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

Happy Saturday! Here’s another edition of my weekend column – as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to For quick hits all week long, follow @tednesi.

1. Mark your calendars: WPRI 12 and The Providence Journal will release a new exclusive Campaign 2014 poll next week. We asked Democratic primary voters whether they support Angel Taveras, Gina Raimondo, Clay Pell or Todd Giroux for governor, whether they back Frank CaprioErnie Almonte or Seth Magaziner for general treasurer, and how they feel about other big issues. We’ll release the first results live on WPRI 12 and Tuesday at 5 p.m. Tune in!

2. This week’s Diversity and Inclusion Professionals gubernatorial forum illustrated how differently the Democratic and Republican primaries are playing out. Democrats Taveras, Raimondo and Pell were relentlessly polite, eschewing attacks and accentuating the positive. Most of their comments were, to be honest, pretty bland. Meanwhile over at the next table, Republicans Allan Fung and Ken Block took repeated shots at each other, with Block particularly aggressive in his criticisms of Fung. The Cranston mayor’s campaign is clearly having to work harder for the nomination than they expected, and their early TV debut and growing use of GOP surrogates is evidence of how serious the threat from Block is. Their debate June 17 should be feisty. As for the Democrats, there’s no way their race is going to stay as sedate as it looked at the forum. Taveras has a target on his back as the frontrunner; Raimondo has plenty of money but plenty of baggage; and Pell needs to shake things up if he wants to lap the other two. The Rhode Island Association of Democratic City and Town Chairs’ inability to reach consensus and endorse one of the three Thursday night is another reminder their party’s nod really is up for grabs. Watch for Pell to join Raimondo on the airwaves before long, increasing the pressure on Taveras to match them both – though his campaign has to be careful with its more limited financial resources.

3. Should Rhode Islanders vote to call a constitutional convention this November? Fung and Block say yes; Taveras, Raimondo and Pell all say no. The proponents argue state government needs major systemic reforms, such as a line-item veto for the governor; the opponents argue a convention would jeopardize the civil rights of minority groups. Despite the partisan divide between the gubernatorial candidates, though, the split on a con-con isn’t simply a left/right one: the Rhode Island Tea Party is opposed, too.

4. Kim Kalunian reports Rhode Island’s Democratic and Republican parties are gearing up to make their endorsements for governor by late June; the choice is up to 244 Democratic State Committee members and 267 Republican State Central Committee members. Do their endorsements matter? The conventional wisdom says not nearly as much as it once did. Still, in a tight race any advantage is worth having. The Democratic endorsement should be especially interesting. It’s long been seen as the House speaker’s choice, but this year there are complicating factors. For one thing, though Nick Mattiello is now the speaker, the State Committee’s members were picked under Gordon Fox. For another, as a smart operative reminded me, the Democratic State Committee used to have an executive committee that met privately and emerged with a recommended endorsement that the full group would usually ratify; that’s no longer the case, so the speaker can no longer channel his influence through the smaller group behind the scenes.

5. The National Education Association Rhode Island is all-in for Clay Pell, but what about the state’s other big teachers’ union? “I am not sure what we’re going to do about the governor’s race,” Jim Parisi, a top official at the state’s American Federation of Teachers chapter, said on this week’s Newsmakers. The AFT interviewed candidates this week, but Parisi says the union probably won’t decide on endorsements until late June at the earliest. He made clear, though, the AFT isn’t sold on Pell. “I don’t know that anyone has the inside track right now,” Parisi said. “He’s certainly a strong candidate who has a story to tell about public education, but there are a lot of other considerations that we need to look at in terms of candidates and their viability and their track record.” It’s possible the AFT will back Angel Taveras despite his infamous 2011 teacher terminations, as the mayor has steadily improved his relationship with the city’s AFT local. Adding to the intrigue, Taveras is currently negotiating a new contract with the union. A Raimondo endorsement seems highly unlikely, though Parisi cautioned to “never say never in the world of politics.”

6. Fellow Millennials, don’t keep so much of your money in cash! Try a target-date fund or something.

7. If you want to to read something really scary, check out Michael Strain’s Washington Post column explaining how robot workers could rip apart America’s social fabric. “We are a long way from the Luddite riots of 19th century England, when protesters smashed the trappings of progress,” he writes. “But worries about the rise of the machines are still with us, and for good reason. Will the machines take our good-paying jobs?” Strain’s piece is a relevant read for Rhode Island. Since William McLoughlin chronicled the state’s economic woes back in 1978, Rhode Island has had low unemployment three times: in the second half of the 1980s, the late 1990s, and the mid-2000s. The late ’90s were boom times nationally, while the other two full-employment moments were during real estate booms (soon followed by financial crises). At the same time, the state’s manufacturing base faced more risk from the rise of China than almost any other in the U.S. Short of another construction boom, how is Rhode Island going to generate middle-skill jobs in the coming years?

