June 30, 2012

Sorry, Speaker Fox, You Cannot Plead Ignorance About the 38 Studios Loan Guarantee

Monique Chartier

Kudos, by the way, to Anchor Rising Readers Poll winner Newsmakers (WPRI 12) for landing this interview.

"Did I know Curt Schilling was interested in coming to Rhode Island? Absolutely," Fox said Friday during a taping of WPRI 12's Newsmakers. "Did we mandate that he get $75 million? Never! Never, never, never. Did we vet any of his financials? I wouldn't know if Curt Schilling would have qualified for a dime, for nothing, or for $125 million."

As prescribed by the state's Constitution, the Speaker of the Rhode Island House is an enormously powerful position legislatively. The result is that, with rare exception, a bill simply does not become law in Rhode Island without the Speaker's consent.

Making law can, in some ways, be compared to diving into a pool or body of water. The big difference is that if the water diver misjudges, it is almost always he alone who suffers the consequences. When the RI Speaker dives into a legislative pool, however, he is often taking (sometimes dragging) one million people along with him.

Speaker Fox's choice of verb - did not "mandate" that Schilling get $75 million - is interestingly inaccurate. No, the legislature did not mandate the $75 million loan guarantee to 38 Studios. But the legislature, with Gordon Fox at the helm, most certainly authorized it, facilitated it and turned a blank check over to the Executive Branch for taxpayer-backed loan guarantees up to $125 million.

As with almost every other bill that has become law in RI, the 38 studios loan guarantee would not have happened without the consent of the most powerful person, politically, in the state. To invoke and amplify a legal adage, ignorance of the law is not an excuse, not when you break a law and especially not when you make the laws. That Speaker Fox failed to properly apprise himself of the depth and the danger before diving into this particular legislative pool only amplifies his responsibility, it does not mitigate it.

"New" Kind of Immigration

Marc Comtois

The character of immigration has changed over the last few years, and, as Walter Russel Mead notes it's going in a positive direction.

The conventional picture is of an unstoppable wave of unskilled, mostly Spanish-speaking workers—many illegal—coming across the Mexican border. People who see immigration this way fear that, instead of America assimilating the immigrants, the immigrants will assimilate us. But this picture is both out of date and factually wrong.

A report released this month by the Pew Research Center shows just how much the face of immigration has changed in the past few years. Since 2008, more newcomers to the U.S. have been Asian than Hispanic (in 2010, it was 36% of the total, versus 31%). Today's typical immigrant is not only more likely to speak English and have a college education, but also to have come to the U.S. legally, with a job already in place.

What's responsible for the change? The reasons include a rapidly falling birthrate in Mexico, dramatic economic growth there and the collapse of the U.S. residential construction industry—a traditional market for low-skilled, non-English speaking immigrants whose documentation was often subject to question.

Their country of origin or ethnicity is far less important than what they "bring to the table".
Asians tend to be better-educated than most of the people in their countries of origin. Steeped in the culture of enterprise and capitalism, they're more likely than native-born Americans to have a bachelor of arts degree. While family sponsorship is still the most important entry route for Asians (as for all immigrants), this group is three times more likely than other recent immigrants to come to the U.S. on visas arranged through employers.

In many cases, they're not coming to the U.S. because of the economic conditions back home. After all, places like China, Korea and India have experienced jumps in prosperity and an explosion in opportunity for the skilled and the hardworking. But most of the new immigrants like it here and want to stay (only 12% wish they had stayed home).

More Asian-Americans (69%) than other Americans (58%) believe that you will get ahead with hard work. Also, 93% say that their ethnic group is "hardworking."

...Nor does the community seem to be inward-looking or unwilling to assimilate. While just over half of first-generation Asian immigrants say that they speak English "very well," 95% of those born in the U.S. say they do. Only 17% of second-generation Asian-Americans say that their friends are mostly members of their own ethnic group.

Perhaps reflecting this social integration, Asian-Americans are the most likely of all American racial groups to marry outside their own race: 29% married non-Asians between 2008 and 2010; the comparable figure for Hispanics was 26%, for blacks 17% and for whites 9%.

But there is something to be said for traditional cultural and social mores.
Only 16% of Asian-American babies are born out of wedlock, in contrast to 41% for the general population. In the U.S., 63% of all children grow up in a household with two parents; the figure for Asian-Americans is 80%....The hard work and strong family values appear to pay off: Asian-Americans' median household income is $66,000 (national median: $49,800) and their median household wealth is $83,500 (national median: $68,529).

June 29, 2012

Lt. Gov’s Press Conference: Personal Responsibility and Free Markets

Justin Katz

At yesterday's press conference, featuring Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts, RI Secretary of Health and Human Services Stephen Costantino, and new health exchange Director Christine Ferguson, I asked about the uninsured Rhode Islanders expected to find coverage with the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

How many of the 120,000 new recipients would really just be young adults who've heretofore determined that they don't really need coverage? My premise is that such people don't necessarily overlap extensively with the population that uses expensive emergency room services as a primary care vehicle.

The answers were interesting, especially for anybody who is striving to assess the likely next steps of health care policy development. Costantino seemed at least partially to affirm my premise: "You have some young people who are working for a small business that don't have health insurance; they haven't really utilized the system. But it's scary."

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

It's a Tax on Your Body

Justin Katz

Unless I missed some language, the Supreme Court's ruling on ObamaCare shirks the responsibility of explicitly defining exactly what sort of tax Congress has imposed and how similar taxes might be structured in the future. Still, a thread can be followed.

Having just read through the tax-related sections of the ruling, and although the logic is as incoherent and slave to convenience as any I've ever read, it seems to me that a straightforward conclusion can be drawn.

