The Saturday Morning Post: Aug. 1


Happy Saturday! Ted’s still on vacation, so the summer of Dan rolls on. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to or, and follow @danmcgowan and @tednesi on Twitter.

1. The biggest difference between North Kingstown’s decision to move from four fire platoons to three platoons and Mayor Jorge Elorza’s plan to do the same in Providence is that North Kingstown firefighters didn’t have a collective bargaining agreement in place when the town made its changes. In Providence, the firefighters have a contract that is supposed to continue through June 30, 2017. But that could change if Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Lanphear agrees with Elorza’s lawyers, who claim former Mayor Angel Taveras and the City Council did not have the legal authority to agree to a union contract that spanned longer than three years. Elorza is quick to point out that the invalid contract argument is only one of five reasons the city believes it shouldn’t be forced into arbitration over its proposed changes, but it’s definitely the one that caught the eye of most of the city’s political establishment this week. The attempt to align Providence’s situation with the North Kingstown changes is a smart legal play. (Remember, the state Supreme Court sided with North Kingstown officials.) But it does raise a host of other questions. The current union contract eliminated a week of vacation pay, increased healthcare copays and required new firefighters to work longer to reach the top step of the pay scale, all factors that were supposed to save the city more than $20 million over the life of the deal. (It was actually two agreements plus an additional one-year following the city’s pension reform agreement, making it six years in total.) If the judge rolls back the contract, the city and the union could wind up in another expensive legal battle. The other major concern if the contract is ruled invalid is whether the city’s pension reform agreement falls by the wayside, but Elorza’s office says it is confident that deal will remain in full effect. No matter what, the mayor’s changes take effect Sunday and both sides are back in court for a status conference a day later.

2. All you really need to know about Governor Raimondo’s latest fundraising haul is that she raised more in two days – May 21 and June 24 – than former Governor Lincoln Chafee has brought in since launching his campaign for president of the United States. All told, Raimondo raised $272,717 during the second quarter that ended June 30, according to the latest round of campaign finance reports that were due to the R.I. Board of Elections at midnight Friday. The governor tapped a host of a familiar faces – Texas billionaires John and Laura Arnold, Democratic operative Mark Weiner and philanthropist Alan Hassenfeld were among the dozens of contributors who made $1,000 maximum donations – to grow her war chest to $381,000.

3. The governor may get all the attention for her fundraising prowess, but she still hasn’t worked herself back atop of the leaderboard when it comes largest campaign account balances in Rhode Island. That honor remains with her former campaign manager, House Labor Committee Chairman Joseph Shekarchi, who is sitting on $414,000 after raising more than $36,000 in the second quarter. (Of course, Shekarchi didn’t run in a multimillion-dollar race for governor last year.) Other notable campaign balances as of June 30: Lt. Gov. Dan McKee is sitting on $49,399; Treasurer Seth Magaziner has $75,907; Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has $11,029; Attorney General Peter Kilmartin holds $17,390; House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello reported $294,315; and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed has $107,251.

4. Last note on the fundraising front: Clay Pell loaned himself another $22,668 to cover campaign-related expenses, meaning his third-place finish in the last year’s Democratic primary for governor has now cost him more than $3.5 million of his own money.

5. The Rhode Island Foundation has hired Boston-based District Management Council to study the potential benefits and risks of a statewide labor contract for teachers. Remember, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed said late last year she wants to take a “serious look” at creating a universal contract for local teachers. The study is expected to begin next month, according to Rhode Island Foundation spokesman Chris Barnett.

6. Don’t look now, but the State Police review of the Cranston Police Department may have just made that city’s mayor’s race the hottest local campaign of 2016. As Rhode Island Public Radio’s Ian Donnis reported this week, Cranston Democratic Party Chairman Michael Sepe has already tossed his hat in ring as a challenger to Republican Mayor Allan Fung.

7. Former Education Commissioner Deborah Gist told Education Week she believes her new role as superintendent of schools in her hometown of Tulsa “has a dramatically more direct role in improving student success.” Gist is among a handful of former state education chiefs to take over school districts throughout the country, according to the report.

8. Before anyone gets too hung up on a third-place candidate for Providence City Council committing voter fraud, remember one thing: the system worked. Officials at the R.I. Board of Elections flagged 63 mail ballots tied to Franchesco Franco’s campaign and 47 were tossed out before they were counted. Franco and his campaign manager were also arrested. “Ultimately it appears that the fraudulent ballots were rejected by the board and that the election was not impacted,” John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, told Marion said his group supports prohibiting candidates and campaigns from handling marked absentee ballots altogether, but he noted that that provision was stripped from this year’s online voter registration bill. (The Senate never took up that legislation.) For his part, Franco denied any wrongdoing, but did acknowledge that some of his campaign volunteers “were not desirable people.”

9. Speaking of online voting, in an interview with the National Conference of State Legislatures’ elections newsletter House Judiciary Committee Chairman Cale Keable said he hopes the Senate will approve the legislation if lawmakers reconvene before the end of the year. The House overwhelmingly approved the bill in June and it appeared to be easily on its way to Governor Raimondo’s desk before it became a casualty of the final night of this year’s legislative session. “A great majority of the House supported modernizing our voter registration system by permitting online voter registration,” Keable said. “Almost everything can be done online these days and it makes sense that you should be able to register to vote online as well – through a safe and secure system.”

10. Keeping busy: Providence attorney Stephen Del Sesto is already the court-appointed receiver for Shark Bar & Grille, the Thayer Street bar whose former owners bribed former House Speaker Gordon Fox in order to obtain a liquor license. Now a federal judge has named him the receiver in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s lawsuit against Patrick Churchville, who is accused of using his company to run a Ponzi scheme that cost investors $11 million.

11. The proposed smoking ban in downtown Providence still doesn’t have the overwhelming support of the 15-member City Council, but 58% of Americans do support a total ban in all public places, according to Gallup.

12. Something to keep an eye on: the clock is ticking for Verizon to reach a new contract with the Communications Workers of America union. If a deal doesn’t happen by Sunday, at least 10,000 workers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are expected to strike.

13. I was a guest on Rhode Island Public Radio’s Political Roundtable with Ian Donnis, URI professor Maureen Moakley and Stephen Neuman, the chief of staff to Governor Raimondo. You can listen to the audio here and the bonus session here.

14. I’m not usually in the business of making predictions, but here’s something to take to the bank: the Cranston Western Little League baseball team is going to end up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for the World Series. And don’t forget to root on the Warwick North softball team, which has already qualified for the World Series in Portland, Oregon.

15. Must reads for the week: New York Magazine talked to 35 women who claim they were assaulted by Bill Cosby … You’ll love Kevin McNamara’s report on former NBA player Vin Baker working in a North Kingstown Starbucks … National Journal looks at George Pataki’s campaign for president and wonders why people run for president when they know they can’t win … A battle for the Paul Newman brand … A fascinating look at competitive cheerleading … Who runs the streets of New Orleans? … The continuing reality of segregated schools … Is Rand Paul winning on issues but losing the election? … Here’s a profile on the best comic book movie reporter in the business … What Hillary Clinton’s emails said.

16. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Cumberland Farms President and CEO Ari Haseotes. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (or Sunday at 6 a.m. on Fox). You can catch both shows back-to-back on your radio, too: Sunday nights at 6 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.Dan McGowan ( ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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