October, 2011

Cicilline taps Brandon Naylor as new communications director

October 31st, 2011 at 6:46 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Congressman David Cicilline has a new top spokesman.

Brandon Naylor, a Kansas native, started his new job as the freshman Democrat’s Beltway-based communications director on Monday (Halloween, as it happens). He previously held the same job with former Rep. Dennis Moore, a Kansas Democrat who retired in 2010.

Naylor graduated from the University of Kansas and stands so tall – 6 feet, 6 inches – he was “often mistaken for the congressman’s bodyguard” when he worked for Moore, according to The Hill. In a 2009 Q&A, Naylor said his dream job would be to serve as White House chief of staff and he hopes to run for office himself someday.

Naylor replaces Jessica Kershaw, who left Cicilline’s office last month after an eight-month tenure to work on President Obama’s reelection campaign in her native Ohio. The job pays about $65,000 a year, according to LegiStorm.

(photo: LinkedIn)

NYC’s pension fund aims to match earnings of Harvard, Yale

October 31st, 2011 at 4:45 pm by under Nesi's Notes

After reading my story about the Rhode Island pension fund’s “lofty” 7.5%-a-year investment goal, commenter Jake asked a good question:

Why have Harvard, Brown and Yale’s endowments performed so much better than Rhode Island’s pension fund investments? Is there anything to be learned from them that would help us?

Jake’s right: the universities have schooled us on the investment front over the last decade.

Yale’s endowment grew an average of 10.1% a year over the past 10 years, while Harvard’s earned 9.4% and Brown’s rose 7.7%. Rhode Island’s $7 billion pension fund increased a relatively paltry 5.7%, according to the treasurer’s office.

Rhode Island isn’t alone in lagging behind the Ivies: New York City’s far larger $120 billion pension fund averaged 2.7% a year over the last decade. Now Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking steps to make the sort of changes Jake would like to see here, The New York Times reports:

Mr. Bloomberg emphasized repeatedly that if the city’s pension plans … could improve their annual returns by 1 to 2 percentage basis points, that would yield an additional $1.2 billion to $2.4 billion a year. …


Check out WPRI.com’s slick new town-by-town pension map

October 31st, 2011 at 3:57 pm by under Nesi's Notes

One of the talking points Treasurer Raimondo and Governor Chafee are using to promote their pension bill is the savings it would provide city and town budgets starting next year. So how much would your community save?

You can find out using our new interactive map on WPRI.com. It shows how much each municipality’s taxpayers put into the state-run pension fund this year, and how much they’ll put in next year under current law or if the Raimondo-Chafee bill passes.

Every community in Rhode Island puts money into the state-run system to cover their teachers’ pensions, and many also have a state-managed municipal plan. But some – including Providence, Warwick and Cranston – spend even more than the amount shown on our map because they have a locally run plan, too. (It also excludes regional school districts’ contributions.)

Here’s the map. Bravo to my new colleague, WPRI.com digital ace Brian Curtin, for putting it together.

Fact check: GRS has been RI’s pension actuary since 1997

October 31st, 2011 at 3:01 pm by under Nesi's Notes

At last Thursday’s joint finance committee hearing, Sen. Frank Ciccone asked how long the state’s current pension actuary – Texas-based Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co. – has held the gig.

Nobody was sure, so here’s the answer, senator: 14 years.

Rhode Island has retained four companies to conduct actuarial assessments of its pension system over the past 62 years, according to a 2004 summary by former Treasurer Paul Tavares.

It’s unclear who, if anyone, served as the actuary during the pension’s first 14 years in operation, from 1936 to 1949. But here’s who’s done the job since then:

3rd Snowiest October Day on Record in RI

October 31st, 2011 at 11:26 am by under General Talk, Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

The official numbers are in and the weekend storm will definitely go into the record books.  While our accumulations were relatively minor compared to some parts of New England (some locales in the Berkshires topped 30″!!) it was still an historic storm.  In fact, Sunday was the 3rd snowiest October day on record at TF Green Airport with 1.2″ of snow.  The actual storm total was slightly over 2″ but it was spread over 2 days–Saturday evening into Sunday morning.

