September 15, 2008

The Beginning of Actual Change

Justin Katz

Just a quick reminder for any Tiverton residents (or fiscal conservatives who wish to offer moral support to their peers here): Tiverton Citizens for Change is hosting its first public meeting tonight from 7:30–9:00p.m. at the VFW Hall at 134 Shove St., Tiverton.


The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m., and people are already showing up at 6:43. Space is limited.

ADDENDUM 7:00p.m.

Town officials in the room so far: Town Council members Don Bollin and Joanne Arruda, Town Administrator James Goncalo, School Committee member Sally Black, Town Clerk Nancy Mello, and Budget Committee Chairman Chris Cotta. I suppose from a good-government standpoint, incumbents really ought to attend these things, but given that the group is decidedly anti-establishment, it's still a surprise.

Might make for an interesting evening.

ADDENDUM 7:12 p.m.

We're probably about halfway to capacity, right now (with a big rush coming in), and even a crowd of this size can give one a sense of the complexity of society. That's something that I think gets lost in the week-to-week operations of town government, and the number in attendance already is much more than enough to have made a difference at the last Financial Town Meeting.

When a typical Town Council meeting has more people at the official tables than in the audience, it isn't surprising that the officials begin to take the people in the room as their constituency. When the School Committee is facing a grumbling crowd of teachers, with very minimal taxpayer representation, it isn't surprising that Rhode Island teachers' unions have pushed things as far as they have.

Even if local groups such as TCC manage nothing more than organizing an attendance movement (a phrase perhaps worth coinage), they could make a huge difference.

ADDENDUM 7:23 p.m.:

State Rep. John Loughlin just waved and called me Matt. "Wrong blogger." By far, representative, by far.

ADDENDUM 7:30 p.m.:

We're starting the meeting at room capacity. The reason, as moderator Tom Parker just said: "We have a problem in Tiverton."

ADDENDUM 7:37 p.m.:

TCC president Dave Nelson is making his presentation now, beginning with the bio that he moved here from NY, where he saw his taxes double over four years. Now he's seeing the same thing happening in Tiverton.

ADDENDUM 7:41 p.m.

A representative from the Little Compton Taxpayers Association is describing their experience: "Our main weapon is a newsletter... we have become a force in town."

"When you belong to this group [meaning the TCC], you better wear your helmets."

ADDENDUM 7:46 p.m.

Larry Fitzmorris of Portsmouth Concerned Citizens: "As individuals, when you go against town government, you don't have a voice... Together you have a voice; individually, you'll be ignored."

ADDENDUM 7:48 p.m.:

Harry Stanley of RISC: "You have enormous power in your hands" if everybody here tonight joins TCC and then goes out and brings one other person. (Presumably beginning with those people whom we had to turn away at the door...)

"A day will come when they [town and state government] are going to have to listen to you and to me... Don't let this be a one-meeting organization, because we need you — this state needs you."

ADDENDUM 7:57 p.m.:

Dave Nelson: "Our message is simple: We can do this."

It bears mentioning that the key take-away of this meeting is that we must vote, and we must be aware and organized in our voting. One important tidbit: Our ballot allows voting for up to seven town council members (and five school committee members), but voters don't have to vote for that many. Just getting people to withhold free votes could be decisive.

Heard in the audience when a candidate I don't recognize introduced himself to somebody: "Are you endorsed by this group? If you're not, I'm not going to vote for you."

ADDENDUM 8:02 p.m.

The free hot dogs are unveiled and the mingling begins.

ADDENDUM 8:18 p.m.:

His waving to me from the crowd reminded me that I neglected to mention the presence of my nigh-upon-inevitable state representative Jay Edwards. As at other public events — presumably in a display of pre-election comity — he spent the evening standing next to Rep. Loughlin.

By the way, the rough head count for the event was somewhere north of 200 people, meaning that we turned away about a quarter of those who showed up for the meeting because they wouldn't fit in the room. (I did my part by walking to the event, so as not to dissuade attendance due to lack of parking.)

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I hope you're have someone patrolling the parking lot to watch for The Crowley Goon Squad slashing your tires and/or writing down plate numbers.

Posted by: Greg at September 15, 2008 8:12 AM

I wish that I could have attended, but am busy with last minute preparations for a seminar tomorrow (I am the "expert speaker").

Somewhere up in heaven, Howard Jarvis is looking down and smiling.

Rhode Island's taxpayer revolt is a stirrin'!

Posted by: Tom W at September 15, 2008 7:54 PM

Very impressive turnout. Including attendance by some other very good citizen groups.

As for the presence of some of Tiverton's seated politicians - the expression "surprised to see Saul among the prophets" comes to mind. (Perhaps erroneously.)

That tip about bullet voting is excellent. When you're choosing for a position that will have several finalists (council of five, for example), vote only for the candidate(s) you really want to be on the council.

Posted by: Monique at September 15, 2008 9:20 PM

The NEA has chunks of groups like this in it's stool!

Posted by: Patches at September 15, 2008 10:11 PM

Maybe that's why the NEARI is choking.

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 15, 2008 10:30 PM

Less than twelve hours in existence and you guys are already making people nervous. Good going, Justin.