First, on the incoherence: The health insurance mandate is apparently not a tax for determining the standing of the suit, but it is a tax to save the law. It's not a capitation tax — "a tax that everyone must pay simply for existing" — for the purpose of evading the constitutional requirement that such taxes be apportioned by state, but it's like a capitation tax for the purpose of evading precedent that prevents taxation from being used as stealth regulation. Bob and weave; whatever form it has to take to pass each obstacle.

However, in writing his opinion, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts makes a big deal about the fact that people with no income tax burden do not have to pay the tax: "It does not apply to individuals who do not pay federal income taxes because their household income is less than the filing threshold in the Internal Revenue Code." Later, he likens it to a tax incentive.

The only way all of this makes coherent sense (which may be too high a standard for the highest court, granted) is if one takes the ruling a step farther to determine what sort of tax it is. I'd propose that the ObamaCare tax is effectively a capitation tax or a property tax on one's body.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Analyzing Roberts--and Politics' Role--in Wake of Health Care Ruling

Marc Comtois

While disagreeing with the outcome, Charles Krauthammer has some ideas as to why Chief Justice Roberts may have ruled as he did in the Health Care case:

Why did he do it? Because he carries two identities. Jurisprudentially, he is a constitutional conservative. Institutionally, he is chief justice and sees himself as uniquely entrusted with the custodianship of the court’s legitimacy, reputation and stature.

As a conservative, he is as appalled as his conservative colleagues by the administration’s central argument that Obamacare’s individual mandate is a proper exercise of its authority to regulate commerce.

That makes congressional power effectively unlimited...“The Framers . . . gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it,” writes Roberts. Otherwise you “undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers.”

That’s Roberts, philosophical conservative. But he lives in uneasy coexistence with Roberts, custodian of the court, acutely aware that the judiciary’s arrogation of power has eroded the esteem in which it was once held. Most of this arrogation occurred under the liberal Warren and Burger courts, most egregiously with Roe v. Wade, which willfully struck down the duly passed abortion laws of 46 states....More recently, however, few decisions have occasioned more bitterness and rancor than Bush v. Gore, a 5 to 4 decision split along ideological lines. It was seen by many (principally, of course, on the left) as a political act disguised as jurisprudence and designed to alter the course of the single most consequential political act of a democracy — the election of a president.

Whatever one thinks of the substance of Bush v. Gore, it did affect the reputation of the court. Roberts seems determined that there be no recurrence with Obamacare. Hence his straining in his Obamacare ruling to avoid a similar result — a 5 to 4 decision split along ideological lines that might be perceived as partisan and political.

National health care has been a liberal dream for a hundred years. It is clearly the most significant piece of social legislation in decades. Roberts’s concern was that the court do everything it could to avoid being seen, rightly or wrongly, as high-handedly overturning sweeping legislation passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president....

Result? The law stands, thus obviating any charge that a partisan court overturned duly passed legislation. And yet at the same time the commerce clause is reined in. By denying that it could justify the imposition of an individual mandate, Roberts draws the line against the inexorable decades-old expansion of congressional power under the commerce clause fig leaf.

Law upheld, Supreme Court’s reputation for neutrality maintained. Commerce clause contained, constitutional principle of enumerated powers reaffirmed.

Whilst ruminating (and persuasively at that) about whether or not Chief Justice John Roberts changed his mind late in the game, David Bernstein avers that the Supreme Court justices do feel political pressures (like it or not) and, if the political situation were different, the case may not have been heard at all:
I should note that I think the Supreme Court is a political body (which is not to say that its decisions are primarily motivated by partisanship or political ideology) and that one can expect that the Court’s rulings are affected by outside events. As I noted long ago, the challenge to the individual mandate would have stood no chance if the president and the ACA were riding very high in the polls, as the Court would not have had the political wherewithal to write what would be seen as a radical opinion invalidating a popular law from a popular president. Similarly, the level of heat defenders of the ACA were giving the Court could have persuaded Roberts that discretion was the better part of valor....I don’t find it at all illegitimate for political actors to put pressure on the Court, so long as they stay within proper legal bounds, and keep their rhetoric within the broad boundaries of decency. But it is ironic that while liberal critics were quick to accuse the Court of playing politics by taking seriously the Obamacare challenges, it may turn out that it was only politics that saved the ACA.
There's no "may" about it; that's exactly how it turned out. But the method--for the moment--is less important than the outcome. Something that Rhode Island's own William Jacobson on his Legal Insurection blog puts into proper perspective:
Some well-meaning people are peddling the notion that today’s Obamacare decision was a long term victory, that we lost the battle but won the war, that there was some master plan by Chief Justice Roberts to gut the expansion of Commerce Clause power under the fig leaf of a majority ruling upholding the mandate under Congress’s taxing power.

To paraphrase Joe Biden, I have just four words for you:


If this were some other more narrow law, if this was not a monumental takeover of the most private aspects of our lives, if this monstrosity would not cause such long term damage to our health care system, if this law was not Obamacare ….

I might be inclined to agree with you.

...Whether the Chief Justice did it out of good faith belief in the correctness of his opinion (which is what I believe) or as part of some master plan (the theory some are peddling), the result is the same: Until further notice Obamacare is the law of the land....And under any reasonable theory of conservative judicial restraint, the Chief Justice should have allowed Obamacare to fall of its own weight, of a weight born of a political process in which the mandate could not be called a tax because the nation would not have stood for it....

We live to fight another day, but don’t tell me we won because someday possibly in the future in some other case with some other set of Justices we maybe might achieve some doctrinal benefit from the Commerce Clause ruling.

