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Nesi’s Notes: Aug. 31

Ted Nesi

Happy Labor Day Weekend! Here’s another edition of my weekend column for WPRI.com – as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi@wpri.com and follow @tednesi on Twitter.

1. It was 11 years ago next month that Governor Carcieri announced he’d selected Deepwater Wind to develop an offshore wind farm for Rhode Island. The governor had big dreams: not only to expand clean energy, but also to make the state a hub for an emerging industry. It took eight years, and a hefty ratepayer subsidy, but in 2016 the nation’s first offshore wind farm did indeed start operating off Block Island. And lately there have been multiple signs the state is making headway in achieving Carcieri’s broader goal of wind-fueled job growth. “Right now we’re the only state in the country that has an offshore wind farm,” Governor Raimondo said this week. “So I want to seize that momentum and recruit all the supply chain jobs to Rhode Island — which is a lot of jobs. It’s materials companies, equipment companies, maintenance companies, services companies.” This summer Commerce RI has inked incentive deals to make Providence the U.S. headquarters for two British companies, GEV Wind Power and Boston Energy, with about 177 jobs combined. And this week the Danish offshore wind company Orsted — which bought Deepwater last year — held its global board meeting in Newport, including a luncheon where the governor spoke to the executives. “The fact that Orsted had their board meeting here and not in New York or Boston or Connecticut — that’s because we’re working our tail off to make Rhode Island the place,” she said. (Nor does it hurt that Massachusetts, graveyard of Cape Wind, is now hitting federal roadblocks on Governor Baker’s Vineyard Wind project, too.) There are no guarantees; it’s easy to see how a place like New Bedford, with its $113 million Marine Commerce Terminal, could become the industry’s biggest hub. But Raimondo says Carcieri laid the groundwork for Rhode Island to compete. “You’ve got to give the governor credit for having started it all,” the Democratic incumbent said of her Republican predecessor.

2. Congressman Langevin is our guest on this week’s Newsmakers — here are a few highlights. … On whether an impeachment drive could hurt Democrats politically: “I definitely think there is a risk, a political risk, in the sense that I think in some ways President Trump wants this fight. It very well could rally his base and could help him in his re-election effort, quite frankly. I don’t think this is necessarily smart politics. But at the end of the day, I have a higher calling commitment to honor the constitution, the rule of law, and holding this president accountable.” … On why he didn’t join Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Cicilline in refusing corporate PAC donations: “You have to look at where those PAC contributions come from, and how they assemble them. Those contributions from labor PACs or other PACs come from, generally, people giving 25 cents or 50 cents or a dollar out of their paycheck each week, and those contributions are then bundled, and then the organization makes a determination which candidates they trust, that are most in line with their views, and who they feel they want to see continue in office.” … On whether he’ll run in 2022 if Rhode Island has only one U.S. House seat: “I need to run for re-election in 2020. Beyond that, I don’t know what is going to occur. We’re going to have to wait to see what the Census numbers are. I hope Rhode Island continues to have two congressional seats, but it’ll be determined by the Census, not only here but around the country. My focus is the 2020 elections.”

3. On the move: Congressman Langevin’s communications director, Stuart Malec, is slated to depart at the end of September. Malec says he plans to move to Washington and pursue opportunities there. (Unlike Congressman Cicilline, Langevin has historically based his spokesperson in Rhode Island rather than D.C.) Seth Klaiman, Langevin’s Rhode Island chief of staff, says they are currently searching for Malec’s successor.

4. When is news of a budget surplus a mixed bag? When it barely makes a dent in next year’s projected deficit.

5. The governor’s office has sent the legislature more than 1,300 pages related to the IGT deal ahead of this fall’s committee hearings — here’s a PDF of the documents. Late Friday, the Senate announced it will open hearings on Sept. 19; no word yet when the House will follow suit, though a spokesperson said only one hearing is planned on their side.

6. A Friday night scoop from Steph Machado: heading into Tuesday’s first day of school, the number of teacher vacancies in Providence is going up.

7. CommonWealth’s Andy Metzger got a poll that shows Joe Kennedy III up double-digits over Ed Markey. As I wrote Tuesday, Kennedy’s first comments to reporters about a Senate run were heavier on lofty rhetoric than policy details. Meantime, one advantage Kennedy has that hasn’t gotten a ton of attention so far: his social media presence. Kennedy’s campaign Facebook page has 1.1 million likes (Markey has 53,000) and Kennedy’s Twitter accounts have a combined 856,000 followers (Markey’s have 179,000). That’s a big national network Kennedy can tap for small-dollar donations. 

