With so much talk about the PawSox deal to build a stadium in Pawtucket, which has been approved the Rhode Island Senate, it only seemed natural that when Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello came before the Warwick Democratic Committee he would be asked whether the House would take up the vote.
But Warwick Democrats had something closer to home on their minds. Former Ward 7 Councilman Charles Donovan Jr. wanted to know where Mattiello stood on changing the name of Theodore Francis Green Airport.
Mattiello opened his visit to the Wednesday night meeting at the Knights of Columbus Hall to questions after talking about the party.
“We have our differences,” Mattiello said of party members, “but we always get through it…we don’t cover up our problems, we work through them.”
About 40 people were in attendance at the meeting run by Warwick party chairman Rob Farrell. In attendance were most of the Warwick City Council as well as the Warwick House delegation, including Rep. Joseph McNamara, the state Democratic Party Chairman. Accompanying Mattiello was Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi, House Majority Leader and a Warwick representative.
Mattiello described himself as a “Kennedy Democrat,” saying that he respects all viewpoints and that the party tent is large enough for all.
Mattiello said he has heard of himself described as the most powerful person in the state. He resents the description of power, saying he feels public service more accurately defines his role.
“It’s not power, it’s public service,” he said. “We do this because we care about people.”
Shekarchi spoke of how he has worked with Warwick legislators and the relationship he has with members of the City Council, naming them as he looked at the audience.
“Warwick has a great delegation,” he said. “They are doing a great job and pushing the state’s interest.”
He included his own state senator, Janine Calkin, a progressive Democrat, although he said he doesn’t share her ideology.
As for changing the name of the airport, which has been suggested as a means of improving its identity and marketability, Mattiello said from a personal perspective, “I’m a traditionalist. I don’t like changing history.” He talked briefly about T.F. Green and his political career that included serving as governor and U.S. senator. “He’s a part of our legacy,” he said.
Mattiello also said he thought the City Council should have a say in a name change. Rhode Island International Airport has been suggested.
Should there be a name change, Shekarchi said he feels it appropriate that Green be recognized in some way at the airport. A suggestion was renaming Airport Road. Shekarchi said he would introduce legislation for a name change should the Rhode Island Airport Corporation request it.
“We’ll make the right decision for the airport,” Mattiello assured. “We’ll figure it out.”