Posted by: Monique at September 15, 2008 10:43 PM

"The NEA has chunks of groups like this in it's stool!"

It sounds like the turnout may have rivaled the total number of teachers in Tiverton ... this by busy working people who weren't paid to be there, nor faced "union discipline" for not being there.

That Mayoral Academies passed in the last General Assembly session, and Mayor McKee survived a Democrat primary challenge, tells us that even the Democrat leadership is recognizing that, with each passing year, more and more voting "chunks" grow resentful over their children being held hostage in the parasite infested bowels of NEARI.

Bend over NEA, here comes the voucher enema!

Posted by: Tom W at September 15, 2008 11:35 PM

I always find it fascinating -- and deeply admirable -- to see the commitent of guys like Staley and Fitzmorris. They have already had exceptionally successful careers, yet are still swinging the bat, and letting age, experience and wisdom make up for the strenght and impulsiveness of youth. To use a sports analogy, Pat Crowley and Bob Walsh really aren't fit to carry their jock straps.

But that's a story for another day.

In the meantime, good luck to the newest minutement in RI's grass roots rebellion. It's almost enough to make an old cynic like me regain a touch of youthful idealism.

Cue the Rocky theme, Justin -- hey, Bill Conti is a Rudilanduh.

Posted by: John at September 16, 2008 12:23 AM

Congrats. You got a bunch of angry voters and taxpayers in a room for a few hours.

Now really impress somebody and DO something.

Posted by: Greg at September 16, 2008 8:12 AM

>Congrats. You got a bunch of angry voters and taxpayers in a room for a few hours. Now really impress somebody and DO something.


[In the interest of fair disclosure, I was professionally involved with PCC's efforts described below.]

A couple of years ago the PCC (Portsmouth Concerned Citizens) - led by Larry Fitzmorris - led the fight to preserve the results of the financial town meeting against a Town Council and School Committee that were conspiring behind closed doors to override the will of the voters.

Their gambit was to arrange (presumably prearranged) "stipulated settlement" amount with the Town, file a Caroulo suit, and then later approach the judge saying that the parties had reached a settlement with the Town, please sign off on it and enter judgment accordingly. This would then bypass Town Charter and the results of the financial town meeting provided for under the Charter.

PCC opposed the concept of a stipulated settlement, and the School Committee, presumably still confident that it would get its way, still proceeded to file a Caroulo suit.

The School Committee and Town both objected to PCC having any say in the Caroulo proceedings, but in spite of this unified opposition the PCC managed to persuade the judge to give it "amicus" status and file legal memoranda with the court.

PCC through its memoranda persuaded the judge to force the school committee to demonstrate to the court its "need" for funds, and not just rubber stamp a "settlement stipulation" worked out in the back rooms of the Town Hall between the School Committee and the (same political party) Councilors aligned with the School Committee / NEA.

Those same Councilors managed to derail the Town's "defense" - so a true contested case was not presented to the judge - and in spite of this he knocked about 1/2 to 2/3 off of what the School Committee sued for (considering that the judge's award would also have to pay whatever the School Committee paid its lawyers).

And of course, the School Committee netted nowhere near what it would have yielded if PCC had not opposed the "stipulated settlement" gambit.

A few weeks ago another Superior Court judge handed the Cranston School Committee a major defeat - dismissing its Caroulo suit. In her decision, she mentioned having read the materials from the Portsmouth case. While we don't know, it's likely that PCC's memoranda influenced her decision as well.

So with PCC and RISC standing by and willing to assist with the benefit of their experience, you might be surprised at how much Tiverton's taxpayers can accomplish ... and how in turn those accomplishments, like RISC's and PCC's, might start rippling throughout the state.

Posted by: Tom W at September 16, 2008 9:52 AM


And I fully support such actual actions. To celebrate that a bunch of people got into a room and expressed their righteous indignation is nice but there are a lot of native Rhode Islanders who are perfectly capable of spouting off at the mouth. There are precious few who will actually get off their ass and DO something.

Until we begin striking terror into the hearts of the power brokers in this state we cannot win. Alves was a nice start. Poison-Weed would be a nice kill to have under our belt.

Call me when the voter revolt reaches 'march on the state house' level.

Posted by: Greg at September 16, 2008 10:37 AM

>>” Call me when the voter revolt reaches 'march on the state house' level.”


It’s coming ‘cause it’s inevitable.

