- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The former mayor of Central Falls leaves prison early, pothole problems and good news on homelessness. Here are five things to know in Rhode Island:

MOREAU FREED

Former Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau was freed from prison Friday after an appeals court threw his 2012 conviction into question. Moreau was released after pleading guilty to a new charge of accepting a bribe, then being sentenced on that charge to time served. U.S. District Court Judge John McConnell then vacated Moreau’s 2012 conviction for accepting a gratuity by an official receiving federal funds, admitting as part of a plea deal that he accepted a furnace and home renovations from a businessman who had a contract to board up vacant houses in the financially troubled city. The conviction was called into question after an appeals court found in an unrelated case involving a Puerto Rican official that it is not a crime for a government official to accept gratuities.

CITY TAKES AIM AT POTHOLES

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras said Rhode Island’s largest city will aggressively repair potholes caused by this winter’s snowstorms. Taveras, who said this year’s potholes are the worst he can recall in many years, said city crews are working to repair the damage, which is caused as melting water from snow and ice works its way through road surfaces. Fluctuating temperatures cause the water to repeatedly freeze and thaw, expanding cracks and fissures into potholes.

COX TO CLOSE CALL CENTER

Cox Communications announced that it will close a call center in West Warwick and lay off up to 234 workers in Rhode Island as part of an effort to consolidate its residential customer service operations around the country. The closure of the call center will trim the number of Cox employees in Rhode Island to 859. Laid-off workers may seek to transfer or apply for other jobs in the region.

HOMELESSNESS ON THE DECLINE

The number of homeless people in Rhode Island fell 9 percent last year, according to new numbers released Wednesday. Advocates for the homeless say 4,447 people stayed in a homeless shelter or transitional housing at least one night in 2013, down from 4,868 in 2012. The number of homeless children, families and veterans also declined. Advocates say a gradually improving economy and state housing programs are behind the positive trend.

BLOCK PITCHES TAX OVERHAUL

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Block proposed an ambitious series of tax cuts and government reforms Tuesday that he said would boost Rhode Island’s economy while addressing years of political inaction. The businessman and founder of the state’s Moderate Party called for cutting local taxes on automobiles, reducing the corporate income tax rate from 9 to 7 percent and lowering estate taxes. He also said that if elected, he’d call for less spending on unemployment and temporary disability benefits. Block also wants to eliminate straight-ticket voting, give the governor line-item veto power and grant the state’s ethics commission more oversight over state lawmakers. Block faces Cranston Mayor Allan Fung in the GOP primary.