The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RIJune 23rd, 2012 at 5:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site, The Saturday Morning Post
1. Local liberals are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to municipal budgets. If the economy isn’t going to speed up, tax revenue isn’t going to grow much, which means budgets need to be cut or taxes need to be raised. (Or both.) Confusingly for local Democrats, they’re right that national-level Republicans as blocking stimulus and opposing looser monetary policy. But though Rhode Island’s economic fate is heavily tied to the national environment, the state can’t force Congress to boost output along Keynes-Friedman lines. Local leaders can do little more than acknowledge the difficult budgetary choices they face and propose the most equitable solutions they can while focusing on the long haul. Indeed, perhaps local Democrats should switch their support to Mitt Romney - if he wins, the GOP might enact more expansionary policies that would help relieve pressure on state and municipal budgets back here.
2. It’s been a rough year for Sen. Frank Ciccone. First he failed to rally opposition to last year’s pension law from his perch on the key Finance Committee. Then the influential Democrat lost two of his committee posts after trying to intimidate the Barrington police officers arresting Dominick Ruggerio. Finally, nothing came of his late-session threat to overturn Governor Chafee’s executive order on gay marriage. Despite all that, Ciccone tells me he’ll definitely run for another term in Senate District 7: “Yes, I am. No question about it.”
3. Could there be a more arcane debate than what the right rate of return forecast should be for a pension fund? And yet as we learned in Rhode Island last year, it’s a policy with huge implications. At one end of the spectrum you have Dean Baker, who argues 8% a year is a reasonable assumption based on historic market returns. At the other end is Josh Rauh, who argues a risk-free rate should be used as long as pension promises are ironclad. Governing’s Girard Miller recently weighed in with a thoughtful take of his own: “I’m no fan of some academics’ ‘risk free’ discount-rate thesis … because it grossly exaggerates the pension liability and current costs, which would penalize today’s taxpayers to eventually produce overfunded plans that would invite even worse mischief. But it makes no sense to me to use expected returns on assets even when the assets aren’t there.”
4. This should be the week when the U.S. Supreme Court finally decides on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare. One of the most enlightening articles I read is this Alec MacGillis piece. No wonder the law has weak political support: many uninsured people don’t know the law would provide subsidies to help them afford health insurance starting in 2014. In Rhode Island, about 68,000 of the state’s 140,000 uninsured would become eligible for Medicaid that year, and many others could buy subsidized health insurance on the new exchange the law sets up. But that’s still a year and a half away, and the day may never come if the law is struck down.
5. Ready for the first episode of Executive Suite, our new business talk show? It airs Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (find your channel here). The first guest is Jeff Grybowski, chief administrative officer of Deepwater Wind. We’ll post the show online over the weekend, too.
6. With growing speculation about whether Providence Mayor Angel Taveras will make a bid for governor in 2014, this Governing magazine article makes for an interesting read: “In many cities social and economic problems have become intractable, with some suburbanites and rural residents feeling disconnected from, and often fatigued by, the urban challenges mayors tackle. Meanwhile, residents of far-flung parts of the state may harbor resentments against the big city, whether justifiable (over the division of budgetary resources in the state, for instance) or simply due to ancestral biases.” A run for governor in 2014 might be the best bet for Taveras, with the glow of fixing Providence still bright but without the problems that could trail him after a second term in City Hall.
7. Very sad to hear WGBH 89.7 FM is ending weeknight jazz, one of the last radio outposts of Miles Davis these days.
8. The other day I asked my Twitter followers for restaurant recommendations in Cranston. Four eateries got named twice: Spain, Chapel Grille, Ebisu and Cafe Itri. The other recommendations were Twin Oaks, El Taplitio, Marchetti’s, Antonio’s, Big Cheese, Minh Hai, Pho Hon, Tony Papa’s, Mario’s Risto Bar and L’Osteria. Any favorite spots you’d add? Leave them in comments.
9. I noticed a few weeks back that state officials’ financial disclosures have disappeared from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission’s website. Conspiracy? Not at all, says Jason Gramitt, its education coordinator. The commission recently created a new system allowing officials to electronically file their annual financial statements, and they’re still working out the technical details on how to get the results onto the site. The commission is currently discussing which officials’ disclosures should be made available online.
10. Did you know there is a “Museum of Failed Products” in Michigan? Oliver Burkeman discusses it in this great Guardian article adapted from his new book, “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.” A fun, thought-provoking read.
11. Michael Riley, one of the Republicans challenging Jim Langevin, sent a fundraising blast the other day that included this line: “You know how critical it is to have a representative in Washington with a backbone.” (Emphasis his.) “Backbone” seems an unfortunate choice of words regarding Langevin – asked whether he realized that when he underlined it, Riley replied tersely: “clearly inadvertent.”
12. This week on Newsmakers – Woonsocket City Council President John Ward and party chairmen Ed Pacheco of the Democrats and Mark Zaccaria of the Republicans. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Deepwater Wind Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Grybowski. Watch Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV. See you back here next Saturday morning.
Tags: saturday quick hits