8. Our weekly Saturday Morning Post dispatch from reporter Dan McGowan: “With so much attention being paid to the governor’s race and the raid on the State House, it’s easy to forget how much influence the state’s teachers’ unions continue to have on Smith Hill. The bill that would delay the use of standardized testing probably won’t move in the House – thanks solely to Speaker Mattiello – but as Rhode Island Association of School Committees executive director Tim Duffy asserted on this week’s Newsmakers, the bill that limits the use of teacher evaluations for nearly every teacher in the state is the real win for the union. That bill, which was approved 68-3 in the House and is likely to win overwhelming support in the labor-friendly Senate, would end yearly evaluations for all teacher deemed ‘effective’ or ‘highly effective.’ For context, last year 95% of teachers earned that rating; although both the R.I. Department of Education and two-thirds of school principals disagreed with the results. The bill has Education Commissioner Deborah Gist up in arms. ‘Just stopping something and saying ‘we’re not going to do something anymore’ or making it a debate about ‘do we do something or not do something’ instead of ‘how do we do it well’ I think is where I would be really concerned as a state if we start to turn around from some of the progress we have made,’ Gist told in an interview. Gist has had a long-running battle with the unions since coming to Rhode Island in 2009 on everything from evaluations to NECAP to Race to the Top and it appears this year, the teachers have scored a victory.”

9. Grantland TV critic Andy Greenwald is hopeful about “The McCarthys,” a new CBS sitcom set in Boston that’s premiering this fall. On a second viewing of the preview, Greenwald reports that “the gentle jokes about moving to Providence, of all places, begin to go down easy.” Of all places!

10. Greencore USA CEO Liam McClennon dissents from the widely shared view that Rhode Island is a bad place to do business. His Ireland-based company is the world’s largest sandwich-maker, and it’s currently building its new $40-million flagship factory at Quonset Business Park. “It was an easy choice in the end,” McClennon said on this week’s Executive Suite. “Quonset just kept coming out on top – whatever way you looked at it, whatever way you cut and diced the data, Quonset was just the right place.” Along with Quonset’s location between Boston and New York, McClennon said a major factor in its favor was the park’s vaunted Site-Readiness program that lets businesses quickly start building after picking a parcel. “I certainly think that Rhode Island is a very business-friendly state from my perspective,” he said, adding: “It definitely felt like one of the more easy places to work, and we work in several states in the U.S., so we have some good context for Rhode Island in and amongst its kind of peer group of other states looking to encourage inward investment.” All that will be music to the ears of Rhode Island policymakers, though it also highlights two problems – Quonset is running out of room, and its streamlined regulatory process hasn’t been replicated statewide.

11. Speaking of Greencore, a recent Financial Times article reported: “The London-listed Dublin-based group is investigating $35m in a new sandwich factory in Rhode Island, New England, to capitalize on US like-for-like sales growth of 25% in the six months to March 28.” Apparently we’re a province or something.

12. Here’s a roundup of the latest Campaign 2014 endorsements we’ve received: the Rhode Island Association of Democratic City and Town Chairs endorsed Ralph MollisGuillaume De Ramel and Frank Caprio (but no one for governor) … the Providence Democratic City Committee and the Westerly Democratic Town Committee endorsed Angel Taveras … the East Greenwich, Exeter and North Providence Republican Town Committees endorsed Allan FungPatrick Kennedy endorsed Guillaume De Ramel … the Women’s Campaign Fund endorsed Nellie Gorbea and named Gayle Goldin a “Game Changer” … the Coventry and Westerly Democratic Town Committees endorsed Frank Caprio … and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 17 endorsed Seth Magaziner.

13. If you missed them the first time around, now’s your chance to check out some of the other items we published this week: Michael Corso told Tim White he didn’t do anything wrong on 38 Studios … HealthSource RI’s budget request changed yet again, and the congressional delegation is mostly avoiding the fightKen Block attacked Allan Fung for his lobbying on flood insurance … Josh Brumberger, one of Gina Raimondo’s top aides, is leaving for the private sector … and Angel Taveras wants a study on a $15 minimum wage for hotel workers.

