Question About Work and Culture Funding

On Twitter, Ian Donnis of RIPR has been sort of arbitrating a dispute between Rep. Patricia Morgan and the Woonsocket Museum of Work and Culture Preservation.  With a group of fellow Republicans, Morgan has proposed a PayGo solution for bridge and road repair and maintenance, including a reprioritization of $200,000 from the museum toward infrastructure.

The museum claims total state funding of around $12,000, not $200,000.  Morgan replies that the Rhode Island Historical Society receives the state funding and uses that money for the museum.  Who’s correct?

According to the latest available 990 form from the museum, for 2013, $12,000 of revenue is in the general area.  On the other hand, the Historical Society’s latest available annual report, dated November 2013, shows a $229,629 line item for “Woonsocket museum.”

In sorting out the distinction, it’s interesting that the annual report lists eight staff members at the Museum of Work & Culture, while the 990 form lists not a single dollar on salaries or benefits and does not list any actual employees.

A complicating factor, however, is that, according to the annual report only 54% of the society’s revenue comes via public support, and “public” doesn’t necessarily mean “government.”  According to USASpending.gov, the society receives around $150,000 per year from the federal government, with twice that in 2011.  According to RIOpenGov, the Historical Society receives varying amounts from the state government, sometimes none.

There could be still more to this story than I’m spotting, but for the moment it looks a small portion of the millions of dollars in the GOP’s proposal would need to be found again.  In the state’s massive budget, that shouldn’t be an issue at all.


Economic Boom by Economic Modelling

I’ll be taking a closer look at the REMI study of Governor Raimondo’s Rhode Works proposal, but two quick thoughts based on Patrick Anderson’s article in the Providence Journal. First:

As it turned out, the study estimated that raising the gas tax would create even more jobs — 6,656 jobs over 10 years — than tolling alone, and $22 million more in gross domestic product.

REMI finds that government spending boosts the economy. It’s assumptions virtually guarantee that outcome.  The question of tolls versus taxes, or trucks versus everybody,  is simply a political calculation.

Second, the Rhode Works proposal calls for borrowing $600 million. Is it really a surprise that an economic model would find a half-billion-dollar boost to the economy? If you cash in a balance transfer check from your credit card, that’s free money in you pocket… until it isn’t free.  At some point, it becomes a consideration that the state will be paying almost as much in borrowing costs.  That initial boost will wind up costing $1,154.9 million.

Rhode Islanders have every reason to overrule a one-month study for which they paid $50,000 and say that more government revenue is not the answer.


Campaign Finance Reform and Fascism

Some folks to the left of the center line in Rhode Island politics would probably like me a whole lot more if I didn’t get so heated on the subject of campaign finance reform.  For much of the last two decades, that subject has been an area of rare agreement between left and right, but the more I’ve thought about it, and the more I’ve observed, the more convinced I’ve become that campaign finance reform actually does a great deal of harm to our country and that its supporters on the right have been suckered.

Among the many benefits of Scott Walker’s push against public-sector labor unions in Wisconsin may be its effect in prodding the left to start leveraging the campaign finance advantage before it was politically wise to do so on the national stage.  I’m referring to the infamous “John Doe” investigations, which I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere in Rhode Island news media, other than on Anchor Rising-Ocean State Current:

In April, National Review told — for the first time — the stories of the targets of Wisconsin’s “John Doe” investigations. The accounts were harrowing. Anonymous sources told of pre-dawn raids, with police swarming into their homes, walking into sleeping children’s rooms, denying the targets immediate access to lawyers, and then imposing gag orders that prevented them from telling friends, family, and supporters about their ordeal.

These raids were not launched against hardened criminals but against conservative activists, and the “crimes” they were accused of turned out not to be crimes at all.  Rather, a hyper-partisan district attorney, John Chisholm, and his special prosecutor, Francis Schmitz, launched a multi-county criminal investigation of First Amendment–protected speech. They wanted to know the extent to which conservative individuals and groups had coordinated with Scott Walker’s campaign — and the campaigns of various state senators — to advocate conservative issues.

