After this morning’s whiplash from the Ethics Commission regarding an obvious revolving door setup of a state senator to the state’s highest court, perhaps it’s time to disband the agency.
A short new report from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity suggests that Rhode Island can take its current setback as an opportunity to plan for a better future.
COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates are revealing when looked at by age group, especially with respect to government’s approach to the crisis.
The (possibly related) stories about disproportionate COVID-19 cases among Hispanics and COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes fall in a range of topics about which we’re not allowed to have straightforward discussions, and that’s a dangerous problem.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for May 18, included talk about:
- Providence College kids rebel
- The Catholic bishop sends the governor a message
- Narragansett Town Council considers resistance
- Justice Flanders signals a challenge
- Rally-goers take up the call
- A delay of Phase 2 reopening
- The teachers’ union flexes in Tiverton
For many Rhode Islanders, summer is our defining time of year; it’s the plug that recharges our batteries and motivates us to make it through another year in our challenging state. The governor needs to know what that is worth to you.
Is the cure worse than the disease? Research Director Justin Katz of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity joins CEO Stenhouse on in “In The Dugout” to discuss the coronavirus crisis in RI. Katz is also the managing editor of the Ocean State Current, an he offers an analysis of the data of Governor Gina Raimondo’s data.
Looked at more closely, the Imperial College epidemiological model whose frightening projections set our current reaction in motion
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for April 13, included talk about:
- The governor’s handling of the virus crisis
- The silence from everybody else
- The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s suggestions
- The decisions facing the governor and the people of RI
Welcome to the world of social distancing. As a person-to-person strategy to slow a contagion, it’s absolutely reasonable, but it’s starting to sound like an ominous act by government to tear us apart.
Meet three golfers trying to walk the line between their state of Massachusetts, which closed golf courses, and the neighboring state of Rhode Island, which closed the state to outsiders who can’t quarantine for 14 days:
An Attleboro man and his two golfing partners are being charged with playing a round in Rhode Island in violation of a ban on people coming into the state for nonwork-related reasons. …
They were apprehended at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant, where police say the men changed cars to drive to the course in a vehicle with Rhode Island license plates.
Taunton and Attleboro, where the men are from, are part of the regular lives of Rhode Islanders. The quarantine restrictions don’t apply to Rhode Islanders who travel across the border or to people heading in either direction for work. In this case, the three of them came to Rhode Island to give a local business some money and to walk around a giant outdoor lawn for a few hours.
Perhaps in our current environment this outcome is a matter for reasonable debate (although some would surely say no debate is allowed and I’m wrong), but this seems to me to be an indication that we’re beyond the reasonable line.
Being in the car less, recently, I’ve fallen behind on podcast listening, so the episode of Changing Gears to which I listened while working out last night was a few weeks old. The guys were explaining the various reasons (having to do with materials, labor, and politics) that Rhode Island’s roads don’t last.
Not long afterwards, I was back at the computer and thinking (again) how far Internet technology has come in the past year… when the power went out. All the Zooming, podcasting, on-demand streaming, and other innovations that this viral crisis has made so critical to basic life fell of the table of social organization in an instant. On a clear night, the flow of electricity just stopped.
Growing up, I don’t remember ever losing power when the weather didn’t provide an obvious explanation, and it seems to be becoming more common in recent years. Every time it happens, I can hear a few more generators running, as my neighborhood adapts to this new reality over time.
While the world has been substantially shut down, I’ve also been catching up on reading legislation that managed to receive floor votes. Here’s one to ban disposable plastic shopping bags, and I note the news today that San Francisco has now banned reusable shopping bags to prevent spread of COVID-19. Another bill that didn’t manage to get a vote in the innocent days before the pandemic (House, Senate) would have criminalized the intentional release of balloons into the air.
Yes, while a virus was spreading around the planet bringing death and economic ruin, Rhode Island legislators were pondering a bill titled “Relating to Health and Safety – Balloons.”
Whether we’re talking about the roads or the power grid or the budgetary desperation we’re hearing from our elected officials, the message ought to be clear: Rhode Island has to get back to basics. Stop worrying about balloons. Stop micromanaging the economy. Stop confiscating tax money from people in order to fund superfluous things or pet projects.
This crisis is illustrating the necessity of government for a variety of functions, but it is also proving the need for government to do those critical things well. And that means focusing on them, including a halt to the drain of taxpayer money to things that just shouldn’t be priorities. Both basic government functions and private-sector activity are more important.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 30, included talk about:
- Raimondo v. Cuomo
- Cheit v. Fung
- Rhode Islanders v. the state budget
- Democracy v. mail ballots
- and the U.S. Senate as the means of grabbing money
Tiverton’s Town Council became the first-mover to use the cover of new government freedoms during the COVID-19 epidemic to push through a political appointment with no transparency.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 16, included talk about:
- The Virus and the politicians
- Britt bends the insider rules
- RI Women for Freedom & Prosperity
- Closing the GOP primary
Conspicuous relationships between powerful people and employees of the Convention Center Authority are just snow on the sharp point of the tip of the iceberg of RI’s patronage network.