Snowiest October Days on Record in RI

RI not alone in pushing retirement age for a full pension to 67

October 31st, 2011 at 11:01 am by under Nesi's Notes

Dozens of teachers and other government employees appeared before the joint finance committee last week to decry the proposal by Governor Chafee and Treasurer Raimondo to align the state pension system with Social Security by raising the retirement age to 67 for workers who aren’t in public safety.

“Do you really want a 66-year-old kindergarten teacher taking care of your children?” asked one. “I can’t imagine being able to do this at 67,” said another.

As it turns out, though, Raimondo and Chafee aren’t completely alone in thinking 67 should be the new 62 for the public sector. Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, another Democrat (and a 73-year-old himself), made the same “rare” proposal just last week, Bloomberg reports:

California would join Minnesota, Illinois and Missouri in raising the age threshold as a way to shave costs. …

Since 1989, public employees in Minnesota have had to reach 66 to step down with full benefits, according to Susan Barbieri, a spokeswoman for the state’s Teachers Retirement Association. …


Raimondo to testify before FinCom on pensions again Tuesday

October 31st, 2011 at 10:37 am by under The Saturday Morning Post

Raimondo with Mark Dingley, left, and actuary Joe Newton

Treasurer Gina Raimondo will be back before the joint finance committee on Tuesday to testify in support of her proposed pension overhaul.

Raimondo will face questions about various criticisms of the bill lawmakers heard over the past week from current workers, retirees, labor leaders and others. She gave extensive testimony last Monday along with Deputy Treasurer Mark Dingley and Joe Newton, the state’s actuary from Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co.

Tuesday’s hearing will also examine the section of the Raimondo-Chafee bill dealing with the 36 locally run municipal pension plans that aren’t part of the state-managed system. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who has been critical of those provisions, is among those slated to testify.

The fourth and final scheduled hearing on the bill kicks off at 11 a.m. in Room 35 at the Statehouse.


Union drops Collette Vacations deal over backing for EngageRI

October 30th, 2011 at 8:22 pm by under Nesi's Notes

There’s a reason many companies avoid getting involved in politics – they don’t want to alienate potential customers on any side of an issue. Pawtucket-based travel agency Collette Vacations is the latest to learn that lesson.

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, ended its relationship with Collette over the weekend thanks to the company’s support for Engage Rhode Island, the deep-pocketed new advocacy group pushing the General Assembly to enact the Raimondo-Chafee pension bill.

NEA’s Member Benefits Corp. subsidiary had a deal with Collette that provided 5% travel discounts and other perks to NEA’s 3.2 million members when they booked their trips through the Pawtucket agency.


October 30th, 2011 at 12:14 pm by under General Talk

Historic storm moving out…..tree and powerline damage is almost hurricane like in central Massachusetts..looking outside today, how often do you see melting sunshine and 45 degrees.. ofcourse this was a rare Autumn storm instead..vUsually in the middle of winter after a storm the air temperature would be in the 20s even with the sunshine….Tony P

Did Snow Make History in Rhode Island?

October 30th, 2011 at 10:00 am by under Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

We are still waiting on the official snow report from TF Green airport.  To beat the record for daily snowfall during October, we would need over 2 and a half inches.  Officially, 2.5″ fell at TF Green on October 10th 1979.  I don’t think we are going to quite get to 2.5″ at the airport..the snow was too wet and had a hard time sticking.  We may be closer to the 1.6″ of snow which occurred October 15, 1962.  However, areas north and west of the airport picked up quite a bit of snow, especially in central and western Mass!

