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Creating a Non-Partisan Image for Corruption

Something’s bugging me about Karen Lee Ziner’s generally helpful article, yesterday, listing some recently disgraced Rhode Island legislators.  Whatever Ziner’s intentions, if I were to set out to write an article that obscured the connection between Democrats and corruption on the list, I don’t know that I’d have done anything different.

The list contains 11 legislators.  Of those, 10 are Democrats, and one is Republican.  However, only five of the Democrats are identified as such.  Moreover, the lone Republican, former House Minority Leader Robert Watson is also unique on the list as being the only one whose scandal didn’t involve some sort of private or public corruption.  Watson got jammed up with the law over minor substance abuse issues (like DUI and marijuana possession).  That’s not nearly as relevant to a story about dishonest politicians as abusing influence or scamming for money.

In fairness, of course, Republicans in the Rhode Island legislature have been protected from corruption by the fact that they don’t have much power to speak of, and I wouldn’t expect them to remain pure after spending the better part of a century in unchallenged power, either.  Still, voters should make decisions based on the world as it currently exists, not an abstract principle that the parties would be the same under identical circumstances.

It’s not just that Democrat power in Rhode Island allows corruption.  The existence of opportunity will inevitably attract the corrupt to the power.  The best anti-corruption move would be to have a more-even government, with neither side being so entrenched that a few scandals couldn’t flip the advantage.  Not only would that divide up the power available for corruption, but it would give both sides incentive to police themselves and the ability to policy the other.

In other words, a list of corrupt politicians who are all Democrats should be a signal to the electorate that the General Assembly is dangerously imbalanced.  Apparently, though, Ziner and her editors don’t want that signal to be sent, so they made sure a Republican is on the list, and they omitted the party identification for half of the Democrats to leave the impression that they might be divided between parties.

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Why Freedom & Prosperity? CEO Stenhouse on State of the State

The people of Rhode Island want a government that works for every citizen of our state, not just the insiders and the special interests. With the recent challenges faced by RI’s political class, it is important to remember that there are real alternatives than the culture of big government here in Rhode Island. Recently, I appeared on the State of the State and discussed the work being done by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

The mission of the Center is to return government to you, the people, by opposing special interest public policy and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives through economic competitiveness, educational opportunity and individual freedom. Your family deserves more than the worn out ideas of ever increasing state revenue and big spending.

Our vision is to see Rhode Island as a destination of choice to raise a family and build a career, with a thriving business climate, abundant jobs, and a world-class education system. The Ocean State will only achieve this mission by changing the status quo. You can be a part of that by speaking out often on the issues that effect your family. Please watch the new three minute video now.

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Patronage Clerkship Hire Contributes to Smith Hill’s Poor Reputation

The Providence Journal reported yesterday that

Former state Sen. Rhoda Perry will return to the State House this week, for a hearing — by her former colleagues — on her qualifications for her new “$69,243 to $78,493” job as the Superior Court clerk for Washington County.

From a browse around Google, it appears that court clerkships are normally filled by law school grads or attorneys. (Please correct if this is wrong.)

But Rhoda Perry is neither. Rather, she is a former senator and one who was reportedly close to the Senate President. Accordingly, rather than a hiring on the basis of qualification and experience, this looks like the distribution of political booty to a loyal legislative soldier.

While not corruption in the criminal sense, such a hire is corruption in the larger sense as it is made on the basis of patronage ties rather than what is best for the state and the court system. It is only the latest in a long line of actions (add tolls and legislative grants to this list) that significantly damages the image of Smith Hill as a place where they shoot straight and play clean.

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Gallison – Now Who’s Out of Order?

Multiple reporters, citing multiple sources, began reporting last night that a major development would take place on Smith Hill today.

House Finance Chairman Ray Gallison is set to resign as a state representative Tuesday as he faces a law enforcement probe, RIPR has learned.

Many of us wouldn’t be experiencing something bordering, frankly, on schadenfreude right now if this didn’t involve a legislator who, in the process of expediting the rushed, non-transparent creation of a highly destructive new revenue source, engaged in the worst kind of closed government conduct by bullying and then shutting down one of his colleagues who was rightfully attempting to get answers on behalf of the taxpayers, residents and businesses of the state.

