Shared from the 2016-12-12 The Providence Journal eEdition

POLITICAL SCENE

Pizzeria is raking in a lot of State House dough

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Neuman

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Alviti

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H. Clinton

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Mattiello

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B. Clinton

Pizza and politics.

They’re a natural combination — ask anyone in a newsroom on Election Night — only made stronger in Rhode Island by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who’s made pizza the nourishment o f c h o i c e for hungry lawmakers grinding t h e i r w a y t h r o u g h a l o n g f l o o r session.

A n d n o t j u s t a n y pizza: Tommy’s Pizza.

The Italian eatery, where Mattiello is a regular and where he took former President Bill Clinton for lunch in April, was far and away the General Assembly’s top food-service provider in 2016, according to figures from the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, which controls the General Assembly’s budget.

This year, the legislature spent $134,024 on food for lawmakers, staff, mock session attendees, school groups and assorted visitors.

Of that total, $31,074 went to Tommy’s Pizza, nearly double the next-highest provider, the Butcher Shop on Elmgrove Avenue in Providence, which brought in $16,119.

Tommy’s original locat i o n i s o n C h a l k s t o n e Avenue in Providence, but its newer location, on Oak-lawn Avenue in Mattiello’s Cranston House district, has raised its profile on Smith Hill.

“Speaker Mattiello has often said that Tommy’s is the favorite restaurant in his district and he is a regular customer — nothing more to it than that,” said Larry Berman, spokesman for Mattiello, who noted that Tommy’s has been an Assembly vendor since 1979.

Feeding lawmakers from a favorite eatery, especially in your district, is State House custom.

Former Speaker Gordon Fox was fond of Gregg’s restaurant, which has a location on North Main Street in what was his Providence district.

In the Senate, no establishment dominates food orders.

Senate leadership “really likes to spread it around,” said Greg Pare, spokesman for Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed.

Of course, direct Assembly spending is only one politically based source of business.

In a year when he may have set the record for spending in a House race, Mattiello’s campaign spent $4,218 at Tommy’s Pizza as of Dec. 6.

That’s modest compared with other restaurants, such as Capriccio, where the campaign has spent $9,764 so far this year; Hanley’s Ale House, $8,963; and Capital Grille, $6,055.

Reached by phone Friday, Tommy Sacco, proprietor of Tommy’s Pizza, said he was too busy to talk about his Smith Hill business.

Postmortem

Even knowing the election results of Nov. 8, Stephen Neuman says he would do it all again.

He would l e a v e h i s h o m e i n Rhode Island and his job as Gov. Gina Raimondo’s chief of staff to run Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign operation in Michigan, a Rust Belt s t a t e t h a t Democrats were counting on to win the Electoral College.

Of course, Clinton would lose Michigan by less than 11,000 votes, helping swing the election to Republican Donald Trump.

“Absolutely,” Neuman said Friday about whether the experience had been worth the disappointment. “I was working for a candidate I believed in.”

So what went wrong in the Wolverine State?

Although it’s become a familiar feature of the post-election narrative, Neuman said he’s become less convinced that post-industrial economic concerns propelled Trump in Michigan.

Instead, Neuman said the Democratic Party faced a natural challenge in keeping the White House for three consecutive terms; some people struggled to vote for a woman; Russia meddled in the election; and FBI Director James Comey briefly reopened an email investigation, a move that would have sunk many candidates.

Some have blamed the Clinton camp for not focusing enough attention on the Upper Midwest (especially Wisconsin), but Neuman said he has no complaints about the amount of support he received from the candidate and national campaign.

“The campaign made a massive investment in Michigan,” he said.

Now that the campaign is over, Neuman and his wife plan to move to Washington, D.C., where she has secured a job and he plans to look for one. That could include another government job, a return to practicing law, or joining the private sector.

Asked whether his former boss Raimondo, now heading into the second half of her term and an expected reelection campaign, needs to change anything, Neuman said she should stay the course and keep plugging away at creating jobs.

Before being hired by Raimondo, Neuman was an aide to former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, whom Clinton defeated in the Democratic primary.

Would O’Malley have beaten Trump?

“I think that both Governor O’Malley and Secretary Clinton would have made tremendous presidents,” Neuman said.

Looking down the road

The backslapping between Raimondo and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza at last week’s unveiling of a new city- and state-endorsed design for the Route 6-10 interchange felt like the c o m p l e t i o n o f a l o n g mission.

But even outside of actually financing and building the project, there’s much more work on the maligned, traffic-clogged highway yet to come.

Thursday’s new design covered the oldest, most disruptive section of the highway — from Route 6 a n d t h e Huntington Viaduct to Tobey Street — but stopped short of making changes all the way to Route 95, as some have proposed.

In the 6-10 proposal released by the city in October, a huge potential development opportunity was identified in eliminating the large, circular ramps at Dean Street and extending nearby DePasquale Square farther down Federal Hill.

When asked if changes are coming to Dean Street, state DOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said, “Stay tuned.”

Additional design changes to 6-10 could also include redesigns to the Route 95 ramps blamed for so many backups. State transportation officials have long sought to add an additional lane to Route 95 North from the Providence Place mall past the ramps to Route 146.

And there are still questions about the plan unveiled last week, including: Will the rebuilt Westminster Street and Broadway bridges over 6-10 really be more approachable for cyclists and pedestrians than they are now?

Although the new design shows those bridges as part of a new bike network, they also show four lanes of automobile traffic and no protected bicycles lanes.

panderson@providence-journal.com

(401) 277-7384

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PatrickAnderso_

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