City/Town Government RSS feed for this section
justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Ah, the General Assembly’s Legislative Grant Program

Here’s a telling little tidbit that slipped through the strainer of Tiverton politics, from a not-online Newport Daily News article by Marcia Pobzeznik on January 30.

Town Council Member John Edwards the Fifth (son of Democrat State Representative John Edwards the Fourth) appears quietly to have planned a beach bonfire for Christmas trees, which left his fellow council members feeling like “the Town Council was the last to know,” per councilor Denise DeMedeiros.  They finally found out when they were called to a special meeting to decide whether to cancel the event because of gusty winds.

Here’s the telling part that makes the anecdote of statewide interest:

Firefighters and a fire engine would have been required at the beach, deMedeiros said, along with a police detail for crowd control.  She asked Edwards if he had considered the costs.

A legislative grant would take care of the costs of the firefighters and the police detail, said Edwards, son of Rep. John “Jay” Edwards, D-Tiverton.

There is no such grant on the House’s list, although it’s dated only through October 1.  The Senate’s list is more up to date and has some grants for Tiverton, but whether or not they’re associated isn’t possible to tell.

Think of the process, here, especially involving the son of the legislator who successfully pushed legislation to make it more difficult for individuals to participate in local politics, creating hurdles for them to jump in the name of “transparency.”  A Town Council member almost pulled off a public event involving town property and the use of town employees without the knowledge of at least some of his fellow councilors, and the whole thing was supposedly going to be funded through a General Assembly handout that, likewise, nobody else had any idea about.

Obviously, given the lack of transparency, there’s no way to know whether this is relevant, but as I’ve written before, the state Ethics Commission would find no problem with a member of the General Assembly pushing to use state taxpayer money to fund a politically helpful event secretly orchestrated by his son because everybody involved is acting in official government capacity.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Political Omissions in Worcester Story

For some reason the Providence Journal ran a minor story on a Worcester, Massachusetts, political incident.  In doing so, however, the paper spotlights a curious… let’s say… tic of the mainstream media:

Mayor Joseph M. Petty is now apologizing for remarks he made that, unbeknownst to him, were picked up by an open microphone at the beginning of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

The remarks were unflattering observations about some of protesters attending the meeting. Earlier, there was a rally at City Hall attended by people unhappy with President Donald J. Trump’s immigration policy.

Funny — Don’t you think? — that the article doesn’t mention that Petty is a Democrat and the main voice speaking out against him, Michael T. Gaffney, although in a non-partisan seat, has been backed by Republicans.  Why do you suppose that is?  How do you suppose the reporting might have been different if it were a Republican mayor badmouthing a Tea Party group?

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

School Choice Makes Families Consumers, Not Commodities

A great short report for which I’ve done some research, but which I never manage to get to, would look at the effects of Vermont’s legacy school choice program.  Given the long-rural history of the state, some districts offer students actual school choice, including to private schools, and a key finding that Rhode Island homeowners should find interesting is that property values go up significantly in areas with choice.  Geoffrey Norman doesn’t offer more than a nod to that dynamic in a recent article in The Weekly Standard, but he does use the current debate in Vermont to make a key, fundamental point (emphasis added):

So, school choice is not—and could never be—supported by the education bureaucracy. It threatens not just their convictions but their livelihoods. Where parents can take their kids and the public money that is being spent on them out of one school and move them, and it, to another—well, this threatens the entire system.

Why it might even, in the dark vision of one of the prominent Vermont opponents of school choice, “turn children into commodities.”

Which of course stands the whole thing on its head. Commodities don’t make choices. They are manipulated, packaged, and bundled. As are students in the grip of the industrial-education complex.