But he did and we are.

Meanwhile, all eyes on Smith Hill today as these and related events, including a closed Democrat caucus at 3:54 pm, unfold.

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Shouldn’t a Business Editor Be Pro-Business?

When it comes to mainstream newspaper editors and columnists with targeted subject assignments, like the business section of a newspaper, one can often detect a point of view that isn’t necessarily in perfect accord with the subject’s primary consumers, but Providence Journal business editor John Kostrzewa’s column in today’s paper — titled “Minimum wage hike is only the start” — is really stunning.

Writing about the annual meeting of Rhode Island’s far-left pro-redistribution think tank, the Economic Progress Institute (formerly the Poverty Institute), Kostrzewa approvingly moves through some of the additional burdens that progressive activists wish to place on our already-struggling economy, such as this:

Many of those proposals come with a cost, to either employers or taxpayers, and a conference attendee asked where the revenue would come from to pay for the benefits or services.

Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice, a national organization, answered that it would take partnerships and creative ideas to raise revenue. She pointed to a proposal being studied in Connecticut to fine employers with 500 or more workers in the state $1 for each hour of work by an employee who earns less than $15 an hour. By some estimates, the proposal could raise from $189 million to $305 million a year.

How could a newspaper’s business guy convey that horrible, business-killing, big-government idea as simply, “Hey, here’s a thought”?  It boggles the mind almost as much as his tone-deaf chiding of business owners for not attending an event geared toward those who want to take their money and tell them how to operate:

But Raimondo and Paiva Weed were among only a few public officials in the crowd. There were not many business owners there, either.

That’s a missed opportunity, because the election showed it’s time for a wider discussion among public and private leaders about the anxieties of working people, and the government’s role in providing relief.

If anybody needs more indication of why Rhode Island is struggling as it is, Kostrzewa provides a doozy.  The one brief nod toward the damage that these policies could do to businesses and the economy reads as if some copyeditor questioned publishing a business column without some mention of policies’ possible effects on businesses.

With the business pages now a collection of outside content and standard reports, one wonders why the Projo bothers to publish another left-wing redistributionist columnist in that space.  It’s certainly not to provide any ideological balance to the paper’s overwhelmingly progressive bias.

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A Lesson of Venezuela and the U.S. Primary Race

For a good, long while, I’ve offered the optimistic view about Rhode Island: that at some point of collapse prior to the adjective, “utter,” the people would awaken and insist that the corrupt games have to stop, aided by those in leadership positions whose consciences would no longer allow them to look the other way.  Any level of collapse is painful, of course, but reality and solutions are close enough to the surface, throughout the United States, that a reparable slash or broken bone should be a sufficient lesson to change behavior.

News out of Venezuela and reflections on the presidential primary are leading me to question my optimism.  On the former, Kevin Williamson gives a concise summary of the condition:

If you truly believe that Venezuela is suffering from electricity shortages because its economy is so successful, you should ask yourself why it is suffering from a toilet-paper shortage, too. And a shortage of rice, milk, cooking oil, and other basic foods. And water.

To which I’d add this from Richard Fernandez:

The lights didn’t go out in Caracas all at once.  The wiring was stolen bit by bit; the turbines had been neglected year by year; the engineers had departed plane by plane until Earth Day came down like a shroud and without apparent end.  Rioting and looting is now reported to be spreading as only 15 days of food are said to remain.

Read both essays and ponder that blithe assertion that “it can’t happen here.”  We’re watching it happen here.  Fernandez suggests Venezuela fell prey to the “curse of plenty,” wherein “easy money attracts the wrong kind of leaders and incentivizes the wrong kind of public behavior.”  A region can have easy money by sitting on a cornucopia of natural resources, or it can be a small state in a wealthy region of an economically dynamic country.

