The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RIJuly 13th, 2013 at 5:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site, The Saturday Morning Post
1. The CNBC wars have broken out again, with conservatives arguing Rhode Island’s #49 ranking vindicates their warnings about state government and liberals dismissing the channel’s methodology as myopic and misconstrued. Both have a point. As Matt Yglesias wrote last year, “Rhode Island used to be about as rich as Massachusetts and has stagnated terribly.” The numbers show Rhode Island has been steadily losing ground to its northern neighbor since World War II. That is a massive, multigenerational policy failure. And Rhode Island’s job-creation record since the end of the Great Recession has been abysmal. These are real problems, not figments of Republicans’ imaginations. At the same time, Rhode Island isn’t a hellscape. Its residents are healthier and better-educated than the U.S. average; the state is physically beautiful, culturally rich and conveniently located. (Think about it this way: if nobody wanted to live here, it wouldn’t be so damn expensive to do so.) These are real assets; money isn’t everything, and Rhode Island’s positive qualities are worth celebrating. But they shouldn’t be used as an excuse to shrug off the state’s underwhelming economic performance – especially because, over the long term, the failure to keep pace will put those positives at risk.
2. A set of rankings from a different business news outlet – Bloomberg – may do a more thorough job than CNBC of capturing Rhode Island’s current situation. On the latest Bloomberg list of America’s Most Miserable States, Rhode Island comes in at #27 – right in the middle nationally, but dead last in New England. By Bloomberg’s reckoning, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts are among the five least-miserable states in the country; Louisiana is the most miserable of all, while Minnesota is the least.
3. When Governor Chafee signed the Coderre/Goldin TDI-for-caregivers bill into law Thursday he handed a big victory to the progressives he’ll need to win the 2014 primary – yet he didn’t issue any public statement to ballyhoo his decision. Did the former Republican have misgivings about the Chamber-opposed legislation? The same goes for Chafee’s decision to name Eva-Marie Mancuso as Rhode Island’s interim commissioner for higher education – if he’s proud of the pick, why was the announcement buried as a late-Friday news dump? And how about Chafee’s decision to give his longtime chum Jonathan Stevens a whopping $60,000 raise – announced on a sleepy Fifth-of-July Friday?
4. While Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian told us during Friday’s taping of Newsmakers that he may run for lieutenant governor in 2014, veteran Scott-watchers have long believed the mayor’s real hope is to someday win the U.S. House seat currently held by Democrat and fellow Warwick native Jim Langevin. Avedisian, who was a U.S. Senate page for John Chafee back in high school, has always nursed a passion for foreign policy – and the redrawn 2nd District could be relatively friendly turf for the right Republican. But Avedisian’s window is closing: Langevin has already said he plans to run again in 2014, and a Republican candidate would face heavy headwinds in the presidential year of 2016. After that we’re looking at 2018 – and even if Avedisian won the seat that year, it would only exist for one more term before Rhode Island loses it in the post-2020 redistricting. Avedisian may be wise to consider other options for higher office unless Langevin retires soon.
5. And speaking of Republicans, here’s this week’s dispatch from WPRI.com leading light Dan McGowan: “With his budget passed and a pension reform agreement reached, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is taking time this summer to travel the country as he mulls a run for governor in 2014. Fung spent part of this week in Alabama making the rounds at the Young Republican National Convention, where Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Alabama U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions will serve as the keynote speakers this evening. Next week Fung will travel to Washington, D.C., to sit on a political panel for the Asian Pacific American Advocates’ national convention. Campaign aide Patrick Sweeney said Fung wasn’t planning to hold any fundraisers at the events, but indicated he’s confident the mayor will be able to secure the resources necessary to compete with any of the well-funded Democrats – Lincoln Chafee, Gina Raimondo, Angel Taveras – likely to run for governor next year. ‘We’re just getting out there and meeting people right now,’ Sweeney said. ‘But they like what they’re hearing.’”
6. Tim White was in Boston on Wednesday to cover the arraignment of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. “The only other time I have seen an international media presence as intense as Tsarnaev’s arraignment was the 1999 plane crash that took the life of John F. Kennedy Jr. on Cape Cod,” Tim told me. “At court on Wednesday I was seated next to a correspondent from Japan and waited in line to get into the courtroom behind a TV crew from France. Russian news outlets had a very strong presence there, too.” It’s unclear whether Tsarnaev realized how much attention he was getting – the defendant was whisked into federal court in a white sheriff’s van.
7. More on Dzhokhar: I was curious what the 19-year-old looked like at the arraignment, which was closed to TV cameras and newspaper photographers. “He acted blasé about the whole proceeding,” according to Tim, “yawning once, fiddling with the cast on his left arm and, frankly, looking bored – despite a bevy of charges that carry the potential of the death penalty. One federal law enforcement official I spoke to afterwards used the word ‘punk’ to describe Tsarnaev’s attitude.” While some news outlets described the left side of Dzhokhar’s face as “swollen,” Tim said, “I thought it looked more droopy, particularly his eye. You could also see a scar on his neck, presumably from the dramatic shootout with police prior to his capture.” And how did he sound? “The only time we heard Tsarnaev’s voice was when he leaned into the microphone and said ‘not guilty’ seven times to the 30 counts against him. (They were read by a clerk in bundled, related counts.) Outside I interviewed a high-school and college friend of Tsarnaev’s who said he was on the wrestling team with him. The friend – who asked not to be identified – said he never knew Tsarnaev to have an accent and was surprised when he heard it.” Tsarnaev’s next hearing is scheduled for September – though Tim says many observers think his defense team may reevaluate its legal strategy if Attorney General Eric Holder decides not to seek capital punishment.
8. Another must-read column by Steve Frias in the Cranston Herald includes this gem: “If you follow the logic of the Cranston City Council, food trucks are more dangerous than shotgun blasts or hard liquor.” Cranston Patch’s Mark Schieldrop has more. As a footnote, Councilman Don Botts – one of the council’s two Republicans – reports the Democratic-controlled council’s leaders ignored his request to delay the food-truck decision until he returned from vacation. “I had questions. ie. does it apply to ice cream trucks? Lemonade?” Botts tweeted. “They must pass within the 1000ft/300ft restriction on daily basis.”
9. If you missed them this week, now’s your chance to check out some of the bulletins Dan McGowan and I published in recent days: Amgen wants to make a blockbuster drug in Rhode Island … Seth Magaziner has filed to run for treasurer … Kate Coyne-McCoy has started a super PAC to help Gina Raimondo … Providence Councilman John Igliozzi‘s brother got his city job back … the Providence economy looks like it needs more apartments … and David Cicilline has a new chief of staff.
10. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian and Providence Journal sports editor Mike McDermott on the New England Patriots’ travails. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Greg Almieda and Linda Newton on the business of diversity, plus Aquabotix CEO Durval Tavares. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (or Sunday at 6 a.m. on Fox). See you back here next Saturday morning.
Tags: saturday quick hits