On the surface, it sounds like a great idea to increase transparency in politics, down to the donations and spending by every candidate for every office.  The problem is that insiders have all of the advantages, on that count, and ruthless people can make better use of the information than moral grassroots volunteers and candidates, whether the ruthlessness manifests as a literal government conspiracy, as in Wisconsin, or merely run-of-the-mill intimidation of donors who back the non-ruthless.


Ted Almon’s Self-Serving Op-Ed Hypocrisy

Depending how you feel about corporate executives’ using government and the news media to manipulate the public and line their own pockets, you’ll either be impressed or disgusted with a recent op-ed in the Providence Journal penned by Claflin Co. CEO Ted Almon.  Either way, you have to admit that it takes more than a healthy dose of (let’s be polite) audacity for him to accuse other people of “paid… agitprop” when his company has received tens of millions of dollars from the government agency that he’s defending and stands to receive tens of millions more.

In this regard, Ted Almon’s Claflin Co. is a veritable poster company for a system of government run by insiders and for insiders, selling government handouts at others’ expense.

Anybody who thought Almon’s essay defended the Department of Veterans Affairs based on principle should consider that, in fiscal year 2015 (last October through this September), Claflin did over $16 million of business with the VA.  That was up from about $14 million the year before and has been on a more-or-less steady increase since at least 2008, when the total was less than $3 million.

Claflin’s interest in the VA is likely to grow, considering that, as of March, the company had a five-year contract with the agency for “hospital equipment and related services.”  Naturally, Claflin is a private business, so its financials don’t appear to be immediately available to the general public, but it’s a safe bet that government healthcare spending represents a growing portion of its revenue.

Indeed, Almon has actively advocated for an expanding role for the state and federal governments in the provision of healthcare, up to and including testimony before the General Assembly.  (In case you’re wondering, no, he’s not registered as a lobbyist on the Secretary of State’s Lobby Tracker.)  No doubt, he likes his company’s chances of capturing a sizable portion of that business.

With this knowledge, it’s difficult not to laugh when reading Almon declare that, “to function efficiently,” free markets “require very transparent value propositions and broad competition.”  And it’s difficult not to cry when the consummate insider goes on to insist that competition in his industry will only “drive up costs rather than reducing them.”

To the contrary, competition alleviates the challenge of “very transparent value propositions,” because it becomes in companies’ interest to deliver more value for lower prices in order to capture market share, at least when there isn’t a government-managed cartel.  What’s driving up costs in healthcare is the disconnect between the payment and the consumer.  Almon’s government-centric approach makes that disconnect bigger, not smaller, and relies on the good intentions of politicians and corporations.

Of course, nobody should believe that the CEO of a private company sincerely wants less competition for the reason that it will lower prices.  If you’re willing to take Almon’s word on his economically absurd claims, I’ve got ownership papers for a chest of golden government stethoscopes at the bottom of Narragansett Bay that I’d happily sell you for a fair price.



A Job Is a Powerful Incentive

Steven Frias takes another instructive look at Rhode Island’s political history:

The scramble for patronage began. Under Green, about one-third of legislators were given state jobs while they served in the General Assembly. The trading of votes for jobs became apparent. One Republican senator was given a state job after he voted to confirm Green’s department directors. House Republican Leader Walter Curry was given a Superior Court judgeship after he assisted Green in getting most of his legislative agenda through the House of Representatives. The three senators on the recount committee were rewarded with state jobs, one of them a District Court judgeship.

The most important political event in 20th century Rhode Island history, the Coup of 1935 may have been furthered by the promise of state jobs for state legislators.

Read the whole thing.  One can only hope that, as the picture of Rhode Island corruption becomes clearer and clearer the opportunity for change will get better and better, but it’s going to take concerted effort and a news media that is more disgusted by the corruption than by the Republican brand.  (That’s not to say that the party or, especially, particular Republicans are the answer, but the news media tends to lump everybody who isn’t an insider with the GOP for the purposes of bashing them.)