So please don’t delude yourselves. Today was a bitter loss because it was one we should have won.

Discussing Health Care on Rhode Island Public Radio

Justin Katz

Within an hour of the Supreme Court's decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), I was privileged to be on Rhode Island Public Radio's Political Roundtable. For about ten minutes, Ian Donnis, Scott MacKay, Maureen Moakley, and I batted around health care, politics, and our state.

David Brooks Doing the David Brooks Thing

Justin Katz

There are aspects of this David Brooks column in the New York Times with which I'd very much like to agree. (I'm much more inclined toward moderation than folks 'round here seem to perceive me to be, except naturally those farther to the right.) But a couple examples of... what? wishful thinking? the sloppiness that obsessive moderation begets?... demand highlighting.

Take, for prime example, Brooks's phrasing of a popular statement voiced around the center-right Internet throughout the day:

Roberts and six colleagues also restrained the power of the federal government to sanction the states. And, perhaps most important, he restrained future Congressional power.

The Supreme Court did no such thing. It drew a line for use of the Commerce Clause to expand federal power well beyond where it actually ought to be, and then it opened up a whole new vista of possibilities in the form of creeping taxation. What is the ObamaCare tax? Is it a "sin tax," as with cigarettes, to be levied against bad behavior?

Is it some new double-negative tax, levied on activities that Americans cannot not do? Or is it some sort of inverted sales or excise tax on that which is not purchased? (In which case, it would seem that the Constitution must allow us to evade the tax if we explicitly choose not to purchase insurance from companies that don't sell it in our own states.)

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

June 28, 2012

Supreme Court Rules Individual Mandate Survives as a Tax

Marc Comtois

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion. Upholds Individual Mandate as a tax under Congress' taxing powers. Apparently a complicated opinion. Others are more equipped (and have the time) to analyze, but feel free to comment!

ADDENDUM (snarky version): Roberts joined with the courts liberals, so it was 5-4. Not quite the 5-4 decision anyone anticipated, to be sure. What are liberal supporters of the Health Care act going to say about Roberts now? Does this mean the Supreme Court is all-of-a-sudden legit again?

ADDENDUM (serious version): Some are arguing that by upholding the mandate by calling it a tax while expressly ruling that it's NOT legit under the Commerce Clause, CJ Roberts has managed to give liberals a political win while also pushing back against big government overreach, which is something conservatives like. Jay Cost:

First, the Roberts Court put real limits on what the government can and cannot do. For starters, it restricted the limits of the Commerce Clause, which does not give the government the power to create activity for the purpose of regulating it. This is a huge victory for those of us who believe that the Constitution is a document which offers a limited grant of power.

Second, the Roberts Court also threw out a portion of the Medicaid expansion. States have the option of withdrawing from the program without risk of losing their funds. This is another major victory for conservatives who cherish our system of dual sovereignty. This was also a big policy win for conservatives; the Medicaid expansion was a major way the Democrats hid the true cost of the bill, by shifting costs to the states, but they no longer can do this.

Politically, Obama will probably get a short-term boost from this, as the media will not be able to read between the lines and will declare him the winner. But the victory will be short-lived. The Democrats were at pains not to call this a tax because it is inherently regressive: the wealthy overwhelmingly have health insurance so have no fear of the mandate. But now that it is legally a tax, Republicans can and will declare that Obama has slapped the single biggest tax on the middle class in history, after promising not to do that.

UPDATE: Key components of Roberts writing on the SCOTUS ruling (PDF) upholding individual mandate (after the jump):

Why mandate is NOT legitimate under the Commerce Clause:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS concluded in Part III–A that the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. Pp. 16–30. (a) The Constitution grants Congress the power to “regulate Commerce.” Art. I, §8, cl. 3 (emphasis added). The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. This Court’s precedent reflects this understanding: As expansive as this Court’s cases construing the scope of the commerce power have been, they uniformly describe the power as reaching “activity.” E.g., United States v. Lopez, 514 U. S. 549, 560. The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce. Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do.

Not legal under "Necessary and Proper Clause":

Nor can the individual mandate be sustained under the Necessary and Proper Clause as an integral part of the Affordable Care Act’s other reforms. Each of this Court’s prior cases upholding laws under that Clause involved exercises of authority derivative of, and in service to, a granted power. E.g., United States v. Comstock, 560 U.S. ___. The individual mandate, by contrast, vests Congress with the extraordinary ability to create the necessary predicate to the exercise of an enumerated power and draw within its regulatory scope those who would otherwise be outside of it. Even if the individual mandate is “necessary” to the Affordable Care Act’s other reforms, such an expansion of federal power is not a “proper” means for making those reforms effective. Pp. 27–30.

It's a tax:

