The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RIAugust 10th, 2013 at 5:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site, The Saturday Morning Post
By Dan McGowan
Ted spent the week jet-setting around the world and left me in command, so welcome to another edition of the Saturday Morning Post. Please 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. Most of the Republican operatives who called me after John Robitaille said he’s considering running again in 2014 suggested the 2010 runner-up is simply trying to light a fire under Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. But the positive response for Robitaille shows the delicate situation politicians like Fung and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedesian find themselves in within the party. Some of the most diehard activists come from a conservative faction of the party that has adored candidates like Robitaille and John Loughlin in recent years. Fung can’t afford to receive only lukewarm support from that group, but he also doesn’t want the Democratic nominee to run away with the race simply because of the “R” next to his name. That said, the Republicans have plenty of reason for optimism – especially if Fung doesn’t find himself in a primary. The political director of the Republican Governors Association is none other than Ken McKay, the last person to manage a successful statewide Republican campaign in Rhode Island (Carcieri 2006). That gives Fung a strong advocate on the national level who has the right combination of knowledge and resources to build a winning campaign.
2. Best wishes to ace Providence Journal scribe Mike Stanton, who announced his plans to leave the paper for a position at the University of Connecticut earlier this week. To get an idea of just how special Mike is, here’s a few of his former colleagues with their thoughts: Mark Arsenault, Boston Globe: “If you were to carve a Mt. Rushmore of Rhode Island journalists, say, up on Jerimoth Hill — Mike Stanton would be right there. More specifically, he’d be right there uncovering government waste, abuse of power and mob influence in your ridiculous, over-budget mountain carving project.” Dr. Ira Chinoy, University of Maryland: “The Journal’s loss will be the next generation of journalists’ gain. They will be learning from the best in the business.” Scott MacKay, Rhode Island Public Radio: “A great human being and the best combination of writer and reporter in Rhode Island.” Dean Starkman, Columbia Journalism Review: “What makes Mike such a special journalist is his ability to combine the most dogged, industrious, and fearless brand of reporting with graceful, well-structured, and ringing prose. That’s what separated him from the pack.” Cynthia Needham, Boston Globe: “There are few investigative reporters out there who rival Mike Stanton. He taught me to ask tough questions of politicians and then ask some more. At a time when the twitterati rule the day in this business, Mike reminds us that no journalism is more critical than rigorous watchdog reporting.” M. Charles Bakst, retired ProJo columnist: “Over the years, I marveled at his investigative work and his expertise at handling subjects as colorful as Buddy Cianci and as dry as hedge funds. A number of journalists are good reporters and a number are good writers, but Mike excels on both fronts.”
3. Edesia, the Providence-based business that has been featured in The New York Times Magazine for its efforts to end world hunger through its PlumpyNut product, is having “preliminary” discussions with the city about developing a new building on the former American Tourister site on Houghton Street, according to spokeswoman Heidi Reed. The board for the Providence Redevelopment Agency discussed the matter in executive session Thursday afternoon, but no vote was taken. Reed said the company definitely wants to move and will certainly be staying in Rhode Island no matter what happens in Providence. The city had no comment on the matter.
4. R.I. Superior Court Judge Daniel Procaccini found himself in what he called an “unprecedented” situation this week when he was asked to rule on the Board of Education’s violation of the open meetings law before the meeting actually took place. The reason: the Open Meetings Act is written in a way that encourages complaints after the fact, according to Common Cause Rhode Island Executive Director John Marion. “Perhaps open government advocates, including Common Cause, need to think about how the law might be changed to make it easier for the public to prospectively challenge these decisions,” Marion told WPRI.com. Judge Procaccini ended up ruling that the board must open part of its August retreat – the discussion about the NECAP graduation requirement – but said it could close the rest of the meeting. Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said any public body can seek an advisory opinion from the AG prior to an event taking place, but that it’s difficult to render any decision: “Our office issues findings once it has an opportunity to gather and weigh the facts, and if something has not happened, it would not be possible to rule if a violation occurred or not,” Kempe told WPRI.com.
5. Speaking of the Board of Education, Marion noted that the 11-member committee is now chasing the “triple crown” of ignoring open government. Last month, the board was scheduled to appoint its own chairwoman the commissioner of higher education before good-government advocates pointed out that doing so could violate the state’s revolving door policy. Then there was Judge Procaccini’s ruling on the retreat. Now the courts are set to take up another ACLU complaint that claims the board violated the Administrative Procedures Act when it declined a petition for a rule-making on the NECAP without providing a formal explanation for the dismissal. “Clearly they’re not being advised well by their counsel on how to comply with the state’s integrity laws.” Marion said.
