Monday, 29 October 2007
The weekly Political Roundtable on WRNI (1290 AM) can now be found online, and Scott MacKay, a veteran political reporter at the ProJo, used the occasion last week to share some thoughts on the ongoing conflict between the Journal and the administration of Governor Carcieri.
MacKay noted that the ProJo has endorsed Carcieri during each of his gubernatorial runs. "There's always going to be an adversary relationship between reporters and the government," said the reporter, adding that that's what the First Amendment is all about.
URI's Maureen Moakley said the current conflict follows a pattern in which the ProJo traditionally endorses Republican governors and grows highly critical of them toward the end of their terms. Since Carcieri has more than three years left in office, as she noted, it could be a bumpy road.
But MacKay says he thinks the clash between the governor and Rhode Island's dominant daily is all about "Second-term-itis," and not anything related to the ProJo.
"If you look at the coverage on Carcieri from an objective standpoint -- frankly, nobody's objective and perhaps I'm not, given that they are my employer," says MacKay, "the fact is, it hasn't been any more aggressive than any other governorship. And frankly, if you look back at [Ed] DiPrete, or if you look back at [Bruce] Sundlun, during the banking crisis, coverage was, frankly, far more aggressive."
In contrast to the fertile period from the late '90s and into the new decade -- when Nick-a-Nee's, the Wild Colonial, the Red Fez, the Decatur Lounge, and Lily Marlene's burst upon the Providence scene -- things have waned a bit n recent years.
Babe's closed. The Custom House closed. And we know all about the Decatur.
Now, good guy David Segal offers the news that Talk of the Town, a downtown Providence mainstay, will serve its last rounds on Wednesday night. I've heard some loose talk that TOTN might try to relocate in Olneyville.
The bar is being displaced by plans for a hotel. Last week, P+J offered their thoughts on New Japan, which is also being forced out by this development:
Sayonara to a wonderful place
P&J are greatly saddened by the imminent closing of one of our longtime favorite restaurants, the warm and inviting New Japan, which has been a staple in downtown Providence for 30 years.
Yukio Hiyama is closing shop at the end of October — when the building will be converted to (another) hotel. We’re not entirely sure what to make of the recent proliferation of downtown hotel projects, but we do know that there will never be another place like New Japan. When Yukio first opened, there was almost no Japanese cuisine in the state.
There was the Oki Steakhouse chain restaurant, but that was generic stuff. The sushi craze had not yet hit, and New Japan was a wondrous little spot with a small menu of great food and an atmosphere like home. Yukio has been one of the greatest hosts in local history. Jorge remembers accidentally leaving his wallet at home one evening and Yukio (who was much closer to Phillipe) told him, “Oh, just come by next time you’re in the neighborhood. No problem.”
New Japan was a favorite of the Young Adults back in the ’70s, when it was run by Yukio’s predecessor, the equally beloved and diminutive Beatles-song-singing Osaki. The band would often convene there, for a light meal and plenteous sake, before a gig at Lupo’s.
Your superior correspondents had many a fabulous lunch and dinner at New Japan, and we mourn its passing. We send all the best to Yukio, a true prince of a man.
The Providence Business News today has a strong editorial in support of the Working Waterfront, an issue that I wrote about here:
Plans to re-develop the Providence waterfront for commercial and residential use would require zoning changes that eventually would lead to the displacement of century-old industrial businesses that are doing just fine, thank you very much. The effort is just plain wrong, and should be stopped.
The tool to do that is the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which is being voted on in City Council this week.
The argument concerns what that part of the waterfront should look like. Should it include waterfront condominiums, marinas and boardwalks? Or the admittedly more gritty oil storage facilities, ship rehabilitation services and other maritime-related industry? For there can be no doubt that industrial and residential uses cannot coexist.
Yes, change is a necessary part of a vibrant economy. And having recreational boaters out on the Providence River during the season is an appealing thought.
But the enterprises on the waterfront today are part of our vibrant economy. Removing the fuel storage facility would have a detrimental effect on local businesses – including hospitals — that depend on it for heating oil. And Promet Marine Services is the last ship repair yard in the state. Its owners say that fishing boats would have to go to Nova Scotia to get the same services they receive here now.
Providence has room for both pretty and gritty. This waterfront area has been zoned industrial for a long time, and there is no compelling reason to change that. •
As John Mulligan reports today that a global warming measure has moved to the US Senate's front burner, there are a number of other signs of the swelling effort to come to terms with this pending environmental catastrophe:
-- The New York Times recently reported on how global warming is starting to divide the Republican presidential candidates:
While many conservative commentators and editorialists have mocked concerns about climate change, a different reality is emerging among Republican presidential contenders. It is a near-unanimous recognition among the leaders of the threat posed by global warming.
Within that camp, however, sharp divisions are developing. Senator John McCain of Arizona is calling for capping gas emissions linked to warming and higher fuel economy standards. Others, including Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mitt Romney, are refraining from advocating such limits and are instead emphasizing a push toward clean coal and other alternative energy sources.
All agree that nuclear power should be greatly expanded.
