October 19, 2010

A Governor for Dictatorial Times

Justin Katz

Lincoln Chafee's time as Warwick mayor ended before I'd taken much of an interest in Rhode Island politics, so I'd never had occasion to learn about his much touted resolution of a teacher dispute and strike in the city. The details in a recent PolitiFact article suggest that he might be more than comfortable with a role of governor in a time of state centralization of power:

In spring 1994, after talks broke down and the state mediator resigned in frustration, Chafee stepped in and cut a deal with the teachers, essentially bypassing the School Committee.

Under the agreement, backed by eight of the nine members of the Democrat-controlled City Council, base pay for a top-step teacher went from $39,762 during the 1990-1991 school year to $49,371 for 1996-'97, the final year of the pact. That's a 24.2-percent hike. The deal also included an extra 2.5 percent that teachers who were working during the 1992-'93 school year are entitled to receive when they retire or resign, a bonus that continues to be paid as teachers leave.

The question that the article addresses — leading to a "half true" rating for Chafee's Democrat opponent for governor, Frank Caprio — is whether Chafee can really be faulted for giving the teachers such a huge raise. The context that writer Eugene Emery finds compelling in Chafee's favor is that the total amount can be seen as spreading out over the course of the six years that the dispute continued.

Only in public sector labor disputes is it considered natural for wage increases to be counted over years of negotiation. Most workers who receive raises after long stretches of stasis don't see them as distributed across the years from one increase to another. Indeed, that mentality — the inevitability of retroactive pay — surely underlies the union's willingness to drag the process out for so long... until it could find some official party to acquiesce and make its members whole.

In this case, it appears that the voters of Warwick were not interested in replacing their school committee with representatives who would acquiesce to the union, and they had no reason to suspect that their votes for mayor would achieve the same result.

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As a Warwick resident, I remember how awful Lincoln Chafee was as mayor, and once he ascended to his late father's senate seat he treated his constituents with contempt. He was a creature of whatever interest he courted, or who offered him endorsements and cash. I'm terrified at the prospect of his, or Frank Caprio being elected to the governorship and am angry at how the local tv stations are in the tank for one or the other of the two. I don't see any coverage of John Robataille's events or press conferences, and that makes me angry as well. So much time is wasted on the slime fest between Caprio and Chafee, yet all three of our tv news stations don't do their jobs scrutinizing and challenging the lies of Caprio or Chafee, or following through in the public interest to Robataille's press conferences to hear what he has to say.

Posted by: Mary at October 19, 2010 11:55 AM

Robitaille hasn't challenged Caprio at all - he seems more interested in staying out of Caprio's way then in fighting for the office himself. You really should consider voting for Block.

Posted by: hellas at October 19, 2010 1:30 PM

hellas-i really don't get your comment-Robitaille is trying to avoid negative campaigning and put forth his ideas.he doesn't dance around issues.He's not trying to give the voters a hand job-you either like his ideas or not.
He has the most widely diverse background in terms of experience of any candidate and he comes from where most of us do.
I've decided to vote for him because I really don't want to have to hold my nose while voting this year-I have to go with my conscience.

Posted by: joe bernstein at October 19, 2010 4:32 PM

Robitaille is just more of Carceri's failed policies, Caprio is more concerned with giving his friends state business and Chafee wants to tax clothing. Since voting for any of these three will be wasting my vote anyway, I'll just vote for Mickey Mouse.

Posted by: No Good Choices.. at October 19, 2010 9:25 PM

"Only in public sector labor disputes is it considered natural for wage increases to be counted over years of negotiation. Most workers who receive raises after long stretches of stasis don't see them as distributed across the years from one increase to another."

Justin is forever pitting private sector worker against public sector worker. Maybe he thinks it is more natural for a huge wage disparity to grow over the years as it has in the private sector. Wage stagnation has helped only the ones who converted increased productivity into profits and extremely high wages and bonuses for themselves. Those are the same ones fattened most by the tax cuts that are contributing to the federal deficit.
What else over the years has Justin not shown any interest but still feels free now to offer opinions from his ideological bubble.

Posted by: Phil at October 20, 2010 6:06 AM

There is true ignorance in the statement Robitaille is just more of Carcieri. First, to fault Carcieri for this State's condition betrays common knowledge that this state is run by Democrat majority in the General Assembly. Second, Robitaille worked for him for 2 years and has never held public office making the statement extremely presumptuous. If for no other reason, the state needs a conservative to offset the wildly liberal GA.

Posted by: G-Man at October 23, 2010 3:00 PM
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