The problem isn’t just job trading, though.  It’s contract trading, welfare trading, policy trading, access trading, and any other kind of trading that politicians can turn into a buck.  And if that sort of corruption isn’t inevitable with a liberal/progressive style of governance (which I think it is), then it’s at least inextricably interwoven in Rhode Island.


Rhode Island’s Tax Credit Scholarship Grade Is Largely for Showing Up to Class

With the release of the Center for Education Reform’s 2015 scorecard for states’ school choice tax credit scholarships, Rhode Islanders with knowledge of the program might wonder how their state managed to squeak out a C grade. The program comes nowhere near satisfying demand–among donors or recipients–and during budget battles, it can seem more like a trading chip legislators throw to a particular constituency.

But with so many states playing tax credit scholarship hooky, Rhode Island is getting credit for trying.

With $931,250 worth of tax credits available for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2015, 75 businesses applied to give private-school scholarships to disadvantaged children through Rhode Island’s tax credit scholarship program. On July 20, the state Division of Taxation held a lottery, and the applications of just 23 of those businesses were approved.

Continue reading on Watchdog.org.


Responding to the Incentives of Ideological Regulation in Barrington

ecoRI News reports that some larger chain stores in Barrington are reacting to the town’s ban on disposable plastic shopping bags by searching for the line at which bags are no longer considered disposable:

CVS and Shaw’s are promoting their thicker plastic bags as reusable. Shaw’s currently offers free paper bags and charges 10 cents apiece for the plastic bags. CVS stopped using paper bags altogether and this year shifted to free plastic bags.

Town Council vice president Kate Weymouth claims the thicker checkout bags defy the intent, if not the letter of the ordinance. In an e-mail to supporters of the ban, Weymouth wrote that the town’s ordinance relied on boiler-plate language from other bans across the country.

She wrote that the oil, gas and plastic industries fear losing revenue from the bans, so “they have legally worked around the language of these bans, and in ours specifically, by producing a thicker ply plastic, sticking handles to the top and stamping them with the word ‘reusable.’”

Well, good for them.  If only do-gooder progressives would start learning how incentives work.  Somewhere, in Barrington, a family that would otherwise drive its station wagon home full of thin plastic bags is now driving their SUV home filled with thicker plastic bags.

The council vice president’s response is instructive.  Inasmuch as they are characterized by their faith in government, progressives have a strange reverence for the government’s decrees (at least when those decrees align with their ideology).  The biggest incentive that they may be missing, though, is the incentive to stop taking the law seriously when it becomes too meddling and dictated.

The other day, I described two understandings of government and democracy: one seeing government as a means of relieving citizens of the need to build their lives around protection of their own rights (especially through violence), and the other seeing democracy as a means of making people feel like they have both buy-in and a means of acting peacefully to change the regime when they disagree.  (Digression: Arguably, these were jointly benefits of representative democracy, once, but with the expansion of government and the deterioration of politicians’ willingness to abide by their own laws, the principles are separating.)

The question that Ms. Weymouth should consider is why these companies — or anybody, at this point, really — should care one bit about “the intent” or the spirit of the law.  They don’t feel represented in the government, and they feel the direct burden of its decrees while doubting that the intent will have a real, positive effect on outcomes.

I’ve said it before:  We’ve reached the point, in this country, that one complies with the law simply to stay out of jail, not because the law deserves our respect.


“Requirement” Reconsidered in Relation to Labor Unions

The Providence Journal so liked its PolitiFact about John DePetro’s being wrong on a union requirement for the 195 land that Mark Reynolds went back for another bite via the news department yesterday:

Concerns about the misrepresentation of an economic development opportunity for Rhode Island have prompted the chairman of the 195 Redevelopment Commission to issue a public statement to emphasize that developers who pursue projects on the former Route 195 land are under no obligation to hire union laborers. 

