Even after so much time watching, I’m periodically surprised to uncover more connections that people involved in local politics have with people who make their livelihoods in local government. From one perspective, it’s entirely understandable and to be expected. Parents who are happy with their place of employment can be expected to encourage their children to apply for jobs there, too, and government is a stable and lucrative occupation, especially in Rhode Island.
The problem arises in the difference between private organizations and public organizations. Governments are accessible through the political process, so (1) employees and their families can use government to force their neighbors to give them more money and benefits, and (2) they are tasked with defining the society, not just providing services, so the labor angle distorts democracy on matters having nothing to do with labor.
But Parker Gavigan’s recent story out of Johnston highlights an additional problem. On one hand, a teacher who is the brother of the Town Council president is in hot water for what may be a simple matter of insufficient paperwork for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses. On the other hand, the daughter of a city employee who works with the mayor may have pocketed money from a recycling program, yet the investigation has been halted.
It’s like a battle of aristocratic families, or something. And above all, it highlights the risk of allowing the entity we task with enforcing the law — government — to be tasked with big-money provision of services from trash collection to education.