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

April 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

Welcome to another edition of my weekly column. Keep sending your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi (at) wpri (dot) com and I may include them.

1. The Senate is widely seen as a bulwark of opposition to Governor Chafee’s municipal aid package. Local leaders, the thinking goes, need to solve their own problems without pawning them off on state lawmakers. The Senate’s affinity for local control, however, appears a tad selective: In 2006, when Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed sponsored a state law capping property tax increases, she declared: “With enactment of this bill, we can promise local taxpayers that we are beginning a sure and steady move toward lower property taxes and more fiscal accountability by their municipal officials.” Cynics might note that capping tax bills has political upside, while there’s plenty of downside to tackling the cost drivers Chafee targeted. And it does seem irrational to order others to pay for things, cap their incomes and refuse to alter their expenses, then scold them for a lack of fiscal responsibility.

2. Chafee raised nearly $50,000 during the first three months of this year, giving him a $208,566 war chest. Among his better-known donors: past and present lawmakers J. Patrick O’Neill, John Tassoni and Stephen Alves; high-powered lobbyists Robert Goldberg and Joe Walsh; Governor Carcieri’s former chief of staff Jeff Grybowski, now with Deepwater Wind; and a number of union PACs, most of them private-sector.

3. Speaking of Grybowski, he says Deepwater will move forward even if Congress fails to renew tax credits for wind farms. “We’ve committed to finding alternative ways to finance development of our Block Island Wind Farm project if tax credits are unavailable, and we’re confident that our project will be the first offshore wind farm built in the country,” Grybowski tells me, though the company would still prefer the credits stay in place.

4. As Dave Scharfenberg reports, the energy and optimism in the room was palpable when much-hyped startup accelerator Betaspring’s 16 nascent companies pitched their products to 250 investors and other observers gathered Thursday at its Chestnut Street headquarters. While there was no shortage of good ideas, my favorite of the bunch was Splitwise, a brilliant free tool that lets you and your roommates (or anybody else) figure out the fairest way to split costs like rent and groceries. Splitwise COO Jonathan Bittner is on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and it’s already grabbed the attention of Ezra Klein.

5. Tim White got quite a scoop on Wednesday when he beat every reporter in Providence and Boston in reporting the arrest of reputed New England mob boss Anthony DiNunzio. The initial tip seemed so outrageous Tim didn’t believe it until other sources provided corroboration a few hours later – though in hindsight, as another colleague pointed out, there’d been hints sprinkled in prosecution documents for months. “It’s a significant bust on several levels,” Tim says. The feds identified DiNunzio as the boss, which they hadn’t done before; they alleged the arrest leaves the Patriarca crime family “leaderless”; and they say DiNunzio was in touch with the Gambino crime family in the Big Apple. Will one of New York’s five families try to fill the power vacuum here? That remains to be seen. Either way, Tim says the latest crackdown “has proven successful: six of the (now) nine defendants have changed their plea to guilty and one has pledged to do so.” And, he adds: “If nothing else, it’s done wonders to boost numbers at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls.”

6. Who is the #CitySlacker? Find out from another big undercover Target 12 investigation Thursday night at 11. Also, don’t miss my colleague Susan Roberts’ story on the human cost of Central Falls’ bankruptcy Monday night at 11. And have you checked out the fancy new WPRI-powered weather page on ProvidenceJournal.com?

7. More evidence that Rhode Island native U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, now a Pennsylvania Republican, is a rising star: The 1980 La Salle Academy graduate will replace Tea Party favorite Jim DeMint as chairman of the Senate Steering Committee next year.

8. Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats set a new low this week as the NBA’s losingest team ever, but the long defunct Providence Steamrollers continue to live in infamy for putting together the fewest wins in a season. “Steam Rollers fans, if there are any left, would most likely point out that in a 48-game schedule, Providence boasted a much more robust .125 winning percentage,” The New York Times noted. (Still unclear to me if the team’s name was two words or one.)

9. M. Charles Bakst was on hand Monday at Governor Chafee’s invitation for the inaugural ride from the new Wickford Junction train station. Charlie sent along this report (and an exhortation for readers in South County):

The program in the spacious (someone will wonder: too large?) station garage was, of course, over the top. I mean, in addition to the governor, the entire congressional delegation was there, plus some leading Bay State transportation officials and the U.S. secretary of transportation, not to mention the North Kingstown High band and, yes, there was Danish and coffee.

You could say: Too much speaking and who needs it, but I say let the pols preen: In this case, they deserve to.

Trains are great – I often ride the MBTA from Providence to Boston – and expanding the service can be a significant improvement in Rhode Islanders’ lives and in spurring economic development. Extending the service to Wickford is an accomplishment in itself – but now it is in your hands. If you live in that part of the state, you’re probably not used to regular train travel and it might be that riding the MBTA is something that doesn’t occur to you to do.

I say: Try it. Maybe you’ll save money. You’ll certainly save wear and tear on your car – and on yourself. And you’ll be giving the environment a boost. Don’t be a sad sack. Don’t say: Oh, Rhode Island is hopeless, things never will get better around here. Here is a chance to change your life. Grab it.

10. As Charlie mentions, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was on hand for Monday’s festivities at Wickford Junction, and his glowing comments about Governor Chafee provided a bit more grist for my theory that Chafee could get asked to be LaHood’s successor if Obama wins a second term. “He’s a special governor,” LaHood said of Chafee. “We work a lot with governors all over the country – there is no better governor than your governor. He works very hard, particularly on transportation issues, and that’s really the reason I came here – to say congratulations.”

11. Esquire argues America has just experienced “thirty years of economic and social policy that has been rigged to serve the comfort and largesse of the old at the expense of the young.” I will say it’s striking that nobody paid for Medicare Part D during an economic expansion, yet now student loan rates may double during a weak recovery with limited job openings.

12. This week on “Newsmakers”Treasurer Gina Raimondo. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. See you back here next Saturday morning.

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

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