The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RI

“The Saturday Morning Post” – get it? Welcome to the third edition of my new column, and thanks to reader MZ for the title. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi (at) wpri (dot) com and I may include them.

1. What a lot of people don’t understand about Lincoln Chafee is that at heart he is, in many ways, a technocrat – a manager. He tries to do the best job he can stewarding the government as it existed when he took over in January 2011. That appears to be why he proposes budgets only a wonk could love. (He cuts programs liberals like, but not enough to please conservatives; he increases taxes to conservatives’ dismay, yet not the taxes liberals want him to raise.) Much of his approach seems premised on the old saying, “Don’t upset the apple cart.” It makes for a more collegial atmosphere at the State House, but it doesn’t lead Chafee to propose policy changes as dramatic as what Gina Raimondo pushed through on pension reform. After all, what if the apple cart needs to be upset? If so, he might not be the man for the moment.

2. National Journal’s Dan Friedman overheard U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tell an aide: “It was one of the dumbest movies ever. But it was quite funny. It was about a time-machine hot tub.” Who knew?

3. Is David Cicilline getting too much blame for the ever-worsening financial crisis in Providence? The man obviously can’t escape all culpability – he was mayor from 2003 to 2011, and his declaration that the city was “in excellent financial condition” just 15 months ago will live in infamy. But the 6% COLAs and lifetime Blue Cross that are crushing the capital are vestiges of Buddy Cianci’s mayoralty, not Cicilline’s. Maybe the congressman is more like James Buchanan, Abe Lincoln’s predecessor, whom historians criticize for doing too little to stop the Civil War.

4. My alma mater Wheaton College up in Norton has caused quite a stir among students and alums by proposing a new policy where students will start to pay more for better dorm rooms. How much will McIntire cost?

5. Campaign finance reports got filed this week, and the most head-turning haul belonged to Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, who put together more than $190,000 last fall. Considering he’s one of the state’s two most popular politicians, is that a sign the mayor is gearing up to make a bid for higher office in 2014? Not at all, those close to Taveras say; he needed the money to pay off debts and because he uses the campaign kitty to pay for expenses such as travel and city cuff links that used to be paid for with taxpayer dollars.

6. A reader passed along another interesting tidbit in this week’s filings – a $1,000 contribution from former Attorney General Patrick Lynch to Treasurer Raimondo. Board of Elections records say it’s the biggest individual donation he’s ever made to a fellow local Democrat. A bit striking, considering Lynch sits on his own cash hoard of $338,387 and is regularly mentioned as the most formidable obstacle to Raimondo in a potential 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

7. Where does all that leave Chafee? State House speculation on his own future ranges from a switcheroo with Raimondo – where he becomes the Democrat and she becomes the independent – to the possibility he’ll quirkily decide not to run for a second term at all. Pressed on the point during Friday’s taping of “Newsmakers,” Chafee pointed out the best sign he will run is that he’s been fundraising – since “nobody likes to do that.”

8. And speaking of 2014, few people will be surprised if Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee runs for lieutenant governor in two years. The five-term Democrat added nearly $10,000 to his campaign cash during the fourth quarter, bringing his total to $43,982.

9. Apparently Congressmen Cicilline and Jim Langevin aren’t too worried about currying favor with federal workers before November’s election. They were among 72 Democrats who crossed party lines Wednesday to pass a Republican bill extending the pay freeze for those employed by Uncle Sam through 2013. Obama wants to give them a small raise.

10. My senior partner Tim White aired a gripping story Thursday night on the controversial rulings regarding sex offenders made by Superior Court Special Magistrate Patrick Burke, former House Speaker Bill Murphy’s one-time deputy assistant. But it wasn’t an easy story to get on the air. “People on all sides – from law enforcement to politicians and lawyers – were eager for us to do a story examining the appeal rate for sex offender classifications,” Tim says. “But no one wanted to go on camera and comment for fear they would tick off the Rhode Island judiciary. Legally, Rhode Island is a very small sandbox.” Indeed.

11. A big week ahead for 38 Studios, Curt Schilling’s video-game company and Providence’s newest corporate citizen. “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning,” the first of its two games, drops Tuesday and is getting plenty of pre-release buzz, with stories this week in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Boston Globe. The Projo says 1 million copies sold qualifies as a hit.

12. Despite what ESPN Boston implies, I bet more than a few of us are nervous about the Patriots’ fate on Sunday. RIPR rounded up predictions from big-name Rhode Island pols, and all of them picked the Pats. (Chafee boldly forecast a “rout” by No. 12 and co.) It got me wondering, though: Would any politician really lose their next bid for reelection if they admitted to thinking – regrettably – the Giants will pull it out?

13. This week on “Newsmakers” – Governor Chafee and State Budget Officer Tom Mullaney. 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

1 thought on “The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RI

  1. Ted, I suspect you are right that Chafee is at heart a technocrat and all that implies. And that is why he is not the right person to be governor of Rhode Island. The state needs a major overhaul, not just tweaking around the edges. For example, we need someone that has the courage to say that we can no longer afford 35+ police chiefs, fire chiefs, school superintendents, purchasing directors, etc. and work to consolidate local government at the county level. r if not that then something as dramatic as that.

    Regarding your point #2, while Cicilline may not be the cause of all of Providence’s fiscal problems, he did nothing to address the outrageous COLA’s and he repeatedly said that Providence was in good financial shape so in my book he is guilty of complicity at a minimum.

    BTW, love reading your posts. Great work.

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