February 11, 2013

Keeping Taxpayers in the Dark

Patrick Laverty

I hope everyone was able to keep safe and as warm as they could through the storm. The cleanup has begun, and even probably ended in many towns. However in some places, we hear about the plows' inability to keep up and even still some people complaining that their road hasn't seen a plow yet. For some great updates on cities like Pawtucket and North Providence, the Valley Breeze's Ethan Shorey has been using his Twitter feed to report on conditions

Some of the more interesting tweets from Shorey included:

#Pawtucket resident just informed me that they're hiring private plowing contractors so they can leave their homes.
Pawtucket's cut a lot of staff since the last big snowy winter. In this case, I'm hearing lighter plows didn't keep up during the day so they couldn't get through later on. Shortage of big trucks.
Others were reporting that mayors of Pawtucket and Cranston were asking Governor Chafee for help with the snow removal in those cities.

Wait, what?

These are the cities that had some of the most fiscal problems in the past, due to overly generous municipal compensation packages, and now they're having trouble paying for snow removal? The answer is to ask the state to take state-funded trucks off state roads and put them in those towns to do the town's snow removal?

To be clear, these are drivers and trucks that are paid for by people in all 39 cities and towns being sent to the couple of, at least previously, most fiscally irresponsible cities in the state.

Why does it seem like politicians are able to dodge a major awakening from their citizens just in time? What if these cities weren't able to get help from the state? How angry would the residents get? Would they then start asking questions why there is no money allocated in the city budget for snow removal? Would they then start going over the budget and looking to see where their money is going?

If cities and towns are responsible for anything at all, one could argue that as an absolutely minimum, the responsibility is for safety and infrastructure before all else. Otherwise, you don't even have a city.

I am glad that people are finally going to be able to dig out and get around, but I think some hard questions really need to be asked in some of these towns about priorities.

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Snow removal has always been one of the shadiest sides of low level corruption. 5-6 years ago, Providence (perhaps statewide) passed a rule that you had to have a truck to bid a contract. I don't believe that has had any effect.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 11, 2013 9:42 AM

Careful, Patrick. According to the inestimable genius of RIFuture editor Bob Plain, a conservative complaining about inadequate snow removal is hypocritical and ironic ("So much for small govt!!").

Posted by: Dan at February 11, 2013 1:57 PM

Is this possibly a labor issue in NP and Pawt? You know, we do have privatization of trash collection (Pawt) and landscaping (NP) recently! Plus all those layoffs in Pawt.

Just sayin'. Any trucks observed doing nothing when they should have been plowing?

Posted by: John at February 11, 2013 2:01 PM

we were under a state of emergency, the National Guard needs to be on charge of directing snow removal statewide, what we have now is crap

Posted by: Kathy at February 11, 2013 2:45 PM

Thanks for the heads up, Dan. Yeah, a small government type would be opposed to protection and infrastructure. Small govt != no govt. The hypocrisy would be if an anarchist was complaining about a lack of snow removal. I'm fine with paying taxes for things like protection and infrastructure. Snow removal from city streets falls in the infrastructure category.

Posted by: Patrick at February 11, 2013 2:53 PM

Usually Plain's argument (if you can call it that) assumes the form that all libertarians are hypocrites because they use public roads (the No True Libertarian argument). The fallacy, or at least one of several fallacies in play, is the conclusion that operating within the current system somehow precludes advocating for change. Also, as you point out, reducting government incursion into some areas of life, especially the more dubious ones, does not logically require reducing government in all areas, such as public roads. Plain doubled down on the hypocrisy argument this weekend by tweeting that libertarians are "f***ing adorable" (thanks for keeping it civil, Bob) because Ron Paul filing an intellectual property law suit apparently makes him a hypocrite who loves big government. In any case, I found the original tweet itself ironic because complaining about poor public services is entirely consistent with contemporary conservative arguments against big government.

Posted by: Dan at February 11, 2013 3:23 PM

Rhode Island is under a state of emergency as declared by the governor and the National Guard was activated.

You had a blizzard; about 24 to 30 inches of snow fell across RI and you were able to move around the day after the blizzard with most major highways cleared.

Pawtucket, RI has a 40 year history of not adequately plowing primary and secondary roads in the city.

During the blizzard of 78 Woonsocket received official 38 inches of snow with 54 inches of snow unofficial count (Lincoln, RI unofficial snow count was 55 inches as reported by National Weather Service). My next door neighbor’s single story house was buried by a snow drift right over the roof and another neighbor had to exit his house out 2nd story window and I could walk out on to snow from my 2nd floor deck (8 ½ ft. high).

State of Rhode Island came to a standstill for 10 days; nothing moved.

You people are whining about snow removal when you can drive your cars one day after a blizzard!!!

Posted by: KenW at February 11, 2013 5:24 PM

Autistic Commenter Ken - I have a question. Do you actually see the world in numbers, like those green and black lines of code in The Matrix?

Posted by: Dan at February 11, 2013 5:46 PM


Like I said, Pawtucket has a 40 year history of not plowing or contracting for the city to be plowed properly. Why would anyone expect any different during the blizzard of 13.

Makes me laugh that City of Providence became grid locked with 6 inches of snow and RI EMA took the blame talk about passing the buck!

All this whining about plowing after little snow fall makes me wonder what type of wimps the new generation of RI residents have become.

Try going 10 days shoveling for 10-12 hrs. a day to get to the end of your driveway and not seeing or hearing a plow moving for 9 days.

Wimps, wimps, wimps!!!

Posted by: KenW at February 11, 2013 7:16 PM

Posted by John:
"You know, we do have privatization of trash collection (Pawt)"

About 15 years ago I hired a guy to gut a building for me. His answer to everything, such as rental costs for dumpsters and dumping fees was answered with "Don't worry about it".

All questions were resolved when he showed up on the job with a Pawtucket garbage truck to pick up the plaster and lath.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 11, 2013 7:34 PM

I have to agree with Ken...the whiners are a bit out of line. I saw, when we had I power, TV interviews of people and read comments on local "patches." The total lack of understanding of the conditions the workers had to deal with, coupled with the " it's all about me" attitude many demonstrated made me embarrassed to be a Rhode Islander....

Posted by: Mike at February 11, 2013 9:42 PM

This isn't about the whiners or how much snow we got. Its about who is responsible for the removal. I don't remember state plows coming down my street in '78.

Posted by: Max D at February 12, 2013 7:19 AM

Thanks Max, but..

"Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!"


"Forget it. He's rolling."

Let him go. He's old, crotchety and wants to rant. Let him get it out of his system. He shoveled his driveway with 5 feet of snow, two miles, up hill, both ways. It's ok.

Posted by: Patrick at February 12, 2013 8:41 AM

Why does anyone care what Bob Plain has to say?

Posted by: joe bernstein at February 12, 2013 11:15 PM
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