“The 195 Redevelopment Commission does not have and has never had a requirement for developers to hire union approved contractors,” said the commission’s chairman, Joseph Azrack.

Having not done a thorough review of all of the relevant policy and law, I can’t say whether there’s some sly, maybe indirect, way in which DePetro is correct in substance, if not in immediate fact.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find such a catch, but then again, I wouldn’t be surprised not to find it.  The hoops that Rhode Island sets up for businesses and developers are so ridiculous that the addition of required unionization isn’t really necessary, even as it seems obvious that the state might do such a thing.

But then, turn back the newspaper a few pages, and read this article by Linda Borg:

A private emergency medical service claims that its employers, some of them Coventry firefighters, were threatened if the company provided coverage to the Coventry Fire District on an emergency basis.

In a letter by Carol Mansfield, CEO of Coastline Emergency Medical Services, Mansfield wrote, “as a result of deciding to help the residents of Coventry, we have gotten threats of harm to our personnel and equipment by the Union and its members …. The Union is forcing those firefighters [who work for Coastline] in MA and R.I. to resign. As an employer of over 20 employees, I cannot let my firefighter employees to lose their jobs with us…”

A fire district hires firefighters.  Largely because of labor’s big investments in state politicians, the union comes to see those as their jobs, and the organization’s reason for being is to protect those jobs and make them pay as well as possible.  If the people of the district can’t see their value and attempt to rein in the cost, then it would seem that the union wants to make their choice between the high costs and a dangerous lack of services.

My construction career never overlapped with any union workers, but some of my coworkers had had experience with cut power cords and pneumatic tubes and other damaged or missing equipment.  The goal of those incidents, obviously, was to drive up the cost of being a non-union carpenter on a site that the union wanted to claim as its property.

Does the 195 Commission require developers to use union labor (or to increase their costs to match, if not)?  The chairman says not.  But does DePetro’s misstatement (if it was that) really rate on the list of things about which Rhode Islanders must be informed?


Government Built on the Principal-Agency Problem

Writing on the quagmire of President Obama’s foreign policy, Richard Fernandez introduces a term that describes very well the challenge I observed on Friday, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and in Rhode Island:

To understand how defeat can be winning  recall the old principal-agent problem. “The dilemma exists because sometimes the agent is motivated to act in his own best interests rather than those of the principal.” Even though the people might gain more by “winning” if the political class can do better by “losing” then they lose.

The Wikipedia entry to which Fernandez links for a quick explanation places at the core of the dilemma the fact that the agent (say, a corporate board) has an advantage in information over the principal (e.g., shareholders).  The board can better see the conditions of the investment and may find itself in a position in which recommending one path would pay off for the shareholders, but cost the board.

In the case of government, the asymmetry of information certainly exists, but the greater problem is the asymmetry of power.  In theory, of course, government agents must convince voters that public actions are in their best interest, which is an information issue, but the government has the advantage that direct consent is not immediately necessary, so its persuasion can be done post facto.  ObamaCare would never have won a national referendum, but imposing it and then manipulating asymmetrical information has kept it lumbering along.

The Greenhouse Compact failed in Rhode Island because it came to a vote of the people, while RhodeMap RI insinuated its way into law and now can continue based on the false information that it’s simply sitting on a shelf, or the even more obvious stratagem of changing its name.  Remember that Governor Raimondo used a refinancing gimmick to produce the $80 million needed for part of her plan without the requirement of public consent, and some of her wealthy backers are helping to fund some of the planning stage, perhaps with reinforcement from the Boston Fed.

Decisions are being made that will affect every part of your life in Rhode Island.  You still have time (theoretically) to change the people making the decisions or to take their authority away for specific actions.  Many have already concluded that the only way to escape their authority is to leave, although the disinclination to stand up against them does not bode well for the hope that their approach won’t spread around the country and the world.


