Phillipe and Jorge’s Cool, Cool World: I-195 Backdoor Dealings, Lessons from Trump, ecoRI Turns 6, and Mark Weiner Soothes a Bad Dream

Backdoor Curveball 

As more and more people turn out to the public forums and discussions to oppose the Pawtucket Red Sox’ proposed Ben Dover Stadium in Providence, what is happening behind the scenes with the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission may warrant much more public — and official — scrutiny. It’s not a big stretch to see Our Gina’s administration looking at their own version of the notorious 38 Studios fiasco, abetted by the likes of House Speaker Nick Mattiello, who appears to be already in the tank for the Ben Dover deal.

First, we saw the seemingly innocuous resignation of the I-195 Commission’s executive director, Jan Brodie, on July 24. Ms. Brodie surprisingly offered no reasons for her departure. She was eminently qualified for the position and was enthusiastic about its potential, and the president of the Jewelry District Association, Arthur Salisbury, had just offered her a slot on his board, about which she was reportedly excited. Salisbury reacted to her abrupt announcement by telling The Other Paper, “That leaves me to believe that maybe this wasn’t her choice.” Hmmm.

Then on August 17, after a closed session that reportedly lasted only 45 minutes, the I-195 Commission announced it hired a new executive director, Peter McNally. OK, record speed for a government committee hiring, but alarm bells immediately began going off at Casa Diablo when Phillipe and Jorge read the details.

First, McNally had been a colleague of I-195 Commission Chairman Joseph Azrack at a financial firm in the late 1990s, before going on to New York, and then retiring and moving to Providence in 2014. Fine. Birds of a feather.

Here’s where it starts to smell a bit fishy. The ad for the executive director was posted (unannounced?) only on the I-195 Commission website (which we assume really trends high on social media), hardly throwing out a huge national search net in the process, as former Governor Chafee did before eventually selecting Brodie. That involved an executive search firm and 200 applicants, with the short list being interviewed in private before Brodie was endorsed for the job. If this streamlined process was done for an unspoken reason, it certainly worked. As Azrack told The Other Paper, McNally was, “as far as (Azrack) know(s)” the only applicant (!?!?). Pardon? You mean if some homeless person applied for the job they had a 50-50 shot of getting it?

But wait, there’s more! Azrack was apparently steered to McNally by state Secretary of Commerce Stephan Pryor, who met him via Our Gina, whom McNally met through what was described as “acquaintances.” Guess we will have to change the venerable Vo Dilun line, “I know a guy,” to “I know an acquaintance of a guy.” We haven’t been told if McNally was even interviewed for the job by what we hope was at least a bare bones search committee, but if not, hey, you can get a good feel for someone applying for a major position with a phone call or email or text exchange, right?

Also revealed in the murky waters now surrounding the I-195 Commission is that Brodie was excluded from talks between I-195 execs and the new PawSox owners. P&J would say this was the tactic of, “Yeah, don’t let her know too much. She could be a problem down the road,” but that would be blatantly unfair to Mr. Azrack, who was handling the major interactions for the commission. Wouldn’t it?

P&J’s finely honed, jaded, cynical minds (a requisite for covering politics in Little Rhody) might suggest that Brodie was expressly not on board for Ben Dover Stadium, and was told to either walk the plank or jump overboard on her own. That allows for a certain pre-approved someone to fill her job, who might be less disruptive to plans already being put into action behind the scenes. But thinking like that would, of course, be wrong.  So since it appears that no one is calling out the governor or Commissioner Azrack on this fast sleight of hand, might P&J suggest that both have some ’splainin’ to do to the citizens of Providence and the state?

Sleep tight, Mr. Schilling.

And speaking of Schilling …

Notes on Trump World
Thanks to social media, we can all spew like Donald Trump. This, of course, has little to do with freeing oneself of political correctness, but more to do with having little or no regard for other people’s feelings or sensibilities and just blurting out one’s most primitive urges and thoughts.
Yes, there is such a thing as political correctness, but the reactionary fringe has expanded the definition into the area of “anyone airing out the same biases and prejudices that I share is merely not going along with political correctness.” From P&J’s perspective, people like Trump are merely egocentric and narcissistic, and have no concern for the feelings of others. The part that is inestimably sad is that so many people seem to be cheering this on. Positive proof of IQ at the polls might nip this in the bud, but that wouldn’t be right.
Oh, well. The thought that we can all be as sensitivity-free as Trump occurred to us when we saw a brief news story about legendary baseball sub-genius and Vo Dilun anti-hero Curt Schilling tweeting some nonsense comparing Muslims to Hitler. Perhaps he was just spitballing about his latest dream for a video game that (thankfully) no human will ever see. Who knows? Who would have thought 35 years ago that Phillipe & Jorge would seem to be one of the standards for common decency in the media?

Down to Zero

Mark September 16 on your calendar for the ecoRI News Zero Trash Birthday Bash from 6 – 9pm at Machines with Magnets gallery and performance space in Pa’tucket.

The event is a celebration of ecoRI News’ 6th birthday, which in short time and on limited budget has become the go-to source of environmental news in the region. And because – and repeat after us, children – Little Rhody’s environmental quality is inextricably linked with its economic health, that role is a vital one locally.

The celebration will feature a seasonal tasting menu prepared by Julians catering, live music and a silent auction, with food and libations galore.  All guests get a free pint glass to refill and re-use in perpetuity. Everything at the celebration will be eaten, imbibed, recycled, reused or composted.

Tickets can be bought online at ECORI.ORG/BASH. Space is limited and advance ticket purchase is required, so move fast. And naturally (geddit?), P&J say be there or be square.

(Full disclosure: Phillipe is chairman of the board of directors of ecoRI News, and damn proud of it, its board members and the hardworking staff.)

And Bears Don’t Use Bathrooms

England’s Private Eye magazine (a long-ago inspiration for creating the Cool, Cool World) includes in its latest issue one of its newspaper “Corrections of the Year” from the August 11 edition of the Times of London:

“Karol Wojtyla was referred to in Saturday’s Credo as ‘the first non-Catholic pope for 450 years.’  This should, of course, have read ‘non-Italian.’ We apologise for the error.”

Surprisingly, the Times is not owned and operated by GateHouse Media.

Kudos & Congrats
… to longtime Democratic political operative, Mark Weiner. After reading about the senseless destruction at the imPossible Dream Playground in Warwick, Mark immediately drove to the site and offered to “take care of everything.” After executive director, Diane Florio Penza, told Mark what would be needed, he immediately wrote a check. Within days the playground reopened. So, here’s to Mark Weiner. He’s had some health issues in recent years, and his response was to emerge a kinder, gentler, more generous person than he was before. Good for you, Mark Weiner.

One response to “Phillipe and Jorge’s Cool, Cool World: I-195 Backdoor Dealings, Lessons from Trump, ecoRI Turns 6, and Mark Weiner Soothes a Bad Dream”

  1. A 'Back Door Deal' in RI? I'm shocked, absolutely shocked. Need to pass out more cash filled envelopes to Mattiello and Paiva-Weed.

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