. Various news reports this week President Biden considering a possible exit from the race, deciding to stay and fight, and still thinking about leaving. Exactly what will happen remains unclear, but the window for a change of course is closing quickly. With the Republican National Convention set to begin in Milwaukee on July 15, Democrats could use a distraction with a shake-up move. The November election has long been seen as a tight race, and Biden’s faltering debate performance has come at a low point for Democrats. That has left the field open to Donald Trump enthusiasts and provided more material for the “double haters” who could decide the election, even as the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to expand executive power stoked Democrats’ fears about the future. Elected Democrats find themselves in a difficult position. This week, there have been renewed calls for Biden to resign — and many prominent Democrats likely share that view — even as they publicly continue to support the president. It seems no coincidence that the most outspoken local Democrat, a former state representative. Aaron Regunbergis out of elected office after losing CD1 last year. Regunberg likens the Democrats’ situation to being on a train hurtling toward a cliff, with one last chance to veer off in the other direction. Here’s one of the Providence Democrat’s less fiery tweets: “We’re winning the special election. Our senators in key states are polling well. It was clear before the debate that we don’t have a Democrat problem in 2024, we have a Biden problem. As president, he’s helped solve many of our nation’s problems. Now he has to solve this one.”

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE: Local historian Steve Friaswho recently decided not to seek reelection as a member of the RI GOP National Committee due to his inability to accept Donald Trump, shared his views with the Cranston Herald/Warwick Beacon on the recent Biden-Trump debate. Excerpt: “I expect Biden’s poor performance in the debate will have little effect on the polls and will negate Biden’s small gains after Trump’s felony conviction. Because the debate was months, not weeks, before the election, Democrats could still make a comeback. But I still wonder if Democrats really believe Trump is a threat to democracy. If democracy is really on the ballot, as they claim, is Biden really the best, what can they do? If this is truly the most important election of our lifetimes, why are Democrats nominating one of the weakest incumbents in history? If Biden remains the Democratic nominee, when Democrats say democracy is on the ballot, Republicans will laugh and say dementia is on the ballot.”

MISSED OPPORTUNITY?: Restaurateur and local historian Bob Burke is sounding the alarm about how the state plans to celebrate the 250th anniversary of American independence in 2026. Burke says that as it stands, it will be a pale imitation of Rhode Island’s bicentennial in 1976, when the state was visited by sailing ships and President Gerald Ford AND Queen Elizabeth II stopped in Newport. The problem, he said, is that Rhode Island isn’t putting money aside to attract Tall Ships and put on a celebration worthy of America’s 250th birthday. Under Burke’s plan, reviewed by the House Finance Committee, a 5 percent state meals tax for two years would generate about $3.8 million — enough to organize a statewide WaterFire with an Olympic-style torch run, expanded civic education, fireworks concerts, grants from local historical societies, monuments, celebrations and other festivities. “To put the funding in perspective, the five cities that will host Tall Ships ’26 (New Orleans, Norfolk, Baltimore, New York, Boston) have put in more than $50 million,” Burke, chairman of the RI250 Tourism Commission, he said by email. “How will Rhode Island compete for tourists with states that have war chests in excess of $100 million? Rhode Island has budgeted $250,000 (for the current fiscal year). A quarter million — a single wedding in Newport could cost more.” The bill, sponsored by Rep. June Speaker (D-Warren) to generate more funding, was held up for investigation this year. Burke blames opposition from the RI League of Cities and Towns, although the state Treasury Department, not the League, cited concerns during the hearing. Still, this isn’t the first time Burke has accused the state of squandering an opportunity to boost the economy by better promoting itself and Rhode Island’s history — check out this story I did last year. House Speaker Joe Shekarchi maintains there may still be time to bring Tall Ships to Rhode Island in 2026. In a statement, Shekarchi said, “We are considering options to bring Tall Ships to Rhode Island. This is a work in progress.”

Lauren GreeneA spokeswoman for the League of Cities and Towns, commented in an email: “The League of Cities and Towns supports the state, chambers and other tourism entities in their efforts to host the nation’s 250th anniversary celebration. Tourism and philanthropic funds are appropriate sources of support for these efforts. Diverting established funds from cities and towns and asking local property taxpayers to foot the bill is ill-conceived, ill-conceived public policy.”