When the Government Finds a Better Tenant

Yesterday, I mentioned, by the by, that folks who support a broad scope for government tend to assume that the things that they like and that they receive will always be included within that scope.  Well, turn your eyes to Europe:

A woman in Germany is being evicted from her home of 23 years to make way for asylum-seekers, in the second such case to emerge.

Gabrielle Keller has been given until the end of the year to leave her flat in the small southern town of Eschbach, near the border with France.

The flat belongs to the local municipality, which says it is needed to house refugees.

As I’ve also suggested recently, a government built on a central-planning philosophy will also tend to resemble private organizations for which we assume action in self interest.  When the government finds a better use for its apartment buildings, well, it will give the current tenants notice.

The crucial question, in this instance, is why the government believes housing for refugees trumps housing for citizens and how much this example is symbolic more broadly in the West, as Sarah Hoyt implies.


Russia and the World in Which We’re Now Living (Thanks, Obama Voters!)

So, Russia appears to have targeted some U.S. allies in Syria…

Human rights groups say Russian airstrikes in Syria targeted US-backed rebels on Thursday, as a new report claims hundreds of Iranian troops have arrived for an upcoming ground offensive. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims the targets of Russian airstrikes included US-backed group Tajamu Alezzah.

… after giving the U.S. one-hour notice (at our Iraq embassy) to get out of the way:

On Wednesday, US diplomats in Baghdad were reduced to the role of meekly receiving a message. Russian air strikes on targets across Syriawould commence in one hour, their visitor told them. For the safety of all concerned, it would be better if the US Air Force stayed out of the way and suspended its own bombing campaign in Syria.

Russia denied the targeting…

‘The rumours that the target of these air strikes was not IS positions are unfounded,’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists in New York on Thursday after meeting his US counterpart, John Kerry.

… but then again, Russia denied it was moving in on Ukraine.

Hey, remember when President Obama and the New York Times mocked Mitt Romney for calling Russia a “geopolitical foe”?  Be sure to pay attention to the consequences of believing that partisan spin and reelecting Obama.


A Quick Thought on Controlling Healthcare Costs

Rhode Island Hospital is apparently “eliminating nearly 200 positions and shutting down an early intervention program for developmentally disabled children” due to budget constraints.  My first hypothesis would be to blame this on ObamaCare and Rhode Island’s embrace of both the health benefits exchange and the Medicaid expansion, but I don’t have the time to become as intimately familiar with the specifics of this decision to prove it.

However, I would suggest that anybody who thinks the loss of these jobs and services is a terrible development should remember that Governor Raimondo’s strategy for bringing down costs is to impose a cap on healthcare spending within the whole state.

People who prefer top-down planning by the government tend to believe that the plans will always include the things they treasure or prioritize, and of course the central planners are happy to let people believe that… until it stops being true.


Young Men Might Want to Have Their College Experience Somewhere Else

When the press release about Mia Ackerman’s legislative commission “to study the issue of sexual assault on college campuses” arrived in my inbox, I put it aside with a mental note to keep an eye on whether the committee spent any time at all actually challenging the assumption that there’s some sort of sexual assault crisis on U.S. campuses.  My expectation is that the question won’t be asked, and that this is an issue only because the preacher-dad from Footloose has re-imagined himself as a progressive and because divisive identity politics will help Democrats during the upcoming election year.

But the last paragraph of a quick Providence Journal write-up of the commission’s first meeting by Lynn Arditi truly merits some consideration:

Ackerman introduced legislation to form the study commission after victims advocates opposed a bill she introduced last January to require colleges report sexual assault to law enforcement. Day One, a nonprofit that advocates for victims of sexual violence, opposed the mandatory reporting bill saying it could discourage victims from coming forward. Ackerman withdrew the mandatory reporting bill.

