The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RINovember 17th, 2012 at 5:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site, The Saturday Morning Post
1. The General Assembly approved Rhode Island’s landmark pension overhaul one year ago today, and the storyline since then bears more than a passing resemblance to what transpired with President Obama’s health care law. As with Obamacare, the pension law’s constitutionality is being challenged in the courts and there are significant doubts about whether it will survive, but it’s being implemented based on the assumption it will be upheld. Meanwhile, Treasurer Raimondo’s allies are troubled by an emerging narrative that suggests she should have followed Mayor Taveras’s approach and negotiated a pension resolution with union officials. Their argument: the two Democrats used appropriate approaches for their respective jurisdictions, since state pensions are statutory and city pensions are contractual. Be that as it may, the stakes in the pension suit are extremely high: paying the full tab for the old system, if the courts bring it back, will cost Rhode Islanders about $300 million more this year alone. Perhaps that will be what finally wins progressives their long-sought income-tax hike.
2. If Rhode Islanders ever decide to name something after Governor Chafee, I think they should change the name of the intermodal hub at T.F. Green Airport from InterLink to InterLinc. Get it? He loves transportation and he was mayor of Warwick – makes sense.
3. Whither the Rhode Island Republican Party? One option: start small, and build up the party from the places where it’s strongest. Admittedly there aren’t many of those, but they do exist. Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama in three of Rhode Island’s 39 communities: Scituate, West Greenwich and East Greenwich. Focus on building up the party in those places, and keep doing so on down the list where Obama ran weakest. Win local races, then govern well. Put together a story you can tell the rest of Rhode Island. And forget federal races for now. By all means the GOP should take a gamble on a federal race if a great political talent comes along (and Brendan Doherty, Barry Hinckley and Michael Riley were not great political talents) or if a candidate has a strong geographic base, as Scott Avedisian and Allan Fung do. Indeed, the two mayors show the potential of the strategy: they’re seen as contenders in large part because of their achievements and popularity in Rhode Island’s second- and third-largest cities.
4. Here’s some food for thought. Brendan Doherty received 83,737 votes in the 1st Congressional District last week; if John Loughlin had drawn the same level of support in 2010, he’d have defeated David Cicilline with nearly 2,500 votes to spare. But Doherty, like other Republicans from coast to coast, miscalculated this year in projecting an electorate more like 2010′s than 2008′s. In the end the number of votes cast in the 1st District barely changed, dipping from 211,702 in 2008 to 205,115 in 2012. That suggests roughly 32,000 votes shifted from the Democratic candidate in 2008 (Patrick Kennedy) to Doherty in 2012. Considering the district got more Democratic over that time period, Doherty and the GOP improved their performance significantly over four years – just not enough to win.
5. Your homework for the weekend: read Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen’s essential New York Times op-ed on “the capitalist’s dilemma.” Pay particular attention to the distinction he makes between “empowering” innovations, “sustaining” innovations and “efficiency” innovations.
6. Three years after a merger with its Connecticut sibling, watch for Rhode Island’s Planned Parenthood chapter to raise its profile over the coming year under the leadership of new state director Paula Hodges, a Missouri native. The group had a good election season, giving crucial support to victorious state legislative candidates including Marvin Abney, Linda Finn, Adam Satchell and Catherine Cool-Rumsey. Planned Parenthood will need all the help it can get at the State House; NARAL Pro-Choice America gave Rhode Island a D+ on its annual scorecard, and anti-abortion politicians such as Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed wield considerable power on Smith Hill. Hodges and her allies will push the Assembly to expand Medicaid eligibility for family planning programs – they say it will save the state $4.7 million.
7. This week the Financial Times decided to move its blogs outside the FT.com paywall, tacitly acknowledging the cost to newspapers in walling themselves off from the open Web in 2012. Nobody should underestimate the difficulties facing legacy print media. On the one hand, giving everything away free has undercut their main source of revenue (print); on the other, walling content off from the rest of the Web – and particularly from the social-media conversation – means a massive missed opportunity to expand audience, sell advertising and attract the younger readers vital to the industry’s future. A tough row to hoe.
8. Boston Magazine has a wonderful new feature story on a young Catholic seminarian who represents the future of the Church as it rebuilds in the wake of the pedophilia scandal. It piqued my interest about seminarians in the Diocese of Providence, so I sought out an update from diocesan spokesman Michael Guilfoyle. Right now the Rhode Island diocese has 22 men on the path to the priesthood, including nine theology students at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. (which is the subject of the Boston Magazine article), the Pontifical North American College in Rome and Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Mass. Here in Rhode Island, Our Lady of Providence is at maximum capacity with 26 seminarians: 10 from the Diocese of Providence, and 16 others from the Dioceses of Portland, Burlington, Boston, Fall River, Manchester and Baltimore.
9. Friend-of-Nesi’s Notes Robert Atkinson, the former chief of the R.I. Economic Policy Council, is out with a new book called “Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage” that argues the United States needs to enact new policies to raise its level of innovation if it wants to maintain its economic leadership in the world. Atkinson defines innovation broadly, as everything from scientific breakthroughs and iPad Minis to faster production processes, and argues for closer collaboration between government and business.
10. One more must-read on economic development: The Economist’s Ryan Avent argues “the recent remaking of the Northeast corridor is just a continuation of the long interaction between industry, technology, and geography that has characterized rich economies since the earliest days of the industrial revolution” – something he sees as “broadly positive.”
11. Heresy? Slate’s Bret Asbury says you should love the Star Wars prequels – and even look forward to Disney’s coming sequel.
12. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – the R.I. Board of Elections’ Robert Kando and Common Cause Rhode Island’s John Marion. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Benny’s owner Arnold Bromberg on the store’s 88th Christmas shopping season. Watch Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (or 6 a.m. on Fox). See you back here next Saturday morning.