In late 2012, I watched former Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Michael Lewis stand before a packed auditorium to answer questions and absorb ire over the prospect of tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. As I recall, it was one of several such heated meetings in Tiverton and Portsmouth around that time.
The DOT has long drawn public cynicism, rightly, but credit cannot be denied to Lewis for being respectful and remaining professional in the face of an angry crowd as the representative of an agency, a gubernatorial administration, and a broader government that were making unpopular decisions. Although just about nobody, I’m sure, left the meetings convinced or even soothed about the looming tolls, Lewis did accomplish a central purpose of government agents at public hearings: He left the people feeling like there could be some redress of grievances with government and that, at the very least, elected and appointed officials understood themselves to be making the best of a bunch of bad decisions and didn’t hold the public in contempt for disagreeing with their conclusions.
Fast forward to Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo and the new DOT director, Peter Alviti, whom she plucked from the ranks of a local labor union:
About one minute into Brian Crandall’s WJAR NBC 10 story, Alviti steps aggressively toward an elderly man seated in the audience and jabs his finger toward him, saying, “Let me tell you something, pal.” After Alviti’s inappropriate behavior in front of the House Finance Committee, a pattern is clear.
Of course, the attitude of superiority to the general public and outright contempt for people who disagree is quickly becoming a hallmark not only of Alviti, but of the entire Raimondo administration, with the new standard being picked up in the General Assembly under Democrat Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (Cranston).
It seems as if the folks in government have had enough of us. They’re willing to go through some of the motions of public hearings and such, but when it comes down to it, they think they know better, and they have little patience for the stubborn people they ostensibly represent.
P.S. — To add on to Monique’s question, earlier today, when guessing whether a 6/10 tunnel would cost more to maintain than rebuilt overpasses, we can’t forget that whatever goes on top of the tunnel will also have to be maintained, whether roads, bridges, parks, or whatever.