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

Welcome to another edition of my weekend column – as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to For quick hits all week long, follow me on Twitter: @tednesi.

1. The outlook brightened a bit this week for advocates of same-sex marriage with the announcement of Senate President ​Teresa Paiva Weed’s​ picks for the 10-member Senate Judiciary Committee. Paiva Weed didn’t push the panel decisively in either direction, but she did give ​Ray Sullivan​ and his allies at Marriage Equality Rhode Island a path to get the bill out of committee and onto the Senate floor. They start with five likely yes votes (including ​Paul Jabour​, whose district will likely pressure him not to kill the bill in committee) and three likely no votes. That leaves two big question-marks: ​Leo Raptakis​ and ​Billy Conley. Raptakis would seem to be a definite no, but his support for a referendum on the issue make him sound squishier than expected. As for Conley, while he may have railed against same-sex marriage in the past, there’s a big difference between making a low-profile speech and casting the decisive vote. And then of course there’s the pressure leadership may put on Judiciary members based on any deals they strike with their House counterparts. Stay tuned.

2. The victorious Obama campaign had quite a few southern Massachusetts natives around and about. The president’s bruiser of a spokeswoman, ​Stephanie Cutter​, is from Raynham. His research guru ​David Simas​ is from Taunton. (Simas says Obama ran “a national presidential campaign the way you’d do a local ward campaign.”) Last but maybe most, White House photographer Pete Souza​ is from South Dartmouth, as I was recently informed by ace Fall River Herald News scribe Will Richmond.

3. Campaigns & Elections’ list of Rhode Island’s best GOP operatives was a bit surprising. ​Cara Cromwell​ and ​Ian Prior​ are both talented and savvy, though they couldn’t win the 1st Congressional District for ​John Loughlin​ or ​Brendan Doherty​. But where is ​Patrick Sweeney​, who worked under former chairman ​Ken McKay​ and then ran ​Barry Hinckley’s​ energetic U.S. Senate campaign? Or activist ​Mike Napolitano​, who is influential with grass-roots conservatives? Who ran ​Anthony Giarrusso’s bid to succeed ​Bob Watson​ in House District 30, a very rare Republican success story in 2012? And when was the last time Boston Herald columnist ​Holly Robichaud​ worked on a campaign here? (Update: I’m informed Robichaud was a consultant on Michael Riley’s campaign.)

4. Boring but important: U.S. health care spending growth slowed to 3.9% in 2011, the third straight year it went up at that relatively modest pace. A lot is riding on whether that trend continues – including the solvency of many Rhode Island governments that are faced with massive unfunded retiree health liabilities.

5. U.S. Sen. ​Jack Reed​ is quickly emerging as the Obama administration’s leading Senate proponent of the ​Chuck Hagel​ nomination for defense secretary: he’s already been dispatched to defend Hagel to influential Washington columnists David Ignatius​ and Jerry Seib. Loyal Nesi’s Notes reader A. Kearney ​reminds me that Obama, Reed and Hagel share a unique bond: the three traveled together on a key 2008 trip to Iraq that helped burnish Obama’s foreign policy credentials. “They reflect, I think, a traditional bipartisan wisdom when it comes to foreign policy,” Obama said at the time. “Neither of them are ideologues but try to get the facts right and make a determination about what’s best for U.S. interests – and they’re good guys.”

6. With so much concern these days about gun violence and layoffs at the nonviolence institute, local leaders and concerned citizens should read a thoroughly thought-provoking 2011 article in Scientific American: “How New York Beat Crime.” Author ​Franklin Zimring​ argues – persuasively – that the massive drop in the Big Apple’s crime rate proves “many of modern America’s dominant assumptions concerning crime to be flat wrong,” and that the key is putting more cops on the streets. That’s noteworthy, considering ​Tim White‘s recent report that Providence has fewer officers per 1,000 residents than like-sized Northeast cities.

7. Check out this fascinating American Prospect article on how Oklahoma is leading the nation in expanding early education. Rhode Island started a pilot pre-kindergarten program in 2009, but it’s not universal. The new school-funding formula is supposed to add pre-K funding over time, and Senate President Paiva Weed says pre-K is one of her priorities for this year’s legislative session.

