March 8, 2011

Maybe the Mistrust Is Indicative of Knowledge, Not Ignorance

Justin Katz

Here's an interesting tidbit from last week's Political Scene. The Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, which collects dues from the state's municipalities in order to act as their advocate to the state — thus lightening the necessity of representatives and senators to do their job, one suspects — held some focus groups while stratagizing about its legislative agenda:

And Daniel Beardsley, the league's executive director, says he was surprised by what he heard: "I was absolutely shocked at the disappointment, disgust and cynicism that those 30 people, representing a broad spectrum, showed for local and state government," he said during a recent taping of Rhode Island PBS' "A Lively Experiment."

Typical symptom of the problem that he appears to be, Beardsley's conclusion isn't that his organization should strive to help local governments figure out the ways in which they aren't satisfactorily doing their jobs. It isn't to seek legislation that would force local governments to operate in more admirable fashion. Rather, the league is thinking that it might spend the taxpayer money that it collects as dues in order to persuade taxpayers that their local governments are making good use of their tax dollars.

Elected officials would do well to take another approach. A public that does not share an undying love for government might be asking for better execution of public duties — and perhaps a smaller scope of activity — when it expresses "disappointment, disgust, and cynicism."

In related, news, I note that, two items down, Political Scene also mentions four state Representatives who attended a labor union rally at the State House. David Bennett (D, Warwick) said he was there both as a union member and as a government official. "We have to stand up and speak for ourselves," he declared, not apparently hearing the question in the air: Against whom?

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He reminds me of the case studies in Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People who go through life frustrated that other people aren't recognizing how wonderful they supposedly are. It takes an uncommon amount of courage and introspection to ask what you are doing to cause these negative reactions in people. Nobody sets out to hate you.

Something I hear repeated often (particularly from the union at my workplace, attempting to justify conflicts with supervisors) is that personality conflicts at work are inevitable and can sprout up for no particular reason. I'm of the opinion that personality squabbles have no place at the workplace and if somebody has a problem with you, then you're probably doing something wrong, if only that you aren't handling that person properly.

So, Daniel Beardsley, what is causing this unified front of "disappointment, disgust, and cynicism" against you and local and state Rhode Island government? Do you have the courage to look inward, or are you just going to sweep this problem aside with "the people must be corrected" like all progressives?

Posted by: Dan at March 8, 2011 7:39 AM

"Against whom?"

Rep Bennett answers: Against The Man!!! (... oh, wait, "The Man" is my constituency.)

Posted by: Monique at March 8, 2011 8:26 AM

I find it interesting in every poll I've read that despite the GOP's overwhelming victories last year, people aren't any happier with Congress as a result.
People felt the Democrats overreached after '08, and there was a backlash. The GOP has obviously failed to learn from history, and is doomed to repeat it.

Posted by: bella at March 8, 2011 10:37 AM

What a shocking analysis coming from bella. Back to Beardsley. Nothing would be finer than the cities and towns dropping this league of lobbying. Don't we have a built-in lobby with our own senators and reps? Beardlsey is a blowhard drama queen. I was forced to sit through a seminar many years ago where he proceeded to tell a story of negotiating with an FOP and how he put a gun on the table for affect. Give me a break. It's time for this clown to move on. Talk about leeching off the taxpayer.

Posted by: Max Diesel at March 8, 2011 1:37 PM

"The GOP has obviously failed to learn from history, and is doomed to repeat it."

Right. Because the GOP has had both houses of Congress and the White House like the Dems did before '08, is that what you're saying bella?

Oh wait, no. The Dems still control the Senate and the White House.

So what is it exactly that the GOP is "overreaching" on?

Posted by: Patrick at March 8, 2011 2:31 PM

Obviously "before '08" should be "since '08"

Posted by: Patrick at March 8, 2011 2:37 PM

Collective bargaining, for one. But some newly elected governors just couldn't let a sleeping dog lie.
Reproductive rights...yes, we elected a GOP House (the only reason they didn't win the Senate was through their own stupidity) to go after abortion (although the Huckabee attack on Natalie Portman kind of muddies that message).
If John Boehner wants to waste political capital on a rearguard action against same-sex marriage, let him. Personally, I was pretty happy to see a Catholic pro-lifer like Langevin take the stand he did.
The GOP lost Congress because they got caught up in that stuff. They won the House back because they put hardline social conservatism on the back burner. But some people just can't help themselves.

Posted by: bella at March 8, 2011 2:56 PM

Every so often bella makes a point that provbes she isn't brain dead.
O'Donnell and Angle were self-destructive to a Republican takeover in the Senate.Particularly Sharron Angle.
O'Donnell was just naive.Angle was a piece of crap from the jump.
She defeated a normal conservative who'd have crushed Harry Reid.BTW Reid is as bad a scumbag as Angle.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 8, 2011 5:23 PM
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