It seems like everyone, at least in the media, is doing its top lists at this time of year – top stories of the past year, people to watch, people who we watched, stories we expect to dominate in 2022, or is that 2020 too. No, No, No, please. We had enough of 2020 for a lifetime.
What happens in 2022 will depend on COVID. But presuming we do get a grip on this nasty virus, here’s what I’ll be watching:
Healthcare – COVID, hoping we de-politicize this virus, and treat it as the public health crisis it is. Statewide we will be watching the march toward a Lifespan and Care New England merger and the impact it has on everything from costs to quality of care. We’ll also watch South County Health (South County Hospital), the only independent hospital in the state, which likely will be acquired by some other multi-hospital corporation (non-profit or for-profit).
Politics – Five or more Democrats will vying for the gubernatorial nomination, U.S. House of Representative seats are in play. In the legislature we are seeing the emergence of more active progressive wing of the Democratic Party, challenging several incumbents in the primary election. We’ll closely races for city and town council, and school committee seats in Newport and surrounding communities.
So many other issues too – the North End Development, Bridge realignment, Newport schools’ construction, the Opera House, and upstate in Pawtucket, whether a professional soccer stadium is built. Will the various entities reach a solution to avoid any future gas crisis? And climate change – the storms, access to the beach, how the state and local communities spend this enormous infusion of federal funds, and the economy on all levels. So much more.
And who to watch, locally. We asked for a little help from Discover Newport’s Evan Smith and Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano..
- Jonathan Stone Director of Save the Bay. “They are redeveloping the first floor of the Gateway Center with plans to move their aquarium from Eastons Beach to the Gateway Center. That interior construction and remodeling will be in full swing throughout 2022. We’re excited to see an eco/ marine based and family friendly attraction coming to the downtown area. Expected to open in 2023,” says Evan Smith.
- Heather Rusham of the Sailing Hall of Fame, which is expected to open in summer 2022
- Anika Kimble Huntley – Director of Marketing at CommerceRI, who Evan Smith credits with really moving the statewide tourism effort forward.
- Matt and Katie Gray (co-owners), who are developing the new Ragged Island Brewery in Portsmouth.
- Carmella Geer, executive director of the Edward King Center. “Not only has she prevailed on continuing services for seniors in Newport and beyond, but her assistance in coping with the Covid testing, requirements, vaccines, etc. for the entire community has been nothing short of phenomenal,” says Mayor Napolitano.
- State Rep. Marvin Abney, D-Dist. 73. Rumored as a potential candidate for state treasurer, he chairs the powerful finance committee in the House of Representatives and has a sizeable campaign war chest of more than $162,000.
- John H. Cratin, III, Chair of the Newport Performing Arts Center (Opera House). A business consultant, Cratin was co-chair of the Philadelphia Folk Festival. He is leading the effort to restore the former Opera House, hoping for a 2023 re-opening.
- Carpionato – The company — all those involved in the development of the former Casino property, and the linchpin of any substantive North End development.
- Heather Hole Strout, executive director of the Martin Luther King Center, which along with all similar organizations has been at the center of helping many individuals in need. These organizations have been particularly challenged as the state’s homeless population grows, and others face significant financial challenges.
- Evan Smith, executive director of Discover Newport, among the leading tourism officials statewide, he is at the heart of an industry that so dominates Newport’s economy.