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

Welcome to another edition of my weekly column. Keep sending your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi (at) wpri (dot) com and I may include/take credit for them.

1. People in Providence seem frustrated. They pay a lot of taxes, then look around and don’t see where the money went. To take the example mentioned most often, why are the roads in such poor shape? Mayor Angel Taveras offered at least part of the answer in his recent letter to retirees, where he laid out exactly how the city budget works. Once you subtract school spending (which can’t be lowered), retiree benefits and debt payments, Providence only has about 22.6 cents of every $1 it spends to put toward everything else. About 27% of spending is on debt and retirees alone, which is money most residents won’t see directly. That’s a recipe for disgruntled taxpayers and budgeting nightmares.

2. Treasurer Gina Raimondo has hired a new fundraiser: Jackie Baginski, a George Washington University graduate who volunteered for the pro-pension-bill group Engage Rhode Island last fall. Baginski is working part-time as “an assistant to the campaign on database management and event coordination,” Raimondo spokeswoman Joy Fox told me (off the state time clock). Is this a sign the treasurer is gearing up to run for governor in 2014, as widely suspected? “No,” Fox says flatly. “She enjoys very much what she’s doing now.”

3. If you’re waiting expectantly for the trial over the big pension lawsuit to start before Judge Sarah Taft-Carter, you’d better be patient. Deputy Treasurer Mark Dingley tells me lawyers for the state and the unions are putting together proposed calendars for discovery and waiting for a hearing in June. That process could include depositions and interrogatories. “Counsel hasn’t agreed, and the court hasn’t agreed, to a schedule yet,” Dingley said. “But I’d be surprised if it’s quick.” It could be a long time before the legal battle is anywhere near over.

4. The passing this week of June Gibbs, Middletown’s longtime state senator, left retired Projo columnist M. Charles Bakst lamenting that so few lawmakers are up to her standard these days. “June Gibbs personified the ideal of public service, a classy woman with a wonderful temperament and sense of humor, selfless, with a real commitment to a two-party system, something Rhode Island needs now more than ever,” Bakst told me. “The General Assembly, so blighted by self-serving members playing their own angles and/or embarrassing their colleagues by their skirmishes with law enforcement, would be a much better place if it had more legislators who reflected June Gibbs’ integrity and dedication to good government.”

5. There was a funny moment at Monday’s Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce congressional breakfast. As Congressman Langevin extolled the virtues of the just-passed JOBS Act, on the other side of the dais Senator Whitehouse gave a knowing smile to Senator Reed – who fought the House version of the bill tooth-and-nail, to no avail. For two very different views on the merits of the JOBS Act, read Steve Case (pro) and Susan Antilla (con).

6. Congratulations to Auditor General Dennis Hoyle, who got “acting” removed from his job title this week more than two years after Ernie Almonte stepped down. Hoyle, who’s been much in the news of late because of the sports institute scandal, is always quick to respond to inquiries and help reporters find obscure bits of information.

7. Local Mafia-watchers have been abuzz about the mysterious disappearance of reputed capo regime Robert “Bobby” DeLuca, especially since court documents revealed the key informant in the Manocchio case has the initials “RD.” With a trial set to start May 1, I asked Tim White when we might learn more about DeLuca. “It’s interesting that it was a defense attorney who filed the motion shedding more light on the identity and not the U.S. Attorney’s office, which generally refers to the confidential witness as ‘CW’ or ‘Made Member,'” Tim noted. “It’s possible that we could officially learn the identity through a filing like that. But more likely than not they’ll release the hounds if the two remaining defendants go to trial. The secretly recorded conversations will be played in the courtroom; the informant would most likely have to testify. Even before that, the person’s name could appear on a witness list.” And, he adds, “The clock is ticking” – the judge says they have to reach a plea agreement at least a week before May 1 to avoid a trial.

8. Joe Kennedy III raised an astonishing $1.3 million for his campaign to win Massachusetts’ open 4th Congressional District seat in the first three months of this year, while Republican candidate Sean Bielat raised $175,000. Money isn’t everything, but Kennedy is a very heavy favorite to win the seat unless he screws up. The question is, will he debate – or even consent to a sit-down interview? The 4th is tilted more toward Providence than Boston, so we’ve invited Kennedy to appear on Newsmakers. Stay tuned.