The advocacy group doesn’t want colleges and universities to report allegations of crimes, because the victims might not make the allegations if they expect that to happen.  Here’s the question: What are the colleges and universities supposed to do differently than the legal system that alleged victims will find less threatening?  Worry more about their feelings than the facts?  Remove the alleged perpetrator without due process?  National news on the issue suggests that’s exactly the intention.

The whole discussion has something of a surreal quality.  One would think, for instance, that people obsessed with equity and identity groups would notice how much female undergrads already outnumber male undergrads.  If Collegedata.com is accurate, URI has a male:female ratio of 46:54.  At RIC, it’s 33:67.  The private institutions vary as well, although Brown is pretty close to even and Bryant has more men.

This commission’s report is do by May, and there might be some legislation to come out of it.  Then the advocacy may continue.  All of this goes to suggest that if you’re in the process of helping your son figure out a path to college, just now, you might want to leave open some options that are outside of the reach of Rhode Island’s legislature — somewhere that left-wing activists and special interests don’t have elected officials on quite so short of a leash.


So Much Study of a Top-Down Economic Program Already Under Way

There sure are a lot of folks who want to offer Rhode Islanders helpful advice on how they should give government, non-profit, and business leaders expanded resources and authority to make decisions for all of us.  First came a group of wealthy Gina Raimondo backers and their hired think-tankers at Brookings, and now, according to Kate Bramson in the Providence Journal, the Fed wants to get in on the action:

The Boston Fed’s team will collaborate with an unspecified number of Rhode Island cities and towns to use national research it conducted to help struggling communities recover economically, said Tamar Kotelchuck, director of the Boston Fed’s Working Cities Initiatives.  The program in Massachusetts has tackled workforce development, community development and education initiatives in six cities, but it’s too soon to say exactly what the focus might be in Rhode Island. Kotelchuck said it’s likely that workforce development will be one area of focus here, but others may emerge after more study.

Funny how everybody’s got the same basic blueprint:

Working Cities research has shown several factors help cities maintain or recover their economic stability — including collaborative leadership, the role of anchor institutions, investment in infrastructure and the extension of benefits to the entire community. But “collaborative leadership” — the ability to work together across sectors over a sustained period of time with a comprehensive vision — was found to be most crucial.

That passive voice — “was found to be” — is instructive.  “Found to be” by whom?  A quick look through some of the materials on the Boston Fed’s Web site for this initiative reveals that “collaborative leadership” is actually one of the goals of the project.  It isn’t surprising, therefore, that the organization would find it to be crucial.  This report, in particular, brings around some familiar verbiage:

Most importantly, [in the comparatively few places that have succeeded in making the transition from distressed to revitalized,] public officials, private sector employers, and nonprofit institutions need to coalesce around a long-term vision and collaborate for a sustained period of time in implementing broad-based revitalization strategies.

Translation: Insiders agree on a vision for the whole community and use the levers of government, non-profits, and business to make sure the people don’t disrupt the plan.  This is precisely the vision that Brookings has articulated, and the mechanisms that the Fed suggests read like the menu of the programs that Governor Raimondo and the General Assembly have empowered the state’s new Commerce Secretary to implement, using $80 million of our money claimed through a fancy refinancing deal.

In addition to the similarity of all of these plans note something else:  Raimondo began implementing it before the all this high-profile studying had begun.  Anybody who thinks this initiative begins with the actual people of Rhode Island, our needs, and our hopes and dreams is being profoundly misled.



Oh, You Thought the Mayor Was Supposed to Be Able to Run the City?

Let’s be fair, here:  Providence City Councilman Sam Zurier was a vocal supporter of unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Providence Michael Solomon, and his recent constituent letter (via Dan McGowan) criticizing that race’s victor, Jorge Elorza, is ultimately a political document.  But still:

… these actions raise serious questions about the current year’s budget.  Instead of reducing the accumulated deficit by $3.2 million, the administration increased it by $5 million to a new level of $13.7 million.  It is far from clear that the administration will meet this year’s deficit reduction requirement of $4.3 million, given that the current year began $1.5 million in the red and given the failures we learned about last week in the areas of understanding and managing the budget.