6. Last week we brought you all the latest campaign finance news from the statewide races to special-interest spending, but here’s something we didn’t mention: Dozens of current and former elected officials and candidates owe the state nearly $1.4 million – mostly for failing to file campaign finance reports. Leading the list are Patrick McDonald ($159,252) and John Celona ($126,691), two former state senators who have run into legal trouble in recent years. Among currently elected officials, Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson tops the list – he owes $41,779. He’s not alone among council members. Luis Aponte ($38,007), Davian Sanchez ($6,573) and Terry Hassett ($25) have all been fined by the state, according to the Board of Elections.
7. If you missed any of Tim White’s coverage of the James “Whitey” Bulger trial from Boston, make sure you catch up here, here, here, and here. And here’s Tim with a dispatch on his entire experience: “The ‘verdict watch’ in the Bulger trial can be boiled down to this: hurry up and wait. Racing against Boston’s legendary traffic to get to federal court, rushing into the courtroom anytime there is activity – not knowing if it’s a verdict – and rushing downstairs to get reactions from those who are impacted by the trial at the end of every day. All that said, it’s refreshing to cover a trial at the Moakley Federal Courthouse, because the powers-that-be here have fully embraced 2013. Unlike federal court in Providence, credentialed media are allowed to bring in their phones and electronic devices in Boston to update the masses as to what’s happening. This is vital in a case like this. Think about it: thousands of people were impacted by the issues on trial here, but like most hardworking Americans, they can’t get to the courthouse for two-plus months and follow the developments. Unlike high-profile cases (out of Florida for instance), federal court does not allow cameras in the courtroom. So Twitter and the Web has become a live feed – 140 characters at a time – of the proceedings. The gaggle of reporters covering the trial have come to know each other very well. The throng of photographers camped out in front of court everyday have dubbed the sidewalk ‘Bulger Beach’ and made the best of it, even under sometimes sweltering conditions while us reporters are inside in air-conditioned comfort covering testimony. We’re all competitors, but play in the sandbox nicely, helping each other out when needed and in many instances becoming friends.”
8. Mike Stanton isn’t the only one making moves: Dara Chadwick, formerly a public information officer for the Department of Health, has moved to a new position with HealthSource RI, the state’s health benefits exchange. Her last day was yesterday… Steve Frias, a lawyer, GOP activist and talented columnist, has been appointed to budget committee of the Republican National Committee… Former state Sen. Bea Lanzi, who still carries a lot of clout within the Democratic Party, is volunteering for Newport businessman Guillaume de Ramel’s campaign for secretary of state, according to a spokesman for de Ramel… Former Ocean State Action organizer Kristina Fox has been named president of the Rhode Island Young Democrats, replacing Alex Morash… Providence City Council President Michael Solomon made a trip to Block Island last week to discuss his likely mayoral campaign with consulting expert Tad Devine. No word if a deal has been reached yet… Paula Shannon, the former chief academic officer for Providence schools, has started her new job as vice president of teaching and learning at the Achievement First charter school… Central Falls Mayor James Diossa is slated to kick off his re-election campaign next Saturday at the Knights of Columbus on Claremont Street. Diossa is also expected to endorse several council candidates as he moves to build his team.
9. Must-reads for the week: The Washington Post has done some of the best journalism on its new owner… Jason Schwartz on the Boston mayoral race… Michael Lewis’ fascinating takeout on a former Goldman Sachs programmer… National Journal profiles Washington, D.C., lawyer who oversees payments to victims of tragedies like Sandy Hook and the Boston bombings… The latest on 38 Studios from your truly… Ian Donnis on what Mike Stanton’s departure from the Providence Journal means for investigative journalism… New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s female problem… ProPublica on payday loans… The New Republic on Luke Russert… For sports fans: The man behind Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel… The former commissioner of Major League Baseball wants a one-strike and you’re out policy on steroids… Wired columnist calls buying Apple products an “exercise in narcissism.”
10. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Jim Vincent, president of the NAACP’s Providence branch; Philip Eil, news editor of the Providence Phoenix.. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Pawtucket Red Sox President Mike Tamburro and General Manager Lou Schwechheimer. 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.
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