Whether the conviction of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd represents a paradigm shift will take time to tell. For many, the conviction represents a long overdue step toward greater accountability. "No verdict will ease the pain of the Floyd
Whether the conviction of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd represents a paradigm shift will take time to tell. For many, the conviction represents a long overdue step toward greater accountability.
“No verdict will ease the pain of the Floyd family, but a guilty verdict is a step in the right direction,” Harrison Tuttle, executive director of the BLM RI PAC, said in a statement. “We have a long way to go before the U.S. Justice System comes close to something we can call ‘justice.’ We won’t rest and we won’t be silent until justice is finally, actually served.”
The Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, via statement, said, “The verdict is a sign that there is accountability for those who take the life of another, and an affirmation that Black Lives Matter.”
Another takeaway is how the video of Floyd’s death was crucial. The graphic depiction of what happened was so brutal that it sparked widespread condemnation, and Chauvin’s trial was notable for the number of fellow officers who testified against him.
But making change requires sustained effort, as seen by the longstanding difficulty of altering the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights in Rhode Island. And while the Providence Police Department has come a long way from the corruption, collusion and political influence of the Buddy Cianci era, concerns about police-community relations persist in some parts of the city.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island’s Black/Latino Caucus was expected to unveil its legislative priorities this week.
You could almost hear the entire state of Rhode Island exhaling as Gov. Dan McKee announced plans to relax a series of pandemic-related restrictions by Memorial Day weekend.
“I’d say it’s a little early to put a ‘mission accomplished’ sign up but we’re getting ready to order that sign,” McKee said during his weekly briefing.
McKee’s announcement delighted the Rhode Island Hospitality Association and the Rhode Islanders who’ve chafed from what they consider the heavy hand of government. Yet Rhode Island still ranks well above the U.S. average for per-capita infections, some consider the reopening premature, and the politics of vaccine hesitancy is a growing concern.
One of the great Rhode Island political mysteries heading into 2022: Who will run for governor as a Republican?
House Minority Leader Blake Filippi is a plausible candidate, although he has downplayed speculation on that subject. Allan Fung, the GOP’s standard-bearer from 2014 and 2018, recently took a job with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara. And it remains unclear if an obscure political neophyte will emerge, a la Don Carcieri in 2002, to run the Republican table.
For now, the pandemic has for the last year squelched in-person networking, corporate consolidation has reduced the local business ranks that produced Carcieri, and Gov. McKee looks strong heading into 2022, with an ability to draw from independent and moderate GOP voters.
Across the partisan aisle, the factional fights among Rhode Island Democrats aren’t about to fade away. Different climate coalitions are jockeying for State House influence, as Celia Hack reported for EcoRI. A bigger progressive caucus in the Rhode Island Senate represents a change from the past. And Reclaim RI, representing the left wing of Democrats, staged a 4/20 Statehouse rally in support of union rights for cannabis industry workers, expunging criminal records involving marijuana and setting aside a significant portion of the industry for working class people, people of color and people harmed by the war on drugs.
The momentum in a growing number of states has shifted toward legalizing recreational marijuana. In Rhode Island, it’s harder for elected officials to oppose this when Massachusetts has legalization and Connecticut may be moving in that direction.
Count Rep. Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung (R-Cranston) among the skeptics, however.
“My main concern comes back to the public safety aspect,” Fenton-Fung said on Political Roundtable, and how it’s difficult to enforce driving under the influence charges against stoned motorists.
The Cranston Republican questions whether the infrastructure exists to respond to an increase in marijuana use and whether it will foster more use of other drugs. (Fenton-Fung said she is a big supporter of medical marijuana).
The Rhode Island Foundation is leading an effort to gather views on how the state should spend the roughly $1 billion expected in discretionary American Rescue Plan Act funds. The foundation will work with RIPEC and the Economic Progress Institute to collect these views over the next six months.
“The Foundation, with input from EPI and RIPEC, has recruited a steering committee in order to inform and assist the process of determining these critical spending recommendations,” Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a statement. “We have assembled a diverse, representative, local steering committee to brainstorm and oversee a virtual public engagement process, and to ultimately formulate a set of recommended investments for consideration by the Governor and the General Assembly.”
Gina Raimondo remains front and center as a very visible member of the Biden’s administration economic team.
She is sounding an alarm about the national security threat posed by the lack of semiconductor production in the U.S. The former Rhode Island governor is bearish on the GOP’s alternative infrastructure plan. And she’s weighing in on relations between the U.S. and the rising power of China.
“We’re very clear-eyed on the magnitude of the threat that China poses and we’re prepared,” Raimondo said last week in an interview with NPR.
Rhode Island media notes: Kudos and congrats to Jacob Marrocco as he moves from the Johnston Sun Rise to the New Harbor Group … Congrats to old friend Pam Watts on her new role as co-host of the weekly newsmagazine at RI-PBS … The time is right for a public campaign to get Ted Nesi in place (network affiliation issues notwithstanding) as a guest host of “Jeopardy!” … Anchor Rising, which used to duke it out with Matt Jerzyk’s RI Future for the hearts and minds of the Rhody blogosphere, is back online … Providence Media has announced a new subscription service for Providence Monthly and its other publications … The ProJo has seemingly woken to how there’s a newspaper war taking place in Rhode Island, judging by how the PJ is tweeting about deals on subscriptions. Not for Nothing, the Journal had one of its better Sunday A1s in recent memory earlier this month with the first installment of Alex Kuffner’s excellent series on the disappearance of the winter flounder from Narragansett Bay, a timely Patrick Anderson piece on the outlook for bringing some vitality back to downtown Providence, and one of Mark Patinkin’s evocative columns.
Frank Montanaro, a state employee since 1987, became something of an albatross for former House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, thanks to an arrangement in which he got nearly $50,000 in free tuition at Rhode Island College. Montanaro served Mattiello as director of the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, the hiring and spending arm of the General Assembly. Now, with House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi running the House, Montanaro is no longer working for the legislature, said spokesman Larry Berman.
You know interesting things are happening with the Red Sox when the data-info site FiveThirtyEight.com takes notice: “Truly, Boston fans have seen their team ride one of the weirdest roller-coasters in baseball history. If we add up their absolute season-over-season changes in winning percentage since 2011 — plugging in our forecast model for 2021’s numbers — the Red Sox are currently in the second-most volatile 10-year stretch of season-to-season changes of any team since World War II, trailing only the Seattle Mariners from 2000 through 2010.”
DC statehood seems highly uncertain due to the politics of the U.S. Senate. At the same time, regardless of the merits of the DC issue, would we in RI really want to relinquish our status as the smallest state?
Ian Donnis is the political reporter for The Public’s Radio. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter (@IanDon).