Anybody who pays attention in their own city or town should know that the overlapping area of local politics and budgets can be very complicated, and outside commentary ought to come behind a shield of caveats and disclaimers.  Be that as it may, it’s fair to wonder what in Elorza’s background ever gave anybody a belief that he had the experience to run a good-sized city.  One can be impressed by the career turnaround of a 39-year-old who admits that he barely graduated from high school and still question whether he should be the chief executive of an organization with a three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar budget.

We seem to have forgotten, in this country, that we elect people to office in order to do a job, not because they fit the profile that we want on the “about us” page of the government’s Web site.  Life experience and an interest in policy might make for a good legislator, and experience with the law might be sufficient for a judge, but running an organization requires a different skill set.

Now, one could say, as Patrick Laverty did, that an election comes down to a choice between actual people on the ballot, but that’s only an indication that our entire political system is not working.  Multiple factors contribute to our broken system, but I’d argue that the biggest one is simply the size and scope of our government and its activities.  There’s too much incentive for people to get into government for all the wrong reasons (and to make politics painful for people who get into it for the right reasons), and too many of society’s issues are resolved through government for voters to make informed decisions based primarily on such basics as being able to develop and manage to a budget.


Steven Costantino Doesn’t Understand What “Representative” Means

RIPR’s Ian Donnis just tweeted out a link to a Vermont news story on former RI House Finance Committee Chairman Steven Costantino’s role in the 38 Studios debacle (Costantino now being commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access).  Quite apart from the specifics of Costantino’s involvement in the venture capital scam, this statement succinctly articulates one of Rhode Island’s central problems (emphasis added):

Costantino, in a written statement Monday afternoon, told Seven Days: “My only involvement in the matter in RI was because of my former position in the RI legislature. I did not play any role in bringing the company to RI as did others in government. I was tasked with handling the legislation affecting the company by my superiors. After legislative activity, I had nothing to do with approving the loan to the company and have had nothing to do with the company ever since.”

The people of Providence elected Costantino to represent them!  He wasn’t a hired employee working at the pleasure of “his superiors.”  His “superiors” were the voters of district 8; the other politicians in the State House were just people with whom he had to work while serving the people’s interests.  At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Sad to say, but Costantino’s understanding of a legislator’s role is probably held by a majority of his former peers, and it’s certainly paid off for him.  After leaving the General Assembly, he went on to a $140,000 job running Rhode Island’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and although I couldn’t easily find his salary in Vermont (and his predecessor, there, appears to have made a good bit less), he’s surely still in the six figures.

I wonder if the then Speaker of the House in Rhode Island recommended Costantino for “whatever role he would fulfill” in the executive branch, as current Speaker Nicholas Mattiello did for Donald Lally.


Money for Water… or Posh Digs for Bureaucrats?

The thrust of this Amy Anthony article in the Associated Press seems to be that Rhode Islanders should be concerned that our state government isn’t spending federal money quickly enough on waterworks, but I’m more disconcerted by the intended use:

Rhode Island is the farthest off track of all the states from meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s goal of spending the money in a key drinking water program by next year’s deadline, according to federal data reviewed by The Associated Press.

The state has more than $16 million sitting unspent from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund — 9.4 percent of what it has been allocated — putting Rhode Island above the national average of 6.2 percent. …

But state officials insist they’ll have the backlog used up by September 2016, largely because of a $26.6-million loan for a new building for Providence Water.

The building in question won’t really be part of the state’s water infrastructure.  It won’t be used to process water in any way, but to house government: “A spokeswoman for Providence Water has said the water supplier wants a new operations facility to consolidate its operations and be located more centrally in the capital city.”

In July, Dan McGowan reported on WPRI that Providence Water was actually looking into a $39 million bond in order to buy and renovate the desired building, so from a strictly fiscal perspective, it would seem to be better to have federal taxpayers pay the $26.6 million outright without tacking on another $12 million or so in financing fees and giving local ratepayers the bill.  That said, are administrative buildings really what people are thinking about when taxpayers approve federal programs to improve drinking water?