What Norman is touching on, here, is the government plantation.  Attracting people to an area who are likely to need government assistance, binding them to their region with government dependency, and locking their children in government schools creates a captive audience with little power to affect the services their receiving.  Again, “commodities don’t make choices,” but when human beings are “manipulated, packaged, and bundled,” they lose the authority to do anything but sit on the shelf until they’re of use to some powerful consumer.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Discount Rate Assumptions and the Certainty of Tax Increases

After years attempting to interpret public documents related to pension funds to understand the method of deciding what a reasonable investment return assumption would be, I finally have it straight from a municipal investment advisor. As I’ve posted on Tiverton Fact Check:

Me: So if a town comes to you and says, “We want to hit this number,” you say, “Well, what’s your risk?,” and that’ll play into seven-and-a-half percent.  The fact that the town can then in 20, 30 years increase taxes to make up for the loss, then you have a little higher tolerance for risk, so you can go up to 7.5%, which you may never hit, but in the end of 20, 30 years, you’ve got other assets — taxpayers — you can take money from.  Is that part of the conversation?

Gene McCabe, Director of Investments for Washington Trust:It is.

In the not-too-distant future, I suspect it’ll become unreasonably expensive for us municipal assets.  Elected officials and government employees should start pondering what will happen when assumptions about how much money can be confiscated from Rhode Islanders prove as fanciful as assumptions about high returns at the stock market roulette wheel.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

When the Tolerant People Go to the City Council to Silence Those with Whom They Disagree

Writing in the Newport Daily News, reporter Colin Howarth slips in a helpful reminder — as we watch the Left attempt to make American life a non-stop political rally — of Lefitsts’ understanding of the role of government (emphasis added):

Locals have used social media to voice their concerns about DePetro’s rhetoric in the past, citing what they perceive as misogynistic and hateful remarks. A day after the announcement, a Facebook group was created titled “Get John DePetro off WADK.” Two local residents used the citizen’s forum at Wednesday’s City Council meeting to express their concerns about DePetro.

That’s right.  Progressives in Newport are going to the government in an attempt to silence somebody with whom they disagree.  As Mayor Harry Winthrop says, when others criticize him for welcoming a new talk-show-host to the market, “It’s unfortunate people don’t understand the role of mayor.”

WADK President and Owner Bonnie Gomes notes that, if boycotts threaten anybody, they threaten the 15 employees of the station.

For a long time, in our country, those of a progressive persuasion have been sold on the idea that opposing views are illegitimate.  It’s OK to silence conservatives while proclaiming dedication to free speech.  It’s OK to lock those who hold traditional religious views out of self-governance (by ruling their worldview unconstitutional) while pretending to be an advocate for religious freedom.

It’s time to insist on bringing real tolerance into American society, not just the phony one-sided version that progressives like to put on bumper stickers.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

When the “Home-School Community” Is Separate from “the Community”

In Tiverton, the School Committee sees public education as promoting government-branded schools, not ensuring educational services that suit the needs of all of our children, as I’ve written on Tiverton Fact Check:

This distinction became clear at the January 24 meeting of the Tiverton School Committee, which introduced a new policy explicitly denying home-schooled students the opportunity to take classes — particularly technical and vocational classes — outside of the district through arrangements that Tiverton has made. Students enrolled in Tiverton schools can take such classes, even attending alternative schools full time at no cost to their families. …

The education officials in Tiverton have already decided that it is the responsibility of taxpayers to cover the tuition of students who want courses of education that they can’t get within the district. They are just applying that policy in a discriminatory way. No matter how much you may pay in taxes or contribute to the town in some other way, unless you put your children under their complete control, you are part of “the home-school community,” which is apparently separate from simply “the community.”

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Another Government-Wall-Street Scheme; Of Course, RI Is In

The Wall Street Journal’s Kirsten Grind raises a red flag over another mortgage-related investment scheme:

About $3.4 billion has been lent so far for residential projects, and industry executives predict the total will double within the next year. That would likely rank PACE loans as the fastest-growing type of financing in the U.S.

As the loans spread, so do problems that echo the subprime mortgage crisis. Plumbers and repairmen essentially function as loan brokers but have scant training and oversight. They often pitch PACE loans to help land contracting jobs and earn referral fees from lenders, according to loan documents and more than two dozen borrowers, industry executives and employees.