The debate has taken an intriguing twist. Two candidates appealing to religious conservatives, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, call for strong actions to ease the effects of people on the climate, at times casting the effort in spiritual terms just as some evangelical groups have taken up the cause.
-- Speaking of the faith-based, there's a new local group along these lines, Rhode Island Interfaith Power & Light, that's working to spread the message about global warming.
-- The Providence City Council and Mayor Cicilline will host a presentation tomorrow, 6 pm, at the Roger Williams Park Casino, on Post-Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty. Author Daniel Lerch of the Post Carbon Institute will discuss how local governments can prepare for global warming and "peak oil."
-- Next Saturday, November 3, from noon to 3 pm, the official kick-off will be held for "Go Big, Little Rhody," an effort to reduce global warming pollution by 80 percent by 2050. The event is sponsored by the Rhode Island Climate Coalition.
Dave Layman, PR maven and a regular panelist on A Lively Experiment, last week used the show to focus some fire on the Providence Journal's coverage of Governor Carcieri.
This came after the panel discussed a news release -- headlined, "Governor Hypocrite Strikes Again" -- released last week by Democratic Party chairman Bill Lynch. Representative Joseph Trillo (R-Warwick) called the release a distraction from the state's budget deficit.
Then, Layman weighed in with this:
Let me tell you something. I'm troubled by something that I'm really seeing, a trend in the Providence Journal with their reporting on this thing. It's almost as if our dear friend Bob Walsh, who appears on this program a lot, is writing a lot of these stories . . . .
It would have been helpful if Layman had specified which stories he had in mind. Some of the ensuing conversation focused on the editorial in which the ProJo rapped Carcieri over the recent issue of taxpayer-funded interpreters.
Guest moderator Ron St. Pierre called the editorial "a direct attempt at distorting the issue." St. Pierre proceeded to ask, "Is the ProJo in bury-Carcieri mode right now?"
Trillo joined in, calling the interpreter editorial one of the most egregious things he's seen the Journal do. URI's Maureen Moakley interjected, "But Kathy Gregg got it right. I mean, she said what he [Carcieri] said in the story. It was the editorial, I think, that made that leap that wasn't necessary."
However, as I wrote last week, this criticism may be off-base, since the governor's intent wasn't wholly clear as reported in this story by Gregg:
Before he went on the radio, the governor would only say that his staff-reduction plans would target “back office” workers, like those who work in “finance, accounting and a few lawyers.”
He loosened up two days later, however, when talking to a radio audience.
Asked by a caller why the state needs interpreters in the courts and other state agencies, Carcieri said: “Amen to you buddy.”
In the hunt for expendable jobs, Carcieri said he found, for example, one department with eight Spanish-speaking interpreters, and “I said why are we, at taxpayer expense, providing interpreters for people who want benefits from us? It seems completely illogical to me because you’re right,” he told the caller. “My grandparents immigrated from Italy. My grandmother didn’t speak English. She learned it…”
It doesn't seem that long ago when this all began.
It's hard to imagine a better storyline that Jon Lester winning the deciding game. My personal pick for series MVP was Papelbon, but you can't grouse about the honor going to a guy like Mike Lowell.
And yes, we always knew that they could do it. As I wrote on March 30,
Like N4N, three of four Boston Globe sportswriters are picking the Sox to win the AL East (and the whole enchilada, as well). Only Dan Shaughnessy thinks otherwise, ticketing the Blue Jays (???) to upset the NY-Boston hegemony.
Saturday, 27 October 2007
While the governor might be reluctant to criticize the Providence Journal, the editorial board at the daily has no such compunctions when it comes to Carcieri.
Although today's lead editorial -- headlined, "New launch for Carcieri?" -- doesn't appear to yet be online, it offers some very sharp advice to the second-term gov:
We realize that being a CEO of a state is grueling work, especially when you're a member of a minority party. We wish anyone well who is trying to make things better. But we care far more about what our political leaders do in developing and implementing policies than we care about their personalities, whether they're "charming" and so on.
If Mr. Carcieri wants to raise his poll numbers, we'd suggest:
-- Getting a tighter administrative grip on some agencies that have displaced some serious managerial woes during his time in office . . .
-- Bargaining with state employee unions rigorously but without venom . . .
. . . .
-- Engaging in less airy rhetoric about Rhode Island's allegedly "wonderful potential" and more in detailed policy prescriptions, explaining strongly and repeatedly why they're good, and getting out there to sell them around the state and to legislators.
-- Growing a thicker skin. Former Gov. Bruce Sundlun is an example of a leader who wasn't afraid of being disliked sometimes to get big things done. He and his successor, Lincoln Almond, also knew how to get people in a room to bargain.
In four years, what will people think of when they think of the Carcieri administration? What will be the two or three big accomplishments?
Using Democratic and Republican predecessors to indict the incumbent, and echoing Carcieri's Democratic challenger last year in calling the current gov, in essence, the leader of a do-nothing administration.
Friday, 26 October 2007
John Simmons's salary as director of administration for the City of Providence is fully paid by the City -- and it has been for about two-and-a-half years, according to Karen Southern, spokeswoman for Mayor David N. Cicilline.
