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April 17, 2014

Woonsocket


Make no mistake, Woonsocket is a democrat stronghold. That could be a good thing. Senator Marc Cote held a fundraiser Tuesday night at Ciro's Tuesday night and unity prevailed in the upstairs function room of Hampton Court.

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse stopped by while Cote's senate colleagues including Senate President M Teresa Paiva-Weed and majority leader Dominick J. Ruggerio were present. His Woonsocket senate counterpart Roger Picard was among the well wishers. Rounding out the Democrat coalition were representatives Bob Phillips, Steve Casey and Mike Morin. I stopped by to thank Cote for his regular appearances at WNRI to let people know what's going in state government.

Cote is now deputy majority leader and is observing his 20th year in government service. So why is this all good news?

With the election of Nicholas A. Mattiello as Speaker of the House by his House colleagues on March 25, democrats are running the show and hold the purse-strings to money Woonsocket desperately needs. Let's hope this powerhouse combination can keep the city on the radar screen. For the record, I am not a spy. I was invited and am a registered democrat.


Providence


The wrong solution; the right response. The wrong solution was dropping the charges of violating the state's social host law in exchange for a $5,000 donation to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The right response was the organization rejecting the money. In an example of poor judgement by a judge in Kent County District Court, North Kingstown resident Jayne Donegan agreed to make the donation to MADD so that charges connected to underage drinking at her house be dismissed. To the credit of MADD,  they responded by saying “as much as we’d like to use the money to educate parents about the dangers of underage drinking, it’s not right for us to accept money under these conditions.”

Donegan, a lawyer herself, was arrested in late January for allegedly hosting a party for more than 100 teenagers at her home. The report also said Donegan was uncooperative with the responding officer and tried to slam the door on him. Under a plea agreement reached before Judge Frank J. Cenerini the police agreed on Tuesday to dismiss misdemeanor charges against Donegan accusing her of violating the social-host law.

In Rhode Island social host liability laws allow for adults to be held responsible to furnishing alcohol to those under 21 years old.



Providence


So when federal agents raided former House Speaker Gordon Fox's state house office and home, we could only speculate what might be the issue. Now Providence news media are getting hints of where the investigations are heading. One clue is big money fund-raising. Over the last 14 years, Fox has been a prolific fundraiser, bringing in thousands of dollars for his campaign account from supporters, lobbyists, and others. Fox raised nearly $550,000 between the start of 2010, the year he became speaker, and the end of 2013. Did he report all the money. Is this why the Internal Revenue Service is interested?

Another connection is 38 Studios. In 2012, Fox was forced to write a $648 check to Providence restaurant Tazza Cafe on Westminster Street to cover the costs of food and beverages from a 2007 fundraiser that he had previously failed to report. Tazza was owned by Michael Corso, a lawyer and tax-credit broker who was involved in bringing Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios to Rhode Island. Tazza closed new year's eve last year. More links as to what the elements are to the investigation are coming.



Woonsocket


Staff at Aspen Dental at Diamond Hill Plaza are gushing with happiness as patients walk in for treatment. What's the good news? “ We're moving to Dowling Village in North Smithfield in a month or two.”

It was no secret that Aspen had plans to open another location. Closing the Woonsocket office is new. So do we blame former Mayor Leo Fontaine, poor business climate in east Woonsocket or whatever spin might be appropriate.



Providence



So what will become of the pension issue? One union rejected the settlement and now it is back to superior Court in September and probably the Rhode Island Supreme Court eventually. A Providence Journal editorial this week summarized what most people believe “ Public unions wield tremendous political clout in Rhode Island, and have used it to obtain benefits that are far more generous than those of many taxpayers. In the long run, the pensions were clearly unsustainable; reforming them, as General Treasurer Gina Raimondo argued, was more a question of math than politics.

The pension reform still leaves taxpayers struggling to pay, but lops off $4 billion of spending over the next 20 years. It is hard to imagine how the state would be able to fund its other needs — infrastructure, education, assistance for the most needy citizens without such reform.” Governor Lincoln Chafee and the General Treasurer believe they have a solid legal case. At issue, the editorial suggests, is whether free citizens, through their elected representatives, can recalibrate public pensions to reality or whether citizens must be enslaved to fund overly generous pensions that are treated as implied contracts and cannot be changed. See you in court with the wisdom of Judge Sarah Taft-Carter presiding.



Woonsocket


Tonight the Woonsocket Rotary Club will award Richard R. Charest, president of Landmark Medical Center and Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island as recipient of the 2014 Vocational Service Award. The event will take place at Savini's Restaurant in Woonsocket. The award was created to recognize and honor a community member or business which has, through their work, practiced in keeping the highest ethical standards and striven to help others. It is my pleasure to serve as master of ceremonies tonight to honor the man who kept the hospital operating during dire fiscal conditions and several false starts from suitors trying to acquire the medical facility. There were elements from within the community and outside who worked behind the scenes to promote the closing of the facilty. Charest fought off those enemies of Woonsocket.

Charest became president of Landmark Medical Center in January 2007. He serves as president and chief executive officer of the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island, a position he has held since 2000. He is a graduate of Northeastern University with a bachelor's degree in pharmacy, and Bryant University with a master's in business administration in health care administration.

and the Visiting Nurse Service of Greater Woonsocket.

The public is invited to the award ceremony. For last minute tickets, contact Bob Picard at 401-996-8990