The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RIJune 1st, 2013 at 5:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site, The Saturday Morning Post
If you didn’t hear, Ted turned 29 on Friday and spent most of the week attempting to lock down a disability pension. So I hijacked his desk, took his car for a spin and tried not to get chocolate all over his stuff. He’ll be back next week, but for now, welcome to another edition of the Saturday Morning Post – and feel free to send your takes, tips and trial balloons to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. For quick hits all week long, follow both of us on Twitter: @danmcgowan & @tednesi.
1. Spin artists from every likely gubernatorial candidate’s camp were out in full force this week following Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s decision to join the Democratic Party, but here’s one thing they all seem to have in common: they all believe their horse will perform well in Providence, the city that made all the difference for Myrth York when she eked out a Democratic primary victory over Sheldon Whitehouse in 2002. York won that race by 926 votes thanks in large part to her 2,379-vote win in the capital city. For Mayor Angel Taveras, supporters can point to his convincing victory in the 2010 Democratic primary and a 2012 Brown University poll that showed 60% of Providence voters believed he was doing an excellent or good job as evidence that he’ll perform well in his home city. Then again, Chafee’s decisive victory in Providence – he won with 50% of the vote – was one of the key reasons he held off Republican John Robitaille in 2010 and he has continuously gone to bat for the city since taking office (just wait until his campaign commercials feature Taveras praising his commitment to Providence). But don’t count out Gina Raimondo either. The treasurer has a strong base on the East Side and was the second-highest vote-getter – less than 1,000 behind Taveras – in the city in the 2010 general election. (By the way, don’t miss Ted’s smart analysis on Chafee’s big switch and what it means for the 2014 race.)
2. Campaign finance fun: We know Raimondo is lapping the field when it comes to fundraising; she has $1.7 million compared with the mayor’s $561,000 and Chafee’s $358,000. But guess know how many people have cut $1,000 checks to at least two of the three likely primary opponents in 2014 since they all took office in 2011? The answer: 84. The list of donors that have hit the trifecta and written $1,000 checks to all three is much shorter: 11. (Note: that does not include donors who have made several smaller donations that add up to $1,000.) Something tells me things will be getting quite awkward at the Hope Club come this time next year.
3. Don’t look now but more than half of the 27 bills included in the Senate leadership’s “Moving the Needle” economic development package have already sailed through that chamber, including legislation that would require the governor to submit a long-term plan for the economy; a bill that would allow unemployed workers to collect unemployment while receiving six weeks of training at companies; and legislation that incentivizes completing a college degree. Senate spokesman Greg Pare told WPRI.com that while progress has been made, there is still plenty of work to do: “While the Senate has passed many pieces of legislation, none have been enacted yet,” Pare said. “We are taking a varied and comprehensive approach to address the factors which caused Rhode Island to rank poorly in national business-friendliness surveys and to improve the business climate in the state, and look forward to continuing to work towards enactment of the bills.”
4. Major congratulations are in order for my talented colleagues Tim White and Ted Nesi on being named Rhode Island’s top political reporters by The Washington Post’s The Fix blog this week. Having had the honor of working with them over the last few months, I can tell you first hand no one deserved it more. I considered Tim and Ted friends before I joined the team in January; now I consider them mentors. And kudos to Ian Donnis and Scott MacKay from Rhode Island Public Radio for also earning praise from The Fix.
5. A normally quiet corner of Rhode Island is getting some serious attention by state officials charged with overseeing troubled municipal pension plans. As Tim and Ted previously reported, elected officials there have said they are not legally responsible for a non-teacher school employee plan that is set to run out of money by 2025. Many members of the state pension study commission haven’t taken too kindly to the apparently unprecedented approach by Coventry to wash their hands of a pension plan and called a special meeting this past Thursday to deal with the controversy. Earlier this week WPRI.com obtained a rather terse letter from the Coventry town manager, threatening to sue the state if Rhode Island officials withheld local aid over the scuffle. It’s likely the case will end up in court.
6. With a few weeks left in the legislative session, there are still plenty of unanswered questions on the table, but here’s one bill we know is dead: the Senate’s bid to add another member from its chamber to the Joint Committee on Legislative Services. Currently, the committee – which administers the General Assembly’s $39.5 million budget – is comprised of three members of the House and two members of the Senate, but the Senate wants to even things up to wrestle control away from Speaker Gordon Fox. But while the bill passed unanimously in the Senate, it is not being considered in the House, according to spokesman Larry Berman. “There are three House members of JCLS because there are twice as many members in the House as there are in the Senate,” Berman told WPRI.com. “This is a bill that has been introduced for many years and never passes in the House.”
7. The Providence City Council on Friday gave first approval to Mayor Taveras’s $662 million budget that increases residential property rates while holding the line on commercial, motor vehicle and personal property taxes. And while nearly every member of the council acknowledged the tax hike will be a tough pill to swallow for residents, there is at least some silver lining: With Taveras eyeing the governor’s race and City Council President Michael Solomon and Councilwoman Sabina Matos considering bids for mayor, Providence residents are more likely to see Gov. Chafee embrace the Tea Party than they are to see another tax increase in an election year.
8. Speaking of Chafee, here’s something that slipped under the radar this week: On the same day he officially joined the Democratic Party, the governor also published the salaries of every single state employee on his transparency portal website. (It’s worth noting that Rhode Island is one of the few states where the highest-paid state worker isn’t a basketball or football coach.) The governor’s office also posted the status of every current R.I. Economic Development Corporation loan; loans in default weren’t included.
9. A mishmash of must-reads from the week: With the Taveras administration looking to beef up the Providence Redevelopment Agency, Boston Magazine goes deep on the PRA’s sister organization… Ben Austen’s fascinating look at the Chicago housing crisis… For the education crowd, the New Haven Independent analyzes the graduation rates at one of the Achievement First high schools… And here’s my story on chronic absenteeism in Rhode Island… Congratulations to Ed Achorn on being named editorial page editor at The Providence Journal… For sports fans, don’t miss the Wall Street Journal’s look at the greatest – and most pathetic – ballplayer of all time or Terrence McCoy’s brilliant profile on Dennis Rodman… Thanks to Bob Plain for sharing a Guardian piece on unpaid internships in journalism… For the techies, everything you need to know about startups… The Boston Globe’s Joan Vennochi has some interesting thoughts on the race to replace Mayor Thomas Menino.
10. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Eyewitness News political analyst and pollster Joe Fleming and Providence Journal Editorial Page Editor Edward Achorn. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – David Marble, president and CEO of OSHEAN, and Rhode Island Business Plan Competition winners Alison Cariati of jeweler Haverhill and Tyler Benster of tech startup Azavy. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (or Sunday at 6 a.m. on Fox). Ted will be back here next Saturday morning. Thanks for having me!
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