The referring contractor gets a cut.  The municipality gets a cut.  And taxpayers will wind up on the hook if things go wrong.

In case you’re wondering, yes, Rhode Island has this.  Democrat Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the legislation into law in 2013, after Democrat Art Handy (Cranston) passed H6019 and a gang of Democrat state senators led by William Conley (East Providence, Pawtucket) passed S0900.  The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity did include this legislation in the 2013 iteration of the Freedom Index.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

How a Pension Discount Rate Deceives the Public

Over on Tiverton Fact Check, I’ve used Tiverton’s police pension as an example to show how the high assumptions for investment returns work to give taxpayers a false sense of security:

The problem is that 7.5% is a very high return to hit every year.  According to the latest actuarial report, Tiverton’s pension fund lost$332,601 last year, which is about -3.4%.  In other words, because we needed a 7.5% increase, we were 10.9% short.  Tiverton should havestarted this year with another $1,065,971 or so in the bank.

Investment professionals will tell you not to panic, because we have to expect the market to go up and down, and what’s important is the average over years and decades.  One bad year is not the end of the world, and during the three years prior to this loss, Tiverton beat its 7.5% every year.

Two things make this picture too bright.  The first is that 0% isn’t the break-even number in this calculation — 7.5% is — which means every loss is huge and every gain is smaller than it seems. The second is that coming up short one year means there’s less in the bank to invest the next year, so the gain the next year has to be even bigger.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Left and Right Need to Acknowledge Decisions Based on Policy

Hugh Hewitt makes a great point that conservatives like me sometimes need to hear:

It would be fair to announce the end of the mortgage-interest deduction in 30 years. It would be fair to phrase out the deductibility of state taxes by, say, 2050. But not overnight. Not unless you want to give the gavel back to Nancy Pelosi.

Purists have great arguments against “market distortions” in the tax code—in theory. But Americans don’t live in theory. They live in homes they bought at a value based on the existing deduction, in states whose taxes were partly offset through the federal code. Change those rules and what’s left of the GOP in high-tax states will be gone.

While those on the Left would like to treat this sort of consideration as justification for keeping government programs going forever, those on the Right do have to acknowledge that people make decisions based on bad government policy, and it can be overly harsh to the point of injustice to drop onto their heads the roofs that they’ve built over the policy framework.

Unfortunately, as with everything else, we can expect that reasonable concessions from conservatives will not be reciprocated.  For example, with the beginning of this century, special interests pushing bonds and Tiverton’s Town Council doubled the tax levy in Tiverton in less than a decade, to the point that house buyers who shop based on the monthly payment on a 30-year mortgage payment would have to pay around 15% less for a house in Tiverton than in Westport, Massachusetts, next door.

Those who bought in Tiverton before this punishment was dished out have been unfairly penalized, and many have been responding by cutting their losses and leaving town, not just because of the cost, but also because of the injustice.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Public-Options-Only School Choice Relies on Irrational Prejudice

Notice anything about the recent op-ed from RI Education Commissioner Ken Wagner?

Some claim that charters take money that is owed to district schools. In my view, the money is not “owed” to district schools or any other education provider. Local, state and national taxpayers raised this money for a specific purpose: to educate the youth of a community. We have an obligation to ensure the money serves the children rather than simply maintains the current system.

This is the core of the argument that I’ve been proffering for total school choice.  Public dollars aren’t collected and expended for the maintenance of a government-branded school system, but for the cause of educating the public.  Whatever structure or method will accomplish that goal most effectively and economically is the proper one.

Indeed, just about every argument in Wagner’s essay would apply to education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, or any other school choice vehicle and could be added to the Bright Today list of myths.

It is only through the devotion of insiders to the status quo and their control of public information that this point remains sufficiently obscure that Wagner doesn’t feel he has to address it.  The people are starting to figure it out, though, and it is yet another area in which those of us who really wish to move Rhode Island forward for the benefit of its people need only guide their natural conclusions.

