February 10, 2012

Receivership as a Way for Mayors to Grab Total Control of City Government?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Yesterday was the second consecutive day on which Buddy Cianci, during his WPRO (630AM) radio show, referenced an earlier interview with Central Falls Receiver Robert Flanders, where Receiver Flanders had apparently suggested that Rhode Island Mayors could deal with their fiscal problems by approaching the state and having themselves appointed receivers of their own communities. I'd be very surprised if state legislators had this kind of process in mind when they passed the "fiscal stabilization" law in 2010.

(Under the fiscal stabilization law, the state can move to immediately suspend municipal democracy in a community, without first passing through an "overseer" or a "budget commission" process first)...

In the event the director of revenue determines, in consultation with the auditor general, that a city or town is facing a fiscal emergency and that circumstances do not allow for appointment of a fiscal overseer or a budget commission prior to the appointment of a receiver, the director of revenue may appoint a receiver without having first appointed a fiscal overseer or a budget commission.
I didn't hear the original interview and haven't been able to find it on the WPRO website, so based on Mayor Cianci's account, I've put the following set of questions via email to Central Falls Receiver Flanders' office:

1. You have been quoted on the Buddy Cianci radio show as having said that some sitting Rhode Island Mayors should approach the state government and ask to become the receivers for their cities. Is this indeed a course of action that you advocate?

2. Conflicting accounts of the rescinding of the recent parking ban in Central Falls have been presented to the public. Most recently, W. Zachary Malinowski of the Providence Journal attributed the rescinding of the ban to the Governor of Rhode Island and not the Office of the Central Falls receiver (February 4 Providence Journal, "The next day, Governor Chafee, reacting to a public outcry, suspended the parking ban"). Could you clarify the process by which the parking ban was rescinded?

3. In Federalist 47, Montesquieu was quoted by James Madison: "There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates". Do you believe it is a wise course of action to tell the people of Central Falls, of Rhode Island, of the United States and of the world that fiscal crises justify restructuring of government in a way that removes what some of the great thinkers of the Western political tradition believe to be an essential safeguard to liberty?

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Put them ALL in BK-from Cranston to Woonsockett. All of them.
Cities and towns exist at the whim of the sovereign state. The failed munis should be governed by the state and abolished. Sanely governed munis like Scituate, Lincoln, Cumberland, Barrington, EG, etc. are not the problems. The others have forfeited the right to govern themselves.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at February 10, 2012 4:14 PM

In a democracy, government doesn't have unlimited power to organize people in any way it wants, without getting their consent first, and it's bizarre to think that once the concept of whole communities "forfeiting their right to self-government" is introduced into American democracy, it's only going to be applied by a ruling class that you agree with.

Posted by: Andrew at February 10, 2012 4:46 PM

I don't know what law school you went to Andrew but it sure wasn't the one I went to. The states are sovereign, independent of the United States. The municipalities are creations of the state's. The state made 'em and the state can break 'em.
We elect a governor and a GENERAL (note that word-it is no historical accident) Assembly to govern the whole of the state. While local governments are a nice luxury (like Godiva chocolate or Arizona Ice Tea) they are not needed. When a municipality produces insane results like disability pensions going to murderers serving life sentences and 200K pensions which will double every 12 years those municipalities have forfeited the right to exist, at least in my opinion.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at February 10, 2012 7:14 PM

I'm with Tommy. If you don't like it, you can always move down the road. Abolish the bastards.

Posted by: Dan at February 10, 2012 8:33 PM


I didn't go to law school, which means I haven't blown any money by paying tuition but missing completely what's being taught there. In a democratic system, states have no more right to create new bureaucrats who can raise taxes, without direct approval from a body of elected representatives of the people, than does any other level of government.

By the way, your all-wise, since they were elected in a statewide election, they are all-powerful state government has just laid the foundations for allowing private interests to have a direct vote in raising statewide taxes (in a state-level repeat of a process in Providence that contributed to the fiscal difficulties there), which should give you some cause to reconsider the idea that any revenue and expenditure process created by the state is automatically legitimate.

Posted by: Andrew at February 11, 2012 11:27 AM

"should give you some cause to reconsider the idea that any revenue and expenditure process created by the state is automatically legitimate."

Oh it is "legitimate" all right. We get the government we deserve.
It is MUCH easier to get "good" things done when you simply have a governor and a legislature to deal with rather than a Byzantine labyrinth of mayors, councils, school committees, etc., any one of which can, and does, throw a monkey wrench into reform efforts.
Why does a place less than half the population of Brooklyn need 80 legislatures (town councils and school committees)? Absurd.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at February 12, 2012 12:14 PM
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