The reality is that most people just want things to continue as they are and perhaps improve incrementally, which makes them susceptible to herding in bad directions that serve special interests.  Head this way, and a loud, scary noise urges us back to the herd; meanwhile, the corral and slaughterhouse aren’t quite visible up ahead.

As the wrong leaders and wrong behavior make things more difficult, fewer people are willing to step forward in opposition, and fewer good people want the role of leadership even if they can get it.  Potential heroes are vilified, and the public’s confusion is exploited.

In this mix of diminished choice and distortion, politicians have no competition or too much, leading to uncontested seats or split votes that allow victory with relatively small pluralities of support.  Both special interests and cults of personality can therefore amass winning numbers.  Rhode Island elects a Chafee and then a Raimondo, while backing a Bernie and a Trump for president.

The outcomes are always predictable, and yet it seems impossible to correct course.  Small improvements require so much personal sacrifice of effort, while the status quo rumbles on effortlessly.

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RI Trumpublicans Triumphant

Say what you will: as demonstrated last night, there can be no doubt that Donald Trump’s brand of Republicanism – Trumpublicanism? – appeals to a large majority of RI GOP members and a significant portion of RI “Independent” men and women.

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Shock Result on the Democrat Side of Rhode Island’s Primary

Whoa, looks like Rhode Island is no longer Clinton Country. From the Valley Breeze last night.

On the Democrat side, Bernie Sanders soundly defeated Hillary Clinton, taking home 54.7 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting. After being ahead in many polls, Clinton got just 43.1 percent of the vote.

A heartfelt thank you to all Democrat primary voters in Rhode Island who refused to obey the instructions of The Machine and instead, pulled the lever (… er, made the mark) for Bernie Sanders.

Let the speculation, started on Twitter and elsewhere, freely continue about the impact of this yuge, unexpected outcome on the (widely rumored but not confirmed) political plans of various Democrat politicians in Rhode Island, especially those of you-know-who.

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O’Neill Independent No Longer … ?

Here’s a notable primary day observation.  According to the Secretary of State’s online search, independent state Senator Edward O’Neill hasn’t been independent for a couple of months and, like Rep. Karen MacBeth, has joined the ranks of Rhode Island Republicans.

To some extent, that’s not all that surprising, considering that he’s on the District 1 Republican primary ballot, today, as a delegate for Donald Trump.  On the other hand, his legislative Web page still lists him as an Independent.

Time will tell whether his move to the Republican Party is purely a Trump-related move or if he shares enough of MacBeth’s dissatisfaction with the dominant Democrats in the General Assembly to make the less dramatic leap from Republican-leaning independent.  Sen. O’Neill did not respond to an email request for comment.

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Polls and Tolls and How Many Gantries?

After a stage delay, Brown University finally released its poll on Sunday. (I don’t know what the real situation was was but I’m not buying their “voter fatigue” reason for this delay.) And – oh, dear – Governor Raimondo’s approval rating has dropped to 31%. It is impossible not to tie this directly to her push to implement destructive, burdensome tolls in Rhode Island.

On that front, by the way, during her interview with WPRO’s Anita Baffoni, Governor Raimondo references thirty toll gantries.

before putting up 30 gantries

It’s not clear whether this is a feint to try to make us all relieved if/when they eventual “only” roll out fifteen (or pick a number) gantries, like the Governor did when she introduced the new vacation rental tax, or whether she and RIDOT really are planning to proceed with thirty gantries. If the former, it won’t work. We all know that toll gantries are like cockroaches: in light of their propensity to multiply, there is only one safe number and that is zero.

What is clear from this poll is that zero gantries was also the only safe number when it comes to the Governor’s approval rating.

UPDATE

Kathy Gregg reports the prior poll number that I was looking for:

In her earlier, high-profile role as the state treasurer, Raimondo, at one point, enjoyed a 56 percent job-approval rating.

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Socialism Can Only Make Us All Poorer

As he usually does, Jonah Goldberg makes several worthy points in his most recent breezy G-File column, including some thoughts on socialism:

… “socialism” was an answer to what 19th-century intellectuals and religious leaders called “the social question.” As traditional societies succumbed to the creative destruction of the market, people started asking, “How shall we live now?” Socialism was one such answer (National Socialism, another, very similar answer), but it was only partly and not even mostly, an economic answer. It was a cultural one.