Consider Dan McGowan’s WPRI article on public testimony regarding the Achievement First charter school expansion proposal before the state Council on Elementary and Secondary Education.  The article is 17 paragraphs long.  Here’s the 13th:

But the majority of individuals who testified about Achievement First Tuesday encouraged the council to back the expansion.

That is, after 12 paragraphs — three-quarters of the article — conveying the points of view of insiders, who are in the minority, McGowan finally gets to what should arguably have been the headline of the article: that people want school choice.  When all is said, the only argument to prevent the people from using public funds for their preferred public policy is maintenance of the government plantation.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Hidden Agenda of Progressive Roadway Innovations

Shawn Cohen, in the New York Post, provides a policy blacklight that may reveal unseen motivations of progressives’ favored innovations on urban roadways (via Instapundit):

“The traffic is being engineered,” a former top NYPD official told The Post, explaining a long-term plan that began under Mayor Mike Bloomberg and hasn’t slowed with Mayor de Blasio.

“The city streets are being engineered to create traffic congestion, to slow traffic down, to favor bikers and pedestrians,” the former official said. …

“They’re not coming out and saying it, but they’re doing other things to cut down on traffic coming into city, things such as taking streets that had four lanes and making them three by creating bike lanes, or putting a plaza in, creating pedestrian islands,” the source said.

Those who follow transportation issues even casually may have seen people argue against them for such reasons, and we certainly shouldn’t assume that our roadways are perfect as they are, but as progressives attempt to move people into urban areas and make them more reliant on city services to get around, each proposal deserves scrutiny.

After all, when everybody else is on foot or in government-controlled transportation, the mobile elite will have yet another advantage.  The source in the article says Mayor Bill DeBlasio “doesn’t care about traffic,” meaning that he can blame others (like resident Donald Trump), but one can’t help but wonder what effect police escorts and helicopters have on his perspective.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Left’s Intimidation Game

As usual, the content on this Prager University video — featuring Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel — won’t be new to readers of the Ocean State Current, but it’s well done and worth the reminder:

Progressives are in the intimidation game for the long haul; indeed, Strassel points out that Southern Democrats used the tactics progressives now focus on conservatives (or any non-progressives) to suppress blacks.  The strategies are:

  1. Harass, as with the IRS targeting Tea Party groups
  2. Investigate & prosecute, as with Wisconsin prosecutors raiding the homes of conservatives, or our own U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s attempts to criminalize opposing views and activities
  3. Blackmail, for which Strassel provides the example of threats made against corporate sponsors of ALEC
  4. Expose, by which progressive seek access to lists of donors and other supporters in order to apply the first three techniques

On the last count, Democrat Tiverton/Portsmouth Representative John “Jay” Edwards had a coup this latest legislative session with his legislation to harass with regulations any citizen who attempts to have a public say on any local ballot question and to open such local activists and their supporters to harassment by vicious groups like Tiverton 1st, which not only succeeded in making public office seem like a costly volunteerism, but also in driving some of its opponents clear out of the town and the state.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Drama at RIC: Another Way to Steal from Taxpayers?

The Providence Journal’s Jacqueline Tempera reported, the other day, on another way in which state employees of Rhode Island can potentially steal from taxpayers:

The managing director of the theater at Rhode Island College has been arrested after he allegedly stole more than $60,000 from the college over three years, state police said Friday. 

An investigation by the state police’s Financial Crimes Unit determined that James L. Taylor, 46, of Johnston, had been requesting checks from the accounting department “under false pretenses” and depositing them into his personal bank account.

Hot on the heals of the reported conspiracy to defraud the unemployment insurance office, this latest arrest isn’t making state employees look so hot.  Mix in the recent “quiet time” shifts in the Tiverton police department, and the entire Rhode Island public sector comes into question.