As I blogged earlier today, the issue of Simmons' salary was raised yesterday by Buddy Cianci on his WPRO-AM radio show. Dan Yorke, who has criticized Cicilline about this issue in the past, continues to hammer it this afternoon. The two talkers are critical of how the Rhode Island Foundation paid part of Simmons' salary for his work with the city.
Southern, however, tells N4N that the foundation's Fund for Providence hasn't contributed to Simmons's salary for about two-and-a-half years. She was unable to identify specifically when the foundation stopped contributing to Simmons' compensation.
Southern says the Fund for Providence, which is overseen by the Rhode Island Foundation, paid Simmons's salary when he initially worked for the Cicilline administration as a consultant, and then supplemented it when he became
director of administration a direct employee of the city. Asked if the city now pays 100 percent of Simmons' salary for his work for the city, Southern said, "Yes, and it has been [doing so] for about two-and-a-half years."
The spokeswoman recounted how the Fund for Providence was established as a partnership between individuals and philanthropy "to support the reform of city government." It was established, she says, "in recognition of the fact that the City has limited resources and in recognition of the fact that transforming government would require a significant amount of resources."
Southern noted that the same fund paid for a review of Providence's finances by Public Finance Management (PFM), which began in 2003. "PFM helped draft the city's five-year strategic plan, basically the road map for improving the city's [fiscal] health," she says. "The city was tackling a $60 million budget deficit."
Southern notes how the city has since enjoyed some good news on its bond ratings.
From a news release:
PROVIDENCE - Nearly fifty young Democratic activists turned out to the Wild Colonial Tavern in Providence on Thursday night to hear candidates make their pitch to serve a two-year term on the board of the RI Young Democrats. They elected a new nine member board with Andy Andujar winning an uncontested race for president. Andujar, who replaces outgoing president Paul Tencher, was the first Latino member of the powerful Ward 13 Democratic Committee in Providence and currently serves on Sen. Maryellen Goodwin's Senate District Committee.
The entire list of winning candidates and a brief description are as follows:
• President: Andy Andujar, Mayoral Aide for Providence Mayor David Cicilline & Member of the Senate District 1 Committee
• Vice President: Matthew Jerzyk, Editor of RIFuture.org blog and District 11 Democratic Committeeman
• Secretary: Kim Ahern, President of the LGBT alliance at RWU School of Law and RI Student coordinator for Sen. Barack Obama
• Treasurer: Anthony Colaluca, Coventry Town Councilman
• Political Director: Eli Zupnick, Policy Analyst for LG Elizabeth Roberts
• National Committeeman: Julian Dash, President of the RI Black PAC and a real estate developer
• National Committeewoman: Larkin Barker, Press Secretary for LG Elizabeth Roberts
• Diversity Chair: William Pierce, former Executive Director of the High School Young Democrats of America
• Caucus Chair: Meghan Grady, MPA graduate student at RWU and volunteer on Sen. Jack Reed’s campaign.
"The new board is excited to continue the great progress that the outgoing Board has made in reviving this important vehicle for young, Democratic activists and turning out the largest number of youth voters in decades in 2006" Andjuar said. "Our immediate goals are to build our volunteer base and to raise money so that we can continue motivating young people to get involved in the political process. We want to inspire young people to get involved in Sen. Jack Reed's upcoming re-election, in Congressional races, in General Assembly races and especially in the Democratic presidential campaigns so that we can bring an end to the failed Bush policies in Iraq."
The previous board of the RI Young Democrats has been credited with reviving the organization and organizing young people to lead, volunteer and participate in the great Democratic victories of 2006 from electing the first woman Lt. Gov. in Rhode Island to swinging the fate of the US Senate by electing Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. Young Democrats were also instrumental in the campaigns to elect Treasurer Frank Caprio, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, Attorney General Patrick Lynch and Providence Mayor David Cicilline.
While we'll have to wait to see if the state deficit is larger than the Carcieri administration believes, the governor feels pretty good about the revenue side of the equation right now. Here's an excerpt from a Q+A that I have with the governor in this week's Phoenix:
Is the state doing enough t focus on raising revenue?
Yeah. It’s not a revenue issue. That’s what I call political speak for raise taxes. Our personal income tax receipts last year, we reported up seven percent, which is very good. They’re actually up over 10, maybe even close to 12, because we have the historic tax credit program. Most of that money goes to offset personal income taxes for people that can use that credit. If you factor out the year-to-year difference in the credits we process, the actual underlying tax revenues were up, as I said, between 10 and 12 percent. That’s terrific.
I mean, in an inflation environment that’s two-and-a-half [percent], that says that we’re raising incomes and we’re generating jobs. And we haven’t been increasing taxes. We’ve been reducing taxes — the flat tax — and that began to kick in. So to me there’s a good story on the revenue side. And the corporate income tax receipts were up. The only area where the receipts have been flat or down [is] the sales tax, and the one last year that was down was the VLT revenues, because of all the changes and the new building going up at now-Twin River, then Lincoln Park. So, no, I don’t think we can raise taxes.
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