Nesi’s Notes: March 16

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

1. A year ago this month, I asked Governor Raimondo whether she’d consider keeping Deloitte in charge of UHIP once its current contract expired. Her answer was unequivocal: “I cannot imagine a scenario in which they could prove to us that they should continue our business,” she said. “They’re welcome to apply, and we will have an open, transparent process. But it is inconceivable to me that they could clear that hurdle.” On Friday, though, Raimondo announced a deal to extend Deloitte’s contract for two years in exchange for various concessions, including a $50 million check. The governor told reporters she was convinced to give Deloitte another chance based on what the company offered, its improved performance in the past year, and fears of disruption if the state switched to a new vendor. “I made all these decisions based on what’s right for Rhode Island and not what’s right for my politics, so eating your own words falls into that,” she said, adding, “A leader has to adjust and do the right thing.” Deloitte now expects to net only half the estimated cost of its Rhode Island work, but the company will at least be able to tell other jurisdictions it fixes its mistakes. (That’s no small thing considering UHIP is now hurting Deloitte in other states like Arkansas.) More broadly, Raimondo argued that the UHIP debacle highlights a bigger problem nationwide. “All I.T. in government has been everywhere forever underinvested in and underprioritized, including in Rhode Island,” she said. “So one of my lessons learned and what we’ve done is we’ve really upgraded in terms of talent and expertise and process for I.T.”

2. Governor Raimondo was in a reflective mood during a visit to Harvard on Wednesday, offering anecdotes and insights about her near-decade in politics — check out my recap here. (She also made some news about the future of McCoy Stadium.) She’ll be back on the road Monday, traveling to New York City to speak about workforce development at a J.P. Morgan Chase event with CEO Jamie Dimon. Raimondo and Dimon connected at last month’s National Governors Association meeting in Washington, where she co-moderated a panel with the bank chief.

3. A majority of the Fall River electorate voted Tuesday to remove Mayor Jasiel Correia from office — but he’s still the mayor today, thanks to his 35% showing in the five-way race for a replacement mayor. That has sparked a lot of discussion about electoral reform, including a Boston Globe editorial making the case for ranked-choice voting. Correia, meanwhile, faces clear political peril as he looks ahead to the regular mayoral election this fall — even if he makes it through the September preliminary round, he will need a major swing in sentiment to win the required majority in the November runoff. (One prominent Providence attorney told me the situation brought him back to 1984, when the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that Buddy Cianci couldn’t run to succeed himself after his removal from office following a felony conviction.)

4. Here’s a special dispatch from WPRI 12’s own Tim White: “When the governor asked James Manni to consider becoming the 14th superintendent in the 95-year history of the Rhode Island State Police, the veteran law enforcement professional didn’t hesitate. ‘Every young man and woman that’s ever dreamed of being a state trooper wants to be the superintendent,’ Manni told me on this week’s Newsmakers. Certainly, there were financial considerations: at the time he was asked, Manni was the town manager in Narragansett and was collecting a state pension for his 25 years of service at the state police. (That pension is on hold now that he’s colonel.) But Manni, 57, said he has always enjoyed the pace of public safety. I interviewed the freshly sworn-in colonel Wednesday at state police headquarters in Scituate, inside the Walter E. Stone Conference Room, named after the legendary superintendent who led the agency for an unprecedented 28 years. Going into the interview, it struck me that in my nearly 13 years with WPRI, I have covered five different colonels (Steven Paré, Brendan Doherty, Steven O’Donnell, Ann Assumpico, and now Manni). That’s an average of fewer than three years per superintendent. Manni pushed back at the suggestion of high turnover, though, saying, ‘I think we’re using the standard that Colonel Stone was here for 30 years; he threw the curve off. If you look at other state police agencies, other superintendents usually are in the three- to five- or seven-year mark. It’s a very demanding job, especially if you’ve come from that agency at 25 or 30 years serving and [then] you’re superintendent.’ Manni added he doesn’t think the changes in leadership have been disruptive to the agency because ‘there is always a succession plan with anyone who serves in these positions, including me. This agency has to survive, and will survive, past me. This isn’t my state police; the people of Rhode Island own this agency.’ So how long will the Manni tenure stretch? ‘That’s yet to be determined. I’d like to be here a long time. It’s been a lifelong dream to get here and I will stay as long as I’m welcome.'”