Guest: John Marion, Executive Director, Common Cause RI, www.commoncauseri.org
Host: Richard August Time: 30 minutes
Mr. Marion is the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island a non-partisan organization promoting clean, open and accountable government. He discusses the importance of the upcoming census and its impact on redrawing the state’s House and Senate districts. This has given rise to a movement called RedrawRI a campaign to reform how RI legislative districts are drawn. It calls for an impartial citizens’ commission to redistrict the state.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for February 3, included talk about:
- Raimondo’s anti-Trump special-interest PAC.
- Will the new Providence superintendent earn his pay?
- Everybody could be right, but is wrong, on the Convention Center.
- RI gambling giants’ form a super-crony organization.
If you’ve been around government and politics in Rhode Island for a while, you probably know people who’ve been audited at conspicuous times… like after having spoken up publicly about some issue. This may be part of the reason ripples of excitement have followed indications that Democrat Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello of Cranston might be caught red-handed flipping the switch on the familiar weapon.
Particularly intriguing is the way those ripples have caused turmoil among people and entities that tend to unite around good-government issues. Thus, as Mattiello claims to be targeting the Convention Center Authority with an audit to fix what former Republican House Minority Leader and gubernatorial candidate Patricia Morgan calls “a poorly run, incompetently managed building [that] works as a favor factory,” we get current House Minority Leader Blake Filippi filing a lawsuit claiming that Mattiello abused his influence over the Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS) to order the audit, followed by the Providence Journal editorial board, led by Ed Achorn, belittling the Republican’s suit as “partisan animosity.”
If the good guys are tripping over each other, the bad guys have wind at their backs. The Convention Center has rejected the audit and called for an investigation of Mattiello by the State Police, which has lost some of its objective luster in recent years for seeming to align too eagerly with Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo, who has (1) given indications that she sees Mattiello as an obstacle and (2) proven her intent to use political means to advance her agenda through the legislature (including, for example, raising campaign funds to go after legislators at the ballot box).
Interested observers face that old puzzle about whether the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Do good government forces benefit by helping a progressive governor knock out the more-conservative speaker, or by turning a blind eye to what might be raw corruption on his part?
Why everybody can’t be right? Yes, the Convention Center should be audited. Yes, the whole JCLS should meet and take action in a transparent fashion. Yes, it’s worth having some agency look into whether use of the legislature’s auditing power is being abused. Yes, we should be suspicious that a politicized State Police might serve the governor’s political interest.
This is how divided government is supposed to work, making it in everybody’s interest to seek leverage against the others. The problem is that state government in RI is so one-sided that it’s always “heads they win, tails you lose.”
In intellectual discussion at the intersection of religion and science, participants sometimes propose to define miracles as extremely improbable events that happen at a significant time, such that the significance itself appears to have influenced the outcome. If, for example, there is some infinitesimal chance that an incurable disease will just go away and does after the patient prays at some holy shrine, then that might meet the definition of “miracle.”
In a somewhat crass way, this definition came to mind while reading about the state legislature’s audit of the RI Convention Center following the center’s investigation of the speaker’s friend:
“The JCLS has an obligation to meet and determine exactly why an audit was ordered of the Convention Center after Mr. Demers got in trouble at his job,” [RIGOP Chairwoman Susan] Cienki said. “The public deserves to know if government resources are being used by Speaker Mattiello to satisfy a petty personal grudge. If the JCLS won’t meet and explain what is going on, then perhaps the attorney general should investigate.”
Mattiello’s spokesperson, Larry Berman, pushed back at Cienki by pointing out that House Republicans, notably former Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, have been calling for better oversight of the Convention Center’s finances for years. He sent Target 12 multiple press releases and news reports in which Morgan laid out her criticisms.
One gets the sense that this has become the way that Republican, conservative, or just good-government policies find their way miraculously into state law and activity. It is improbable that a Republican’s call to audit a government agency will be heeded in Rhode Island… except at that significant moment when it serves the interest of some powerful interest for ulterior reasons.
Makes one wonder if there’s a list of policy proposals out there awaiting some direct pay-off before they are implemented, with the fact that somebody (or some party) suggested them used as cover.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 20, included talk about:
- The governor’s budget (and popularity)
- The speaker’s interest in the Convention Center
- The women’s march
- Big money state jobs, especially corrections
With the old establishment players back in power in Tiverton, we’ve seen a quick return to the practices that have done so much damage to local government over the decades. Decisions are being made by a few, unidentified people in back rooms and private communications. New hoops are being erected for community groups to jump through. The law is being rewritten by the minute depending on what the Town Council leadership needs it to be. The council’s votes are becoming mere recommendations unless approved by the president.
Members of the Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA) talk about that and more on Episode 9 of the Tiverton on Track podcast.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 13, included talk about:
- A union president accuses race heretics
- OPEB swamping Providence and Warwick
- Fear about “red flag” laws
- The legislative session starts
- RI losing claim to a Congressional seat,
- The rolling fundraising party of the State House