...the individual mandate must be construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such a construction is reasonable. The most straightforward reading of the individual mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. But, for the reasons explained, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that power.It is therefore necessary to turn to the Government’s alternative argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power to “lay and collect Taxes.” Art. I, §8, cl. 1. In pressing its taxing power argument, the Government asks the Court to view the mandate
as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product. Because “every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality,” Hooper v. California, 155 U. S. 648, 657, the question is whether it is “fairly possible” to interpret the mandate as imposing such a tax, Crowell v. Benson, 285 U. S. 22, 62. Pp. 31–32.
4. CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Part III–C, concluding that the individual mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power under the Taxing Clause. Pp. 33–44.
(a) The Affordable Care Act describes the “[s]hared responsibility payment” as a “penalty,” not a “tax.” That label is fatal to the application of the Anti-Injunction Act. It does not, however, control whether an exaction is within Congress’s power to tax. In answering that constitutional question, this Court follows a functional approach,“[d]isregarding the designation of the exaction, and viewing its substance and application.” United States v. Constantine, 296 U. S. 287, 294. Pp. 33–35.
(b) Such an analysis suggests that the shared responsibility payment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax. The payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy health insurance; the payment is not limited to willful violations, as penalties
for unlawful acts often are; and the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation. Cf. Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., 259 U. S. 20, 36–37. None of this is to say that payment is not intended to induce the purchase of health insurance. But the mandate need not be read to declare that failing to do so is unlawful. Neither the Affordable Care Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS. And Congress’s choice of language—stating that individuals “shall” obtain insurance or pay a “penalty”—does not require reading §5000A as punishing unlawful conduct. It may also be read as imposing a tax on those who go without insurance. See New York v. United States, 505 U. S. 144, 169–174. Pp. 35–40.
(c) Even if the mandate may reasonably be characterized as a tax, it must still comply with the Direct Tax Clause, which provides:“No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.” Art. I, §9, cl. 4. A tax on going without health insurance is not like a capitation or other direct tax under this Court’s precedents. It therefore need not be apportioned so that each State pays in proportion to its population. Pp. 40–41.

Levin: Politics and the Supreme Court aren't Incompatible

Marc Comtois

NB: Probably the quickest notice of the Supreme Court ruling will be posted at the SCOTUS Blog. Hope their servers can handle it!

Writing about the anticipatory condemnations of the soon-to-come Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, Yuval Levin makes an observation about what liberal commentators and politicians--who are expecting at least the individual mandate to be overturned--are saying about the so-called politicization of the Court (as if it's something new):

These people are actually saying that any outcome except the one they want must be driven by an outcome-oriented political crusade. Only their view could result from an actual engagement with the question before the Court, and any other view could only be a function of corruption or of cynicism. It must be nice to be so enlightened.

More interesting, however, is what such an argument implies about one’s view of politics....observers on the Left seek to draw a stark distinction between political and judicial thought, and it reveals their very low opinion of political ideas. They imply that there ought to be no connection between the most basic political divisions that define our public life—crudely encompassed in the Left/Right division—and ways of understanding the Constitution. This is a profound mistake, and a very telling one. As the Left often does, they underplay the substantive seriousness and significance of the Left/Right divide, presumably because they do not think of themselves as possessed of a particular worldview and believe they are merely objectively analyzing the obvious realities of the world around us....

...If we understand the contours of that debate, we can have some sense of where serious people on either side are likely to fall much of the time. After all, the liberals on the Supreme Court are at least as predictable (indeed more so, as is evident in the Obamacare speculation) as the conservatives. [The Left is] too. And that makes sense: They hold certain views for reasons that we and they can understand, and they seek to apply them thoughtfully to particular instances.

This debate is indeed a political debate, in the best and highest sense. But that does not make it a cynical debate, or an illegitimate one. On the contrary. The apparent inability of many left-wing commentators to see that point tells us more than all their diatribes in recent days. Their anger about the very possibility that the Court might disagree with them about Obamacare suggests that they do not believe that there can be such a thing as a serious political debate—they take serious and political to be opposites.

Read the whole thing because Levin also quotes from a previous piece he wrote tracing how today's "Left" and "Right" are actually two sides of a "liberal" coin, which is an interesting discussion all its own.

ADDENDUM: The points made by Levin are even stronger now that the SCOTUS ruled the way the Left wanted.

June 27, 2012

The Real Context for Woonsocket's Supplemental Tax

Carroll Andrew Morse

Woonsocket's Mayor and City Council have proposed a 13% supplemental tax as an immediate solution to their city's short-term fiscal crisis. They have also proposed building the supplemental amount into the city's revenue baseline to help address longer term structural deficits. At the behest of the Woonsocket's state representatives, the Rhode Island legislature rejected this plan. The state legislators would prefer to see elected municipal government in Woonsocket suspended and a state-appointed "receiver", unaccountable to local voters, address the fiscal crisis. But anyone believing that submission to a "receiver" is an easy and automatic way to avoid a supplemental tax increase needs to look more closely at what happened after a receiver took over in Central Falls.

Central Falls' first receiver under the state's 2010 "fiscal stabilization law" (Mark Pfeiffer, the 2nd Central Falls receiver overall) increased the city's tax-levy by 19%, with a combination of property tax-increases and increases in Rhode Island's infamous car-tax. The levy increased another 4.25% the year after that, and the five-year plan initiated by Central Falls' second receiver under state law (Robert Flanders, the 3rd Central Falls receiver overall) projects that property taxes will "grow at the maximum allowed according to R.I. Gen. Laws", which is four percent, for the next four years.

A 19% levy increase, followed quickly by five years of the maximum tax increases permitted by law is hardly an "austerity" strategy. Central Falls' finances were so out of whack, both large tax-increases and the widely publicized cuts in public-employee benefits were needed to achieve any kind of balance. The question for advocates of a Woonsocket receiver is why they think they will be immune from similar treatment if municipal democracy is suspended. This question needs a more in-depth answer than "whatever is the will of the heroic receiver".

* * *

Though conditions in Central Falls and Woonsocket are not identical, there are important structural similarities. As is the case with many of Rhode Island's "distressed" communities, continuing states of fiscal emergency are partially attributable to decisions repeated over the years to apply state aid and commercial property taxes towards a primary purpose of keeping residential property taxes low. Indeed, Woonsocket and Central Falls (prior to receivership, at least), according to local taxation data compiled by the state and Census bureau figures on income, have recently collected some of the lowest percentages of community income in property taxes in the state. Central Falls prior to the arrival of the receiver was the only community in Rhode Island to collect less than 4% of community income in residential property tax. Woonsocket collected 4.8% of aggregate community income in residential property taxes in 2011, the fourth lowest total in the state.