5. Speaker Mattiello lands a blow against two of his Reform Caucus adversaries.

6. Rhode Island Senate leaders have some ideas for boosting the economy.

7. Our weekly dispatch from WPRI.com’s Dan McGowan: “In the same week that Mayor Elorza began holding community conversations to make his case for monetizing Providence’s water supply, Speaker Mattiello made it clear once again that the city has a lot more work to do to convince the General Assembly to support his plan. In an interview on WPRO-AM, Mattiello said he has ‘no doubt’ a transaction would lead to rate increases, something he and many of his colleagues who don’t live in the capital city are unlikely to support. ‘Providence is trying to solve their budgetary problems by having the ratepayers dispersed throughout the state of Rhode Island to pay for it,’ Mattiello said. Meanwhile, Elorza and his top aides are trying to sell residents on the idea that the water system is the city’s only hope for addressing its underfunded pension system once and for all. But while he’s saying the city could face financial challenges down the line, the mayor is struggling to show what those problems could mean. He frequently boasts about not raising taxes during his four years in office (even though a revaluation did lead to most homeowners paying more) and a good economy has helped the city put off difficult decisions. At the same time, he wants people to know the city will eventually have to make life-changing cuts – like closing schools, pools or recreation centers – if pensions aren’t addressed. But until he puts those difficult recommendations on the table, it appears residents and lawmakers are going to keep calling his bluff.”

8. “You wouldn’t want to eat a sandwich made on a public toilet. I don’t think many mothers would want to feed their babies a bottle or breastmilk that was prepared in a bathroom.” Susan Campbell looks at a new push to help jurors who are breastfeeding.

9. The governor’s Efficiency Commission — which is tasked with finding $10 million in savings to help balance the 2019-20 budget — is seeking the public’s ideas for how to cut costs in state government. You can submit your suggestions here.

10. DeSmogBlog, an environmental news website, unearthed documents this week showing Governor Raimondo’s office “squashed a letter by her own state health agency” that “raised serious concerns” about National Grid’s proposed LNG plant at Fields Point in Providence. Raimondo spokesperson Josh Block stood by the action in a statement Friday: “A FERC review is a federal decision-making process, and the consistent position across our agencies has been that the state does not have a specific regulatory role to play in this application’s review. In this case, [the Department of Health] had previously expressed its concerns with this proposal to FERC, and the administration felt that further state comment in the federal process was not necessary.”

11. “It’s hard for folks in Mass. to accept, but sometimes R.I. is a step or two ahead.” That’s how former Projo reporter Felice Freyer teased her new Globe story on how Rhode Island is using pharmacies to tackle the opioid crisis.

12. Congressman Cicilline this week reintroduced his proposed Equality Act, which would revise the 1964 Civil Rights Act to bar discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. Cicilline first introduced the bill in 2016, but this is the first time he is doing so as a member of the majority party in the House. The measure is expected to clear the House by the time Pride Month rolls around in June, and drew supportive tweets from Democratic presidential contenders Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. The bill is unlikely to go far in the GOP-controlled Senate — a Heritage Foundation staffer was quick to criticize it — but the legislation does have one Republican cosponsor there (Maine’s Susan Collins).

13. Sheldon Whitehouse’s 2018 campaign manager, Joe Caiazzo, has landed a plum gig with the Bernie Sanders presidential bid — New Hampshire campaign manager. As The Globe’s Granite State guru James Pindell put it, that job is “arguably the most important position in the frontrunning candidate’s most important state.” Caiazzo has history with Sanders — he ran the Vermont senator’s successful 2016 primary campaign in Rhode Island.

14. Three out of four local congressmen think it’s time to let 16-year-olds vote.

15. Brian Casey, owner of Oak Hill Tavern in North Kingstown, has been elected national treasurer and chairman-elect of the National Restaurant Association. “He’s the first Rhode Island business owner to serve on the executive staff,” reports PR pro Matt Blanchette.

16. Most independents aren’t independent: 81% “lean” toward one political party.

17. Joe Nocera argues we overrate the value of elite colleges.

18. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – R.I. State Police Col. James Manni. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive SuiteAlan Perlman, co-founder, Ocean State Job Lot. 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 (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. 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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