That is, “socialism” isn’t an economic system.  It’s more like a godless religion whose rituals are economic in nature.  What that means is that its entire way of thinking is unnatural.  It’s divorced from necessary concessions to human nature, from acceptance of physical reality, and from any roots in supernatural truth.  Instead, socialism is a purely man-made intellectual construct that finds its power in corrupting human tendencies, both unhealthy (envy) and healthy (charity).

Consequently, a society that takes socialism too seriously for too long winds up depriving its people of fulfillment and advancement, for reasons that branch off from this subsequent paragraph from Goldberg:

Gracchus Babeuf, arguably the first “socialist” to earn the label, wanted a “conspiracy of equals,” which would “remove from every individual the hope of ever becoming richer, or more powerful, or more distinguished by his intelligence.” In his Manifesto of the Equals, he called for the “disappearance of boundary-marks, hedges, walls, door locks, disputes, trials, thefts, murders, all crimes . . . courts, prisons, gallows, penalties . . . envy, jealousy, insatiability, pride, deception, duplicity, in short, all vices.” To fill that void, “the great principle of equality, or universal fraternity, would become the sole religion of the peoples.”

Disallowing individuals from “becoming richer, or more powerful, or more distinguished by [their] intelligence” is utter ignorant nonsense that winds up harming everybody.  Take the specifics in reverse order:

  • Preventing people who are especially intelligent from realizing their potential leaves us all less benefit from their unique abilities.
  • Artificially depriving people of power — understood broadly as the ability to have others follow one’s instructions — leaves us all less benefit from strong leadership.
  • And yes, confiscating wealth from people simply because they have more of it leaves us all poorer by the prevention of whatever their talents would have had them do with that money… or whatever talents others would have developed in order to collect it in the first place.

Playing the envy card, a socialist might insist that if we stray from a hard, unnatural, tyrannical conformity that leaves us indistinguishable from each other opens the problems of vanity, pride, and abuse, but so does the imposition of the socialistic worldview in the first place.

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Lally & Raimondo Throw in the Towel

With the Ethics Commission hard on his heels, Kathy Gregg at the Providence Journal reports that

Former state Rep. Donald Lally has resigned his controversial job as the “small business liaison” in the Raimondo administration, in advance of an Ethics Commission ruling on whether his hiring violated the state’s revolving door law.

The RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s 2014 Freedom Index places then-Rep Lally 73 out of 113 legislators. This dubious voting record clearly made him a poor match for this position, underscoring the consensus that the main driving force behind his appointment was not considerations like track record and aptitude (and, dare we add, what would best serve the state) but the more base one of politics – i.e., a bargaining chip in horsetrading between Governor Raimondo and Speaker Mattiello.

If so, it will be interesting to see what “chip” replaces the one that had to be taken off the table.

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Magaziner Exemplifies State’s Skewed Priorities

One can just about sympathize with Democrat General Treasurer Seth Magaziner.  When taxpayers across the state are complaining on talk radio that the tax return checks with his name on them seem greatly delayed and when the pension fund under his control is actually losing money, the politician must feel an intense pressure to come up with newspaper headlines that somebody might see as positive:

On Wednesday, Rhode Island Gen. Treas. Seth Magaziner announced a new policy that seeks to use the proxy-voting power that comes with Rhode Island’s billions of investment dollars to encourage companies to place more women and racial minorities on their boards of directors.

Unfortunately, many people fall for foolish politically correct showboating.  Heretofore, the state’s index-fund manager, State Street Corp., has done the voting to which Rhode Island’s investments entitle the state.  Presumably, State Street’s votes have been cast with an eye toward maximizing returns on its clients’ investments.

But maximizing returns is clearly not the priority of Rhode Island’s chief fiduciary, Seth Magaziner.  Worse still, not only does Magaziner acknowledge that Rhode Island’s votes may make little difference, but the method by which it will cast them is hot-pan-on-a-silk-tablecloth dumb:

“Any time a man is nominated to be a director at a company where fewer than 30 percent of existing directors are women (or racial minorities), we will vote no. If we end up voting no at a high rate, we will be making an important statement on the financial materiality of board diversity,” Magaziner said.

