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About “Defunding the Police” in Rhode Island…


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.

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A Town Run by a Triumvirate and a Union

On the latest episode of Tiverton on Track, I Zoomed with Tiverton Town Council Members Donna Cook and Nancy Driggs.

As may or may not be happening in other Rhode Island towns, the governor’s emergency declaration (not to mention the example that she’s setting) has dramatically reduced the number of town officials who actually matter.  With three Town Council members — Joseph Perry, John Edwards (the Fifth), and Stephen Clarke — as well as the leadership of the Budget Committee completely abdicating their authority and shirking their responsibility, the town is being entirely run by the triumvirate of Town Council President Patricia Hilton, Interim Town Administrator Christopher Cotta, and Town Solicitor Michael Marcello, with a supporting role for Vice President Denise DeMedeiros.  No other elected officials in town matter.  Even the town’s Home Rule Charter bends to what the Triumvirate decrees.

Meanwhile, on the school side, the suspended teachers’ union president and the National Education Association of Rhode Island are taking advantage of the fact that the school department is forbidden by law from disclosing details of the incident.  NEARI is also pledging to stick it’s well-funded, mobster-like nose in the town’s elections to ensure that the town has management that the union prefers starting in November.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Decision Time!

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

I’ll be on again Monday, April 20, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Suggestions on Contract Reform from a Teacher

Michael Marra is a teacher of history and economics and asserts that Providence schools are not the only schools in need of improvement. His focus is on teacher contracts, which need to be modified to foster good teaching and diminish poor performance.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: They Value What They Promote

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 9, included talk about:

  • Unionist Pat Crowley’s promotion.
  • More grand jurying around the speaker.
  • Gina and her endorsements.
  • Minimum wage.
  • Anti-Second Amendment tax honesty.

I’ll be on again Monday, March 16, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Rhode Island’s Civic Infection

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 2, included talk about:

  • The degree of confidence in the state government to contain a contagious disease.
  • The effect of distrust on public perception of the Veterans Home debacle.
  • The meaning of Weingarten’s texts to Infante-Green.
  • The ubiquitous Mr. Nee.

I’ll be on again Monday, March 9, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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The Independent Man Needs YOU: Consider This Call To Civic Action

Is it time for you to get involved… to save our state? If we are ever going to change the policies that are driving away families and crippling businesses, the sad truth, my friend, is that we are going to have to change the players.

Rhode Island’s political class is so beholden to so many special interest groups and agendas, that they are paralyzed when it comes to considering common-sense, pro-growth policy reforms.

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Complaints and Interference

The pervasive theme throughout Tiverton on Track Episode 11 (stream below) is that a lack of transparency and a lack of respect for confidentiality when it is justified mix to create tension in a community.  That’s the case whether somebody elsewhere in the state tweets a detail out of supposedly confidential contract negotiations or the leadership of the Town Council attempts to resolve a community disagreement the way they want it resolved by keeping the details out of public view.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: The Corrupt RI Filter

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.

I’ll be on again Monday, February 10, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Tolls: What Happened to Gina Raimondo’s Promise to Hold off on Gantries Until After Lawsuit?

As public attention understandably turns to legal developments in the toll case and the very visible construction of toll gantries around the state, it is important to note how the governor explicitly broke her word on the critical matter of when toll gantries would go up and highlight the heavy financial consequences to which she has needlessly exposed Rhode Island residents with this completely unprincipled volte-face.

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When Every Conversation Is a Labor Fight in Warwick

A familiar subject floated through Rhode Island’s news cycle again last week when Warwick schools Superintendent Philip Thornton reported to his city’s school committee that the district should do something about teacher absenteeism:

Two schools — Wyman Elementary and E.G. Robertson Elementary — have chronic absenteeism rates of 24.4 percent and 22.7 percent, respectively. Chronic teacher absenteeism is defined as missing 18 days or more of school out of a typical 180-day school year.

Two more schools — Oakland Beach Elementary and Sherman Elementary — have rates above 20 percent.

In the 2018-2019 school year, more than 11 percent of all Warwick teachers — 100 teachers — were chronically absent, Thornton said, using data from the Rhode Island Department of Education. That said, more than a third of all teachers — 312 — missed less than five percent of school.

This isn’t just some hobby horse on which the superintendent wanted to beat for some reason.  He raised the issue because teacher attendance is part of the formula that the RI Department of Education (RIDE) uses to grade the Ocean State’s schools.  Looking for some means of holding our education system accountable (without actually changing anything), the state has developed metrics, and the chief executive of an organization has strong incentive to have his metrics look good.

We’re used to these spats, around here, but it’s worth stepping back a moment and plainly noting what is going on.  The superintendent has identified a metric on which he believes the district can make improvements, and the relevant labor union, the Warwick Teachers’ Union, led by Darlene Netcoh, called out the troops and ramped up the objections, staking out ground for the fight.  Some teachers have to work until 67, she says, which drives up the sick time, as if Rhode Islanders in the private sector have anywhere near the days off that government-school teachers get.  Netcoh also attacked the numbers themselves.

Big picture, our elected and appointed officials have to be able to discuss ideas big and small, and they won’t feel as free to do that if every comment or proposal might begin the gears of the labor-unrest machine.  In the private sector, management can discuss things and make plans before a possible dispute is placed in the open.  In the public sector, only the unions have that privilege.

