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Question #4: In-State Employment Rate of URI Engineering Grads Does Not Justify $125 Million Tab for Taxpayers

This Tuesday, Rhode Island taxpayers will be asked if they are willing to pay an eye-opening $125 million, excluding interest, to construct a new building and renovate existing buildings at URI’s College of Engineering. Proponents claim it will improve Rhode Island’s workforce, but how many URI engineers are actually staying to work in the state, right now?

Gee. Wonder Why Some Politicians Support Illegal Immigration and Lax Voting Rules

I had to chuckle at the Powerline headline, “How Many Elections Will Democrats Steal Next Week?“:

How extensive is voter-fraud, especially among non-citizens? Just bring up the question, or suggest we need to have voter-ID at the polls like every other advanced democracy, and the answer will be instantly supplied: You’re a racist. But as Dan McLaughlin points out over at The Federalist, Democrats seem to win a suspiciously high number of close elections, well beyond what a random statistical trial would suggest.

At the internal link, in that quotation, we learn that Democrats have an uncanny ability to win close races.  The Powerline article goes on:

The authors [of an academic study] think that non-citizen votes not only tipped the 2008 Minnesota senate race to Al Franken, but also tipped North Carolina’s presidential vote that year.

The reason I chuckled is that, even as busy and disconnected from some of the election news as I am, I’ve gotten the impression that the Providence mayoral race has picked up an aspect of competing vote fraud schemes.  When a place is as institutionally corrupt as Rhode Island, one gets to ask questions like:  Is it really fraud if stealing more votes is simply another part of the competition?

To be frank, overt fraud is merely one of the ways in which political insiders have arguably made our electoral system invalid in Rhode Island and (to various degrees) across the nation, given the Constitutional guarantee of a “republican form of government,” which above all requires the consent of the governed.  Having just filled out some campaign finance reports in order to put out some signs and print post cards supporting some of my Tiverton neighbors, it’s especially clear to me right now the many ways in which our government discourages participation and limits competition.

That’s the larger, more-fundamental challenge to our democracy, which makes the overt fraud seem like a subset — the last, insurmountable straw for people who might otherwise become politically engaged.

Gina Raimondo and Rhode Island’s Preemptive Surrender to the Threat of Collusion

Gina Raimondo could stand with the people of Rhode Island on the 38 Studios matter and, with her venture capitalist background, could be an especially forceful advocate for the principle that the laws apply to everyone, from big bondholders to regular citizens. Instead, she has chosen to stand with big finance against the people of Rhode Island, taking the cavalier attitude towards representative democracy and the rule of law that has become the hallmark of Rhode Island’s political establishment.

A Constitutional Convention Is to Make Change When Legislators Won’t

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 46 (Congressional Debates)

Rob Paquin and Bob Plain discuss the candidates for U.S. Congress from Rhode Island (mostly by way of the issues).

They’re Getting What They Didn’t Ask For

Am I surprised that at least one outside political group isn’t following Rhode Island’s campaign finance laws? Not at all. Based on our recent history, why should they?

Journalists Another Group with an Interest in the RI Status Quo?

Last week, I pointed out that Rhode Island teachers lead the country in pay, when adjusted for the cost of living in each state — at least teachers in categories that tend to be overwhelmingly dominated by government labor unions.  An obvious next question is what other categories of professions put Rhode Island at the top of the pay chart.

So far, I’ve only found one: “reporters and correspondents.”

At $60,871 per year, Rhode Island’s journalists make even more than those in Washington, D.C., where their peers take home a cost-of-living-adjusted $54,154.  (In fairness, Washington reporters and correspondents make more in absolute terms, but it’s more expensive to live there, so the adjustment knocks their average pay down about $10,000, while it boosts Rhode Island’s by about $800.)

It’s interesting to note that “broadcast news analysts,” the only other category that I could find under the broad category of “journalist,” fall back to the 10-15 ranking range that seems to be Rhode Island’s overall home.  (Note that these professionals make a little more than the “reporters and correspondents,” but their peers in other states surpass them.)