This fact is masked by the way that Rhode Islanders frequently look at community tax data, which is without differentiation between residential commercial levies. When residential tax levies are examined in terms of community income, who pays a lot versus who pays less bears little resemblance to the conventional RI wisdom regarding regressive tax burdens. As an example, consider North Providence. North Providence residents pay over 6% of their income in local property taxes, in the upper half of rates in the state. Despite this, North Providence only has slightly more revenue per-resident to work with than Woonsocket does, mainly because they don't receive as much per-capita state-aid. A case could be made that North Providence is one of RI's communities most deserving of extra assistance (and also that municipal employees should cut North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi a little more slack) since the town government there is working with as many resources drawn directly from residents as might reasonably be expected. Yet for reasons more political than fiscal, North Providence is rarely included on the list of small-footprint, densely-populated communities that should be sent to the front of the line for more more more from the rest of Rhode Island.

Standing in contrast to North Providence is a cluster of Rhode Island's officially and unofficially "distressed" communities, including Central Falls and Woonsocket, plus East Providence (currently under a budget commission), West Warwick (wrestling with its own potential shortfall) and Pawtucket. These communities are all in the bottom quarter of residential property tax collections as a percentage of community income, with rates of 5% or below. That these communities have "suddenly" run into fiscal trouble is actually the result of their having pushed the philosophy of using commercial property taxes and state aid to replace rather than supplement residential property-tax revenue as far as it can go -- and in the case of Central Falls, maybe a little beyond. Central Falls used the extra fiscal freedom that came from having the state pay for a major chunk of their city services (i.e., the education part) not to bolster other city services, but to keep their property taxes as a percentage of community income at the lowest rate in the state.

Unfortunately, the Woonsocket delegation to the state House of Representatives seems to think Central Falls has been a model to emulate. They were happy in their original five-point plan to call for an increase in state-aid while insisting on a limited, one-time tax-increase. Being on Smith Hill for too long has apparently led one-time “fiscal conservatives” to absorb the worst-aspects of Rhode Island political culture, where the preferred option is to use backroom dealing to get someone else to pay for your problems -- but it is not fiscal conservatism of any form to say we’re OK with spending more, as long it all comes from someone else.

* * *

Economic and fiscal realities continue to make their impacts, for better or for worse, despite the politics, and even when they are obscured in the presentation of the numbers. Money isn't there in Woonsocket, at least in part, because previous Woonsocket governments made a choice to not raise the same amount of revenue from their own residents as a percentage of income that other communities chose to. This problem was compounded by the raising of commercial property tax rates as an alternate source of revenue, which has in turn made the city an unattractive place to do business and reduced the number of commercial property tax payers available to supplement the residential levy. This is not the sole factor that has created fiscal problems for Woonsocket (Mayor Leo Fontaine can be heard here, giving one set of explanations for Woonsocket's long-term troubles), but short-sighted tax policy made a difficult situation worse.

To begin to remedy the overlapping problems facing Woonsocket, the City Council and Mayor have proposed the same initial steps that a "receiver" put in charge of the situation would almost certainly implement. Woonsocket City Council President John Ward has told WPRO's Dan Yorke that passage of the supplemental would allow the City to balance next-year’s budget while staying under the state's legally mandated tax-levy increase limit of 4%. If Woonsocket’s elected government could stick to such a plan, and come in under the maximum local tax-levy allowed under the state' law for the next several years after that, they would be at least on par with and maybe ahead of the Central Falls receivership plan, especially if they could do it in such a way that achieves better residential/commercial balance.

There is nothing about such a plan being formulated by a receiver that would make it inherently superior to one formulated by the regular government. Ultimately, the only plans that will stand the test of time are ones based upon a community coming together to make reasonable decisions about its future (on both the local level, and with regards to how the state should apportion its aid), realistic decisions about what they are willing to pay for, and what is reasonable to expect in return. Anything else is just the latest version of a one-time fix.

Deadline to Declare for Public Office is Today

Patrick Laverty

Just a reminder that you're going to run for public office this year, today is the deadline to formally declare. To do that, head on down to your local Board of Canvassers or to the Secretary of State's office and fill out some papers. Next, you'll have to get a certain number of signatures to appear on the ballot, and that's when the fun part starts, the campaign.

Also, the Secretary of State's office sent out a reminder that they again have a page up on their site that will show you who has declared for each seat. It is great information to see get updated frequently and as the signature forms get returned over the next few weeks, I plan to analyze some of the upcoming races.

Keep in mind that just because someone has declared for office, it doesn't mean that they'll be on the ballot until they return at least the correct number of valid signatures. Let the fun begin!

Residential Property Tax Burdens in Rhode Island Municipalities

Carroll Andrew Morse

For reference from an upcoming post, but also interesting in its own right...

This table shows the residential property tax levy in each Rhode Island municipality, as a percentage of aggregate income in that municipality, as reported by the census bureau.

The details of residential property tax levy, involving the separation of residential from commercial property taxes (and treating apartment and mixed property tax classifications as residential, since much of that tax will be passed along to residential tenants), fire-district taxes and car-taxes, is explained here.

Community income in this chart is a single figure available from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. This is a slightly different from the method I used last time where I presented this chart, where I multiplied per-capita income by total population figures taken from the ACS. Both methods give similar results.

