April 17, 2006

Power to the People

Don Roach

This post isn't going to gain me friends in the minority community, but here goes nothing. Donna Fishman's column in today's Projo regarding voter initiative illustrates the reason I squint every time the words "affirmative" and "action" are phrased together.

First, understand my history. I'm an African American male who has excelled in areas where African Americans, much less African American males, have historically been on the outside looking in. I was usually the only brown face in my elementary and secondary school classes. Further, I have firsthand knowledge of implicit, explicit, and every other type of racism out there. Yet, when direct democracy is billed as an anti-ethnic tool of "the man," enough's enough.

Voter initiative gives regular Joes like you and me the power legislate change without having to pander to special interests, as often do the legislators whom we've recently seen being more interested in kickbacks than kick-starting the programs/policies constituents desire. But, Fishman says:

Although voter initiative is dressed up in politically correct slogans — such as "One vote per person," "Let your voice be heard," and "Majority rules" — voter-initiative referenda often result in the unequal treatment of minorities. … After affirmative action is lost, gay rights will be the next to go. English-only referenda have also been passed by majority voters who are against ethnic minorities' and immigrants' rights.

My goodness, is the sky falling as well? First of all, voter initiative would not take away anything that legislators can do now. Instead, questions will be presented to the public as they have for nonbinding and binding referenda as well as constitutional amendments — one of which, the re-enfranchisement of former felons, directly and positively affects minorities in Rhode Island. So it is the height of misinformation to espouse the idea that voter initiative will adversely affect any and all minorities.

Furthermore, as a member of a minority, I'm sick and tired of leaders playing to fears and to my ethnic affinity. Voter initiative isn't some bogeyman bent on destroying the civil liberties of minorities. Voter initiative will empower average Americans with an authority unlike they are able to exert today. Sounds much like the intent behind affirmative action: bestowing rights upon people who had been formerly barred from certain opportunities. The difference is that, whereas affirmative action sought to level the playing field with a temporary and imperfect solution resulting in new opportunities for some and new headaches for all, voter initiative can keep people engaged and empowered and encourage the utilization of our civic rights in a way differing from any means currently at our disposal — without any "ism" baggage.

So, if giving power to the people is anti-affirmative action, sign me up.

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Legislators vs Taxpayers!

I recently came across a very enlightening Letter to the Editor entitled “Lawmakers vs. Rhode Island voters” (Projo 15 April Pg D-7) that I feel deserves some amplification.
First, a few excerpts:
“Rhode Island is well known as the state with an abundance of "freebies," the nation's "candy store." With that in mind, I was extremely disappointed to read that a Senate Committee voted against Voter Initiative.
With the state facing a budget deficit of $350 million, we taxpayers absolutely need new influence in our government. Balancing the budget is of prime concern, and anything would be an improvement over what we presently have.
Voter initiative would give citizens an alternative when their lawmakers fail to listen to the very people who voted them in office.”

The author goes on to state:
“Some senators were concerned that children would be denied health benefits.”
“It's obvious that some senators refuse to admit what has happened in Massachusetts with Proposition 2 1/2, limiting property-tax increases. I find it hard to believe that Rhode Islanders would not be interested in tax relief.”

Unfortunately for most of us, the author failed to mention these Senators by name.

That’s OK though because I was there and I’ll do it for her.

Sen. Teresa Paiva-Weed and Sen. Steve Alves!

With the state facing severe budgetary problems, these two seemed less concerned with allowing for legislation that could possibly provide tax relief for ordinary citizen than continuing to increase programs that are the single largest factor contributing to the state’s financial woes.

I believe Sen. Paiva-Weed went so far as to state her priority is “….maintaining RIteCare for “ the children of undocumented immigrants”!”

I think we all understand her use of this polite euphemism. What she should have stated in plain English, was “…the children of “ILLEGAL ALIENS.”

Immigration is both necessary and vital to the United States; Illegal immigration will only serve to divide this nation and exacerbate the problems we are already facing!

Sen. Alves, his voice raised, declared, “It’s for the children!” Really?

How many times will these legislators raise throw that one out expecting us to feel guilty? That’s Nonsense and they know it. It is to help them return to the State House!

Have they ever considered the impact on the children of RI’s CITIZENS? I guess it doesn’t matter that some parents have work two jobs to pay for the largesse of these two legislators. Remember their comments as you’re writing out your next tax payment!

When most Rhode Islanders can barely keep their heads above water because of our tax burden, these two “leaders” seem to have lost sight as to what is the primary cause of the unsustainable growth of the State Budget.

I remember now, it’s not their money; It’s OPM, Other People’s Money!

Keep paying the bills people! Keep reelecting these “leaders”!

Better yet, perhaps it is time to act upon Sen. Alves challenge to RI’s taxpayers?

"Every two years at election time if the voters don't feel we are responsive they can throw us out." – Projo 6 April 2006

Posted by: "Aldo" Palazzo at April 18, 2006 10:36 AM

Here's an alternative theory that explains Senator Alves' comments: The Richard Scrushy Defense.

Posted by: Jim at April 18, 2006 7:47 PM