FLATS: The incurability of Rhode Island’s housing crisis can be seen in how the names and faces of those responding to the situation will change over time. This week Jennifer Hawkinspresident/CEO of nonprofit developer One Neighborhood Builders, revealed she will leave the position this year. Elsewhere, RI Housing Secretary Stephan Pryor is ready to leave his position in state government. Perhaps with that in mind, Pryor used the announcement of federal housing subsidies this week to deliver a parting message, pointing to increased manufacturing, expanded capacity in government and more beds in homeless shelters. While the housing crisis has been building for decades and will take years to make steady progress, Pryor said new census data shows the first four months of 2024 had the highest number of building permits of any comparable period in the state since 2007.

HOSPITALS: ProJo Graduate Mark Arsenault and his colleagues on The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team report that Steward Health Care — a poster child for how private equity can negatively impact health care — spent millions to spy on its critics even as it spiraled into financial ruin. Meanwhile, Prospect Medical Holdings, which was previously majority-owned by a private equity firm and is trying to sell two of its Rhode Island hospitals, is facing a civil investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice over the sale of three Connecticut hospitals.

BOOMERANG: Five former state representatives are trying to come back this year: Anastasia Williams (D) from Providence, who was defeated by Rep. Enrique Sanchez in 2022; Jean-Philippe Barros (D), removed from power by Rep. Jennifer Stewart (D-Pawtucket) in 2022; Democrat Bernard Hawkinsnarrowly defeated by Rep. Brian Rea (R-Smithfield), who is not seeking election in 2022; and Justin’s Pricea Republican from Exeter who was removed from power by a Democratic congressman. Megan Cotter in 2022. Finally, former MP. Scott Guthrie (D), a standing candidate since his defeat by the Republican Party Robert Nardolillo in 2014, he is running for the seat occupied by Rep. George Nardone (R-Coventry).

NEWS DISCUSSION: Via media critic Dan Kennedy – “The Media, the President, and What We Should Know About His Age-Related Issues.”

RI POLICY: This week on the Political Roundtable, come along for an analysis of the most important events in RI this year, from Nancy Lavin, Ted Nesi and me, and stay tuned for our suggestions for cool meals and activities for the summer.

LINES OF POWER: Mayor of Providence Brett Smiley and Mayor of East Providence Bob DaSilva met in late June to discuss ongoing work to bury power lines that run along the waterfront from India Point Park to EP. Smiley’s spokesman Josh Estrella cited “productive discussions with Rhode Island Energy to develop a path forward on the initiative to bury power lines at India Point Park. While there are no details to share at this time, we are optimistic that all parties will come to a resolution that will be an exciting conclusion to this decades-long conversation.” In a statement, DaSilva said, “We would like to replace the aging and rusted lattice towers of the power lines, relocating these lines from the Bold Point Park neighborhood to align with the Washington Bridge and burying the lines as far as possible on the Providence side and part of the East Providence side to improve not only conditions in Providence, but also our line of sight to Providence and beautiful India Point Park. Funding is currently available to relocate the lines over the river to align with the Washington Bridge, however, expanding the burial would require additional funding, which Rhode Island Energy is working with us to identify funding sources for.” David P. Riley Friends of India Point Park, which has been working to address the issue for decades, said their organization was pleased with the meeting with the mayors and hopes to see more action.

MEDICAL SCHOOL: The idea of ​​a national medical school at URI to help alleviate the shortage of primary care physicians is gaining traction. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio last week announced his nominations to a 21-member panel to study the concept. The co-chairs are senators. Pam Lauria (D-Barrington) and URI President Marc Parlange. Other attendees included former and current state lawmakers, the mayor of Central Falls Maria Riverapowerful players such as Armand Sabitoni AND Tom Ryanand such political experts as Christopher Koller and Dr. Michal FineThe commission is tasked with developing its findings by 20 December 2025.

DIGGER: Rhode Island hasn’t held a constitutional convention in almost 40 years. Opponents like Steve Brown The ACLU of RI says ConCon would open the door to a series of reactionary proposals. Supporters see a rare opportunity to make changes outside the Democrats’ iron grip on the General Assembly. Whichever view you favor, Rhode Islanders must vote every 10 years on whether to hold a constitutional convention. Legislative leaders have now filled out a 12-person panel to lay the groundwork for further discussion. The first meeting is tentatively scheduled for July 24 at the State Capitol.