Some aspects of the news business might make Rhode Island unique.  For instance, in a larger state, like Massachusetts, the salaries of urban and statewide reporters might be significantly diluted, in this data, by many more small-market, local reporters.  The local reporters are toiling away in Rhode Island, of course, but there are fewer of them.  On the other hand, Delaware falls in the middle of the pack, for this category, and Maryland is nearly last.

Disclaimers aside, the apparent fact that the Rhode Island socio-politico-economic system benefits journalists so disproportionately raises questions about why that is, and whether it indicates an occupational bias against the sorts of dramatic changes that the state so desperately needs.  Folks can be forgiven for seeing a connection to some surprisingly status-quo-friendly endorsements from the Providence Journal, this cycle.

About the Journal’s Endorsements

The Providence Journal said they want change. I think they missed a great opportunity to advocate for change in at least one of their endorsements.

Having to Know Your Precinct to Clean Up Your Town

While putting together a very simple page for Clean Up Tiverton and a post on Tiverton Fact Check to let people in town know where to vote a week from Tuesday, it occurred to me that it seems like I rarely vote in the same place twice in a row.  I pay more than the average attention to these things, and twice in the past few years, I’ve found myself driving from one polling place to another.

It’s not just rearrangement of the precinct map, although that’s played a role, as has a move on my part, but also the different arrangements for budget votes, primaries, and general elections.  Making things more peculiar, the locations for four of the seven precincts are right next to each other, sometimes requiring a person from a particular district to drive right past the closest location in order to get to the one at which he or she has to vote.

Does this happen elsewhere, or is there some kind of peculiarity in my town?

Fear Mongering the Constitutional Convention

Don’t let people scare you into what “could” happen at the Constitutional Convention. Vote YES on Question 3 and let’s take this opportunity to fix the government and improve the way Rhode Island works.

Rep. Lally’s Opposition to a Constitutional Convention

My clock for blogging has run out, already, today, but an opinion essay that Representative Donald Lally (D, Narragansett, South Kingstown) sent out through the legislative press office merits a quick response.

The essay, which does not appear to be online, yet, expresses concern about the cost of a Constitutional Convention and about the possibility that “special interests… could hijack the convention and call for changes to the Rhode Island Constitution that actually weaken the rights of the citizens of our state.”  Moreover, he says, “supporters of a Constitutional Convention… tend to also be detractors of the General Assembly.”

While considering Lally’s comments, Rhode Islanders (especially voters in Rep. Lally’s district) should note three things.

First: Lally’s Freedom Index score, from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, was -56.6 for 2014, ranking him 73rd in the whole General Assembly.  According to the interactive Freedom Index Live, Lally’s three-year average score is -60.1, which is handily the worst of any legislator from either town that he represents, including progressive stalwart Teresa Tanzi.

Second: A look at Rep. Lally’s political donors shows he’s got no problem taking money from “special interests.” Here are his top 10 donors since 2002:

  • NRA Political Victory Fund PAC: $3,850
  • RI State Association of Firefighters: $2,700
  • NEARI PAC (National Education Association of RI): $2,450
  • RI Laborer’s Political League: $2,400
  • ATU Cope Special Holding Account (Amalgamated Transit Union): $2,300
  • Brian Goldman (of Goldman Law Offices Attorney/Lobbyist): $2,250
  • NECSA (New England Convenience Store Association): $1,650
  • Realtors PAC of RI: $1,650
  • RI Dental PAC: $1,600
  • Fund for Democratic Priorities: $1,575

It’s enough to make one wonder if Lally’s largest concern is actually that his contributors will have another option for their political donations for a couple of years.

Third: According to the Secretary of State’s candidate list for the General Assembly, Rep. Lally had no competition in his primary and has no competition in the general election in a couple of weeks.

In short, Rhode Islanders who aren’t happy with the laws that Rep. Lally has helped to put in place to weaken their rights and who fear the influence that his special-interest donors have over him have no other option than a Constitutional Convention.

Oversized Signs

Why is one mayoral candidate allowed to flout city ordinances with oversized campaign signs. It’s not the biggest problem facing Providence, but it is indicative of his lack of interest in following laws.

