By Dan McGowan
Even Batman takes vacations, so I’m filling in for Ted while he’s living large in Washington, D.C. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. For quick hits all week long, follow @danmcgowan and @tednesi.
1. Friday afternoon’s announcement that mediation has failed and the Rhode Island pension law will go to trial Sept. 15 all but guarantees the process will continue when a new governor takes office in January, but how long could it go? Former R.I. Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders believes it could be more than a year before the dust finally settles. Flanders told WPRI.com Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter could render a decision before the end of this year, but that the case will ultimately head to the state’s highest court. “That court can move relatively quickly when it wants,” Flanders said. As it currently stands, the trial will begin a week after the Sept. 9 Democratic gubernatorial primary that includes Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Clay Pell. While Raimondo will probably take the brunt of the criticism from union members, a trial will also likely force Taveras and Pell to take a position on the 2011 pension law once and for all. Flanders said he believes the state will ultimately prevail. “My view all along has been the state has the better case here,” he said.
2. Even when Batman is on vacation, he knows how to help out in a pinch. Here’s the first of two Nesi dispatches for the week: “Brown University is once again making jaw-dropping predictions about this year’s primary for governor. In a repeat of the methodology I noted last October, Brown’s new poll says 395 of the 600 Rhode Island voters in its general-electorate sample are likely to vote in the Democratic primary, implying a voter turnout level of roughly 66% in the upcoming Sept. 9 Democratic primary. As I said before, this would be a massive increase over the 18% of registered voters who turned out for the hard-fought 2002 Democratic primary between Myrth York, Sheldon Whitehouse and Tony Pires. Additionally, Democratic primary electorates are different from general electorates – the voters are typically more concentrated geographically in the urban core around Providence, especially in a year like this one where the capital city will also have an open mayoral race on the same ballot. So while Brown’s top-line finding – a tight race between Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras, with Clay Pell far behind – isn’t so absurd as to be dismissed out of hand, it should be treated with extreme caution for now. (As for the tiny 86-voter Republican primary survey – any result that carries a margin of error above 10% should be taken with a full can of Morton Salt.)”
3. Ted’s not the only one questioning this week’s Brown poll. Matt McDermott, a Warwick native who works for D.C. polling firm Lake Research Partners, said another key flaw with the survey is that it doesn’t account for voting records. “Most private pollsters will use past vote history to build a primary electorate sample universe – past vote history is the best predictor of future intentions,” McDermott said. “Basically, if you voted in the 2006 or 2010 primary, you are significantly more likely to vote than someone who didn’t vote in either.” McDermott said public polling can have a “real effect on voter preferences,” noting how Washington, D.C., voters rallied around mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser in a flooded primary field because she consistently found herself running second in the polls to incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray. Because the majority of voters didn’t want to elect Gray, they ended up coalescing around Bowser and she won last week’s primary. The bottom line, McDermott said, is the methodology used in Brown’s poll should be facing a lot more scrutiny. “It’s well-accepted among most reputable journalists and political scientists that the Brown poll has poor methodological practices that severely call into question their topline results,” he said.
4. Making the rounds: U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse will be on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace at 9 a.m. Rhode Island’s junior senator will be opposite Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., talking about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to succeed Kathleen Sebelius at the Department of Health and Human Services.
5. Congratulations to the entire WPRI 12 team, who took home six Associated Press awards this week, including: top newscast for our 6 p.m. show last Nov. 18; investigative reporting for “Alarming Access”; hard news feature for “Secret Slush Funds”; feature reporting and feature videography for Street Stories; and sports program for our World Series postgame wrap.
6. While he was in college, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung smoked pot. Once. That’s what he told colleague Tim White during Tim’s famous rapid-fire question series this week on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. Fung said he does not support legalizing marijuana or a repeal of the state’s voter identification law. He also opposes raising the minimum wage, tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge and binding arbitration for teachers. The Republican gubernatorial candidate said he is pro-choice.
7. Here’s a demoralizing poll number: Rhode Island is tied with Mississippi when it comes to states where residents say teachers are well-respected, according to Gallup poll released this week. The two states ranked No. 5 in the country for residents who are least likely to respect teachers, at 67%. Wyoming residents top the list at 89%, and Nevada found itself at the bottom of the bunch.
8. A bonus item from Ted: “Will Electric Boat use a non-union general contractor for its next big construction project at Quonset? EB spokesman Bob Hamilton isn’t saying. But local labor leaders are sure to put up a stink if the company picks an open-shop contractor, especially since the work is tied to federal contracts.”
9. The top two statistics released this week in the latest Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook … 1: The number of children enrolled in all-day kindergarten has increased from 18% during the 1999-2000 school year to 70% last year. 2: Over a 10-year period, the number of juveniles in the care and custody of the Rhode Island Training School has dropped from 1,069 to 498. The most alarming statistics … 1: One in five children under age 18 lived in poverty between 2010 and 2012. 2: 14% of Rhode Island high school students in 2013 admitted they had taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription.
10. The candidates for mayor of Providence have four more community forums scheduled in the coming weeks, with the next one to come Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Knight Memorial Library in Elmwood. The following week, the City Council President Michael Solomon, East Side resident Brett Smiley, businessman Lorne Adrain, former Housing Court Judge Jorge Elorza and Republican Daniel Harrop will participate in a youth-led debate hosted by the Providence Student Union and Young Voices. To date, Smiley clearly leads the way when it comes to releasing policy proposals (including calling for a controversial gun tax, PEDP reform, an office of strategic partnerships in City Hall and his economic development plan). The other candidates have largely focused on raising money, and that’s where Solomon has emerged as the frontrunner. The council president said this week he’ll have more than $600,000 in his campaign war chest when official reports are filed later this month.
11. Comings, goings and endorsements: Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo picked up the support of the Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ Local 40 Roofers’ and the Waterproofers’ Local Union No. 33, her fourth and fifth union endorsements, respectively … Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Block won the endorsement of conservative advocacy group Rhode Island Taxpayers, which he used to chair … Block also earned the support of Mark Dosdourian, the president of the Republican Chairman’s Caucus … House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has brought lawyer John O’Connor back as head of Legislative Counsel … Burrillville resident Michael Puyana is the new president of the Rhode Island Tea Party, replacing Susan Wynne … Former Tea Party activist Lisa Blais is now working in the Rhode Island House minority office … Two-term Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien is kicking off his re-election campaign Monday night.
12. If you missed them the first time around, here are some of items we published this week: The owner of the Superman building wants $39 million in taxpayer support over the next four years, and he’s asking the city to reduce his $1 million tax bill … 120-year-old law firm Edwards Wildman is laying off 52 employees … Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is still the state’s most dominant insurer … Rhode Island and Justice Department officials have reached a deal that will take developmentally disabled residents out of sheltered workshops, but it won’t come cheap … and a Warwick cop who admitted to drinking before a car accident is getting his vacation pay.
13. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Kenneth Ayars, R.I. Agriculture Division and David Dadekian, Eat Drink R.I. 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.