I do have to say I feel a bit for these workaday employees.  I mean, the really connected folks just get bonds, tax credits, and other means of handing out taxpayer dollars in sums way above what ordinary folks can steal, and it’s all completely legal.  When it isn’t legal, they get friendly officials in the attorney general’s office and even the state police to slow-roll and cover up.

Of course, I should note that Tiverton’s last employee caught up in a scandal of stealing from local taxpayers got away with a graceful retirement — and even the accrued sick-time he didn’t use because, it appears, he was just doing his side work on the clock.  Elected officials don’t want the expensive and embarrassing lawsuits, so it’s not like the workaday employees always get their comeuppance.

monique-chartier-avatar

Take-Aways from the Blockbuster Curt Schilling Interview?

Rhode Islanders for the first time this morning started getting some straight answers about the 38 Studios debacle that put us all on the hook for $89,000,000 as 38 Studios founder and CEO Curt Schilling broke his silence for three riveting hours on the John Depetro Show on WPRO.

So many interesting items came out of the interview. Two of the bigger ones – but by no means the only big ones – for me are:

1.) Gordon Fox crony Michael Corso played a huge role in putting the deal together and acted as traffic cop for the lucrative contracts that arose from the company coming to Rhode Island. Were all of his actions legal? And were the Rhode Island State Police permitted to conduct an adequate investigation of this question? Or was it … um, shepherded by the Attorney General so as to narrow its scope?

2.) Rhode Island and Providence have some of the most onerous building and fire code requirements in the country. Yet the newly built-out 38 Studios headquarters NEVER OBTAINED A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY because at least in part, Schilling said, he signed autographs for people. (Editorial comment: We pass highly intrusive laws and they don’t get enforced??? ARGH!!!)

Ahem. What were your take-aways?

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Police Union Contract Facilitates Tiverton “Quiet Time” Non-Patrols

This post from yesterday calls the practice among Tiverton police of having a three-hour period in the early morning during which they would sleep “systemic abuse.”  The fact that, as Tim White reports, multiple officers participated in this “quiet time” with the approval of a superior proves the point.  However, the characterization is true for a more institutional reason.

The collective bargaining agreement (PDF) between International Brotherhood of Police Officers local #406 and the Town of Tiverton requires the town to have at least three “regular permanent police officers on duty at all times for patrols.”  During a period of the day when the officers themselves, including the lieutenant on duty, apparently see no need for any patrols — or even wakeful officers — the union’s contract requires the town to pay three of them.

The three hours of “quiet time” therefore equate to nine man hours every day; that’s 63 per week and 3,285 per year.  For comparison, working four eight hour shifts on a six-day cycle, as described in the contract, adds up to 1,947 hours.  According to Tiverton Fact Check’s online payroll application, regular pay for most officers (not including overtime and other pay) ranged from around $45,000 to around $60,000 in fiscal year 2015.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Whose City? Their City.

Although it would be interesting to know how the unpaid parking tickets of Providence mayoral staffs going back three administrations stack up against similar statistics in other cities, the terrible message is telling even if administrations elsewhere have the same attitude:

City officials were planning to be in Municipal Court Wednesday morning to find out what to do about the $14,575 in unpaid parking fines and penalties that drivers of mayoral staff vehicles have run up since 2003. …

[Director of Communications Emily] Crowell said while on city business, they are supposed to put a placard on the vehicle’s dashboard that indicates that. They are allowed to park in legal parking spaces without paying at a parking meter. They are not allowed to park in tow zones, no parking areas or any places that parking is not already legally allowed, she said. If a city vehicle is in a legal parking space and gets a ticket, the driver is supposed to contact the public safety department, verify that the trip was city business and the ticket is dismissed.

Obviously, if a ticket is work related, it makes no sense for the city to waste money and time in the process of paying itself.  But if employees can’t follow a simple process to keep the books straight or, as seems more likely given that the process was not followed, refuses to follow basic parking laws, something more is going on.