Putting Snow on the Scale

October 30th, 2011 at 9:42 am by under Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

The storm which just moved through dumped very wet snow.  This is much more of a problem than dry snow because wet snow is heavier, often bending and breaking tree branches.  So how much of a weight difference is there? Try a 20 pound difference per 1 cubic ft of snow!  Check out this graphic…


Snow Moves Away, Trees Still Feeling the Weight

October 30th, 2011 at 8:12 am by under Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

From Pete Mangione: Most of us lucked out with this storm….however heavy wet snow is still clinging to a lot of the trees, especially in northwestern Rhode Island.  These trees and surrounding power lines will have to be watched through out the morning with some lingering gusty winds.  National Grid reports that several thousand people in our viewing area are without power.  This was a HUGE, record breaking storm for our neighbors to our west in western Mass and Connecticut…some spots picking up between 1-2 feet of snow! Here is a local map of what fell in our region.

More Snow Amounts….

October 29th, 2011 at 11:22 pm by under General Talk, Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

3.1″ in West Glocester

2.0″ in North Foster (at 7:45pm)

2.0″ in Cumberland


October 29th, 2011 at 9:38 pm by under General Talk, Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

23 inches of snow in Peru, MA!!!!  Peru is in the Berkshires, about 12 miles east of Pittsfield.

First Official Snow Tally…

October 29th, 2011 at 9:10 pm by under General Talk, Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

From North Foster:   2″ of snow as of 7:45pm

Temperatures continue to tumble….

October 29th, 2011 at 9:08 pm by under General Talk, Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

32 at North Central Airport in Linclon/Smithfield

34 at TF Green Airport in Warwick

Snow has already begun to stick as far south and east as Providence.

State of Emergency in MA

October 29th, 2011 at 8:46 pm by under General Talk, Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

Serious situation developing to our north right  now.  Governor Deval Patrick has declared a State of Emergency.

Massachusetts DOT says:

Traffic Alert: I-90 roadway restrictions now extended to Boston from the NY border: 40 MPH, no propane or tandem trucks.

Still expect heavy snow to develop overnight in our area….trees/branches/wires down.  The heaviest will arrive between 10p and 2am. 


Impassioned debate over potential pension default

October 29th, 2011 at 8:43 pm by under Nesi's Notes

One of the pleasures of writing this blog is learning from the thoughtful people who comment on posts. Case in point: the more than 40 comments (so far) responding to Friday’s item wondering whether the courts can force the state to pay its pension promises in the end. The discussion is well worth reading – check it out.

Nearly a three quarters of a million without power

October 29th, 2011 at 8:17 pm by under General Talk, Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

500,000 in CT and 200, 000 in MA…..make sure you’ve got your Irene stuff handy! Flashlights, batteries, etc!


October 29th, 2011 at 8:14 pm by under General Talk, Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

Snow overspreading the area now…..I’ve seen some flakes here in EP, but all rain now.  Providence has been back and forth between snow and rain; while north and western RI has seen snow for awhile now.  Grass is covered in Coventry and Scituate.  Reports of the trees drooping in Western Coventry, too.

evening update

October 29th, 2011 at 6:09 pm by under Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

Change over to snow running 4 hrs ahead of schedule…200,000 without power in Connecticut

Late Afternoon Update

October 29th, 2011 at 4:34 pm by under Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

From Tony Petrarca…

New update…Kent County in Rhode Island has now been included in the Winter Storm Warning with several inches of wet heavy snow later Tonight

Getting reports of a change to snow or a least a mix already in northwest RI….also reports of up to 80,000 people with out power in parts of Connecticutt due to heavy snow.

We are still concerned about wet snow load on limbs and wires for communites well north and west of route 295 tonight with possible outages overnight..

Now for a little “Weather Classroom 101″…..It’s not just temperatures near the ground that determines rain vs snow but also a few 1000 feet above our  heads. As of now in most areas, one would have to go up about 2000 feet  in the air before the temperature goes below freezing…at that level most snow flakes end up melting on the way down to the ground, or at least partially melt….we have to wait for that freezing level hieght to drop to around 1000 feet before snow can make it to the ground….already in northwest RI that level is dropping. The sooner the change over to snow, the higher the accumulations….a later change over means less snow.