No individual consideration.  All that matters is body parts and skin color.  Of course, I’m making an assumption, there; Providence Journal reporter Kathy Gregg didn’t ask Magaziner if the vote will be cast according to biological fact or by the personal assertions of the nominee.

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What’s Really In Your Best Interest — Cooler or Warmer?

This week on “What’s Really In Your Best Interest? ” I discuss Rhode Island’s Cooler & Warmer fiasco. This rollout is yet another instance of government incompetence in the Ocean State. The arrogant response by Governor Gina Raimondo’s administration was perhaps even more telling; oozing contempt for those of us who honestly felt little connection with their marketing scheme. For years, our Center has been promoting family-friendly policies that directly benefit all Rhode Islanders, while opposing government-centric special interest deals for corporations, unions, and other insider groups. Rhode Island families deserve better than their elitist schemes.

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Whitehouse’s Focus as RI’s Senator

Back when Rhode Island’s Junior Democrat U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse led the charge to mandate the audio of television commercials, I suggested that “government regulation of television volume is not likely to signal the end of the republic, but the oppression of ‘there ought to be a law’ is a patchwork, encouraging voters to acclimate to the big government mentality and investing them in its exercise of power.”

Having gone some years without another such coup, Whitehouse is apparently at it again, as Shaun Towne reports:

“There’s a big, it appears, emerging scam of selling people cheap, lousy products that have been misdescribed for purposes of getting their business,” said Whitehouse.

Rhode Island’s junior senator is pushing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on fraudulent clothing websites. In a letter to the agency, Whitehouse said the websites “…use stolen photographs and deep discounts to lure consumers into buying products that are indeed “too good to be true.”

One suspects laws against stolen photographs and false advertising are already in place, so it isn’t clear what a “crack down” would entail, but is this really the sort of stuff-of-life priority that a U.S. senator should have?

It’s not coincidental that Whitehouse is also arguably the nation’s leading advocate for using innovative legal maneuvers to intimidate and “crack down” on organizations that disagree with his conclusions about climate change.  Building on what I wrote in 2011, a public that gets used to having government go after every little inconvenience or example of advantage-taking will produce a weakened backlash when that same government begins taking advantage of the new practice in order to punish political enemies and help political allies (while enriching politicians).

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In Rhode Island, Cruz is the Choice for Stop-Trump Voters


Given the results in last night’s New York Republican primary (Trump 60.5%/Kasich 25.1%/Cruz 14.5%), and assuming a degree of similarity between the New York Republican electorate and the Rhode Island Republican electorate, the most important question relevant to the Rhode Island Republican primary has become this: Is Ted Cruz a lock to get 10% of the vote or not?

Projecting the New York numbers ahead and applying Rhode Island’s (reasonably clear, by the way) delegate selection rules provides a great illustration of this. Suppose Rhode Island’s numbers in next Tuesday’s primary are similar to New York’s, and both Congressional districts roughly parallel the statewide totals. If that were to be the case, of the 16 delegates to be selected in next Tuesday’s RI GOP primary…

  • 8 would likely go to Donald Trump (6 statewide + 2 Congressional),
  • 5 would likely go to John Kasich (3 statewide + 2 Congressional), and
  • 3 would likely go to Ted Cruz (1 statewide + 2 Congressional)

However, if Cruz misses the 10% threshold, even if Kasich gets all of the votes that Cruz would have, Trump will still do better than he would if Cruz gets to 10%. With only two candidates receiving delegates, i) Trump gets 2 of 3 delegates from each Congressional district (unless Kasich outright beats Trump in one or both districts, which seems unlikely), and ii) the statewide delegate that Cruz would have won goes to either Trump or Kasich, depending on the exact apportionment formula that’s used.

