Coronacast 26: Brent

“Place really connects me to history,” said Brent Runyon. “It helps me understand historical timelines and events in ways that learning dates and names never did. I feel like it’s a really powerful tool for connecting us to our past, the good and the bad parts of it.”

Indeed. I find history intriguing because it helps me understand how people have influenced people, for years upon years, and how those people have created the places where we now live, which shape us.

As executive director of the Providence Preservation Society and someone who came to the preservation field through engineering, Brent is a good person to talk to about such topics.

“I have to say, the first month was kind of traumatizing,” Brent said, acknowledging the guilt and depression that went along with the early days of the pandemic for him. “It was really hard to get motivated and find a new way to work. What did work even mean anymore?”

As Brent notes, this is a difficult time to plan, and it is also an excellent time to consider transformation — of the work we do and the ways we do it.

Coronacast 25: Professor Cheit

“In public policy there is this notion of the policy window, and things that are in the policy window are things that are in the realm of possibility,” Ross Cheit said. “And I think that what’s happened in the last few months is the policy window has changed. I think it’s gotten a lot bigger. I think that there are now things that are possible and are happening that three months ago we might have said were impossible. So the window’s open.”

Yes, I thought. Yes! That explains the vague but persistent sense of opportunity that this terrible pandemic has brought upon us.

Ross Cheit is a professor of political science at Brown University. He wrestles with issues of ethics, criminal justice, and public policy. I know him from Twitter, where he offers sage and witty commentary. I was therefore totally unsurprised that, in a 10-minute conversation, Professor Cheit covered political science concepts I haven’t thought of since college, touched on the quirkiness of Rhode Island’s two degrees of separation, and clearly delighted in his students.

The uncertainty is challenging and at times overwhelming, but Professor Cheit left me with a new perspective. “Some good things are happening with this policy window open,” he said. “So things are possible.”

Coronacast 24: Kristen

“We’re looking at $48.5 million in direct spending losses for the state of Rhode Island,” said Kristen Adamo on the impact of the coronavirus on tourism. “The hit that our industry has taken has just been massive. We were the first to be hit and I think we’re going to be one of the last to recover.”

Tourism is a major economic driver in Rhode Island; we hosted 25.4 million visitors in 2018, and the industry supported 86,000 jobs. (Not surprising, given our beautiful coastline, charming communities, amazing food, remarkable history, and vibrant cultural scene.)

So, yes, this hit is significant, deep, and widespread.

Kristen is president and CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau, which grows and supports the meetings, events, sports, hospitality, and tourism sectors of our economy. She was forced to lay off 15 of her own employees, and it’s the lost jobs that drive her. “It lights the fire in your belly,” she notes. “Everything you do, you think, am I saving a job?.”

So what can we do to support our neighbors who work in the tourism industry? “Advocate for us by getting out there,” Kristen responds. Patronize local restaurants (dining in or taking out!), plan a staycation at a local hotel, and recommend Rhode Island for conventions and events.

You heard her, Rhode Island.