Stay tuned to TJ tonight on Eyewitness News…

Tony Petrarca

Saturday Afternoon Update…

October 29th, 2011 at 1:06 pm by under Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

New data that has come in still points to a stormy  late afternoon and overnight.  Rain moving in this afternoon will occasionally mix with sleet. Winds start to howl this evening and overnight thru early Sunday morning….gusting over 50 mph near coast….gusts to 40 mph over land. This in itself is strong enough to cause some power interruptions in spots…combine that with the 4 to 8″ of snow in far Northwest Rhode Island (Foster, Glocester, Pascoag, North Smithfield and points well north and west of route 295)….weighted limbs and powerlines may be a problem in those locations.  Snow amounts of 2-4″ expected along and north west of the Route 95 corridor from West Warwick northward thru Providence metro areas and into Attleboro.  Points south and east of that will pick up only 1-2″. Along the immediate shoreline and across lower southeast Mass (New Bedford) and the Cape, very little snow. For those areas, it will be a wind driven heavy rain storm along with rough surf and waves.  The change over to wet snow will begin around 9pm in northwest RI, around 11pm in Providence metro area…and closer to 2am at shoreline.  The heaviest  snow falls between roughly 11pm thru 3am….winding down as windy snow showers by daybreak Sunday.  If the change to snow is delayed…snow amounts will end up much lower everywhere…remember, the key to the forecast is not whether or not we will get moisture, but rather will the temperature drop in time to change that moisture to snow.

On a side note….if you have friends and relatives….or business in central Massachusetts along and on either side of the Mass Pike…widespread tree damage and power outages likely there to the weight of heavy snow.

Tony Petrarca

Snow Depends On Location, Location, Location

October 29th, 2011 at 9:19 am by under Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

Updated by Pete Mangione: So when we are sitting around Sunday afternoon talking about this upcoming storm, what are we going to be saying? I think a lot of us will be talking about the mess created by the wind and rain rather than actual snow accumulations. However, northern and western RI could still see a moderate amount of snow…especially north and west of 295.  You can find the accumulation map on the home page of wpri.com and also in our weather section.   I am still concerned about power outages because of several factors: strong wind, wet & heavy snow, leaves still on the trees, and wet soil from rain.  That combination makes it possible for branches (even trees) to come down more easily than if this were a February storm.  I am still optimistic that the damage will remain isolated.  Here is a storm timeline…keep in mind the south shore will see the showers first.

Saturday Nor’easter….

October 29th, 2011 at 12:19 am by under General Talk, Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

Still looks like this storm starts as heavy rain, then turn over to heavy wet snow later Saturday Night. The concern is still for the northwest corner of the RI….snow texture will be wet and sticky, clinging to tree limbs and power lines….that combined with gusty winds may produce power outages.  Stay tuned to forecasts for any possible changes…slight shift in storm track will determine amounts of  rain vs snow and the location of both. Pete Mangione is on live starting at 6am Saturday on Eyewitness news and TJ will be back Saturday Night.

Tony Petrarca

Storm Update

October 29th, 2011 at 12:00 am by under Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

new blog in 15 mins….still looking at stuff



Weekend Storm Update

October 28th, 2011 at 10:41 pm by under Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

…analyzing new data coming in now. Tune into Eyewitness News at 11pm for forecast details. I will follow with an updated blog after the 11pm news.

Again…significant storm…however, it’s not  just snow…lots of rain and strong winds too. Still seeing indications that any steady snow accumulation may occur very late Saturday Night (11pm thru 4am Sunday)

Tony Petrarca

Storm Saturday Brings Rain Snow and Wind

October 28th, 2011 at 7:31 pm by under Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

Coastal storm moves in Saturday Afternoon and Night with a wide variety of weather including rain wind and snow for some. The exact track of the storm plays a major role in how mild or cold the atmosphere will be..ofcourse that dictates precipitation type.  Storm should start as all rain for everyone on Saturday afternoon, then transition to a wet snow, starting well north and west of Providence  first, then rest of the area later Saturday Night. Winds will gust over 40 mph at times. Storm will end by Sunday morning with improving conditions.