When the votes are finally counted, the difference between Ted Cruz getting slightly more than 10% of the vote and slightly less than 10% of the vote will be either 2 or 3 fewer delegates for Donald Trump.

In other words, contrary to some of the conventional wisdom out there, for Rhode Island voters whose primary goal is to “stop Trump” ahead of anything else, voting for Ted Cruz at this point, to make sure he gets over 10% regardless of whether you want him to be the nominee or not, makes more sense in Rhode Island than voting for John Kasich.

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Ken Block & WatchdogRI.org Call on Governor To Challenge Constitutionality of Legislative Grants

[Watchdogri.org issued the following statement late this morning.]

Ken Block, Chairman of WatchdogRI, is calling on Governor Raimondo to ask the Rhode Island Supreme Court for a written opinion on the constitutionality of the corrupt legislative grant program.

Rhode Island’s constitution empowers the governor’s office to ask the RI Supreme Court to create an opinion on a legal question in Article X, Section 3, which states in its entirety:

Advisory opinions by supreme court. — The judges of the supreme court shall give their written opinion upon any question of law whenever requested by the governor or by either house of the general assembly.

For years, many Rhode Islanders have taken exception to the legislative grant program. This program dispenses millions of dollars a year in what many believe to be an unconstitutional scheme. The recipients of these grants are selected by legislative leadership, and the entire program runs without any input from the Executive branch of government.

The grant program likely violates RI’s constitution as it pertains to separation of powers.

Legal challenges to the grant program have been mounted before – notably by former Rep. Nick Gorham. In a surprising move, the RI Supreme Court declined to hear Gorham’s complaint because he was deemed to not have legal standing to bring a lawsuit over the grant program. Based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, it is unclear that anyone would have standing to challenge the grant program legally.

The corruption of the program came vividly to light after media accounts highlighted the fact that Speaker Mattiello granted $126,000 to himself for projects in his hometown.

The time for wink and nod politics must end in Rhode Island if we are to become a competitive state for business and jobs. The reluctance of our General Assembly to do the right thing and eliminate this program necessitates that others step in and force reform on the General Assembly.

Governor Raimondo has the power to issue a legal challenge that could end the corrupt legislative grant program. Will she use this power, or by declining to do so will she be complicit in allowing this corruption to continue?

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Transparency in the Political Next-Generation

Johanna Harris’s experiences trying to get information from the administration of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza are ridiculous:

I recently made a public records request for copies of Mayor Elorza’s daily schedules. The city responded that it would charge me $4,980 in advance to deliver the requested documents. That’s 332 hours at $15 per hour. The breakdown was two hours to find the schedules and an additional 330 hours to “review and redact” them.

And so Harris’s story goes… with liquor license information, with public meeting notes, with job descriptions.

Has anybody been getting the feeling that the more-recent generation of Rhode Island politicians think we’ve moved on from the principle of transparent government?

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Pension Case: Public Retirees Complain About Not Getting Dessert When So Many in D.P.S. Won’t Get Supper

The so-called opt-out case by some Providence retirees continued this week. Testimony yesterday did not include absurdly elitest and damaging references to BMW’s and international travel as it did at the start of the trial. Nevertheless, the lamenting of the loss of a pension COLA

During two hours of testimony in the trial involving the retirees who opted out of a 2013 pension settlement with the city, Stephen T. Day explained that he anticipates his 3% COLA would add about $800 to his pension check by 2019, providing a boost to his finances and allowing him help his family and retire.

is quite simply impossible to relate to by so many of us who don’t have any kind of (or only a woefully inadequate) retirement fund or a (quaintly antiquated) pension, much less a COLA. It’s important to note that so many public retirees in Rhode Island receive a very generous base pension to begin with, often goosed by overtime pay and – perhaps the most expensive component – one that so many retirees began collecting after only twenty or twenty five years of work.

To add to that a legal demand to keep a COLA comes across to most of us in the Dreaded Private Sector (D.P.S.), who are underwriting all of these highly quizzical promises, as someone demanding dessert after a five course meal when so many of us won’t be getting supper.