14. Set your DVRs: This week on NewsmakersTim Duffy, executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, and Jim Parisi, field representative at the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Greencore USA CEO Liam McClennon. 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

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

  1. Ted, big omission in Nesi’s Notes so it’s time to call you out–while you were in Starbucks in Seekonk enjoying your high-priced Latte,(or was it their new Opra Chai?), nearly a dozen good government groups including RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, RI Taxpayers, Ocean State Taxpayers, Operation Clean Government, candidates Fung Block and Giroux and 100+ protesters were at the State House calling for the Senate and Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed to follow the lead of the House in unanimously voting to repeal the Master Lever. This has been called for, yet pushed aside for over 50 years and finally the will of the people is getting through to the insiders who have greatly contributed to putting this state in the condition that it’s in. Maybe it’s time you paid some attention to the people and the organizations of volunteers who truly represent the beliefs of many of us non-insiders and next week hold off on the financial advice for your fellow Millennials, i.e. #6 above.

    Granted, you did indicate that you were confident that this would come to a vote and pass, but as such, lack of mention this morning makes this all the more of a shameful omission.

    • Quite the exaggeration there Jeff. I counted 39 people at the rally. And most were the usual suspects. I don’t think this put one morsel of pressure on Senator Paiva Weed. She is running unopposed, so no pressure on her.

      • Referenced a few news outlets widely reported over 100, WPRO etc. Maybe that’s all you can count to…jk!

      • 100 protesters really isn’t that big of a deal. Harry’s right on the usual suspects though. Just looking at the Projo pic you can see some of the same faces including the wacko from the Alex Jones Show who says the Boston Marathon bombings was a false flag… Ted’s financial advice will probably do more good than that little rally.

    • Went with my friends. I don’t think there was any more than 40 there for that rally. There was something else going on upstairs with food that I think people were really there for. Ken Block tried shaking my hand and said thanks for being there for HIM. I’m like I’m here for me and the state, not you fool. He is a creep in person!

      • I agree he is creepy. His latest fundraising e-mail was titled “Will you help Rhode Island’s only hope?” That is one of the weirdest fundraising pitches I have ever seen. The guy has an ego bigger than any I have ever seen.

      • Sounds like the talk radio crowd. I’m sure the nutty professor in the morning, and the guy who thinks he is a professor mid afternoon will have their radio trolls calling in portraying it as big as a ticker tape parade. Then they will be touting Ken Block as the World Series MVP.

        The agenda on that station makes Fox News look like life long liberals.

    • Ted you better hope the 25 to 30 daily wackos who post on the projo blog do not find out you bought a coffee in Seekonk.

      They will be calling the station wanting you fired, thrown in prison for 15 to 20 years, and when released demanding you change your name.

  2. Raimondo trying to add plaintiffs to the lawsuit on pension reform–(projo)
    Gina and Chafee were unable to solve municipal pension problems themselves, so now they want the teachers and state retirees to Pay for the litigation to correct city and town problems.
    If the municipalities want to sue they could do so on their own.
    They don’t need to be dragged into someone else’s unrelated legal action by whim of Gina R.
    Hope the judge will see through this fiasco and Deny the state’s Motion forthwith!

    • If one of Gina’s goals was to postpone the pension trial till after the elections, she has succeeded … the judge has vacated the September trial date, and it seems unlikely that it could be rescheduled prior to election day.

    • not plaintiffs…defendants…get your words right
      and she is a hypocrite liar like ususal, because back in 2011 she threw Chafee under the bus not interfering with municiapl pensions. Fraudmondo said she could only deal with the state pension in her legislation..Said she could not help the municpals in 2011 and now in 2014 she is helping the municipals again?? She is a flipflopper self serving arrogant wannabe governor…and dumbdumb Chafee is now hanging on to her witchbroom trying to add defendants to the lawsuit that Judge Taft Carter should throw out…This was done by Fraudmondo’s NY lawyers- especially the the Clarence Darrow of his time atty who gets $50/an hour by her (you and I would have to pay $700 to $1000 an hour for his services) but who knows what lawyer group is really paying him his due!

      • Check out Rule 14 of Civil Procedures. Yes a defendant can request additional defendants if the are liable. What a reach to blame the cities and towns for the pension mess. For sure it is a stall but how much more will this stall cost the taxpayers of Rhode Island. Oh I forgot it is ERSRI. And that is only if the state wins the case.

  3. Ted, perhaps a Freudian slip or just an oversight, but I was interested in what you thought of former governor Lincoln Almond’s endorsement of Mayor Fung. A strong showing for the Mayor. Also very interested how those in the know think very little of Ken Block’s ideas.

  4. The master lever is a minor issue that gets way too much attention from the media. (Especially in the silly ProJo editorial and op-ed pages)and a small, albeit vocal, minority of voters.

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