9. Did you know CBS News’s late, great Mike Wallace was a relative, by marriage(s), of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell? In 1982, Pell’s daughter Dallas married Eames Yates, the son of Wallace’s best friend Ted Yates (who died in 1967 covering the Six-Day War) and his wife, Mary Yates. Four years later, in 1986, Mary married Mike Wallace – making the “60 Minutes” icon a stepfather-in-law to Pell’s daughter. Dallas and Eames later divorced, but their son – also named Eames Yates – followed his step-grandfather into the TV news business at WCTV in Tallahassee. (One of the big “gets” on Yates the younger’s bio is an interview with Sheldon Whitehouse.) You can watch Pell’s grandson interview his other famous grandparent in this interview WCTV aired this week.

10. The fourth-floor conference room at CCRI’s Warwick campus where Treasurer Raimondo held her municipal pension workshop on Tuesday may well be the state’s best meeting space, one attendee said to me. Great view, big windows – and Wi-Fi, which is shockingly lacking in way too many popular spots. (Looking at you, Warwick Crowne Plaza.)

11. Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere must be proud of his eight members. The Senate Republican caucus is the only one of the General Assembly’s four that hasn’t had one of its lawmakers charged with a crime over the past year. But then, who knows what next week will bring?

12. This week on “Newsmakers”Congressman David Cicilline’s apology tour, taped on location in his living room. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. See you back here next Saturday morning.

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

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

  1. Has she ever told the citizens of Rhode Island why she left the huge judges and RISP pensions alone, and just hit the small pensions ? How can you not touch $ 100.000 a year pensions, and may I add they never even put one penny of their own money into it. The citizens call this reform ?

  2. Albert, because the judges are in a different system and that system is fully funded.

    Maybe you should ask why the judges’ pension system is fully funded where others are not. That’s a question for your local legislator.

    • My hard earned dollars funded 100 % of their pension not their hard earned dollars. Cut all pensions across the board ? Now tell me about RISP pension fund.

    • The judge’s pension system is not truly fully funded. Most of the retired judges are not in the pension system and money was never put aside to pay for them. The state pays these pensions out of its own budget every year. If these pay-as-you-go judicial pensions were included in the pension system the funded ratio would be worse than the state employees system.

    • In order for the Legislature to maintain its favored legal status among the Judiciary and the RISP they had to leave those pensions untouched. See Ruggerio’s DUI dismissal for proof of that.

  3. The Rhode Island General ASSembly has to stop thinking about their buddies and start thinking about the taxpayers who pay the bills. The public education system in Rhode Island is expensive and is a digrace. The budget is 80% for compensation and benefits very little for books and less for strucural maintence. I have not even mentioned how poorly these public school teachers are educating the kids. It is not all the parents. When you have a system that reward mediocrity such as tenure, it becomes obvious why so many public school teachers are not gainfully employed in the private sector. They would not be hired. I would love to know who hires such pathetic individuals to teach our children. Do these people become so apathetic and useless after they have tenure? It is time to fire them all and sort them out. When Central Falls fired all the public school teachers 700 applicants applied for the 97 jobs. Not all these applicants are unqualified, as most of the teachers that should be fired are qualified to teach.

  4. Ted –
    Thank you for providing us with some real-live investigative journalism. It is great to get finally get in-depth information that is not simply rehashed sound bytes.

  5. Providence can go to the state, under the same state law that Central Falls used to get the state to if not takeover but greatly increase state school aid.

    RI General Law (R.I.G.L.) 16-1-10 allows districts to petition
    RIDE to assume the supervision, control, and management of the public schools, the takeover does not automatically occur without a task force looking into the municipality’s ability to finance the schools.

    This is how the sanctuary cities will dump the cost of educating the illegals onto the shoulders of real taxpayers in the state.

  6. Ted, we’re lucky to have you in RI. You uncover and report political news items found no where else. When will the Treasurer appear on Newsmakers (or any other local media outlet, for that matter) to answer questions? I don’t think she’s been on local radio or TV since November 2011 (except for the questions about her support of Cicilline, but that was not by choice!).

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