(I know, I know.  It’s laughable to think that our behemoth of a federal government actually operates with taxpayer approval, at this level, but it’s fun to pretend from time to time.)


Patrick Jones: Gas May Drop 10% in Rhode Island This Winter

The surplus of oil continues around the world, giving businesses and private entities that use natural gas more bang for their buck. Surplus means lower gas prices for National Grid natural gas customers, and analysts predict that the declining prices will continue into winter.

The Rhode Island-based firm said that Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission may approve a proposed cut of 9.6% starting November 1st this year. Apart from the global surplus of oil, there are two reasons for lower gas prices in the region: Firstly, a foreseeable drop in the cost of natural gas in the near future and secondly, a decrease in the surcharge used to offset the cost of gas National Grid purchased in the previous year to what the customers were billed this year.

“We know the winter season can pose an extra challenge when it comes to energy costs, so we’re very happy to be able to pass on the savings created with the availability of lower cost natural gas,” said Timothy F. Horan, the president of National Grid in Rhode Island. “Domestic natural gas is essential to providing the mix of energy sources that is essential to our region’s future growth and prosperity.”

The anticipated drop of prices this year, however, doesn’t mean that supply constrains are over for the energy giant. The fact remains that the Northeastern region is served by only one pipeline that is nearly always running close to capacity. In times of extreme cold seasons, supplies for natural gas can skyrocket mainly because Rhode Island’s power plants are all powered by natural gas.

In order to counter the possibility of an oil shortage in the future, some engineering companies are now creating pumps for renewable power generation. Some, on the other hand, are mixing green energy with crude oil to lessen their dependability on traditional power sources. According to Sulzer, a long-time associate of IBBC-member Unaoil, countries around the world have committed to significantly increase their share of electricity that can be generated via green sources by 2020.

As for the National Grid, the company is eyeing an expansion of the current pipeline capacity, support more renewable energy sources, and increase energy efficiency among its customers.

Patrick Jones is a budding writer, fitness enthusiast and stock investor. His interest in the financial market led him to invest 70% of his 10-year savings in the stock market. He regularly checks and writes about the latest business and finance news.


Letting Them Take Away Our Government and Our Civil Rights

Via Instapundit comes an excellent illustration of the degree to which we’re simply allowing our right to self governance evaporate away in favor of the radical ideology of an elite administrative class:

Even [Deputy Education Assistant Secretary Amy McIntosh], despite her dodging and weaving, concedes that Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and head of the DoE Office of Civil Rights has gone off the reservation.  She has no lawful authority to mandate colleges and universities adhere to her political whims, as reflected in her “guidance,” upon pain of losing federal funds.*

When asked (see 1:37 in the video) who gave Lhamon the authority to impose her personal will upon the nation’s colleges and universities, she responded, “with gratitude, you did when I was confirmed.”

The United States of America did not confer upon a person named Lhamon the authority to recreate Title IX in her image, to impose threat of the loss of public monies upon failure to adhere to her vision, to force a fundamental and systemic change that created a wholly new authority to rid the nation’s higher educational system of anything that might adversely affect the feelings of “marginalized” students, ascertain and punish students who are alleged to have engaged in conduct that caused such unpleasantness.

Our government is no longer following the rules that ensure that ours is a representative democracy, and the tendency simply to implement the preferred policy of whichever party can claim the White House will only expand, and rapidly.  We desperately need to begin populating elective offices with people who will insist on the rules of government… and then we need to cycle in new officials on a regular basis.

This ratcheting constraint on our civil rights has been happening for a long time, but the Obama presidency has left the rule of law a wasteland.  If we don’t change things now — right down to convincing the news and entertainment media to take the side of the people over government interests (or to drive them out of business) — it’s going to come to oppression and violence sooner than later.

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