I cannot speak to the legal merits of this case. But by any measure, both the COLA’s and the bulk of public pensions are plainly inequitable. And from a p.r. perspective, the optics of this trial couldn’t be worse.

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A Republican Primary Primer


As we head towards Presidential Primary Day in Rhode Island, Anchor Rising/Ocean State Current would like to do its part to reduce the number of surprises that people might experience during the Republican primary and corresponding delegate selection process. So, be aware that…

1. Republican Primary voters will be voting in 3 elections, not 1.

2. Because of the 10% threshold rule, it is very possible that John Kasich and Ted Cruz will emerge from Rhode Island with at least 3 delegates each.

3. Primary voters can participate in choosing the delegates for any of the candidates, not just the one candidate they vote for — and if no candidate has a majority of delegates heading into the convention, this could matter.

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Unification of Government and Political Party

Of course, public spaces ought to be available for political speech, even for overt campaign events.  Banning a particular subject matter from, say, a gathering spot on the campus of a public college would be pretty much the definition of a free speech violation.

On the other side of the scale, of course, government shouldn’t be in the business of endorsing political candidates, although politicians’ activities would have to be pretty egregious to enter into the gray area, let alone cross the line.  Rhode Island Democrats seem to be getting pretty close, though.

This afternoon, former U.S. President and known liar Bill Clinton swung through Rhode Island to promote his wife’s candidacy for the same Oval Office he once used to cheat on her, and…

  • The event was at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI).
  • The event was in the middle of the workday (and government and school are both in session).
  • The college president helped introduce the politician.
  • The governor spoke, very politically.
  • At least half of the four statewide-elected officials in the state were in attendance.

Any one (or even four) of these factors wouldn’t indicate anything inappropriate, but at some point isn’t it incumbent on politicians wearing multiple hats to make it very clear which hat they’re wearing?

One might expect politicians to push the envelope in making it look as if the government and the people it ostensibly represents find their fellow partisans to be the natural candidates for public office, but the most worrying thing of all is that I’m likely the only person even expressing discomfort that a hard-to-reach gray area has been reached, if not breached.

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R.I. Supreme Court Body Slams APRA

The ProJo’s Kathy Gregg, on twitter, correctly called this ruling stunning.

The state Supreme Court ruled Monday that The Providence Journal is not entitled to records of the state police investigation into a 2012 graduation party hosted by then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s son that left an underage girl hospitalized and the governor’s teenage son accused of violating the state social-host law.

Their reasoning?

The high court agreed: “When the release of sensitive personal information is at stake and the alleged public interest is rooted in government wrongdoing, we do not deal in potentialities — rather, the seeker of information must provide some evidence that government negligence or impropriety was afoot. Because the Journal failed to provide any such evidence, the public interest can, at best, be characterized merely as an uncorroborated possibility of governmental negligence or impropriety.”

Obviously a standard that borders on impossible. When it comes to the public’s access of the vast majority of public records, officials need to be presumed “guilty” until the records exculpate them (if they do). With this misguided ruling, the state Supreme Court, however inadvertently and unintentionally, will exacerbate the public’s mistrust of its officials at a time when exactly the opposite is needed.

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Question for RIDOT: What is Cost to MAINTAIN a Tunnel Versus an Overpass?

RIDOT is holding an accelerated series of Potemkin … er, public hearings about their plan to repair the 6/10 Connector as they rush to meet a deadline this week to submit their request for federal funds.

At last night’s contentious public meeting, RIDOT Director and former Laborers International official Peter Alviti repeated his statement that RIDOT’s plan to repair the 6/10 Connector, which involves building tunnels, would cost the same as rebuilding the existing overpasses. (Oops, excuse me, we have to call them bridges.)

[Alviti] claims DOT’s favored plan of burying the highway with a boulevard on top would cost the same as only rebuilding the existing bridges

This stretches the limits of credibility, especially as RIDOT’s track record all but guarantees cost overruns. (The R.I. Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s proposed public-private-partnership would vastly minimize potential cost overruns, by the way.)

