Without commenting on the substance of any particular policy proposal, it can be noted that, in the state of Rhode Island, the number of sworn officers on a police force is frequently determined by the police union contract. This seems to be the case in Providence, according to a Projo article by Mark Reynolds…
The tentative agreement with the Providence lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police also includes some new language on staffing levels. The language basically requires the city to maintain a staffing level of at least 435 positions. If staffing falls below that level, the city would compensate officers with additional sick days.
So whatever “defund the police” means in a Rhode Island context, will it mean that the local police union has to directly approve any major policy and budgeting shifts covered by their contract, or will the powers-that-be in Rhode Island come around to challenging the idea that major public policy changes can be vetoed by an organization not democratically selected by the people?
And if it is the latter, will there be an explanation of why police unions are different from other public-sector unions?
It has been argued in this space that allowing union contracts to be a major constraint on state and municipal government decision-making creates a democratic accountability problem, but many Rhode Island leaders were content to ignore this, when they could pretend the issues were mostly fiscal and could be reduced to choices between cuts to existing programs and tax-increases. Well, the issues around policing that government must address right now are much bigger than fiscal ones, and the problems of dealing with them with less-than-democratic governing structures can no longer be ignored.
A suggestion to dissolve the Ethics Commission has not faded after a week of consideration.
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.”