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. Scientists now say they’re 95% sure humans are causing global climate change – but for the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council, the debate was settled long ago. The powerful agency that polices Rhode Island’s 420 miles of coastline is planning for 3 to 5 feet of sea level rise by 2100 – enough to put Waterplace Park in Providence and plenty of other familiar spots underwater. CRMC Executive Director Grover Fugate said on this week’s Newsmakers that there are three ways to deal with climate change: adapt, mitigate or suffer. Suffering is obvious – do nothing and take what comes. Mitigation is going to require major changes in national and even global policy. That leaves adaptation as the most feasible option for Rhode Island. “Adaptation is … [with] storms like coastal hurricanes, looking at ways that we can build structures better so that they survive the storm,” Fugate said. “In adaptation for sea-level rise, it means looking at, OK, we expect 3 to 5 feet of sea-level rise in Wickford; how do we start to plan to make sure that Wickford survives that long-term consequence? Is it raising properties up? Those kinds of things.” Check out last year’s report from the R.I. Climate Change Commission for more on the local impact.

2. West Greenwich is so hot right now, if you believe the new population projections released this week. The town is expected to have 51% more residents by 2040, increasing its population from 6,135 to 9,234. Runner-up Richmond will grow 41% to 10,855, while third-place South Kingstown will jump 26% to 38,573 – the largest increase in sheer numbers for any community except Providence. But not everyone’s going to grow: 12 of Rhode Island’s 39 municipalities are expected to shed people over the next three decades. Middletown and Newport are set to lose nearly one in four of their residents by 2040, and the populations of cash-strapped East Providence, Woonsocket, Pawtucket and West Warwick are all expected to shrink, too. (That’s another good reason to pre-fund pension benefits: as Detroit’s example showed, there may be fewer taxpayers to pay them when the bill comes due.)

3. A Saturday Morning Post dispatch from ace Dan McGowan: “The much-ballyhooed NECAP discussion at the R.I. Board of Education retreat is set for Sunday at 4:15 p.m. at Rhode Island College, but the controversial graduation requirement isn’t the only topic likely to make news at the two-day public meeting. Just before the NECAP forum, the proposed URI-RIC nursing school at the Dynamo House in Providence will be discussed at a panel comprised of the presidents of both colleges as well as Brown University executive Russell Carey and developer Dick Galvin. The big question here will be how Governor Chafee’s veto of legislation to allow the Providence Redevelopment Agency to construct new buildings will affect the project. Most observers believed the bill was directly tied to the Dynamo House, although city officials dispute that assertion. On Monday, the 11-member board will discuss the new PARCC exam – the test that will replace the NECAP beginning in 2015 – as well as the governance structure of the new board, which Chairwoman Eva Mancuso and House Finance Chairman Helio Melo have suggested could change next year. As for the NECAP discussion, Education Commission of the States President Jeremy Anderson will lead a panel that includes former Mass. Education Commissioner David Driscoll, testing expert Stuart Kahl, Harvard’s Tony Wagner and RIDE’s Andrea Castaneda. It’s important to note that no votes will be taken at the meeting and Mancuso has already encouraged board members to engage in a productive conversation rather than carry on about their personal opinions on the graduation requirement. As it stands now, roughly 4,000 students from the class of 2014 are in danger of not receiving a diploma based on their poor performance on the NECAP. Those students have at least two more tries to show improvement on the test in order to be eligible to graduate. The complete agenda for the retreat is available here.”

4. Retired Patriot Matt Light was my guest on Executive Suite this week to discuss his new company, Keel Vodka, but he also touched on the Aaron Hernandez case and life after the NFL. Read his comments here.

5. Bishop Tobin shed more light on his headline-grabbing switch to the Republican Party in an interview with National Catholic Register this week, telling the biweekly paper: “The reaction has been stronger than I expected, but it has been fairly predictable in Rhode Island, which is strongly Democratic. I am amused by the reaction because the whole subject of my talk was on Catholic involvement in the political process, and I made a point of saying that, as a Catholic, my baptismal certificate was more important than party affiliation. Some applauded my move because of abortion and same-sex ‘marriage,’ but others said I should not be involved in partisan politics or align myself with a party that is slow to embrace immigration and other current issues.” He added later: “We live in a divided country, and politics does divide people. … Neither party is perfect, and both have their virtues and limitations.”

6. House Speaker Gordon Fox will receive the Leadership in Diversity & Inclusion Award at Diversity & Inclusion Professionals‘ 2nd annual awards luncheon in October. He will be honored “for his tireless efforts for marriage equality in the Rhode Island legislature,” according to a release.Linda Newton, the former Blue Cross official who now runs Diversity & Inclusion Professionals, discussed its work on Executive Suite last month.

7. And here’s a bonus Saturday Morning Post dispatch from Dan McGowan: “The severance package going to retiring Providence Fire Chief Michael Dillon just keeps getting larger. It turns out the 38-year veteran will receive $146,348 from a combination of unused sick and vacation time, as well as more than $12,500 in longevity pay due to his 20-plus years with the city; $1,508 in payments for furlough days from 2007; and $1,155 based on a stipulation negotiated in the 2010 contract signed by former Mayor David Cicilline before his election to Congress. That provision allows both union and non-union employees to bank holiday pay for Rhode Island Independence Day – May 4 – between 2011 and 2013; the clause was negotiated out of the current fire contract. As for the sick time, Mayor Angel Taveras’s office wasn’t wrong to say the retiring non-union officials had a ‘reasonable belief’ that they’d be able to cash in on those sick days – but it’s worth noting that a longstanding city ordinance requiring that the City Council approve those payments was rarely followed over the last decade.”

8. Gov. Lincoln Chafee suffered a real loss this month with the departure of speechwriter Christian Vareika, who’s starting law school at Boston College this fall. Vareika – the son of prominent Newport Democrats Bill and Alison Vareika – joined Chafee’s team as a campaign volunteer back in 2010 and over time became the conscience of the administration. While never blind to the governor’s quirks and failings, Vareika deeply admired Chafee for the various times he took risky public stances – notably his opposition to the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war, and the 38 Studios deal. Vareika believed in him, and stayed loyal. He was also a valued member of Chafee’s oft-challenged communications team, working late nights and early mornings to write everything from national speeches to puff press releases. He’ll be hard to replace.

9. If you missed them the first time around, now’s your chance to check out some of the items Dan McGowan and I published this week: Providence’s commercial properties taxes are the nation’s highest once again … maybe the city should consider taxing land, not buildings … Providence Housing Court Judge Jorge Elorza stepped down to run for mayorDavid Cicilline backed President Obama’s plan to curb college costs … Rhode Island is about to get much older … and Joe Kennedy III is worth at least $15.2 million, making him one of the wealthiest members of Congress.

10. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – WPRI meteorologists Tony Petrarca and Pete Mangione on forecasting today, plus R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council chief Grover Fugate. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. and noon on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Keel Vodka’s Matt Light, Bill Dessel and Tom McGowan. 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

An earlier version of this column incorrectly said West Greenwich is Rhode Island’s richest town; East Greenwich is.

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

  1. The firefighters get off RI Independence Day, a day no other Rhode Islanders even know exists, much less get off! You can’t make this stuff up. I feel. Journal follies skit coming on.

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