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Nesi’s Notes: Aug. 3

Ted Nesi

Happy Saturday! Here’s another edition of my weekend column for – as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to and follow @tednesi on Twitter.

1. When Gina Raimondo cruised to a 52% re-election victory last November, it seemed she would start her fifth year as governor on the strongest political footing she’s ever attained. Yet after seven months, Raimondo already seems to be suffering from second-term blues. The General Assembly rejected or scaled back many of her highest-profile 2019 priorities. She’s wound up in another cold war with Speaker Mattiello. Her intervention in the state’s hospital ownership mess ended with no merger, Partners out, and acrimony between the two sides. Her proposed deal with IGT has been the target of nonstop attacks since it was announced. CNBC ranked Rhode Island last place for business friendliness (again). And her Morning Consult job rating fell to 38%, tying her all-time low. So how does it look from the second floor of the State House? Raimondo’s team acknowledges some setbacks, but insists if anything they are the inevitable product of a governor taking risks in her final term to make change. “Governor Raimondo has never been afraid to take on the big issues that directly impact the lives of Rhode Islanders,” press secretary Josh Block told me Friday. “That’s not rankings and poll numbers. It’s hundreds of new pre-K seats, guaranteed access to affordable health care, record investment in K-12 education, record lows in unemployment, and record highs in job numbers — all of which has been accomplished in the past six months.”

2. Then again, it’s not easy being a governor no matter what state you run, even if you’re the most popular one in the country — as demonstrated by this CommonWealth rundown of Charlie Baker’s summertime woes.

3. Another week and no sign Twin River is letting up in its war against Governor Raimondo’s proposed deal with IGT. The two companies now have dueling narratives, dueling radio ads and dueling armies of lobbyists. And while IGT stuck with its normal $150,000-ish donation to the Raimondo-led DGA this year, Twin River countered with an unusual $100,000 check of its own. While hearings on the IGT deal are still expected this fall as originally promised, it’s no longer certain that legislative leaders will call a special session to vote on it — which would let all those lobbyists keep collecting their four-figure monthly retainers well into 2020.

4. Jeff Grybowski made a name for himself first as Governor Carcieri’s chief of staff, then as CEO of Deepwater Wind while the company was successfully building the nation’s first offshore wind farm off Block Island. Grybowski is moving on now that Deepwater has been acquired by Ørsted — and speculation has begun to swirl that he may run for governor in 2022. Grybowski has fueled that chatter on his Twitter feed by weighing in regarding topics such as the Hope Point Tower and the potentials of the executive branch. So what’s he thinking? “Let me put it this way: I’ve been in public service before, and I care a lot about Rhode Island,” Grybowski told me Friday. “Over the next few years I’m going to figure out whether there’s a place for me in going back into public service. It may just be I start a new company locally, or may be there’s something in elected office, as well; at the very least, serving the community in one way or another. There’s nothing specific at this point, but I’m going to take some time over the next year or so and figure things out.”

5. Here’s a dispatch from Target 12 managing editor Tim White: “Providence attorney and city school board president Nick Hemond has been in the news a lot lately. He’s the primary voice of the board as the state moves closer to taking over the Providence public schools, and he represents several nightclubs that have come into the crosshairs of the Board of Licenses. Hemond’s name is also blowing through the reeds when talk of the 2022 Providence mayoral election comes up. During an interview for an upcoming report, I asked the 32-year-old if he’s considering throwing his hat into the ring, and he acknowledged to me he thinks about it ‘all the time.’ But, he added, ‘the time has got to be right. … I have a young family, I have several business interests, I have a very difficult job in the school department. If the opportunity was there and I could be of help, then obviously I would want to do that. I care very much about the city.'” (You can watch Hemond’s full answer here.)

6. Here’s a dispatch out of Providence from Target 12’s Eli Sherman: “It wasn’t as flashy as big-time developments like the Wexford Innovation Center, but this week economic development leaders celebrated the 100th state-backed loan made with small businesses in Rhode Island. The so-called Small Business Assistance Program is one of Governor Raimondo’s less talked-about economic development tools, and appears to have worked relatively well since starting in 2016. Under the program, the state backs loans — which have ranged between $9,000 and $610,000 — made in partnership with community development organizations. Small business borrowers use the money to pay for anything from day-to-day operations to buying new equipment, and only two companies have defaulted so far, according to the state. The program isn’t designed to be a moneymaker for taxpayers, but rather to pump a little bit of cash into a small business community where the lack of access to capital has been a frequent complaint. The General Assembly this year approved an additional $500,000 to keep the program going, and Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor tells me he’s pleased the program is working well, even if it doesn’t receive much attention. ‘It’s unfortunate but understandable that smaller transactions don’t receive the same kind of attention,’ Pryor told me. ‘We believe that small businesses are as important – even more important – than these larger expansion deals because small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy.’”

