August 31, 2005

Achorn's Wisdom on Chafee/Laffey - What's Right I

Carroll Andrew Morse

In his Tuesday Projo column about a possible Laffey/Chafee primary, Edward Achorn gets a lot of things right, at least one important thing wrong. What’s right?

1. In the terminology of Mickey Kaus, he “advances the ball” for those of us trying to understand the mechanics of the issue. Achorn tells us something about what the $500,000 contribution consists of. As AnchorRising commentor Will has been informing us, it’s not a $500,000 cash contribution…

The Republican National Committee is trying to funnel $500,000 to Senator Chafee by means of providing the state GOP with a sophisticated voter-identification system.
I’d like to know a bit more about this. Who is being identified? Is this a one-time only list of information, or is it something that can be used in the future if properly maintained? This information also calls into question Senator Chafee’s statement that he is not interested in the $500,000. Is the Senator not interested in using the voter-identification system? Is his really aware of what’s going on with the Rhode Island party, or are the national operatives acting on his behalf without consulting him?

2. A tad obliquely, Achorn gets the fundamental issue surrounding the rule 11(a) waiver correct

Robert Manning refused to sign off on the gift -- an approval required under party rules -- unless it is available to all Republican candidates.
The clear implication, of course, is that the “voter-identification system” is being donated on the condition that it will NOT be available to all Republican candidates. Is Steve Laffey the only person excluded, or are there others?

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I would like to know what good Laffey is anyway, when the teachers union can get a deal like the 3 YEAR deal they got today.

This is more than a city like Cranston can afford to give to a huge sector of its employees, teachers, and I am a big supporter of quality teachers and education. But the fact is, a deal like this is bound to drive up taxes at a faster than inflation and wages rate. This means people like me, in non-unionized professions, are paying a much bigger burden of our health insurance costs, and in the next 3 years, I predict that these costs will far outstrip any pay increases. Add to this the increased taxes, and we're in the hole.

Much as I hate to admit it, we need someone even more financially tight and hard on the unions than Laffey. Or the system has to be set up differently, so the cities allocate funding for the ENTIRE period of a major contract's negotiation, so that the union contract bills don't keep outstripping the tax revenue year after year.

I say we stop all the speculation about the mayor's future and talk about what's going on right here, right now.

Posted by: averagejane at September 1, 2005 8:36 AM


You need to know that the teacher's contract is completely out of Mayor Laffey's sphere of influence. By state law, that contract can only be negotiated by the Cranston School Committee. There are no checks and balances in the process. Taxpayers are on the hook when the deal is made with a wink and a nudge in some backroom.

Since the School Committee takes its marching orders from the superintendent of schools and is stacked with members whose friends and relatives are teachers, there is no reason to expect to see a contract that is actually fiscally prudent and fair to the taxpayer.

I am disgusted with the Cranston School Committee and the Cranston School Department. I can only hope Cranstonians remember this contract debacle - and how it will increase taxes - come November 2006.

Posted by: kneecap at September 1, 2005 10:54 AM

I understand how these things work, Kneecap. That is why I said it seems that the system needs to be changed so that negotiations are based on real numbers for what a city can fund a department over the entire period of a contract, especially a department as huge as the school department. All of the mayor's talk is completely useless without some form of accountability. I thought that the limits placed on the amount budgeted to the school dept this year would function as some form of accountability but apparently not. That is why I am saying the system needs to change. Perhaps that should have been the mayor's first order of business when he took office, recognizing that it would be easy for the city's biggest spenders to completely ignore the financial plans of the future as they signed a new contract.

The school committee has not signed off on this yet, and you better believe I am contacting my school committee rep to go over the numbers of what this is going to cost the taxpayers. By my calculations, these pay raises for teachers will jack up the cost of the school department's budget by about 4 to 6 million dollars a year. Added to the soaring cost of healthcare, which 5% copay will hardly make a dent in, and the other rising costs of education, and this will bring the school's budget way beyond the range of a healthy expanding budget (5% increases per year overall, at most).

I'm wondering why the mayor is not getting out his bullhorn and gathering the public to go to the school committee's meeting where they will vote on this budget.

Posted by: averagejane at September 1, 2005 12:08 PM

I have contacted my school committee rep and my ward councilperson. Apparently the school committee members my councilperson (Cindy Fogarty) talked to stated that they were not able to negotiate up on the copay or the teachers threatened to strike. I say, let them strike! Let's have it out over this issue.

Councilperson Fogarty says she will be at the meeting where they take the vote and will present her criticisms of the contract which she agrees is not fair to taxpayers and offers way too many concessions to the teachers. Of course she has no control, but it is an opportunity to vocalize criticism and alert people to the long-term repercussions of this 3 year deal.

Posted by: averagejane at September 1, 2005 11:37 PM

Just to follow up on my attempt to organize a some much-needed dissent regarding this new teacher's contract, both Democrat and Republican city council members are going to voice their concerns on this contract, but it will not be easy, as the school committee has quickly scheduled a meeting which is less than 36 hours from now, probably so they can vote this into law before any more people actually find out about it. If you want to attend, this meeting will be at 6:30 on Sept 7 in the Briggs Building, on the corner of Pontiac and Park in Cranston.

Posted by: averagejane at September 6, 2005 9:29 AM