- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island’s year began with the death of one of the most infamous mayors in American history: Buddy Cianci. It ended with the opening of the nation’s first offshore wind farm. The top stories in the state for 2016 also included the passage of ethics reform in another year plagued with concerns about corruption, reports from dozens of victims of widespread sexual abuse at the elite St. George’s boarding school, and the embarrassing rollout of a $5 million tourism campaign.


The unexpected death of Providence’s longest-serving mayor in January at age 74 became a major event. Three TV stations aired specials about his life the night he died, and then covered his funeral live. Hundreds of mourners visited as Cianci lay in repose at city hall for two days. Meanwhile, Cianci critics questioned why a man driven from office twice due to felonies was being honored. Cianci’s story was later revived for a new audience by the podcast “Crimetown,” which tells of Cianci and the corruption that permeated his administration.



Lawmakers passed and voters approved a constitutional amendment giving the state ethics commission oversight of the General Assembly, restoring authority the commission lost in a 2009 court ruling. The change came in another year where corruption was a major theme at the Statehouse. One member of the Democratic House leadership resigned amid an ongoing federal investigation, another was disqualified from running after a news report that he didn’t live in the district and another lost his seat after acknowledging he was repeatedly late paying city taxes.



Dozens of former students came forward to report they had been abused by staff and fellow students at the Middletown school as far back as the 1970s and as recently as 2004. An independent report blasted the school for failing to report the abuse to authorities and allowing some abusers to move on to other schools. The school settled with up to 30 victims, but Rhode Island State police said they could not bring charges due to the statute of limitations and other issues. One person, a former chaplain, pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting a teenage St. George’s student during a trip to Boston in 1973.



The state’s much heralded new $5 million tourism campaign was unveiled with a double-whammy of missteps. The logo included a curious phrase: Cooler & Warmer. It was quickly dropped. Then, a video supposed to tout the beauty of the Ocean State inexplicably included a scene of a skateboarder outside the Harpa, a distinct-looking concert hall in Iceland. The state’s chief marketing officer resigned. Later, the new marketing campaign showed mixed results at the height of the summer beach season.



Rhode Island staked its claim at the forefront of the offshore wind industry in the U.S. as the nation’s first offshore wind farm began operating 3 miles off Block Island this month. Deepwater Wind’s $300 million, five-turbine project is expected to provide enough power for about 17,000 homes, making it small in scale. But environmentalists and others have pointed to the project as a proof of concept that could pave the way for wind to power to many more American homes.

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