Rep. Patricia Morgan (R, West Warwick) had an important commentary in yesterday’s Providence Journal:
Many residents of Coventry are deeply concerned about the high cost of fire services and the inadequate response of state receiver Mark Pfeiffer to this problem. Last week, at a hastily assembled meeting called to inform taxpayers of their preordained fate, Pfeiffer responded to those concerns with a dismissive remark: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”
How could he be so indifferent? Well, the state Fiscal Stability Act, expanded last year to cover fire districts, has given him sole power and control; the only opinion he is required to consider is his own.
The implications of the citizens’ struggles in the small Central Coventry Fire District should be chilling to any Rhode Islander who believes in the words “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Please pay attention to this if you are concerned about Rhode Island’s high taxes, insider deals that benefit the few and an economy that continues to shed jobs as companies leave for friendlier environments. The Fiscal Stability Act has thwarted governance for the common good. In its place is rule by one man and his special-interest backers.
This is the march of tyranny. The notion of the state’s taking dictatorial control over subsidiary governments arose because of a fiscal emergency and the fear that a municipal bankruptcy would affect the state’s credit rating. It was a thin pretense, but it had a certain defined purpose.
Let’s not forget that the purpose quickly expanded:
Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, which represents Central Falls, said he had appealed to Governor Chafee.
“We haven’t met with the receiver, but we have spoken to the staff of the governor and we told them it was our intention to go to court and get a temporary restraining order,” Flynn said. “The governor’s office, through the receiver, asserted his authority to intervene.” …
Receiver Robert G. Flanders Jr., who is overseeing the bankruptcy filing of the state’s smallest and poorest city, notified Gallo Friday afternoon that her authority to negotiate with the union was being revoked. He also revoked her plan to unilaterally impose new terms on the school district’s 330 teachers on Sept. 1.
The Central Coventry Fire District didn’t stumble into a financial crisis. Taxpayers, there, repeatedly declared that they weren’t going to pay exorbitant costs. Now, the state has stepped in to undo those votes, mainly on behalf of the labor union that drove the district to those lengths in the first place.
It’s getting more and more difficult to believe that Rhode Island is a representative democracy. At some point, it’ll become a Constitutional issue. In the meantime, the people running and ruining Rhode Island leave increasingly few options but to leave the state, which guarantees more taxpayer fights, as the burden falls more narrowly.