ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 130,120 confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, after adding 429 new cases. The most-recent overall daily test-positive rate was 1.8 percent, and the first-time positive rate was 19 percent. The state announced four more deaths, bringing the total to 2,563. There were 141 people in the hospital, and 100,610 residents were fully vaccinated.

Housekeeping: I’m on vacation next week, so Rhode Map will be in the able hands of Ed Fitzpatrick. E-mail him with all the things.

Rhode Island has a new a $11.17 billion budget proposal. Congress just approved a $1.9 trillion stimulus package. Oh, and we’re all still dealing with a once-in-century pandemic that has changed every facet of our lives over the last year.If you’re struggling to keep up, welcome to the club. Before I take some time off to fill out my NCAA bracket, here’s a collection of a random tidbits of news and things to watch in the coming weeks.

⚓ What a difference a few months make. Before last year’s election, a group that was advocating for Rhode Island to drop “Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name (that happened), paid for a private poll to see where voters stood on the issue. The survey also tested the favorability of several potential Democratic candidates for governor in 2022: Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. One guy the poll didn’t ask about: Dan McKee, our new governor. Most Democrats agree that McKee’s ascension to the state’s top job has reconfigured next year’s gubernatorial race. No matter what happens, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics ranks the race as “likely Democratic.”

⚓ We’ve seen so many staffing changes in Rhode Island government recently, and here’s a quick look at some of the latest moves: Elizabeth Winangun, who has been the director of external relations at Achievement First for several years, is joining McKee’s team as deputy policy director. Audrey Lucas, who was Governor Gina Raimondo’s press secretary, is becoming the director of external affairs at the Providence school department. Aaron Gardner, who previously oversaw legislative affairs for Mayor Elorza, is joining Secretary of State Gorbea’s staff as director of legislative and community affairs. Jason Martiesian is now Gorbea’s chief of staff, replacing Gonzalo Cuervo, who is running for mayor of Providence. Etie-Lee Schaub is moving from Providence’s law department to Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office as special assistant attorney general for the civil division.

⚓One of the most significant jobs in all of Rhode Island is about to come open, and no that’s not the lieutenant governor’s position. University of Rhode Island President David Dooley is scheduled to step away in June, and members of the URI Board of Trustees have been quietly searching Dooley’s successor. Dooley is the second-highest paid public employee in the state ($403,000 a year), behind only URI basketball coach David Cox. The trustees have kept a lid on the search process so far, and they’re scheduled to meet again next month.

⚓ Camp McKee started interviewing the applicants for lieutenant governor this week, and it still appears that Providence City Council President Sabina Matos is among the leading contenders. So who becomes the council president if Matos gets picked? Normally, the job would go to the council president pro tempore, but that position has been vacant since Councilman Michael Correia stepped down in December. That means the longest-serving councilor – John Igliozzi – would take a gavel, at least until someone can secure the eight votes needed to become the president. Behind the scenes, Igliozzi is already lobbying his colleagues to keep him as president until January 2023 (he’s term-limited).

⚓ Small world: Chris Farrell, who is viewed as Governor McKee’s top political advisor, is the cousin of Leo Skenyon, who served as chief of staff to former House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello.

Anne L. Clark, one of the lead attorneys appointed to investigate sexual harassment accusations made against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, has a Rhode Island connection. She clerked for former US District Court Judge Raymond J. Pettine, who was on the bench for more than 30 years.

⚓ Former Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training Director Scott Jensen has a new gig: He moved back to Maryland and is now the CEO and vice president of external affairs at the nonprofit Research Improving People’s Lives.

⚓ Brown University graduate Andrew Yang is leading the New York City mayoral race, according to an Emerson College poll out this week.

⚓ Coventry, Rhode Island’s seventh-largest community, is still searching for a new town manager, and the Town Council has been holding interviews for several weeks. There are two other municipalities that also currently have an acting town manager: West Warwick and Hopkinton.

⚓ Keep an eye on the ongoing battle between the Rhode Island Department of Education/Providence school department and the city’s teachers’ union. What on the surface looks like a minor dustup between the two sides could become the state’s first major attempt to unilaterally alter the union’s contract, which would almost certainly land them in front of a judge.


Alexa Gagosz compiled everything we know about how each city and town in Rhode Island is handling the COVID-19 vaccine. Read more.

Brian Amaral has an excellent profile on Rhode Island’s new first lady, Susan McKee. Read more.

⚓ In his first budget proposal, Governor McKee on Thursday outlined an $11.17-billion spending plan that would legalize marijuana, take the next step in the car-tax phaseout, and restructure the state’s Eleanor Slater Hospital. Read more.

⚓ Governor McKee appears to be ready to let the General Assembly lead the way on spending more than $1 billion in federal stimulus funding. Read more.

⚓ Alcohol-to-go has worked during the pandemic. But what happens when it’s no longer allowed? Read more.

⚓ Rhode Islanders who are 60 to 64 years old and those older than 16 with specific underlying health conditions will be able to start signing up for COVID-19 vaccine appointments starting today. Read more.

⚓ Rhode Map readers have sent a round of Happy Birthday wishes to: Anita Monfet (101), Kristen Lage (23ish), Michaela Antunes, Peter Baptista, Allison Gaito, Elizabeth Pinsker (42), Eleanor Pinsker (10), Donna Perry, Kyle Bennett, Scott Duhamel, Ernie Almonte, Brendan Doherty, Barry Fain, Jane Jellison, Jacob Conrad (19), Pam Cotter, Stu Crowley (77), Roxie Andrade, Janice Day, Santiago Posas (31), Eric Rietveld, Nadia Heller (19), Barbara Verros (62), Jenna Cote (27), Luke Bruneaux (41), and Violet Bruneaux (1).


Politics: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh still hasn’t been confirmed as President Joe Biden’s labor secretary, and guessing when he’ll exit City Hall has become a bit of a parlor game among local politicos. Read more.

Health: Planning to celebrate your COVID-19 vaccination with a night out at the movies, or dinner, or a day at the ballpark? You might need to bring your passport — vaccine passport, that is. Read more.

Media: Andy Gresh is expected to replace the retiring Dale Arnold at WEEI. Read more.

Ideas: Some people are ready to loosen up and socialize again, while others are unnerved by the thought. My colleague Andy Rosen wonders whether each group can accept that the other is having a normal reaction. Read more.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at [email protected].

⚓ Governor McKee will hold his weekly COVID-19 press conference at 11 a.m.

⚓ I’m a guest on “A Lively Experiment” on Rhode Island PBS tonight at 7 p.m. and Sunday at noon.

⚓ US Representative David Cicilline’s House Antitrust Subcommittee is holding a hearing on “saving the free and diverse press” at 10 a.m. You can watch it here.

⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.