That something is an attitude that, because they currently run the government, they own the city.  Of course, the biggest indications that government insiders understand themselves to be ruling, rather than serving, the public are the heavy burdens, restrictions, and taxes that they impose on us.  Racking up and ignoring parking tickets, though, is certainly emblematic.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Tiverton Finds the Source Behind Strange Overtime Numbers

In 2014, Tiverton Fact Check noted that the second-highest-paid employee in town was Police Lieutenant Timothy Panell.  In fact, our transparency application shows that he was the second-highest-paid employee for three of the four years for which we have data (we don’t yet have fiscal year 2016), and third highest for the other year, all of them over $100,000.  Over those four years, overtime averaged about 30% of Officer Panell’s total pay, but it was around 40% for the two most recent years.

It is therefore not surprising, although still disappointing, to see Tim White of WPRI reporting that Panell has been charged with 58 counts of stealing overtime pay.

Continue reading on Tiverton Fact Check.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Social Services & Negotiating How Much to Take from Others

Sometimes it’s helpful to put stories in chronological order, rather than news-report order, as with this one, from today’s Providence Journal, concerning panhandling and homelessness in Providence:

Complaints about vagrancy, open drug-dealing and drinking exploded after Mayor Jorge O. Elorza decided months ago to stop enforcing ordinances against aggressive panhandling and loitering.

And now the news is that we’ve got Democrat Joseph Paolino getting the heartless 1% treatment because he’s only looking to get $100,000 from the Downtown Improvement District for social workers, along with jobs for two panhandlers, a free apartment for use of a homeless shelter, and up to $5 million in state taxpayer money, in combination with a whole new ordinance that would be even broader than the ones the mayor isn’t enforcing (stopping all transactions through a car window).  The activists protesting Paolino’s PR event have a more comprehensive list:

Less enforcement of minor criminal offenses against people who are poor; more jobs for panhandlers; funding for 150 housing vouchers; drug and alcohol treatment; and amenities such as a day center, public bathrooms and free food distribution. They want the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority bus terminal to remain.

The core of this proposal is to double down on the policy approach that created the controversy (non-enforcement) and to add into the mix amenities that will draw even more vagrants, dealers, and loiterers to the area.  The protesters chanted, “Whose city? Our city!,” and they sure want it to be evident in the public square each and every day.

In short, the only solutions on the table, apparently, involve a negotiation over how much taxpayers have to pay for how much additional imposition.  Both parts of the plan are sure to exacerbate the underlying problem: namely, a domineering government that strangles the private sector and creates incentives not to work or bring behavior within a tolerable range.

We need another approach that doesn’t treat people as categories or as social-workers’ statistics, but as free individuals (from independent families) who can determine their own destinies in a community of mutual respect and charity.  The longer we deny this necessary change of perspective, the more the government plaque will build up in society’s arteries, making it more and more difficult to clear them.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Warwick and RI Can’t Be Generous While Shrinking

The Warwick school department is considering closing up to three schools, and predictably, people aren’t happy about it:

So far, the city has fielded complaints of traffic jams, unfinished construction projects and overcrowding at Warwick’s high schools.

And in an excellent civics lesson, democracy is producing candidates implying they’ll make all the problems go away if elected:

School committee candidate Dean Johnson said he lives nearby and sees the problems every day.

“Nothing but traffic,” he said. “It was 15 minutes from Benny’s to Pilgrim – it was absolutely ridiculous.”

Fellow school committee candidate Nathan Cornell is just 18 years old and said he still has friends in high school.

“At the first day, I called them and say, ‘how was school for you,’” he said. “And they told me it was crowded, especially the lunchrooms.”

Rhode Islanders want to run things as if the state is economically healthy and growing.  It’s not.  When I looked at Warwick’s population in 2012, it had dropped nearly 4% from the 2000 Census to the 2010 Census.  This May, I wondered how the school department could be considering any raises at all (let alone the 10% per year the teachers union reportedly wanted) with a smaller, less-working population with shrunken house values, and what justification there could be when the under-performing district had seen its enrollment drop 34% since the 2000-2001 school year.