Keep in mind, the coastal areas and much of lower southeast Mass, most of this will be rain only…inland areas have have the better chance of a change over to snow. Final snow accumulations will not be realized until late Saturday Night.

Expecting 6-8″ North and west of route 295 in nortwest RI

2-5″ from Attleboro, Pawtucket, Providence, Cranston, Warwick, Coventry

Areas south of this only 1-2″ with little to nothing near coast.

Don’t let this be the last forecast you see…as new data come in later Tonight and Tomorrow, these numbers may have to be adjusted down or up.

Infact if storm tracks too close, it mean a milder scenario with very little snow and more rai

Tony Petrarca




A good take on how journalism is changing, not for the worse

October 28th, 2011 at 4:43 pm by under Nesi's Notes

First, a disclaimer: I want newspapers to survive, both because I have a lot of friends who work for them and because they still make up a significant chunk of most communities’ journalistic backbone.

That said, there’s a reason a lot of young writers are bailing on newspapers, and Ben Huh gets to the heart of it in this piece for The Washington Post. I don’t agree with everything he writes, but this part is spot on:

Gene [Weingarten] is confusing journalism with the business of newspapers. Journalism is thriving, thanks to cheap and easy means of publishing like WordPress, the huge interest by the readership, and increase in the diversity of opinions. Sure, the new journalism may not look like the journalism of yore, but society isn’t under threat from the lack of journalism. Newspapers, however, are continuing to see declines as the readership shrinks due to an age demographic, inconvenience of print, and shrinking budgets. …

What’s killing newspapers isn’t the lack of new ideas, it’s people who obstruct the change that’s required to survive.

Read the rest here. (Fittingly, I wrote this post in WordPress.)

Update: And this piece by Alexandra Petri, which Huh references, is a great take on what it’s like to be a young newspaper reporter today, asked “to write a story and then produce an interactive personality quiz photo gallery for it using JavaScript, which is noble but not quite how we pictured things. ‘You are under 30, so this is your metier, right?’ they say, hopefully. ‘Absolutely,’ we murmur. ‘And tweet more!’ ‘Sure!’ we say.”

Investment expert: ‘Getting 7.5% … is going to be a challenge’

October 28th, 2011 at 10:56 am by under Nesi's Notes

It’s one of the most controversial – and arcane – parts of the entire pension debate: How much can Rhode Island reasonably expect its pension fund’s investments to earn over the coming years?

In April, Treasurer Gina Raimondo got the Retirement Board to lower the fund’s expected return from 8.25% to 7.5%, which helped cause this year’s huge increase in the unfunded pension liability. The board raised lifespan forecasts, too.

Paul Valletta of the firefighters union said Thursday Raimondo “cooked the books” with those changes to create a crisis, and Robert Walsh of teachers union NEA Rhode Island – who helps manage his union’s pension fund – testified that it could be responsibly bumped to 7.75% as a way to help alleviate the pressure.

But Allan Emkin of Pension Consulting Alliance, the state’s investment adviser, said even the new hoped-for return of 7.5% is “optimistic, not pessimistic.” His analysts say the pension fund’s diversified investment portfolio has only a 42% chance of achieving 7.5% over the next 10 years, and a 50-50 shot at achieving 6.75%.

Raimondo sees ‘lofty goal’

“Getting 7.5% in today’s world is going to be a challenge,” Emkin told WPRI.com after Thursday’s hearing. “It’s a different world now.” Raimondo herself has called the 7.5% target “a lofty goal” and said she’s designed the proposed new hybrid retirement plan to reduce the risk to taxpayers if 7.5% isn’t achieved.

That raises concerns not only for the state but for cities and towns, as well. Providence, East Providence and Smithfield are all banking on their locally run pension plans earning 8.5% returns over the next 10 years, and a number of others are expecting 8.25% and 8%.