January 14, 2009

Taking the Deliberative Out of Democracy

Carroll Andrew Morse

Let's recap the events that helped bring last night's East Providence school committee meeting to an abrupt end.

The third speaker of the public comment period was East Providence teacher Mary Texeria. As Justin alluded to in the previous post, Ms. Texeria made a tough but fair statement saying that she would be willing to accept a pay freeze for as long as five years, if the school committee would "admit" -- her word -- to all of the factors that have contributed to the East Providence budget crisis. The factors she mentioned were that "the school committee was never supported by the city council", "too many state mandates", "the collapse of our economy" and "mismanagement over a 10 year period". (Start at 0:49 here).

Then East Providence resident Tom Riley took his turn. He also discussed the salary situation, stating that he would prefer to see an across-the-board salary reduction that would preserve the existing number of teacher positions, rather than cuts that result in junior teachers being laid off. At that point, somebody from the union side demanded that Mr. Riley be prevented from commenting on this subject, despite the fact that Mr. Riley's comments were no more further afield from the subject of the meeting than Ms. Texeria's.

And the teachers clapped.

In response to a demand that a citizen be silenced, the teachers clapped, eventually loud enough to prevent Mr. Riley from being heard. (Interruption of Mr. Riley is constant, but start at about 1:50 here to hear the end).

East Providence teachers union President Valerie Lawson later went on WJAR-TV (NBC 10) with Dan Jaehnig to say that "we live in a democracy, everybody's entitled to free speech". Apparently to Ms. Lawson, a democracy is a place where only union members have the freedom to speak on issues in public forums. This kind of disdain for citizens, taxpayers and democracy is why many members of the general public have ultimately come to take a dim view of teacher unions.

We have to do better than this if we expect self-government to survive.

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You all seem suprised and shocked by the behaviour of Bob Walsh's flock.

When will you people wake up and realize what the NEA & Co. is really all about?

When will you stop pretending you can have intellectually honest discussions with these parasites?

Was it not revealing enough that Mr. Walsh would employ a The Finger, Patrick Crowley, as his #2.

Perhaps now that you've seen his full flock in action, all while he sat silent, you will begin to call a spade a spade and stop wasting your time trying to engage him in conversation while he coyly picks your pocket.

Posted by: George Elbow at January 14, 2009 10:36 PM


If the deliberative approach didn't work and wasn't important, then the union wouldn't be working so hard to shut down a single speaker from making a few mild and obvious points and to keep negotiations out-of-public, as much as possible.

Posted by: Andrew at January 15, 2009 7:53 AM

"We have to do better than this if we expect self-government to survive. "

Better than bombings, assassinations, lynchings, and union line clubbings? I know you haven't forgotten US history. You are going to put this mild mannered event up against some of our country's illustrious past labor episodes? How about tar and feathering? I know you haven't forgotten your Washington Irving. Or are you a modern day Rip Van Winkle?

Posted by: David at January 15, 2009 7:27 PM


You have the causal chain reversed. Societies survive things like assassinations and bombings BECAUSE they're strong enough at the local level to cut through the fog, help one another out and move ahead together.

Right now, I'm pretty sure that EP residents, like most RI residents, could still pull together if there was a real emergency. But if Tuesday's meeting is the way all business is conducted into the future, if we divide ourselves up to the point where one side doesn't even recognize the right of the other side to speak at a public meeting, that won't stay true forever.

Posted by: Andrew at January 16, 2009 9:02 AM
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