Anthony Gemma, is All (or At Least Some) Forgiven?

Allegations of mail-ballot shenanigans were made, at the very least, in the previous Rhode Island election cycle. In 2012, a private detective hired by Congressional candidate Anthony Gemma produced video of an individual offering to sell completed mail-ballots to a campaign, who was shown with purportedly sealed ballots in his possession as evidence he could deliver. However, according to the Richard C. Dujardin of the Projo, the State Police investigated the case and found some “procedural irregularities, but nothing that rose to the level of criminal conduct”.

One unintended benefit of Buddy Cianci running for mayor of Providence seems to be that people are taking what are at a minimum “procedural irregularities” a little more seriously now. They are now newsworthy in the absence of accompanying video, or maybe on-the-ground sources are a little quicker to drop-a-dime when Cianci is involved…

The state police are investigating possible ballot tampering at the state’s largest homeless shelter after two “official-looking men with clipboards” entered Crossroads Rhode Island on Wednesday and asked residents to hand in their mail ballots — and in one case asked for a resident’s blank ballot. (Tom Mooney, Providence Journal)

A quick memo to the future: If the most recent allegations of vote tampering or voter intimidation turn out to be true, the process should be cleaned up, even in elections where Buddy Cianci is not running and systematic mail ballot “irregularities” or worse are working to the advantage of Democratic candidates.

The Rhode Island state police should also give the public some sense of what would need to happen for prosecutable criminal conduct to occur in this apparently recurring area of Rhode Island get-out-the-vote activity.

Latest on the Central Coventry Fire District Includes Threat by Governor’s Lawyers to Personally Sue Fire Board For Standing Up For Democracy

At the height of election fever, let’s not lose track of the latest developments in the disturbing situation involving the Central Coventry Fire District.

The following report, on “Central Coventry Citizens Taskforce for Fire Protection” letterhead and inclusive of two contact names and phone numbers, was sent out via e-mail this afternoon. It appears that at the Monday meeting and in other venues, Governor Chafee has had no compunction in carrying out the almost certainly unconstitutional order of the General Assembly to the taxpayers of the Central Coventry Fire District: – an order that could well come to every fire district in the state: No voting; just shut up and pay.

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 45 (Secretary of State Debate)

Rob Paquin and Bob Plain discuss a debate between candidates for RI Secretary of State and related topics.

If Not on the Ballot, Where?

Jim Vincent, of the Providence NAACP, quotes the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity in a recent Providence Journal op-ed.  (Naturally, he fails to name his source, because progressive activists aren’t about public debate, they’re about confusing public debate for political reasons.)

Supporters have also suggested that a Constitutional Convention would be a good opportunity to “resolve some thorny cultural issues — one way or another.” Cultural issues have no place on the ballot.

He’s referring to a line, way toward the end of this analysis from the Center, in a section about ways in which Rhode Islanders might use a constitutional convention to “take issues off the table” of the General Assembly, where they come up regularly to distract the public and distort the legislative process.  Most of the points have to do with the operation of government, but here’s the final bullet point:

Resolve some thorny cultural issues — one way or another — though the mechanism that most clearly represents the will of the people

Look, cultural issues have to be resolved.  When the government begins dabbling in them (which it inevitably will do if we let it become as large and invasive as it has become), lines must be drawn by somebody concerning the appropriate scope and, if government is going to take a side, which side it will take.  To people with Vincent’s political philosophy, it’s not a question of whether cultural issues should be resolved within government, but how government should assert authority and make decisions.

In March, Vincent told Bob Plain, of RI Future, that “he will lobby legislative leaders this session to pass a bill that would tax and regulate rather than criminalize pot.”

In other words, the “thorny cultural issues” — which are at the core of defining our society and directing its course for generations — ”have no place on the ballot” because he wants them decided in back rooms by insiders and special interests.  He doesn’t trust the people — black, white, male, female, gay, straight, liberal, conservative — to come to the right decisions, so it’s imperative that their betters — the elite power brokers who’ve manipulated their way into positions of influence — control the system to tell the people what to do and who to be.