Innovation Ecosystem

A charm offensive?

Asking the impertinent question at a media availability

Photo by Richard Asinof

Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor and Gov. Dan McKee at a media availability held on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at a ONE Neighborhood Building Housing development.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 2/13/23
To make the narrative transparent, it requires making those who are shaping it visible.
How much money was Duffy and Shanley being paid to manage the public relations for former Housing Secretary Josh Saal? Why was Josh Saal rehired as a consultant after being forced to resign? What is the exact role that Matt Sheaff is playing for Gov. McKee? How will Housing Secretary Pryor plan to include housing experts such as Brenda Clement in devising new strategies around housing development?
On the same day that Secretary Pryor and Gov. McKee held their media availability, there was a gathering in Olneyville held by the Central Providence Health Equity Zone Roadmap meeting, focused on how to expand equity in the neighborhoods over the next 10 years – creating a collective roadmap on how to improve health and economic equity in Central Providence. More than 45 nonprofits, businesses, and other stakeholders gathered on Tuesday to create a collective vision for the roadmap.
Instead of holding a media availability, it would behoove Secretary Pryor and the Governor to host a dinner with some of the recipients of the new business loan program known as the Providence Revolving Fund, a community controlled revolving loan fund, which included: American Signs USA, DH Companies, JJJ Constructor, C&C Transportation, Max Auto & Truck Repair, United Beauty Supply, Roberto’s Auto Repair, and Footprints Home Daycare.

PROVIDENCE – Let’s set the scene. There was a media availability held on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 7, featuring the newly appointed Housing Secretary, Stefan Pryor, and Gov. Dan McKee.

The backdrop for staging the event was the housing project built by ONE Neighborhood Builders known as King Street Commons, which officially opened nine months ago, on Monday morning, July 26, 2022. The project included 30 new affordable rental apartments and a state-of-the-art childcare center. [See link below to ConvergenceRi story, “Investing in Neighborhoods and Residents.”]

The story began with the evocative line: “If Providence had its own home-grown breakfast cereal to celebrate its champions of placed-based development, one of the faces on the inaugural cereal boxes would no doubt be Jennifer Hawkins, the executive director of ONE Neighborhood Builders, who in the last few years has stewarded a series of remarkable achievements and tangible results [though Hawkins would certainly demur and insist that members of her team share in the spotlight].”

The speaking part of the media availability had been officially introduced by Hawkins, who these days is represented by Mike Raia, the president of the public relations firm, Half Street Group.

The gathering had been preceded by a private meeting between tenants of the project with the Governor and with Pryor.

There was no “news,” per se, attached to the gathering. Rather, it was an opportunity to reset the image and messaging around housing and homelessness for the Governor. The narrative being promoted by the Governor had taken a “battering,” in ConvergenceRI’s opinion, when the Cranston Street Armory warming shelter lost its heat on Saturday, Feb. 4, during the coldest day and night of the year.

Asking questions
ConvergenceRI anticipated that he would get to ask one question. It was a choice between asking about the evictions underway by the state, forcing community nonprofit agencies out of state-owned buildings, MAP in Providence and Community Care Alliance in Woonsocket, or asking about whether or not the state would maintain its contract with communications consultant Duffh and Shanley.

ConvergenceRI chose the latter. [See link below to video of question and answer, courtesy of WPRO’s Steve Klamkin.]

It was a simple question. Direct, to the point, professional. It didn’t get much airplay from the other news media present. .

ConvergenceRI: You are excellent in your communications work, as is the Governor. Do you intend to continue your contract with Duffy and Shanley to handle your communications work? Or, are you going to redirect that money toward other priorities?
PRYOR: At this point, I’m taking a look at all of the staffing and all of the contracting that has been arrived at, and taking a look at what we need going forward, so I am not going to comment on any one feature of that. But I can tell you that we are looking forward to building a strong organization that is equal to the task, as the Governor has instructed us.

ConvergenceRI: So, you won’t need Chris Raia [from Duffy and Shanley] to accompany you to every event to speak for you?
PRYOR: In no way am I going to speak to any one contract.


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