Dan McGowan

Nesi's Notes: July 14

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Happy Saturday! Ted's vacationing somewhere fancy, so I'm filling in for the next two weeks. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi@wpri.com or dmcgowan@wpri.com and follow @tednesi and @danmcgowan on Twitter.

1. Let’s just take a second to recap the bizarre twists and turns in the ongoing saga of former state Rep. John Carnevale: start with the original Target 12 investigation from 2016 that raised questions about whether Carnevale lived in a Providence home located in House District 13 or at a Johnston property outside of his district. That was the one where he wrapped his face in a T-shirt to avoid being seen on camera outside the Johnston house. Then, while the Providence Board of Canvassers was reviewing the case, a city police lieutenant informed his superiors that Carnevale asked for parking tickets to be written to his own vehicle at the Providence home. In early 2017, months after the board threw Carnevale off the voter roll, he was charged with multiple counts of perjury and filing a false document. Last month, with the criminal charges still pending, Carnevale filed to run for his old seat and won the endorsement from his local Democratic committee. Now the Rhode Island State Police is acknowledging that 1,400 hours of surveillance video on Carnevale’s Providence home was erased, raising questions about the future of the criminal case. What will happen next? State Rep. Ramon Perez, who succeeded Carnevale and will face him in a three-way primary this September, is already calling for an investigation into the State Police investigation. Meanwhile, Rhode Island State Police Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin told Tim White, “we stand by the investigation and the charges brought forward against Mr. Carnevale.”

2. You won’t be able to bet on the race for Rhode Island governor at Twin River, but there is an online service willing to take your action. PredictIt, which bills itself as an “exciting new, real money site that tests your knowledge of political and financial events by letting you make and trade predictions on the future,” added the governor’s race to its list of markets on Friday. Part of a research project out of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, the service allows you to bet on everything from the GOP's majority in the United States Senate after the midterm elections to whether Theresa May will still be prime minister of the United Kingdom by the end of the year. As for Rhode Island, a Democratic win – specific candidates aren’t named – was going for 76 cents per share as of Friday afternoon, while a Republican win was 43 cents per share. Each share is worth $1. 

3. Here's a dispatch filed by Ted Nesi before he took off for vacation: "There are only eight Ivy League universities in the country, and one of them is in Rhode Island. So no surprise state leaders often mention Brown when they talk about the future of the state's economy. That's long been the case, of course, but Brown appears to be increasing its own commitment on that front under President Christina Paxson. This week the school released 'Brown and the Innovation Economy,' a new strategic plan the school says is 'an effort to maximize its impact on innovation, entrepreneurship and job growth' in Rhode Island. One model for Brown could be Medley Genomics, a two-year-old firm spun out of the school that is using analytics to develop individualized cancer treatments. The company recently received a $300,000 federal SBIR grant, which required a peer review into the potential of its research. 'It's a huge validation of what it is we do,' CEO Patrice Milos told me on this week's Executive Suite. 'It has recognized the innovative work we are doing to really advance the future of cancer therapies. So that in itself was great for the company. But it also allowed me to hire my first employee. ... It really is a game-changer for the company.'"

4. Rhode Island could be the first state in more than 75 years to a have non-major-party gubernatorial candidate win at least 20% of the vote in three consecutive election cycles if independent Joe Trillo pulls a fifth of electorate in November, according to a fascinating piece published by Dr. Eric J. Ostermeier, a researcher at the University of Minnesota. Ostermeier notes that Minnesota had a long streak of strong non-major-party candidates between 1918 and 1942, but very few states have seen even two straight cycles where an independent has drawn 20% of the vote in recent years. Rhode Island, of course, elected independent Lincoln Chafee in 2010 with 36.1% of the vote, and Moderate Bob Healey finished with 21.4% in 2014.

5. The zoning change a New York developer is seeking in order to build a 46-story tower on part of the old I-195 land along Dyer Street in Providence isn’t just getting a public hearing next week; it might get a vote. The five-member City Council Ordinance Committee has scheduled the public hearing for 5:30 p.m. July 18 and a regular meeting for 6 p.m. where a vote on the proposal can take place. The committee is chaired by Councilman Terry Hassett, who says he’s against the current proposal. But when asked if that means he’ll vote against the zoning change, Hassett would only say the committee wants to have a discussion. If the committee does approve the change, it would still need to be supported by the majority of the full council.

6. It was hard to miss Congressman Cicilline in any of the coverage of FBI agent Peter Strzok’s testimony during a joint session of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees this week. Cicilline even made three cameos in Friday’s episode of “The Daily,” the podcast from The New York Times. (He was also referred to as "Congressman Andy Cohen" by Stephen Colbert.) Cicilline’s continuing push to release a transcript from Strzok’s previous testimony – held behind closed doors – was highlighted by The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake as one of the seven key moments from Thursday’s hearing.

7. The Elorza administration isn’t admitting it, but Providence had another difficult year at the State House after pushing for long-shot bills including legislation that would have paved the way for the city to sell or lease its water supply as well as another attempt to force nonprofit institutions to pay taxes on non-mission-essential properties like parking lots. The city also struck out with two licensing-related bills: one would have banned catering companies from selling alcohol between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. and the other would have reduced the likelihood of troubled nightclubs and bars winning appeals of city liquor board decisions with the R.I. Department of Business Regulation. On the bright side, a spokesperson for the mayor noted that a small increase in funding for English language learners coupled with existing state aid as well as the state school infrastructure and green-economy bond questions are examples of “worthwhile investments and legislation” that will benefit the city.

8. Former Rhode Island political operative Devin Driscoll, currently the outgoing editor-in-chief of the Minnesota Law Review, reports the publication’s website saw a big spike in traffic this week following the President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. The reason: Kavanuagh’s 2009 article arguing that Congress should consider exempting sitting presidents from criminal investigations.

9. How the U.S. Supreme Court has become a court of careerists.

10. The Providence Journal’s owner, Gatehouse Media, announced this week it will offer buyouts at papers it owns across the region. Journal executive editor Alan Rosenberg says while the paper is planning to offer buyouts to employees, “we don't expect a major impact in the newsroom, which will continue to have more than two dozen reporters and photographers after the buyout is completed.”

11. Providence may have to repay $1.4 million after a federal audit questioned the way the city spent affordable housing money between 2013 and 2016.

12. The Providence City Council has launched a public outreach campaign in an attempt to convince more residents and business owners to attend council meetings.

13. How active will the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools be in the state’s elections this year? The league quietly formed a political action committee earlier this month, and executive director Keith Oliveira has said the group is planning to support candidates and engage in issue advocacy.

14. Cranston is home to Rhode Island's newest millionaire. Aram Zobian, 23, made the final table at the World Series of Poker, which saw 7,874 entrants pony up $10,000 a piece to play. Zobian actually dominated most of the tournament, and was the chip leader with 26 players left, but his stack was severely depleted once he reached the final nine. On Friday, he was eliminated in sixth place, which guaranteed him $1.8 million.

15. Set your DVRs: This week on NewsmakersMike Stanton, author of “Unbeaten: Rocky Marciano’s Fight for Perfection in a Crooked World.” This week on Executive SuiteNoni Thomas López, head of school at The Gordon School; Patrice Milos, president and CEO of Medley Genomics. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 8 p.m. on myRITV (or Sunday at 6 a.m. on Fox). Catch both shows back-to-back on your radio Sundays at 6 p.m. on WPRO-AM 630 and WEAN-FM 99.7. And you can subscribe to both shows as iTunes podcasts – click here for Executive Suite and click here for Newsmakers. See you back here next Saturday morning.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan


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