Greetings on this lovely Saturday! I bring you another installment of my weekend column for WPRI.com. As usual, feel free to send your thoughts, insights, and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Here are the highlights:
1. The Warwick IHOP has become the new spot for political pow-wows in Rhode Island, with Joe Shekarchi and Jack Reed sitting down there last weekend for a heart-to-heart. The 90-minute tête-à-tête was about whether Shekarchi wanted to trade in his speaker’s gavel in Rhode Island for a backbencher’s seat in Congress. Ultimately, the answer was no; Shekarchi removed himself from the running on Friday. Despite his inner circle’s unanimous disapproval of a congressional bid, Shekarchi seriously considered the idea, highlighting how much serving in Washington appealed to him. However, Shekarchi has also acknowledged that leaving Smith Hill for Capitol Hill may not be as attractive as it once was. Shekarchi is not endorsing any particular candidate for the 1st Congressional District, and he believes anyone can win the race.
2. With Shekarchi out of the running, the 1st Congressional District race has become more interesting. Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos launched her campaign low-key, with a press release and social media video; state Sen. Sandra Cano is expected to announce her candidacy soon. General Treasurer James Diossa’s fiancé, Cano, may be an excellent candidate, as indicated by Diossa himself. Helena Foulkes, another Democratic runner, has yet to announce her bid. If she does, the conversation will center on whether she’s the clear top runner or just a leading candidate. If she doesn’t run, the primary could be anyone’s game.
3. Seth Magaziner’s seat is on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s target list for 2024, despite the GOP’s failure to capture the seat in last year’s multimillion-dollar campaign. So far, no Republicans have announced their intention to run against Magaziner. Magaziner plans to hold significant fundraisers on March 30 at Providence G’s rooftop bar, with a host committee of over 150 individuals; House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries will headline one in Washington. Magaziner’s national profile is also expanding, such as his recent appearance on MSNBC.
4. As Rhode Island’s Treasurer, James Diossa is facing his first crisis in the banking sector. The state pension fund will lose approximately $2.5 million because of its investments in troubled banks, highlighting how global financial crises can affect Rhode Islanders. However, Diossa praised his team’s swift assessment of the situation after Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse.
5. The 1991 credit-union crisis still haunts many Rhode Islanders, which had former governor Bruce Sundlun by his side as he shut down the banks. David Preston reflects in a recent Boston Globe op-ed on how the crisis might have played out given social media’s widespread use today.
6. Some stories from my colleagues you shouldn’t miss include Eli Sherman and Steph Machado’s report on the feds’ attention to Providence’s special-education crisis. Eli also detailed the job of recertifying one-third of Rhode Islanders for Medicaid, while lawmakers are considering a bill to crack down on catalytic-converter thefts prompted, in part, by Steph’s reporting. Meanwhile, Tim White delved into how regional authorities are preparing for electric-vehicle fires, and Amanda Pitts covered the East Providence police union’s grievances and the city mayor’s response.
7. Governor Maura Healey has committed herself to Southeastern Massachusetts, including her first official visit as governor to UMass Dartmouth and her recent tour of New Bedford’s Marine Commerce Terminal. When asked during an interview about economic development, Healey emphasized a regional approach. As a region, we need to grow a clean-tech economy and create economic opportunities while addressing the climate crisis. Healey also underscored the importance of working with other states, including Rhode Island, to address high heating and electricity costs.
8. John Fernandez, Lifespan’s new CEO, says his greatest headwinds are staffing, staffing, and staffing. The group is looking to add over 1,000 positions, including 400-500 nurses, to relieve the pressure on emergency rooms by accessing the 40 unstaffed inpatient beds. After posting a $77 million loss last fiscal year, Fernandez and CFO Peter Markell report a $5 million operating profit for the last quarter of 2022. Meanwhile, Care New England’s new leadership team will institute another cost-cutting round starting April 1.