Look, if you want neighborhood schools, you need the population and the enrollment to support them.  If you want small class sizes, you need to control the costs of teachers.  Rhode Islanders can’t keep up the economy-strangling approach to government and the union-gorging approach to employees and expect to maintain the quality of life they’ve enjoyed.  It is not paradoxical to observe that when you let government take more money from you and your neighbors and to limit your freedoms, you wind up getting less from government.

What will it take to make Rhode Islanders realize this?  Or more precisely, what will it take to make Rhode Islanders realize this and then change things rather than simply move away?

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Compassion of the Progressive State

Here’s one of those stories that might just provide what we writer types call “foreshadowing”:

A mother who pleaded guilty to fraudulently enrolling her six-year-old son in the wrong school district has been sentenced to five years in prison….

McDowell told police she was living in a van and occasionally slept at a Norwalk shelter or a friend’s Bridgeport apartment when she enrolled her son Norwalk’s Brookside Elementary School.

Police said McDowell stole $15,686 worth of ‘free’ educational services from Norwalk.

Of course, this story may not include the sorts of details that lead conservatives to suggest that laws and judgments ought to be made and enforced at the most local level possible.  Although McDowell’s drug prosecution appears to have produced an entirely separate sentence, prosecutors, juries, and judges rightly take the individual into consideration when assessing penalties.  Racial tensions during the Obama Era provide ample evidence of the danger inherent in elevating local stories to the national level in the service of a narrative.

Still, with all of the lip service New England progressives give to helping the disadvantaged and all of the millions of dollars they spend developing ways to ensure an easy on ramp to the easy street of government dependency, we’re in need of reminders that the mission is all about control, not charity.  We can be sure that the government of Connecticut is happy to give McDowell much more than $16,000 in taxpayer-funded benefits and free services, provided she doesn’t try to exercise the parental prerogative of school choice.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Familiar Rhode Island Disability Pension Story

Ethan Shorey reports on an investigation that the town of North Providence conducted of a retired firefighter who appears to be very active in his disabled retirement:

A months-long investigation by the North Providence Police Department shows a former firefighter who won a disability pension three years ago doing manual labor “without restrictions,” according to a police report.

The investigation by Special Investigations Unit Det. Robert Difilippo ran from November of last year to March of this year. It shows disabled firefighter Stephen Campbell shoveling snow in a storm, putting up and taking down Christmas decorations, carrying luggage, and dragging trash barrels, among other activities at his 100 Cleveland St. home.

The chronology of Campbell’s career has a very familiar feel to Rhode Islanders, which makes the whole affair seem (sadly) unsurprising.  Here are some facts from Shorey’s article put in chronological order:

  • Campbell was a one-time volunteer firefighter.
  • At age 48, he put himself on the North Providence waiting list for a job.
  • Former Mayor Ralph Mollis hired Campbell when the applicant was 52, saying it would be “age discrimination” to pass him over.
  • During his first 10 years on the job, Campbell was out of work on injured on duty leave for almost half of his working time.
  • After that decade, a lieutenant took the day off, leaving Campbell to fill his role, and midway through the day, Campbell re-injured his hand (“picking up a small bag,” according to the town’s labor attorney), thus boosting his potential pension $4,000 per year.
  • The state Retirement Board granted Campbell’s disability pension, providing two-thirds of the higher salary, tax free, along with continued benefits.

Now, maybe Campbell’s recent behavior proves he isn’t sufficiently disabled, under the law, or maybe it doesn’t.  Rhode Islanders are also used to discovering that state law is written in a way that legitimizes behavior that seems like it ought to be illegal, especially when it comes to labor unions and government employees.  Whatever the technicalities, though, his story is an unequivocal example of why it’s very difficult not to feel taken advantage of in the Ocean State.

Quantcast