Saturday quick-hit takes on politics, money and media in RI

Welcome to the inaugural edition of a new feature here on Nesi’s Notes, shamelessly stolen from ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Every Saturday morning, I’ll post a mix of thoughts, quick news items and blind items à la Walter Winchell. Send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi (at) wpri (dot) com and I may include them.

1. A lot of ink will be spilled over the way Governor Chafee proposes to close the $120 million projected deficit in the 2012-13 budget – especially if he puts forward controversial cuts and/or tax hikes. But the budget doesn’t take effect until July 1, and lawmakers will get new estimates of next year’s tax revenue in May. With revenue running 3.3% ahead of projections this year, it’s possible much of the $120 million will disappear and ease the strain.

2. Brown University President Ruth Simmons is a lot more tight-fisted in negotiations with the city of Providence than she was as a board member at Goldman Sachs, where she signed off on that eye-popping $68 million bonus for CEO Lloyd Blankfein in 2007.

3. The sweeping mob case that revolves around Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio is heating up. Tim White informs me there have been nearly 20 court filings in the past two weeks alone, and a trial is set to start April 23. Intriguingly, Congressman David Cicilline’s famed attorney father Jack has asked the judge to call a meeting with all the attorneys involved; Tim wouldn’t guess if that means there could be a plea agreement coming, but noted, “That’ll clearly be a significant meeting if the judge grants it.”

4. Some public meetings to put on your calendar – the pension commission will hold its first meeting Wednesday in the Department of Administration’s Conference Room A, and Treasurer Raimondo’s office says the defined-contribution plan bidders’ presentations next month will be open to the public.

5. Two local news sites got a fresh coat of paint recently: East Bay Newspapers and my old employer Providence Business News. Both publishers used to employ East Providence’s Creative Circle as their designer, but East Bay went in a new direction this time by getting its new look from Kansas’s ahead-of-the-curve Lawrence World.

6. Also in the news biz, departing A.H. Belo executive John McKeon will get a fond financial farewell. An SEC filing this week says McKeon will get a $123,077 severance payment; a lump sum to cover six months of COBRA premiums; a 2011 bonus, if he’s eligible; and up to $2,500 in outplacement assistance. No word if A.H. Belo ever sold his house.

7. One more on the media beat: the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition’s widely read RISC-Y Business newsletter also got a new look recently. RISC’s Harriet Lloyd, who puts it out each morning, says the redesign makes it easier to read the daily update on smartphones.

8. Mitt Romney may be facing defeat in South Carolina today, but he’s as solid as can be among the GOP establishment (such as it is) here in Rhode Island. State Sen. Dawson Hodgson liked Jon Huntsman, but he’s out. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung was undecided between Romney and Huntsman last time I asked him. State Rep. Doreen Costa was a Michelle Bachmann diehard. Other than that, everybody’s for Mitt.

9. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan – a Brown alum who’s on the Corporation – says that controversial $5 debit card fee caused a 20% spike in account closures during the last quarter. Andera’s Charlie Kroll saw evidence of that with his credit union clients, who reported a big upsurge in new accounts around the same time.

10. And speaking of BofA, isn’t it about time U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a senior Senate Banking Committee member, sat down with Moynihan and told him he should really, really, really think hard before moving out of the Superman building in Providence?

11. That glowing Delta Sky profile of Rhode Island was not an advertorial and “no taxpayer money was spent” on it, according to RIEDC spokeswoman Judy Chong. “We basically gave them story ideas, interview ideas, et cetera,” she says. The magazine contacted the EDC in September for information and executive director Keith Stokes sent a letter to 38 Studios, Hasbro, the universities and others informing them they might get a call from Delta Sky looking for “editorial support.”

12. Does Rhode Island really need a state law that bans text messaging in school, as State Rep. Peter Petrarca is proposing? Not judging by my Twitter feed. “GA thinks printing laws justifies their existence,” says @stevelemois. “Absurd,” says @mattmfm. “Ain’t in the Top 100,” says @RhodyTweets. Anybody like the idea?

13. This week on “Newsmakers” – House Speaker Gordon Fox. Watch Sunday at 10 on Fox Providence.

Ted Nesi ( ) covers politics and the economy for and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

An earlier version of this post incorrectly said A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd recently replaced John McKeon as Providence Journal publisher Howard Sutton’s boss; Decherd replaced James Moroney.

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