But let’s stipulate for a moment that the construction costs for a tunnel is the same as for an overpass. Question for RIDOT and Governor Raimondo: what is the cost to maintain a tunnel versus the price tag to maintain an overpass/bridge?

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A Budget Hint for the Mayor of Providence

… and all Rhode Island leaders:  Cut spending, and rethink the role of government in our society.  Otherwise, this problem is not only irresolvable, but also understated:

Without a correction, the city [of Providence] is headed for insurmountable financial burdens, Mayor Jorge Elorza said Monday, citing findings from a White House-funded report that projects a $176-million budget shortfall in 2026.

The cost of pensions, health care and benefits, and significant state aid cuts since the Great Recession, are key factors in Providence’s “financial imbalance,” according to a news release that the Elorza administration issued after receiving a draft of the report.

It really is that simple.  The way progressives want to run government will not work in the long term, and we cannot afford to let them finish off our economy and undermine our culture in order to learn that lesson.  If elected officials can’t (or won’t) face down the labor unions, they’ll have to cut back on services and make sure that the public knows that unreasonable labor demands have sucked up the money.

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Whitehouse and the Literal Conspiracy to Deprive Americans of Rights

Law professor Glenn Reynolds has an important essay in USA Today, this week, that’s relevant to RI’s former attorney general and now U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and other far-left loons who seek to implement an environmentalist inquisition and prosecute organizations that will not proclaim their unassailable faith in the doomsday wickedness of anthropomorphic climate change:

Federal law makes it a felony “for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the Unites States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).”

I wonder if U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker, or California Attorney General Kamala Harris, or New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have read this federal statute. Because what they’re doing looks like a concerted scheme to restrict the First Amendment free speech rights of people they don’t agree with. They should look up 18 U.S.C. Sec. 241, I am sure they each have it somewhere in their offices.

One suspects neither the law nor the science nor the long-term fate of the planet is actually a higher priority to such corrupt politicians than their own lust for power.  And any journalist or other person who handles these affronts as if they might be legitimate should be doubted if he or she claims to be interested in preserving Americans rights.

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Re-Election Worries? Speaker Turns To Former Republican Strategist

GoLocalProv is reporting that

Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello has hired veteran campaign operative Jeff Britt as a political consultant.

And the ProJo’s Kathy Gregg reported on Twitter that

Britt has been hired by Democrat Mattiello’s Fund for Democratic Leadership as a $25,000 consultant.

Though Britt’s most recent gig was as manager of the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Block, Britt had previously worked for Democrat Speaker Gordon Fox. (Britt split from Fox over the former Speaker’s handling of 38 Studios.) So strictly in terms of party flavor, this is not altogether an incongruous choice.

It is, nevertheless, unusual for a Democrat Speaker to turn to a non-purely Democrat election consultant for his leadership fund – and to the tune of $25,000, no less.

Kathy Gregg once again on Twitter.

Mattiello on hiring Britt as $25k consultant: : “He will provide strategy&assist me in promoting issues to best serve the citizens of RI.”

Could this be a sign that Speaker Mattiello is worried about the re-election chances of House legislators or even of himself? Is he concerned that the electability of House Democrats has been damaged by their facilitating his heavy-handed ramming through of Governor Raimondo’s onerous, highly unpopular toll program?

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Number of State Workers Making Over $100,000 More Than Doubled since 2007

More excellent and infuriating journalism by Kathy Gregg in today’s Providence Journal. Note that this is base salary only and does not include overtime pay (or benefits, of course).

So why do so many state workers make over $100,000?

There is no one reason the state’s online database now lists 1,378 state workers with salaries that top $100,000 beyond the obvious: year-after-year raises that over time have helped nudge the state payroll from $856.7 million in 2010 to a projected $1.01 billion this year; the push by every new governor to attract — and keep — the best and the brightest; sporadic efforts to “modernize” the salaries of select employees within Rhode Island’s “archaic” personnel system.

Really? These high and rising salaries are necessary to attract the best and brightest? Let’s try an experiment. Post every job on the state payroll with the salary reduced by 25%. See if you lack for genuinely best and brightest applicants. (Hint: better put some serious crowd control in place.)