With literally thousands of progressives from across the country descending on Providence for Netroots Nation, it’s important to recognize the local progressives who brought the annual conference of lefty activists and journalists to the Ocean State: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Mayor Angel Taveras.
The three lobbied hard to host the 2011 event in Providence. But Netroots felt it couldn’t come as employees of the Westin Hotel were mired in a contract dispute with management. But when the labor dispute was resolved, the conference agreed to pay Providence a visit.
“Providence is a beautiful city. It is as blue as the waters of Narragansett Bay,”Whitehouse said in announcing the news that Rhode Island would host the 2012 event at last year’s in Minneapolis. “You progressives will feel right at home.”
So far, so good. I met with Mary Rickles of Netroots on Tuesday and she said the city has been great to them so far, and the local amenities have been outstanding.
Taveras isn’t surprised the Netroots crowd is already enjoying the city. “Providence is the perfect place to host Netroots,” said the progressive mayor, noting that their stay will likely only get better.
“I can’t wait to see the bloggers reaction to Waterfire,” he said. “They are going to promote in nationally.”
Waterfire, for those new to the area, is a downtown tradition that centers around a series of seemingly floating fire pits in the Providence River.
Whitehouse agreed, saying Netroots is “a chance for Providence to come out as a hip, attractive destination.”
While both recognized it as a great opportunity for the city, they also said it is a great opportunity for local progressives.
Taveras, who will give a welcome address to the conference, called it an opportunity for “the great minds and great thinkers” from all over the country to co-mingle with us local progressives for “an opportunity to talk about the future of our city, our state and our country.”
Whitehouse said Netroots Nation is important too to his fight in Washington D.C.
“If you look at it from 50,000 feet when you look down what you see is immensely powerful special interests,” he said. “One of the most effective way of fighting those special interests is through the grassroots, internet community that Netroots represents.”
Whitehouse will speak on two panels at Netroots: one on tax fairness and another concerning Citizens United. Fitting, in that he authored the Buffett Rule bill in the Senate and is also sponsoring the DISCLOSE Act, which would require Super-PAC TV political ads to list those who paid for the message.
Another progressive Rhode Islander, Congressman David Cicilline, will also play a key role in Netroots Nation’s visit to Providence. He’s participating on two panels: one on gun safety and another on reinvigorating the manufacturing sector of the economy. He’s also giving the closing speech.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of good communication, incubating new ideas and learning how to challenge the staus quo,” he said. “The only thing better would be if everyone stayed here and became Rhode Islanders.”