Globe panel explores big ideas on R.I. transit, hospitals, college affordability

Governor Gina Raimondo answered a question at Rhode Map Live, a Boston Globe hosted panel discussion about the future of the Ocean State.
Governor Gina Raimondo answered a question at Rhode Map Live, a Boston Globe hosted panel discussion about the future of the Ocean State.Ryan T. Conaty for the Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo talked about why Massachusetts should back more rapid, frequent train service between Providence and Boston.

“Who would like to spend less time in traffic and get 6,000 Rhode Island cars off the road every day?” she said.

Lifespan president and CEO Timothy Babineau talked about how the hospital group, the state’s largest private employer, has more than 1,000 job vacancies.

“There is a huge shortage of physicians coming down the pike that will make the nursing shortage of the 1980s pale by comparison,” he said.

Brown University president Christina H. Paxson talked about college affordability for future generations.


“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do I find the resources to remain a need-blind institution,” she said.

And Rhode Island College president Frank Sanchez talked about providing today’s college students with a return on their investment.

“A lot of families with students are really asking the question, ‘Is it worth it?’ There is real fear about being weighed down, maybe for the rest of their lives, in debt,” he said.

The four leaders on Thursday night took part in a Globe panel discussion titled “Rhode Map Live: Charting Rhode Island’s Future.” Nearly 150 people came to the Wexford Innovation Center at 225 Dyer St. in Providence for the first in a series of events that are part of the Globe’s expanded coverage of Rhode Island.

At one point during the event, a group of young protesters from the Sunrise Movement stepped to the front of the room, chanting and holding signs that read “No Green New Deal? No Future for Rhode Island.” The protesters pressed Raimondo to support “Green New Deal” legislation to combat climate change.

The event moderator, Globe reporter Dan McGowan, asked each panelist to name one thing they would “do over” in their current jobs.


“It’s not a ‘do over’ as much as a disappointment,” Babineau said. “We are still disappointed we couldn’t pull off the Brown, Care New England, Lifespan unified academic medical center. I hope we get another chance at that in the future.”

In July, Care New England pulled out of negotiations to form a local academic health center with Lifespan and Brown University — a proposal Raimondo strongly supported.

Paxson echoed Babineau, saying, “I am a very stubborn person. I have been working for a very long time to build a great academic medical center in Rhode Island. . . . I want to get that done.”

Raimondo said, “I would agree with them, except there is still time, and I’m not giving up. So it’s not yet a ‘do over’ — it’s just not yet done.”

The governor said she wishes she could “do over” the debacle involving the state’s $650 million public-assistance computer system known as UHIP. “It clearly wasn’t ready when we said to hit go,” she said. “We are now out of the woods, but it was a long painful road to hoe.”

Sanchez, who became RIC president four years ago, said he would have launched a marketing campaign sooner.

“We are getting ready to launch a whole new re-introduction of RIC — modernize commercial and social media, brand, tagline,” he said. “There has not been a commercial about Rhode Island College in 15 years.”


McGowan asked what Rhode Islanders need to do within the next year to make sure the state is heading in the right direction.

Babineau urged people to “get off the sidelines” and get involved in the community. “Secondly, develop amnesia about the past,” he said. “Forget what happened 10 or 20 years ago.”

McGowan announced that House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio will take part in the next Globe event at the Wexford building in January.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FitzProv.