The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RIAugust 17th, 2013 at 5:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site, The Saturday Morning Post
1. When the Rhody Young Republicans first announced that Bishop Tobin would address them this week, there was no indication the bishop would use the occasion to announce he’s now a registered Republican. It’s not surprising that the 65-year-old Tobin, a staunch social conservative, would find himself at home in the Republican Party – if anything, it’s more surprising that he was still a registered Democrat as recently as last year. Still, one plugged-in Catholic observer told me privately it’s rare for an American bishop to reveal his party registration, which may be part of why Tobin’s announcement made such a splash. Two interesting takes, from different points of view, came from Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey and Loyola’s Tim Lacy. While Morrissey expresses sympathy for those Catholics who remain Democrats, he writes: “At some point, though, one has to act publicly to express a danger in political and cultural direction. I would not be at all surprised if more Catholics reached that conclusion after the Democratic National Convention last year, either. Bishop Tobin has made a wise choice to act and speak as a shepherd for his diocese.” Lacy reaches the opposite conclusion, calling the bishop “an activist participant in what Augustine would have seen as inherently compromised worldly politics. Tobin is not talking about the common good and coming together to share where we can. He’s advocating partisan politics in a world where division is the norm. His message isn’t about transcendence. It’s about divisiveness.”
2. Over the last year Rhode Island employers have added an average of 58 jobs a month. (That’s not a typo.) And as of last month, Rhode Island had gained back only 9,000 of the 39,600 jobs the state lost during the Great Recession. At the state’s current pace of job creation, then, it would take 527 months for Rhode Island payrolls to reach their peak-precession level. So Rhode Island’s job market is presently on track to recover from the recession in June of 2057 – or 44 years from now.
3. When Angel Taveras hired Jack Reed’s former longtime chief of staff J.B. Poersch to advise him on a possible run for governor, it was widely presumed that the pair must have gotten Reed’s blessing first – which raised some eyebrows considering Reed has known Taveras rival Gina Raimondo since she was a tyke. Did Taveras or Poersch talk to Reed first? “No,” Reed told me on this week’s Newsmakers. “I wouldn’t presume to tell J.B. or anyone else either to go work some place or to hire someone.” So Poersch’s hiring isn’t a sign that Taveras is the Jack Reed candidate for governor? “Absolutely not,” Reed replied emphatically. The senior senator usually avoids getting involved in intramural party squabbles back home, and this year sounds no different. Reed sounded notably cool, however, to the newly Democratic incumbent governor, Lincoln Chafee. Chafee called Reed just before he switched parties. “I just [said], ‘Good luck,’ basically,” Reed told Tim White. “It was not a deliberation. No consultation, no discussion. It was his choice – personal choice – but he was gracious enough to inform me and others.” Reed added: “It didn’t come as a complete surprise.”
4. A Saturday Morning Post dispatch from WPRI.com ace Dan McGowan: “Don’t blame House Finance Chairman Helio Melo for the first-year hiccups that led him and Board of Education chairwoman Eva Marie Mancuso to suggest the state could revert back to having two education boards. At least that’s what education activist and tech entrepreneur Angus Davis thinks. ‘While some argue the merger of the two boards was a rash decision by the General Assembly, I view it differently,’ Davis told WPRI.com. ‘Agree or disagree with the merger, what I see is a fierce sense of urgency on the part of our legislative leadership to improve educational outcomes and opportunities for Rhode Island students.’ Davis, who was removed from since-abolished Board of Regents when Governor Chafee took office in 2011, pointed a finger at Chafee for appointing what he considers an unqualified board: ‘He ran on a campaign of “honesty” and against “cronyism,” yet his handpicked Board of Education is stacked with people who care more about themselves and other adults than kids.’ In some sense, Rhode Island isn’t alone. At least 35 states also have governor-appointed education boards, while 12 others have boards elected on partisan or nonpartisan ballots. Davis believes he has the answer: ‘The only solution is to elect a new leader as governor in 2014 who will work hand in hand with the General Assembly to see through the important work of education reform,’ he said.”
5. The batch of documents related to 38 Studios released last week by the House Oversight Committee is a disappointingly dull read. There’s little new in them, and what they do contain mostly reinforces the story of sloppy due diligence and general mismanagement reported long ago by Tim White and me. WPRO’s Dan Yorke thinks some sort of shady financial dealings by political insiders must have driven the deal, but it seems quite possible this was a case of incompetence rather than nefariousness. Business leaders like Laurie White and Mike Sabitoni are worried the lack of trust engendered by 38 Studios is paralyzing economic development in the state – but that’s not going to change until and unless most Rhode Islanders are convinced the full truth about the deal’s origins has emerged and the people who should have known better are no longer in positions of power. Perhaps White and Sabitoni should call for an independent commission, as Sen. Dawson Hodgson has proposed, with full investigatory powers to clear the air once and for all.
6. The Beatles had an animated TV cartoon show in the 1960s. Who knew?
7. No surprise: Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia has moved David Cicilline’s seat from “Likely Democratic” to “Safe Democratic” for the 2014 elections. As Kondik notes, while Cicilline has taken a lot of criticism over Providence, “the district is so Democratic — 66% Obama — that it’s just really hard to see him losing. Republicans have many other, better targets, even in New England.” Cicilline is also one of the hardest-working pols in Rhode Island, who keeps an exhausting schedule of events around the district. If the GOP couldn’t beat him last year, it’s hard to see how they’ll ever manage to do so.
8. Turns out the Rhode Island business community doesn’t always favor economic development. Down in South County, the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce’s board is asking the R.I. Public Utilities Commission to deny a license for Rhode Island Fast Ferry to start a new service between Quonset Point and Block Island – a move to protect the existing ferry from competition. The proposed Quonset-New Shoreham service would “only serve to redistribute travel revenue, harm existing Narragansett businesses and reduce ancillary tourism spending,” chamber chief Deb Kelso told the commission. Unsurprisingly, Rhode Island Fast Ferry President Charles Donadio disagrees, saying his service could grow the pie by attracting day-trippers from the Providence area and Massachusetts turned off by traffic now. “It’s the same with everything else – that’s why you have McDonald’s and Burger King on the same corner,” Donadio said on this week’s Executive Suite. He’s hopeful chamber leaders “will change their mind down the road,” though he acknowledged it could take anywhere from months to years for the commission to render a decision; last time Donadio moved to compete with the existing ferry, its owners took him to court.
9. If you missed them the first time around, now’s your chance to check out some of the items Dan McGowan, Tim White and I published this week: CVS got $15.6 million in tax breaks from Rhode Island last year … a side-by-side comparison of business at the Projo and The Boston Globe … the R.I. Board of Education could get changed (again) … Providence’s pension investments earned 13.4% last year, surpassing the state’s 11.1% … Rhode Island unemployment rose to 8.9% as thousands stopped working … Senator Reed thinks the U.S. might have to stop aid to Egypt … Michigan’s struggles may vindicate Rhode Island’s bondholders-first law … and the oft-misunderstood history of Victory Day.
10. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – U.S. Sen. Jack Reed. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Charles Donadio Jr., founder and president of Rhode Island Fast Ferry. 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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