A “perfect storm” of fiscal and economic collapse in Rhode Island - caused by the colliding smaller storm fronts - is now virtually inevitable. Only the exact date is in question:

Storm Front 1: several billion dollars on unfunded pension and “OPEB” liabilities at the state and municipal level in Rhode Island, intensified as it passes over the warm water of masses of baby boomer public sector retirements (recall that unlike the rest of us, they don’t have to wait until 65-67 to contemplate retirement, they can start in their 50’s);

Storm Front 2: ever expanding welfare case load competing with Storm front 1 for tax dollars, intensified as it passes over the warm water of masses of recipients drawn here by our welfare magnet status, and once here rapidly expanding via the production of illegitimate babies / anchor babies;

Storm Front 3: employers / commercial taxpayers, i.e., businesses, already incentivized to leave and/or avoid coming to Rhode Island due to our heavy tax load (due to Storm fronts 1 & 2), now intensified as it passes over the warm water o having further reason to leave RI / the Northeast to escape our spiraling energy costs (e.g., heating). Much like we saw during the last energy crisis in the 1970’s, businesses are increasingly going to find that energy costs alone are reason enough – or a tipping point pushing those that are on the fence - to incur the expense and disruption of relocating to the Southeast (Rhode Island’s longstanding uncompetitive tax structure, union dominance, poor public education system, political corruption and Democrats’ general hostility to business of course each providing potential “tipping points” for other employers to leave and/or not locate here).

In turn this decreases commercially derived taxes, i.e., income taxes as owners and managers depart, taking employees’ jobs with them, causing our already 40% above national average unemployment rate to increase even further; and exacerbate the state’s brain drain as even more college graduates are forced to leave the state in search of job opportunities. Even as special interest demand for tax revenue keeps increasing, the flow is going to be substantially decreasing, over the short and long term.

Storm Front 4: increasing resistance by already tapped-out taxpayers – now intensified as it passes over the warm water of the working age taxpayers now unemployed or worried about becoming unemployed, and seniors unable to pay heating bills and property taxes on meager Social Security incomes – becoming ever more aroused and resentful for being forced to spiraling taxes only to support Democrat Party special interests: lush pay and perks for public sector employees (many of whom are patronage hacks who serve no useful purpose) and welfare queens and princesses who couldn’t be bothered to wait to complete high school and marry a responsible male before starting to pump out babies.

Thanks to the Democrat General Assembly, Rhode Island is heading into some ugly, ugly years. Not only do I expect to see marches on the State House, it would not surprise me to see riots as the public sector unions, welfare recipients and taxpayers battle with each other over the diminishing supply of taxpayer-extracted funding.

The Democrat General Assembly’s corruption precipitated RISDIC demonstrations of the early 1990’s may well prove to have been a "preview of coming attractions" for the main show.

Posted by: Tom W at September 16, 2008 11:57 AM

"Storm Front 1: several billion dollars on unfunded pension and “OPEB” liabilities at the state and municipal level in Rhode Island, intensified as it passes over the warm water of masses of baby boomer public sector retirements (recall that unlike the rest of us, they don’t have to wait until 65-67 to contemplate retirement, they can start in their 50’s);"

50's? 40's is more like it IF they don't "become disabled" first. Other than that your analysis is spot on. Any young person with kids would be INSANE to stick around this sewer-----unless they are on the public tit or have Jerzykian/Segalian support from a millionaire daddy.

Posted by: Mike at September 17, 2008 5:25 PM

> Any young person with kids would be INSANE to stick around this sewer-----unless they are on the public tit or have Jerzykian/Segalian support from a millionaire daddy

Being on the public teat might not be all that attractive much longer either.

Since the General Assembly can't fulfill its financial "promises" to the public sector unions and the welfare industry - and unlike AIG the Feds aren't going to bail out the RI General Assembly - it's going to have to "default" on some of those "promises."

Having support from a millionaire daddy certainly makes living in RI much more feasible, and it poises you to run for federal office, even if you're an empty suit like Patrick and Sheldon.

Posted by: Tom W at September 17, 2008 6:40 PM


I neglected to mention yet another Storm Front: infrastructure.

Rhode Island's bridges were recently rated the most decrepit in the entire country. And anyone who drives knows that our roads are a disgraceful exhibition of the potholers art.

For years (if not decades) the Democrat General Assembly has siphoned off gas tax money from maintenance and diverted it to curry favor with their special interest constituencies in the welfare industry and public sector unions.

As one result, the Sakonnet River Bridge has to be replaced, to the tune of $120 million (and RI has taken "an advance" on future federal highway funds to replace it, meaning those funds won't be available for other purposes when needed).

As has been reported recently in the Projo, the non-adequately maintained and thus crumbling infrastructure of this grossly mismanaged state requires hundreds of millions (if not billions?) of dollars to get it back just to where we should be.

Much like the situation described in the novel Atlas Shrugged, the deterioration occurring as productive people (John Galts) leave Rhode Island (or avoid coming here) has been occurring for some time.

As also described in that novel, that deterioration is now accelerating, and accumulating, such that the general population is now experiencing the sense that things are not good, indeed falling apart.

We have not yet reached the next stage, collapse and the general recognition by the populace, putting the pieces together, of cause and effect.

When that general recognition occurs, we may get the proverbial pitchforks and torches marching on the General Assembly, and Democrat politicians burned in effigy.

Posted by: Tom W at September 17, 2008 7:59 PM

Yeah... in effigy... riiiiight.

Posted by: Greg at September 18, 2008 12:22 PM

Effigy - that must be an RI neighborhood I haven't heard of.

The last seismic political upheaval was 70 years ago. Time for another. Long past time.

If you want to give to a Senate race outside your district, consider Donna Perry - running against Paiva-Weed.

Posted by: chuckR at September 18, 2008 6:50 PM
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