If we want open, transparent government, then we need some social (or legal) pressure on the labor unions to back off.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Doubting the People in Charge

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

Open post for full audio.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Bad Positions for Political Actors

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 6, included talk about:

  • RI Congressmen’s bad alignment with the enemy
  • Projo points to key issues for the legislature
  • Linc finds another party to run with
  • RI pols try to get out of the way of the Census

Open post for full audio.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: RI’s Avoidance of Real Problems

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for December 30, included talk about:

  • Elorza’s interest in being governor
  • Causes and effects of Providence Mall brawls
  • Disappointment in Raimondo’s failure to succeed
  • Stephen Skoly’s warning about opioid nannyism

Open post for full audio.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Progressive Pressure

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for December 16, included talk about:

  • The governor’s Projo interview
  • Where’s all the money go… in Providence and RI?
  • Progressives’ state-killing tax proposal
  • Women’s caucus: another progressive organization

Open post for full audio.

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Chris Maxwell: Tolls – Connecticut’s Governor Continues to Stumble and Bumble Like a Fox

First Circuit Court Decision Stokes Urgency to Pass Truck-Only Tolls and Begin Gantry Roll-Out

Dead wrong as she may be, at least Governor Gina Raimondo made a decision and stuck with a plan. Her indecisive counterpart next door in the Nutmeg State, Ned Lamont, seems to change his mind on how and who he will toll on a weekly basis.

Governor Lamont’s latest maneuver has Connecticut poised to pass truck-only tolls as emergency legislation in the wake of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week giving jurisdiction on the American Trucking Associations’ challenge to RhodeWorks truck-only tolls back to the federal court.

In an interview Sunday, WTNH’s Chief Political Correspondent, Mark Davis, asked Lamont the following:

One year ago today, five weeks after the election, I asked you if you were still committed to the trucks only tolls, you said you were. About six or eight weeks later you changed your mind and included passenger cars. Last month, you went back to trucks only. Don’t you think that’s a problem for a Governor and a politician?

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A Far-Reaching Conversation on State of the State

State of the State co-host Richard August invited me on for a full hour of the show to cover a broad range of topics, from Tiverton’s recall election to broad political philosophy.

12-9-19 A Different View of Matters from John Carlevale on Vimeo.

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It’s Okay to Think Selfish Is Too Much

Retired Providence firefighter/EMT Michael Morse has a brief post on Rescuing Providence making the reasonable claim that “it’s okay to get paid”:

Without decent pay and great benefits I would have been forced to take my ability and passion for helping people elsewhere.

Morse’s argument is a bit of a strawman, however, and it’s one that labor unions tend to expand into a false dichotomy.  Nobody seriously argues that firefighters in communities that need or want something more extensive than a volunteer department should not be well compensated.  The tricky question is how much that should be.

Yes, in a more or less free market, it would be reasonable for employees to argue, as Morse does, that “it is okay to be selfless for selfish reasons.”  And if a community isn’t providing pay and benefits that attract workers, it will have to increase the pay.

The problem is that unions are designed to push beyond this dynamic.  We saw evidence earlier this year when legislation from Tiverton Democrat Representative John “Jay” Edwards the Fourth interfered with local negotiations to forbid firefighter union locals from continuing to negotiate contracts that the state and national unions don’t like.  (Edwards was very clear about who holds the power.)  This makes the compensation artificially high.  It takes whatever level of pay would not force Michael Morse and his peers to take their abilities elsewhere and then keeps going.

In those circumstances, one might reasonably suggest that it is not okay to be selfless for selfish reasons selfishly.  The unions would have us believe that workers who are not grabbing everything they can possibly get, by whatever means they can possibly get it, will inevitably be underpaid.  That perspective causes Morse’s reasonable point to evaporate and creates a society in which neither side can ever be content.

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The Tragedy of a Halted Development in Providence

There may be no better illustration of Rhode Island’s central problem than the foolish people celebrating the halt of a redevelopment project in Providence:

[Jim] Abdo’s request for a tax stabilization agreement, or TSA, was met with opposition from labor unions and progressive groups. Members of the groups applauded when the plan was tabled Tuesday night.

“I know Mr. Abdo is going to make out tremendously from his investment, with or without the TSA,” Nancy Iadeluca, the Rhode Island director for UniteHERE Local 26, said at a hearing about the TSA earlier this month. “What are we getting back?”

Mr. Abdo is looking to develop the former Providence Journal building and another next door, but he says he can’t secure financing for the project, pegged at $39 million, unless there’s a $2.7 million tax break.  According to the developer (who has reason to present his case in the best light, of course), property taxes resulting from the project would have been $5.7 million, anyway, in addition to more than $20 million in various state taxes.  All that comes with jobs and economic activity.

The article does not say, but one wonders, given labor’s involvement, if Mr. Abdo declined to promise to use union shops for his project.  Be that as it may, he says he’s going to hold on to the asset, undeveloped, whether or not it takes 20 years for him to do something with it.

Many Rhode Islanders oppose these special deals that make an inhospitable economic climate tolerable for hand-picked investors, but even we might see this outcome as tragic — if only as an indicator of things we don’t see.  Imagine how many deals are not being done in the Ocean State because of the environment progressive policies have created!

This is more than just tragic, though; it’s frightening, because under the progressives’ glee is the expectation that this is a step toward their “progress,” not an obstacle.  Note this comment from the Providence Preservation Society’s director, who supported the deal:  “These two buildings are eyesores in the core of downtown. They drive down the sense of positivity.”

Abdo says he’s patient, but his patience might be misplaced.  What the progressives may understand is that an “eyesore” is “blight,” and our society has given the government authority to confiscate properties on which they can pin that tag.  As Providence’s economy gets worse and worse, it may be that progressives are counting on being able to take Abdo’s property away from him, using public dollars to redevelop it into some delusional hipster dream (with expensive union labor), and taking the money to do it from the rest of us suckers who haven’t fled the state.