8. The news that National Grid will raise Rhode Islanders’ electric bills an average of 8% this winter led former AP reporter Erika Niedowski, now at the Acadia Center, to offer this reminder: “Go get your home energy audits, people! RI does energy efficiency programs pretty well, and it’s the one way you can actually lower your bill. Bills and rates would be even higher regionally without it.” Start the process by filling out this online form.

9. The FT’s take on Hasbro’s $4 billion purchase of Entertainment One: “Juicy cost savings mean Peppa Pig will likely be an asset to US toymaker.”

10. With a $2.3 million operating profit for the first nine months of its fiscal year, Care New England’s leaders are feeling a renewed confidence about its future, which is part of why its board voted to exit merger discussions with Lifespan and Brown. Longtime CNE observer Lilly Scher, a senior analyst at Eaton Vance, is among those praising the approach of CEO Jim Fanale and his team. “I have been doing this for over 30 years at this point, being a health care analyst,” Scher told Care New England’s executives on their most recent conference call with investors. “I would like to convey my appreciation for what has been and will continue to be responsible, mindful stewardship.” Scher said she was “particularly impressed” by the creation of a “culture of constant improvement as well as accountability and transparency.” She also praised them for “always” acting in the “best interests” of Rhode Islanders, whether by pursuing the Partners transaction or agreeing to the governor’s request for a merger discussion. 

11. East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva, the first directly elected mayor the city has had, is turning his official Facebook page into a must-read news source for Townies, offering daily posts that mix standard municipal boosterism with information about road closures and redevelopment. Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux has been using his Facebook in a similar way. It appears to be a model for how public officials will use social media in the future, particularly as local newspapers continue to shrink.

12. Between Narragansett, Cape Cod, Newport and the Berkshires, you might think Rhode Island and Massachusetts would have among the highest shares of vacation homes in the nation. But IPX crunched the numbers, and it turns out they rank right in the middle: Massachusetts is 20th out of 50, with 4.45% of homes (129,000) classified as vacation properties, while Rhode Island is 26th, at 4.04% (19,000 vacation properties). Westerly is Rhode Island’s top getaway spot, with about two-thirds of properties in Misquamicut, Watch Hill and Weekapaug being vacation homes; topping the list in Massachusetts are Nantucket and the Mashpee village of New Seabury. The top three states for vacation homes as a share of all properties are Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, while the bottom-ranked states are out in the Midwest.

13. Here’s a dispatch out of Providence from Target 12’s Eli Sherman: “As readers may have noticed, we’ve spent a lot of time digging into Providence taxes over the last couple months. In doing so, we noticed something that didn’t quite pass the smell test: more than two city blocks on one side of Sinclair Avenue show up in the city assessor’s database as vacant land, with annual tax bills ranging between $2 and $130. Well, my colleague Steph Machado and I decided to visit some of those properties – all of which have homes and people living in them – to try and solve the mystery. It turns out the Cranston-Providence line runs through the front yards of the homes between 40 and 170 Sinclair Ave. on the south side of the street, meaning the homeowners technically own property in two municipalities. The lion’s share of their properties is in Cranston, but the 30 or so homeowners will collectively pay about $2,500 in property taxes to the capital city this year for the sliver of land that crosses into Providence.”

14. Two reads on the future of public safety policy: CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas on a reassessment of “Broken Windows” policing, and City Journal’s Steve Malanga on the potential risks of progressive policies.

15. Why are Millennials so lonely?

16. New polling shows a dramatic shift in the values Americans hold dear.

17. Wendell Steavenson on the rise and fall of French cuisine.

18. Ahead of Labor Day, Scott Molloy recalls the 1902 Pawtucket streetcar strike.

19. This is amazing: a 17-minute montage featuring one clip from every single “Looney Tunes” cartoon made between 1929 and 1969

20. Set your DVRs: This week on NewsmakersCongressman Langevin. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Aquanis founder and CEO Neal Fine; Level Exchange founder Lindsey Lerner. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 8 p.m. on myRITV (also Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on Fox or 7:30 a.m. on The CW). Podcast lovers, you can subscribe to both shows on iTunes — get the Newsmakers podcast here and the Executive Suite podcast here — and radio listeners can catch them back-to-back Sundays at 6 p.m. on WPRO-AM 630 and WEAN-FM 99.7. See you back here next Saturday morning.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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