November 14, 2012

Free Cars!

Patrick Laverty

I'm just amplifying Tim White's latest WPRI report on the use, and possibly, abuse of state-owned vehicles for top politicians, titled "Taxpayer Taxi."

My immediate reaction is probably the same as everyone else's, why the heck do they have state-owned and even chauffeured cars? Seriously? Here are all the people who we are paying to have a car, and maybe all have a driver:
-Governor Lincoln Chafee
-Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts
-Treasurer Gina Raimondo
-Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed
-House Speaker Gordon Fox

Plus, possibly the Secretary of State, Ralph Mollis, but that has not been confirmed as his office has not yet responded to WPRI inquiries.

Wow. Five or six different politicians all need cars. Add to that, the Mayor of Providence also has a car. If you've been around City Hall, maybe you've noticed that the car has its own parking spot.

I try to be fair, so I can understand that maybe the Governor can be so busy that he can actually get work done by having a car and driver. I'm ok with that one and won't argue it too much. But the others? The Lt. Governor needs a driver? The Treasurer? I'm not buying it in the least. Certainly not for the Senate President or House Speaker either.

The article indicates that two cars were purchased for about $60,000. Plus $7,500 a year in expenses. Sure, the approximate $33,000 a year in expenses for those four or five unnecessary cars is a drop in the bucket in the whole state budget, but we're seeing many drops in the bucket. Can these people seriously not find any better use of $33,000 a year?

Add on to that, the article indicates the Senate President was using a Legislative Aide as her driver, who earns $39,000 a year. Is that the best use of a state employee? Is that what this person was hired for? Do we have five people making $39,000 a year to be chauffeurs? If so, that'd be another $160,000 we're spending.

One other part of the article that stuck out to me was Sen. President Paiva-Weed's statement:

"It was a tradition when the vehicle was acquired in 2007, prior to me becoming the Senate president," she said. "If in fact it came time to acquire a new vehicle … I would give some consideration that maybe we no longer need a state vehicle."
I would say that if a leader felt that way, then a leader would end the perk immediately. If she doesn't think it's something that she'd renew, that she isn't seeing the value in it, then why is it continuing? I would think there are only two options here, either she sees the value and she would sign a deal to continue the perk, or she doesn't see the value and should end the benefit immediately and sell the vehicle. It seems rather wishy-washy to tell Tim White that given the choice, you might not continue the benefit. SELL, SELL, SELL! That would show leadership.

Lastly, one other point that needs to be highlighted in Tim's article is one of the last statements he makes in the video, that there are no logs kept of where the vehicles go, what they're being used for, when they're used and who they are used by. Is this merely oversight or are they trying to hide something? Unfortunately and possibly unfairly, when this is the case, we have to assume the worst.

The usual response to reports like this is the people involved just wait and hope that things blow over and it's back to business as usual. I'm guessing that will be the case here, but maybe enough legislators will agree that enough is enough. If they're not willing to cut their legislative grants to plug holes in the budget, maybe they'll agree that these vehicles have got to go. It's time to put an end to this pork.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

"If she doesn't think it's something that she'd renew, that she isn't seeing the value in it, then why is it continuing?"

But she's not in a position to make that cost/benefit determination. Because she only experiences the benefit, her decision will always be to renew the perk. Only public pressure (a form of cost) could possibly influence her decision.

Posted by: jgardner at November 14, 2012 10:34 AM

As a point of reference, many of the heads of federal agencies are riding their bicycles to work, driving their own cars to meetings, and riding coach on airlines.

Posted by: Dan at November 14, 2012 11:08 AM

What do you expect when you send the same re-treads back to the GA year after year after year?...70+ Years of (D) Leadership and going strong.

Posted by: JTR at November 14, 2012 11:25 AM

I know of at least one other community where the mayor drives a city owned vehicle, comes out of the police budget for some reason. I'd be interested to know how many other mayors get this perk. The state (and certainly the cities/towns)just isn't big enough to justify a free car. I could see a fuel stipend but the cost of purchasing, maintaining, repairing a vehicle doesn't jive with the fiscal austerity our elected officials have been preaching.

Posted by: seirra1 at November 14, 2012 12:26 PM

The biggest expense, as always, must be the human factor. They can drive themselves around town like the rest of us mortals. Fire the driver (sorry buddy, but you can find better things to do for a living... maybe not in RI).

Posted by: Dan at November 14, 2012 12:56 PM

What state officials need take home cars?That we pay the gas for?
(1)Superintendent of the State Police(who is also in charge of the Dept of Public Safety
(2)whoever is the head of the state EMA
No one else.This doesn't include state troopers who are subject to callout from home.
Gordon Fox?That dirtbag is rolling in money and he needs a car on our dime?For what?To collect contributions?And Teresa Paiva-Weed-even worse.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 14, 2012 2:56 PM

A few thoughts from a parallel universe, Massachusetts. This from a long deceased guy I knew who had been president of the Senate, 60 years ago. Mass always bought the Governor a new Cadillac, that began when Peter Fuller (Peter Fuller Cadillac) was governor in the 1920's. This continued (despite the fact that Lincoln had a $1 per year lease deal for Governors)until Bill Weld was governor and switched to a Ford Crown Vic. Gov. Deval switched back to a Cadillac (becoming "Sedan DeVal"). This caused some outcry and he switched back to a Ford. Mass. has a long tradition of lifetime appointments for the governor's "Drivers", usually State Police. Who has a state car is easily determined in Mass. because they have blue plates.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at November 14, 2012 6:30 PM

I don't know who else in Mass has state cars, but you do seem to see a lot of blue plates around Boston on otherwise unmarked cars. Of course, about 6 months ago, the Lt. Gov. gained some notoriety by driving his state car off the road at 90 mph, around 5 o'clock in the morning. Although adult beverages were suspected, he wasn't asked to blow a breathalyzer. It seems to me that a former Lt. Gov. (Swift?) regularly took the State Police helicopter from Boston to the Berkshires to check on her children.

So, what am I saying? "power corrupts".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at November 14, 2012 6:45 PM

this is totally unnecessary, we have no money.

I hope the electorate is happy with their decision the re-elect these slimeballs

Posted by: Kathy at November 14, 2012 7:44 PM

I believe Hummell did a little investigating and found out that Providence's mayor has a car and full-time police detail (that's three officer FTEs, one for each shift of the day).

When he called other comparable cities (Worcester, Hartford, etc.), only a few let the mayor use a city vehicle, and none provided police or drivers.

Even Mayor Bloomberg takes the subway to work, without an escort.

Posted by: mangeek at November 15, 2012 8:32 AM

Mangeek - I'll be in RI Dec. 24-28. You want to coordinate something that Thursday?

Posted by: Dan at November 15, 2012 2:19 PM

I'll see what I can do!

Posted by: mangeek at November 15, 2012 3:29 PM

Angel must think he's Cicilline or something

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 15, 2012 8:57 PM
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