8. It’s not hyperbole to say the pension lawsuit is a big story nationally. “We have 49 sovereign states and a few territories all looking at what happens in Rhode Island,” Bill Brandt, chairman of the Illinois Finance Authority, told Bond Buyer last month.

9. From the late Washington columnist ​Drew ​Pearson’s​ March 31, 1966 dispatch: “If Gov. John Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, had known how much Sen. ​Claiborne Pell​, Democrat of Rhode Island, worried over the possibility that Chafee would run against him, Chafee would have run.” That’s an intriguing idea, since ’66 was a good year for Republicans and it’s conceivable Chafee could have won; instead Pell had a landslide victory over Lt. Col. ​Ruth Briggs​. Chafee finally did challenge Pell in 1972, and lost, then ran again in 1976 and beat wealthy car salesman Richard Lorber​. Chafee and Pell served together for the next 20 years.

10. PSY only made about $110,000 from digital and CD sales of “Gangnam Style” in South Korea.

11. Rhode Island PBS was kind enough to include me on the panel for this week’s episode of “A Lively Experiment,” along with Ian Donnis, Dave Scharfenberg and PBN’s Mark Murphy. Topics include the upcoming legislative session, same-sex marriage, pension reform and economic development. Watch tonight at 7 p.m. on WSBE Learn (Ch. 36.2), Sunday at noon on WSBE-TV (Ch. 36.1) or online at the RI PBS blog.

12. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Central Falls Mayor ​James Diossa​ and Moderate Party founder ​Ken Block​ on the master lever. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive SuiteCare Thread CEO Dr. ​Scott Guelich​ and AICU Rhode Island President ​Dan Egan​ on the Sawyer School. 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.

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

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

  1. Instead of testing students and other onerous so-called education “reforms,” nothing has been shown to give students a better chance to Suceed in school more than early education. The fact that RI imposed Gist’s unproven policies instead of of putting universal pre-K in place, is a tragedy. Rhode Islanders need to pay more attention to this very important policy discussion.

  2. Regarding crime, your point is surprisingly naive. The reason that cities like New York City and Providence have seen such a massive reduction in big crimes and gang violence is not just “more cops” or “less cops” as if this is a Poli Sci 101 class. It is a philosophy that emphasizes the “correct use” of the right number of police. That is called community policing. And community policing requires police officers walking the beat and the City supporting community-based programs like the Institute, Family Services, Night Vision and the Streetworkers who can intervene and stop retaliations and gang violence where the police can’t. If you ask the top criminal justice experts around the US, they will in fact point to cities like Providence and NYC who have taken this approach. Its the reason they bring people like Teny Gross to New Orleans, Boston, Detroit, Oakland, etc….. — just check out this Governing Magazine for further evidence of this point

  3. I am a fan of Zimring and read his book on NYC. Two points. New York is exceptional in the amount of police it has. No American city comes close. So the rest of American cities, to be successful, rely on police and their partners. Cities that do not collaborate well have higher violence rates.

    New York also has an unacceptable rate of stop & frisk, of large amounts of particularly minority residents.

    The Institute has spoken locally frequently in support of full complement of officers for Providence Police, and in Washington in support of grants that afford over-time for special police initiatives in Providence.

    Like most things in life, things should not be either-or, and a zero-sum game.

    We who care about safety wish to see a thriving police department, and an organized community-based cohort of partners who help be the ‘carrot’ to the police ‘stick’.

    We are proud of our partnerships in Providence, and seek the field of public safety to be well supported; as community development, business, education, real estate all depend on the basic tenets of safety and security.

  4. Snow,
    You need to read that research more closely. It shows that Pre-K programs provide good outcomes but all of the benefits are gone by the time the child gets to 4th grade. Pre-k programs makes politicians feel good and provides some “positive” data, but the data is short term and ignores the long term effects (of which there are none).

  5. Hit comment before this link pasted,

    One of the most important results of pre-K is the enhancement of the vocabulary of three-year-olds. Pre-K levels the degree of language acquisition between those who are born into homes where kids are read to, and where rich vocabulary is used, versus homes where complex language and reading is less evident.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s