The biggest gap in this chart is that the percentage of income paid in property tax in communities with many second vacation homes is inflated, since the income from non-residents is not included in the denominator.

As always, I'm open to further adjustments that can be made to these figures.

CommunityEstimated Residential
Tax Levy (2011)
2010 ACS Aggregate
Household Income (2010)
New Shoreham$7,548,403$44,124,50017.1%
North Providence$55,663,407$877,310,0006.3%
East Greenwich$40,943,187$651,042,0006.3%
South Kingstown$59,666,885$960,168,6006.2%
Little Compton$9,690,006$156,354,2006.2%
North Smithfield$22,118,882$380,866,9005.8%
North Kingstown$57,562,579$1,034,986,4005.6%
West Greenwich$11,254,689$202,598,5005.6%
East Providence$64,344,891$1,280,295,6005.0%
West Warwick$33,739,187$763,230,6004.4%
Central Falls$9,700,424$269,642,6003.6%

June 26, 2012

Anchor Rising Readers Poll Winners!

Marc Comtois

As Matt Allen tweeted me last week, "Well isn't this fun." And yes it was! Thanks to all who voted and especially thanks to the local media who participated in "electronic canvassing" for our scientific bragging-rights Anchor Rising Readers Poll covering the Local RI Media. In addition to bragging rights, every winner can download a printable certificate (right-click the category you won to download--except for Advice category co-winners) commemorating the watermark achievement of being recognized as a favorite of Anchor Rising's readership, which is no small feat given the irascible tendencies of the lot!

So, without further ado, here are the 2012 winners:

Favorite Local Political Talk Radio Show: The Helen Glover Show link
Favorite Political Roundtable Show: Newsmakers (WPRI-TV) link
Favorite Local Electronic Media News Team: CBS 12 - WPRI-TV link
Favorite Local Media Investigative Team: Target 12 - WPRI TV link
Favorite Local Radio News/Info Show: The Gene Valicenti Show link
Favorite Local Business Talk Show: MONEYTALK w/Don Sowa link
Favorite Lifestyle/Entertainment Radio Show: This Week in Entertainment w/Bekah Berger link
Favorite Advice Show (here for BBB and here for Pet Care): TIE: Big Blue Bug Solutions w/ Tony DeJesus link and Pet Care w/ Dr. Dan Simpson (link)

Summary & (Rank-Amateur ) Analysis

Favorite Local Political Talk Radio Show: In our most popular category, Helen Glover won comfortably with 39% of the vote. Second was Matt Allen with 27% of the vote and Dan Yorke was third with 20%. Buddy Cianci came in fourth with 12% and John DePetro rounded out the category with 2% of the vote. Early on, it was a 3-horse race between Glover, Yorke and Allen, but Glover pulled away and Allen overtook Yorke. Neither Cianci nor DePetro were ever a factor. Commenters (and here) gave Helen high marks for regularly having both national and local guests and asking "tough questions" as well as being the "only voice of true conservatives in RI." Matt Allen was credited with being original and having "opinions that are his own." Dan Yorke was perhaps the most polarizing talker with one commenter finding him "pretty fair in his criticisms of people and groups" while another called him "over dramatic to the detriment of his argument sometimes." Each have their own style, to be sure, but I've always found all three of the aforementioned hosts to be interesting and pretty fair.

Cianci was credited as the "most fun to listen to" and "good for [a] mid-day laugh" while DePetro simply wasn't popular among Anchor Rising readers. Perhaps because I'm not a native Rhode Islander, I haven't been drawn to "the Mayor" and his style, though his insights on politics--especially at the local level--are interesting. DePetro tends to be more of a rabble-rouser than someone who delves deeply into topics and he's been rewarded with regular spots on Nancy Grace for his efforts. Generally not my cup of tea (or, apparently, that for most Anchor Rising readers), though he does have interesting guests and is good at integrating the webcam into his broadcast when said guests warrant it (ahem).

Favorite Political Roundtable Show: WPRI's Newsmakers ran away with this category and never looked back, garnering 55% of the vote. The race for second place was between two public broadcasting programs, which was won by WSBE's Lively Experiment (19%) over RIPR's Ian Donnis-helmed Political Roundtable (15%). 10 News Conference almost caught RIPR's 'Roundtable with 12%. ABC 6's On the Record didn't receive a vote. While some of the votes can be chalked up to active campaigning to the web-savvy Ted Nesi (hey, all is fair...!), the selection of Newsmakers is a clear affirmation that Tim White et al deal with topics in both a fair and entertaining way and the show is simply better than the rest.

The combined 2nd and 3rd place showing (34% of the vote when combined) of public broadcast-originated shows indicates that there is respect for these outlets amongst Anchor Rising readers. Lively Experiment has gotten better with Dianna Koelsch and has the advantage of drawing from a large stable of political commentators (including many of its competitors in this category). Similarly, though it suffered for being a short-form program amongst longer-formed shows, RIPR's Political Roundtable is deftly moderated by Ian Donnis and is helped by having a "third chair" guest join regular panelists Scott MacKay and Maureen Moakley in commenting on the news of the week. 10 News Conference is a solid and respected show, but maybe bringing in other interviewers to supplement Jim Taricani and Bill Rappleye would add a new, fresher element.

Favorite Local Electronic Media News Team: WPRI also won this category fairly handily with 39% of the vote and is clearly the favorite news source of Anchor Rising readers. Perennial market leader WJAR came in with 20% followed closely by the surprising GoLocalProv.com with 18% of the vote. The closeness of the vote between #2 and #3 indicates both GoLocal's inherent online savvy and, perhaps, a general slippage of WJAR in the market. AM 630 WPRO came in third with 13% of the vote, which seems like a slight under-performance given the medium and the demographics of the Anchor Rising readers. Perhaps they suffered because many people can't listen all day and this may point to a need to further bolster their on-line product. RIPR came in 4th with 9% of the vote, but given the relatively small news staff and fact that most of their programming is national, this isn't too surprising. Neither is the fact that WLNE came in last (1%), unfortunately.