7. The Boston Globe’s Amanda Milkovits shook Bristol this week with an exposé about a prominent local man, David Barboza, accused of child sex abuse. Milkovits discussed the challenge of reporting the story on Friday’s edition of “Dan Yorke State of Mind,” which is worth watching. And as the Projo’s Patrick Anderson pointed out, the report is a black eye for the Bristol 4th of July Parade’s organizers, who picked Barboza as grand marshal for 2014 and a year later went with now-incarcerated Rep. Ray Gallison for 2015.

8. Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien and Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, who joined Lt. Gov. Dan McKee on that headline-grabbing trip to Taiwan earlier this year, were back overseas last month. The Pawtucket Times has details on their trip to Belper, England.

9. Will Providence schools be free of rodents by the start of the school year?

10. Susan Campbell’s photos of an abandoned Cranston mausoleum will haunt your dreams.

11. No more Gano Street exit off I-195? That’s what RIDOT is thinking.

12. Three on Elizabeth Warren … Vanity Fair’s Peter Hamby looks at why her candidacy is on the rise … Vox’s Ella Nilsen examines Warren’s relatively weak political standing in Massachusetts … and yours truly finds Rhode Island’s congressional delegation disagrees with her about decriminalizing illegal immigration.

13. And speaking of Democratic presidential candidates, did you know Andrew Yang joined me on Executive Suite back in 2012?

14. The Providence Performing Arts Center holds its annual gala tonight with a performance of — what else? — “Hamilton,” and PPAC President Lynn Singleton says the show’s three-week run has been just as big a hit as you’d expect. How’s this for a stat: Singleton reports the number of PPAC season subscribers doubled from 9,000 to nearly 18,000 this year as people sought to ensure they got a ticket to the musical megahit. “It’s one of the highest subscription bases for a one-week market in the country,” Singleton said on this week’s Newsmakers, adding that he expects it has driven PPAC’s subscription base permanently higher. Singleton has run PPAC since 1983, and has as many show biz stories as you’d expect — make sure to catch our full interview with him this weekend.

15. More and more people have Nest thermostats that let them control their homes’ temperature remotely from their smartphones — what about an app that lets you check on your boat? That’s what they do at Siren Marine, an eight-year-old tech startup that moved to Newport in 2012 after winning the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition. Founder and CEO Dan Harper is my guest on this week’s Executive Suite, and he told me the growing company’s 25 full-time employees love being based in Rhode Island. “I’m pretty sure I’d have a mutiny if I decided to leave,” he quipped. Harper also praised state economic development officials for the support they’ve provided the company over the years. “Rhode Island has been uniquely significant in our growth and acceleration,” he said.

16. Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm is bullish on Providence’s tech scene.

17. Some good news for Providence-based United Natural Foods.

18. Axios Sports’ Kendall Baker praises the Big East as one of the biggest winners in the last decade’s conference realignment mania: “‘A conference built on basketball found itself abandoned by football, then regrouped and went back to what made it great to begin with. … And now UConn comes back,’ writes Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde. Kudos to the Big East for emerging from the realignment grinder with its soul intact.”

19. Most of Southeast New England’s daily papers — including The Providence Journal — could soon be part of “a newspaper megachain like the U.S. has never seen.”

20. Are you rich? This New York Times calculator will tell you.

21. The legendary Newport Jazz Festival kicked off Friday night, and organizers have good reason to be hopeful about a robust turnout. That’s because, as 93-year-old Jazz Fest founder George Wein recently announced, “The last few years the Newport Jazz Festival has achieved a degree of success that had eluded us in the previous four to five years.” Newport Festivals Foundation executive producer Jay Sweet elaborated: “Over the past four years, attendance has grown and the median age has gotten younger. We are seeing the number of student tickets reach capacity year after year. When you look through the crowds, you see more and more young faces every year. We’re seeing Charles Lloyd hanging with Kamasi Washington and James Francies playing the same stage as Ron Carter. Herbie Hancock has tapped Thundercat, one of the hottest musicians on today’s music scene to perform with him. Both had their own sets in Newport on Friday. Herbie, a living legend and festival favorite, is our artist-in-residence and will perform on Saturday at Fort Adams and our Gala later that evening. We’re also seeing more jazz artists asking to be a part of the history. These are all signs of a strong path ahead.” Tickets are still available for today and Sunday — see you at Fort Adams.

22. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – PPAC President Lynn Singleton. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Siren Marine founder and CEO Dan Harper. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 8 p.m. on myRITV (also Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on Fox or 7:30 a.m. on The CW). Podcast lovers, you can subscribe to both shows on iTunes — get the Newsmakers podcast here and the Executive Suite podcast here — and radio listeners can catch them back-to-back Sundays at 6 p.m. on WPRO-AM 630 and WEAN-FM 99.7. See you back here next Saturday morning.

Ted Nesi ( covers politics and the economy for He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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