RI candidates in heated ‘Tidewater-gate’ governor’s debate on WPRO

EAST PROVIDENCE — The zingers stole — and with them, an allegation that the $60 million public funding deal for the Pawtucket football stadium project smacks of corruption — during an hour-long debate between Democratic gubernatorial candidates Monday morning.

There was no doubt Governor Dan McKee was in the hot seat for much of the hour-long pre-recorded debate, hosted by Bill Bartholomew, which will air on WPRO radio at 4 p.m. Monday.

The debate pitting incumbent McKee against Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, former Secretary of State Matt Brown, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes and health activist Luis Daniel Munoz covered a lot of ground.

Matt Brown Calls Pawtucket Football Stadium “Tidewater-gate”

But Brown – who votes in the single digits – leveled the toughest hits in response to a question about the “Tidewater” stadium project proposal to Pawtucket, which he called “Tidewater-gate”.

“This is a case of corruption going on in our state as we speak,” Brown alleged.

Tidewater Stadium Debate

McKee pushed back harshly, as he has for most of the hour, accusing his critics of ignoring the post-pandemic turnaround the state has experienced during his 18 months as governor, and more specifically: the opportunity that Pawtucket Stadium offers to create jobs and opportunity economies.

Here’s how it happened:

“Governor McKee, you must immediately release all documents relating to this agreement, which at this point should be called Tidewater-gate, unredacted.”

Brown cited the “decisive vote” McKee cast as chairman of the state’s Commerce Corporation to award $60 million in state and local grants to the developer.

He quoted the $7,900 in campaign donations and fundraising assistance that McKee has received this election cycle from the directors and lobbyists of the development company proposing the stadium: Fortuitous Partners, whose lead partner, Brett Johnson.

He also cited Reports from WPRI and WJAR say “the deal will cost the state tens of millions of dollars.” According to a member of the Commerce Corporation, they were asked to keep the documents regarding the agreement secret.”

And now, Brown said, the McKee administration is “hiding the truth about how serious this deal is for the people of Rhode Island” by removing swaths of potentially critical information from documents given to the Journal and others. news organizations at the end of last week.

Tidewater Landing Project:Football stadium and 500 apartments in Pawtucket inaugurate construction

Helena Foulkes: “Show us all the information”

In turn, Foulkes – whose brother was one of the Commerce board members who voted no – said: “Governor, you’re not really being transparent with us. Please just show us all information and be honest with us.

“The deal 18 months ago was a good deal. What happened? Costs have increased by 50%. It’s happening nationwide. We all do what we do when prices go up. We say: let’s look at the whole project again. How to reinvent the project to be able to take care of everything?”

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea: ‘You have everything upside down’

Gorbea: “And what is really going to make a difference in Pawtucket is not a football stadium, but investing in schools, investing in housing. You have everything upside down. We cannot continue to fund single-purpose promoters.”

Luis Daniel Munoz: Affordable Housing

Munoz added: “We have decided that a football stadium is more important than affordable housing.”

Governor Dan McKee: ‘The focus should be on the big picture’

In turn, McKee said the focus should be on the big picture: how much better off Rhode Island is post-pandemic than other Northeastern states, the unemployment rate record and the myriad of tax cuts included in the new state budget. .

“We are investing $40 million in fishing in the Galilee… well over $60 million in Quonset, to make sure that [that] the port is up to date…[and significantly] in the offshore wind industry.”

“Tidewater is just another example of investing in our state. It’s no different than what we do in the Galilee or Quonset…”

“It’s a plan that’s going to put people to work,” McKee said, dismissing “this idea that [we] will not complete the project. In fact, I know how to do these things. Show me an example of a project I started that didn’t end well.”

“And by the way, I’m not going to be a governor who walks away from the town of Pawtucket like others have…”

Brown: “But Governor McKee, did you read the report before voting for Tidewater that concludes the deal will cost the state tens of millions of dollars?”

In response, McKee said the deal was effectively approved before he succeeded Gina Raimondo – the current US Commerce Secretary – as governor. “It’s a good project. We will continue and the project will end.

“We are going to build 500 houses across the river. We are going to have a footbridge over the river, just as it was originally designed.”

To those who push back, “Obviously they don’t have the skills and talent that I have to complete the project.”

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