Favorite Local Media Investigative Team: Stop me if you've heard this before: WPRI's Target 12 investigative team handily won this category and it wasn't even close with them getting 62% of the vote. Tim White, Ted Nesi and Sean Daly have demonstrated time and again a penchant for digging out good stories and exposing them to daylight (even if the General Assembly doesn't like it!). Of the rest, WPRO's The Hummel Report with the indefatigable Jim Hummel was the best (13%). WJAR's I-team with veteran reporters Jim Taricani and Bill Rappleye found themselves neck and neck with GoLocalProv's Dan McGowan, which is another interesting outcome for both outlets. The Providence Journal came in next with 6% and was followed by RIPR's Donnis and MacKay with 3% and the Providence Phoenix's David Scharfenberg with 1%. Meanwhile Hummel's former employer--ABC 6--garnered no votes. It's not meant as a knock on Mark Curtis et al, but Hummel provided the perennial ratings loser with at least some cache, which they've yet to recapture.

Favorite Local Radio News/Info Show: WPRO/WJAR Renaissance man Gene Valicenti easily won this category with 57% of the vote. A commenter described the show well: "Gene Valicenti has a nice, entertaining, informative, freewheeling show--no agendas showing--and the whole style is relaxed and non confrontational. There's a certain Jean Shepherd quality to the show. Not a bad thing. Plus Gene is a real pro." Whether it's current events, Godfather quotes or disco music, Valicenti has taken advantage of the chance to stretch out his legs on Saturday mornings to good effect. The WPRO Morning News with Tara Granahan and Andrew Gobeil came in 2nd with 28% of the vote. The broadcast is certainly professional, but its format seems hampered by the time slot. While "Tara & Andrew" get just about any guest you could want, they are limited by time constraints from digging deeply into topics. The quality of their questions is good, it would just be better if they could ask more of them without having to run for traffic! The rest of the vote-getters were WPRO produced shows Saturday Morning News with Steve Klamkin (7%) and Amazing Women with State Representative (and WPRO employee) Deb Ruggerio & Cumulus Community with Bill Haberman each getting 4%. WPRV's Perspectives with Elaina Goldstein received no votes, but, from the guest list, sounds like it could be an interesting listen.

Favorite Local Business Talk Show: Longtime Rhode Island business show stalwart MONEYTALK with Don Sowa garnered 82% of the vote and the win. No contest and the results speak for themselves. If you're looking for a quick perspective on the market news of the day or for well-reasoned (and conservative) financial advice, tune into Sowa's program on AM 790 WPRV at 5 PM and you won't be disappointed. Finishing a distant second was WPRV's Common Ground with State Senator and Council 94 Labor leader John Tassoni, which garnered 12% of the votes for a show that looks at things from a labor perspective. WPRV's Positively Rhode Island with James Lawrence and the Madman was the only other vote-getter (6%). I've caught the show once and their aim is to look at the positive business stories in the state. WPRV offerings Positive Business with Patricia Raskin and We Are Rotary were shut out.

Favorite Local Lifestyle/Entertainment Radio Show: This Week in Entertainment with Bekah Berger on WPRO dominated this category with 72% of the vote. The web-savvy Berger gets kudos for mobilizing her base and for producing an entertaining show (indeed!) on Saturday afternoons. It's also key source material for those Dad's (ahem) looking for a clue as to what their tween/teen daughters are talking about. WEEI's Go Local Sports w/John Rooke and Scott Cordischi & WPRV's Dining Out w/Bruce Newbury tied for a distant 2nd with 9% of the vote each. The Southern New England Golf Show on WEEI was next with 7% and WPRV's Radio Italia received 2%. The Go Local show with Rooke and Cordischi is a solid show and reminds us of what we once had in 790 The Score. Bruce Newbury is a Rhode Island institution and rarely steers you wrong in gastronomic advice. I've never listened to Radio Italia, but thought it worth including given the preponderance of Italian-Americans in the Ocean State.

Favorite Advice Show: Talkin' 'bout critters of one sort or another dominated this category, with WPRO Saturday stalwarts Big Blue Bug Solutions w/ Tony DeJesus and Pet Care w/ Dr. Dan Simpson battling to a tie with 38% of the vote each. WPRO's Legal Tips with Steve Linder (13%) and The Myrna Lamb Show (8%) were the only other vote-getters.

Congratulations to all our winners and be sure to give ALL of these shows a listen. You never know, you might like 'em!

June 25, 2012

The Current Week 06/18/12 - 06/22/12

Justin Katz


Tuesday: Uncertainty over ObamaCare Supreme Court Ruling Bedevils Business Community, Kevin J. Mooney - Analysis
The economic drag of legal uncertainty surrounding ObamaCare may be resolved with the Supreme Court's pending ruling on its Constitutionality, but longer-term effects remain a concern.

Justin's Case

Monday: Payday Loans and Government Expertise - Opinion
An unspoken assumption of advocates for payday loan reform leads Justin to question the ability and right of government to meddle.
Watching the Choice of Decline Being Made - Opinion
Reviewing the latest budget in terms of RI's rankings according to various criteria puts the state's choice of decline or turnaround in clear terms.

