A pair of articles in yesterday’s Providence Journal give an excellent indication of why Rhode Island is the way it is. The first is about the receiver’s plan for firefighters’ new employment deal with the Central Coventry Fire District. The details of the plan are definitely interesting, but the key part, in my view, comes at the end:
The union will contest the new terms in bankruptcy court.
“We’ll out-lawyer them and outspend them and out-fight them,” Gorman said.
Think of the structural conditions — political and legal — that underlie that threat. A financially struggling fire district must balance legal fees against the employment packages that the union is protecting. Meanwhile, the union is fighting with money absorbed, at the point of the taxman’s gun, from local residents. Can we agree that the union’s ability to “outspend” the employer (if true) is a pretty good indication that maybe the union has gone a bit beyond fixing a supposed imbalance between employer and employee?
The second article is about some hires by the new general treasurer of Rhode Island, Seth Magaziner:
Treasurer-elect Seth Magaziner has announced another round of staff picks, including Tom Sgouros as his senior policy adviser.
Sgouros, who waged a short-lived 2010 campaign for treasurer, describes himself as an engineer at Brown University and a freelance writer and public policy consultant who has consulted in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, California and Vermont “on public finance, banking, tax policy, and sustainable economic development.”
Reporter Kathy Gregg leaves out the important background that Sgouros is one of the central spokesmen for Rhode Island’s far-left progressives. (For fun, rewrite Gregg’s second sentence as it would appear if some conservative treasurer had appointed me as senior policy adviser.”)
In fact, we’re watching a whole generation of far-left progressives work their way into state government positions. In 2013, then-Governor Chafee hired progressive activist Kate Brock, for example, and even the supposedly conservative Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (D, Cranston) hired RIFuture founder Matt Jerzyk to his legal staff. That hiring produced this statement, which can’t help but resonate oddly for long-time followers of Rhode Island’s Left and Right:
“Matt’s experience in city and state government will be a valuable addition as we continue to focus on growing the economy and creating jobs,” Mattiello said in a statement.
How exactly are our leading elected officials planning to “grow the economy and create jobs” with staffs full of progressives? Whatever the answer to that question might be, the two articles from yesterday’s paper illustrate the left-right punches by which progressives implement policies and insiders, like public-sector labor unions, benefit from the unfair rules of the game.
The next round of RI’s political history has only just dawned, but it’s a safe bet that we’re entering four more years of what the last four brought, more or less.