Nesi's Notes on WPRI.com

The Saturday Morning Post: July 25

News

Happy Saturday! Ted’s on vacation for a few weeks, so I’m just trying not to destroy his empire. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to dmcgowan@wpri.com or tnesi@wpri.com, and follow @danmcgowan and @tednesi on Twitter.

1. University of Rhode Island President David Dooley is bullish about the flagship state university’s plans to expand its footprint in Providence. Despite concerns that the proposed nursing education center at the old South Street Power Station hasn’t finalized the financing it needs to move forward, Dooley said he’s been assured that the building will be ready to open in January 2017. “We keep insisting we have to make it and they keep saying, ‘You will,’” Dooley said during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. Dooley said he also expects both URI and Brown University to have a significant presence at the proposed million-square-foot-plus multi-use life-sciences complex on parcel 22 and parcel 25 on the vacant I-195 land. (Dick Galvin from CV Properties LLC is involved in both the nursing school and life-science complex projects. Wexford Science & Technology LLC is the other developer involved in the life-science complex.) Dooley said there is “a lot happening behind the scenes,” on the I-195 complex, particularly around who could join URI and Brown as early tenants. The viability of that project also received a major boost this week when Mayor Jorge Elorza signed a tax-stabilization agreement policy for projects on the former highway land. It is likely the complex would be eligible for a 20-year tax deal from the capital city.

2. Dooley was also fairly candid about his concerns over both state and federal funding for URI. While he said he is pleased Rhode Island has steadily increased its support for the university in recent years – funding for state colleges was up 10.8% between 2010 and 2014 and grew again in Governor Raimondo’s budget – he said the “facts are clear” that more needs to be done. “If we want to keep higher education in Rhode Island affordable, if we want to make sure that all Rhode Islanders who are interested in and qualified to pursue higher education, particularly at URI, we need to invest more publicly,” he said. Dooley was more direct about his frustration with the federal government, which he said “has really done a terrible job at, I think, providing adequate funding to fuel the innovation engine of the United States, which increasingly in the post-World War II era has been university-based research and development.” A group of public college leaders from around the country made a similar case in Washington, D.C., earlier this year.

3. How Block Island finds itself at the center of the clean energy movement in the United States. (Block Island Bonus: The Wall Street Journal has a fun travel story on “the island time forgot.”)

4. While he’s considered sympathetic to the proposal to move the Pawtucket Red Sox to downtown Providence, Andrew Zimbalist is no fan of Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College and fiscal adviser to House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello on the proposed Providence stadium, delivered the line of the night during Thursday’s debate, referring to revenue estimates when he said “most of the numbers I see reflect drunken optimism.” Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy described Zimbalist as “a noted blowhard, author, and Smith professor of economics who hates the idea of the Olympics coming to Boston.”

5. Governor Raimondo flew to West Virginia Thursday for the opening of the National Governors Association’s summer conference. She attended a governor’s-only lunch and business session before participating in a meeting on strategies for tourism and economic development. Raimondo is a member of the NGA’s Economic Development & Commerce Committee, which is chaired by West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The theme of the conference is “delivering results” and aiming to make “state government work in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.” Raimondo was scheduled to return home Friday evening. Speaking of the NGA, Providence hasn’t hosted the nation’s governors since August 2001. Governor Raimondo should probably change that.

6. Count Common Cause Rhode Island executive director John Marion as one who wasn’t surprised to see the General Assembly’s abrupt departure late last month. Marion said the “potential has been there all along” for such an occurrence because of the structure of Rhode Island’s government. “The power rests almost exclusively in the hands of two people: the speaker and the Senate president,” Marion said during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. He noted that in 34 other states, the governor has the power to call the General Assembly back to work. Because Rhode Island might have the most powerful legislature in the country, there was little Governor Raimondo could do, he said.

7. Your ultimate Friday news dump. I-195 Redevelopment District Commission executive director Jan Brodie announced her resignation from the commission. She didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment Thursday night or Friday, but a spokeswoman for the commission said Brodie will stay on the job for another month during the transition period.

8. No one in Rhode Island politics is feeling more loved this week than Congressman David Cicilline, whose introduction of legislation aimed at protecting the LGBT community from discrimination was met with praise from the White House, the leading Democratic candidates for president and a slew of supporting editorials in newspapers across the country. Even a spokesperson for tech giant Apple weighed in on the Equality Act: “At Apple we believe in equal treatment for everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. We fully support the expansion of legal protections as a matter of basic human dignity.”

9. By the time the Providence City Council returns from its August recess, Providence teachers will have gone a full year without a new contract.

10. Monday is a big day in Cranston as the City Council is expected to release a letter from Rhode Island State Police that includes more details from a long-awaited assessment on the city’s police department. Officials have been tight-lipped about its contents, but Council President John Lanni said “it doesn’t paint the mayor in a very favorable position.”

11. Don’t miss Tim White’s report on the Coventry Fire District considering selling off trucks and other equipment as part of its desperate effort to raise cash in a hurry. And yes, the infamous Chevy Tahoe seen in Tim’s undercover report last fall is on the auction block.

12. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, consider heading to Providence Sunday afternoon when local leaders rename the U.S. Post Office at 820 Elmwood Avenue in honor of the late Sister Ann Keefe. The event begins at 3 p.m.

13. Must reads for the week: The New York Times Magazine profiled two ex-convicts just after they were released from prison … Using Reddit to save lives … One of the most fascinating conman stories you’ll ever read … What it’s like to fly around the world for free … Gawker is getting nicer … Meet one of the greatest mathematicians in the world … Does it really pay to be a jerk? … One of the most interesting reads on Hillary Clinton … A scathing take on former Attorney General Eric Holder … The BBC is under attack.

14. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – University of Rhode Island President David Dooley and Common Cause Rhode Island executive director John Marion. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Polaris MEP director Christian Cowan talks Rhode Island manufacturing, plus Spirare Surfboards’ Kevin Cunningham. 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 ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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