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

Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Rhode Island, and all the ships at sea – happy weekend and welcome to the second edition of my new column. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi (at) wpri (dot) com and I may include them.

1. I doubt that Governor Chafee will propose significant tax increases in his budget on Tuesday, especially after legislative leaders all but ruled out the idea at this week’s Chamber luncheon. I’m sure, though, Chafee’s budget will include some major cuts in spending on programs that have substantial – and vocal – constituencies, particularly in social services. Chafee, Gordon Fox, Teresa Paiva Weed and their deputies are banking on the hope that May’s revenue estimates will save the day and wipe out most of the $120 million deficit.

2. Nesi’s Notes editor emeritus Charlie Bakst passed along a bit of wisdom to keep in mind as we dive into a big election year: “Everything in politics happens twice: Once when it happens and again when they make a television ad about it.” Like many others, Bakst was also appalled by the New York Times exposé on how Apple treats its foreign workers.

3. If JetBlue does start flying out of T.F. Green, as its CEO’s tweets imply, it will partly be the result of a full-court press by Governor Chafee with an assist from Jim Bennett, Providence’s new economic-development guru. Chafee hosted a reception and dinner for JetBlue’s executives last week attended by the congressional delegation and state leaders like Speaker Fox. Also on the PVD front, there’s growing optimism in the business community that the expansion of the airport will move forward before long.

4. The Journal has gone rather quiet about its paywall in the two months since the new site debuted Oct. 17. There’s been little sign of momentum since that big initial advertising push – no discussion of when the e-edition’s free trial will end (let alone how much it will cost) and not much advertising that I’ve caught. Unclear if that was always the plan or if the paper’s dip in digital audience forced Fountain Street to reevaluate.

5. A supermarket in the Knowledge District? That’s what one developer wants to do with part of the old I-195 land, according to Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio.

6. Five state reps filed a bill to make sure Rhode Island’s abysmal Access to Public Records Act (APRA) includes quasi-public agencies. But Tim White (a NEFAC director) is my go-to guy on all things APRA, and he’s not enthusiastic considering the AG’s office has already said APRA covers the quasis. “If lawmakers want to get serious about changing the public records law to help the state shed its corruption problem, then there are larger holes than this one,” Tim says. “This is a Band-Aid on a gaping wound – if anything, it almost serves as a distraction from the real work that needs to be done.” Back to the drawing board, gents.

7. Like The Globe’s Glen Johnson, I was a bit surprised to learn Mitt Romney scheduled a rally at the same time as the fourth quarter of the Patriots-Ravens game. NBC’s Garrett Haake reported Romney did seem “pumped” when someone on the rope line told him about the Pats’ win. Still, I’ve questioned my former governor’s devotion ever since that 2007 debate where he said the Red Sox waited “87 long years” to win a World Series. (True fans know it was 86.) John Kerry is guilty of fishy fandom, too.

8. Some smart media maneuvering on Friday by U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse‘s staff, which placed an item previewing his “Buffett rule” bill on Greg Sargent‘s blog, a regular read for many Dem staffers on Capitol Hill. Whitehouse’s decision to craft the proposal on his own – and his desire to force a vote with or without leadership’s blessing – reflects his longstanding frustration with Senate rules. Josh Barro is not impressed, however, calling Whitehouse’s proposal “a terrible policy idea.”

9. Speaking of Whitehouse, that Buffett rule business may earn him a chilly reception from some attendees at tonight’s annual Alfalfa Club dinner, a closed-door, black-tie event that brings together a who’s who of the Washington political and business elite, President Obama among them. Whitehouse is a fairly new member of the Club.

10. Unlike CVS, it seems we rarely hear much locally about Providence’s Textron despite its Rhode Island HQ and substantial sales.

11. Congressman Cicilline has an interesting idea. Last week he introduced the Jobs Score Act, which would require the Congressional Budget Office to assess the employment impact of all legislation that moves through the House. It’s reminiscent of a similar idea some Democrats pushed the supercommittee to adopt before that panel’s inglorious end.

12. Bob Healey probably missed his best shot at eliminating the Rhode Island lieutenant governor’s office last year – but apparently there’s still time for him to prevent the creation of such a post in West Virginia. Perhaps he could call it the Coal Moose Party there. (Get it? “Coal” Moose?)

13. This week on “Newsmakers” – Congressman Jim Langevin with guest panelist Dave Scharfenberg of The Providence Phoenix. 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

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

  1. Ted please don’t put yourself in the catergory as Walter Winchell. He was a gossip columnist. You are doing a difficult job trying to get people who don’t want to deal with the reality of the Rhode Island economy and the ethical quirks of the the people.

    If Chaffee proposes any tax increases it is significant. I heard he wants to cut $120 million from the state budget. I called his office at 222 2020 and told his staff member to look at cutting the budget by at least 12%. That is $1 billion dollars of spending from the budget.

    About a supermarket in the “knowledge district” a contridiction of terms. Look who is leading the charge. I smell a skunk in the woodshed. My question who is getting the kickback, what companies are going to design and build the development?

    • Thanks, Ed – I like Winchell as a mascot for this post mainly because he was a columnist and he did the print/broadcast hybrid thing, too. But I do try to keep somewhat more rigorous ethical standards for my work here!

  2. How is Cicillines bill different than the Pro Growth Budget Act that requires CBO to score impact on employment? Seems like its a political maneuver – putting jobs in the title means I’m creating jobs.

  3. Jet Blue would be a great “get”. Now, if there were only a reason to fly in and out of Rhode Island for. More jobs requires more attraction for companies. The more companies, the more revenue for RI. The more revenue, more taxes. Then we’d have to work on not spending it as foolishly as we do and have been. Any chance of that General Assy, and local govt’s?? Nah. Politicians are too inbred and the incest will continue. Thx.

  4. Ted, there is a reason why the Journal “has gone rather quiet” about its paywall. The truth is out there and if you talk to the right people, you’ll have quite the scoop. Good luck Ted!

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