Tuesday: Ev'rybody's Talkin' 'bout ALEC-Seein', Rep. Jon Brien, Taxes Bein', Workers' Pleadin' - Opinion
A New York Times mention of Woonsocket's problems has the state buzzing; Justin suggests that everybody should look a little more deeply into the heart of Rhode Island's problems.

Wednesday: The Ever-Growth Unfunded Liability - Analysis
Various national organizations have attempted to calculate unfunded liabilities for Rhode Island and other states across the nation. The differences are dramatic and indicate reason for concern.
Americans Losing Confidence in Institutions, Especially Public Schools and News Media - Analysis
A Gallup poll finding American confidence in public schools at an all-time low also points to a disconnect between Americans' opinions of various institutions and the priorities of government.

Thursday: Non-Union Charters Do Better in Math and Science - Analysis
With Education Commissioner Deborah Gist recommending that the charter expire for one of Rhode Island's charter school specifically on the grounds of its math scores, the question arises whether private-sector methods and non-union teachers might underperform their public-school peers. Comparing several charter high schools in RI shows that the lesson may be the opposite.

June 24, 2012

How I'd Fix the School Committees

Patrick Laverty

We have a problem in many towns with how our governance is set up. Towns have an executive and a legislative body that assist each other in running the town. Those two manage the municipal affairs including the Town Hall, police, fire, public works and almost all other parts of the town. However for some reason, we don't trust them to run the schools. Instead, we elect a completely separate body to run that one department. Why?

Along with this setup, we let the school committee negotiate contracts on behalf of the school system and they are responsible for the budget for the schools. However, the school committee has no ability to generate their own funding through taxation. Instead, they rely upon the town council to give them enough money to run the schools. But in most towns (all?) the council and executive have very little to no say in the budgeting and contract negotiations. It's kind of like the school committee is going shopping with someone else's credit card. And then what happens when the town council doesn't give the school committee the amount of money that the committee wants? The school committee sues the town council under the George Caruolo Act. When that happens, you have one group that represents the town's taxpayers suing another group that represents the town's taxpayers. In this situation, only the lawyers win.

Add on to this, the mayor and town council have very little say over how the schools are run and managed. The mayor stands out in front, creates a budget, sets a tax rate, the town council approves it and then just hands the money over to the school committee. When people aren't happy with the schools, they complain to the mayor. When people aren't happy with their tax increases that may be due to budgets created by the school committee, people complain to the mayor. There's little the mayor can do about the complaints.

So here's how I'd fix it. Maybe this change would require a change of the state charter, but whatever it takes, this is the change I'd make.

First, abolish the school committee as it exists today for all the reasons I wrote above. At least to eliminate the ability for one town committee to sue another town committee. That's just ludicrous.

Basically what I'm going to do is make the school committee a hybrid sub-committee of the town council. First, pick a number of members for the new schools sub-committee. For my example, I'll pick seven. I will let the chair or president of the town council appoint three members of the town council to the schools sub-committee. Town councils already have various subcommittees, so this isn't a big deal. Doing this guarantees that the town council has oversight into the schools and is involved with their budgeting and contract negotiations. If they're going to be involved with funding the schools, I want them to have some oversight as well. I can also see where this could be a lot of work and we may want to have some people who are focused on the schools. I am also going to add three at-large seats. These are people who will be on the schools sub-committee but will not be members of the town council. They will be elected by the voters, much like today's school committee members are elected today. So that's six members that I've added. The seventh and the chair of the committee will always be the mayor or town manager. Now the person who frequently receives the questions, complaints and frustrations with the schools will have direct oversight of the school system.

There we go, a whole new school committee system. It seems to work well. It allows the town council to have oversight without burdening the entire council with school management responsibilities and it also dilutes the power of the town council by having an equal number of people specifically elected to the committee. It also has the same people creating the budget and negotiating contracts that have to set the town's tax rate. Best of all, the person who many already believe runs the schools actually does get to do just that.

Why can't this work?

Anchor Rising Readers Poll: All In One

Marc Comtois


Thanks to all who have voted so far in the Anchor Rising Readers Poll! There are still a couple days left, so for the sake of convenience I've compiled all the questions together in one post. Read on "after the jump" to see the current results and vote in categories you may have missed. Thanks again to all who have voted!

What is your favorite local political talk radio show?
pollcode.com free polls 

What is your favorite political roundtable show?
pollcode.com free polls 

What is your favorite local electronic media news team?
pollcode.com free polls 

What is your favorite Local Media Investigative Team?
pollcode.com free polls 

What is your favorite Local Radio News/Info Show?
pollcode.com free polls 

What is your favorite local Business Talk Show?
pollcode.com free polls 

What is your favorite Lifestyle/Entertainment Radio Show?
pollcode.com free polls 

What is your favorite Advice Show?
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June 23, 2012

Extreme Job Reclassification: How the Obama Admin Boosted Its Green Job Count

Monique Chartier

This illuminating exchange between Chairman Darrell Issa and John Galvin from President Obama's Department of Labor Statistics took place in a committee hearing a couple of weeks ago but I didn't become aware of it until John Gibson played the tape this week. (Youtube video of Chairman Issa's exchange with the reluctant Mr. Galvin here.) Honest to pete, as Chairman Issa read down the list of jobs that the Obama administration has tagged as "green", it sounded like an SNL skit:

- everyone who works at Salvation Army (and, presumably, Savers and all thrift stores);

- staff of a consignment shop;

- full time employees at used record shops;

- someone who sweeps the floor at a company that makes solar panels;

- a bike-repair shop clerk;

- a hybrid-bus driver;

- all school bus drivers;

- “the guy who puts gas in a school bus”;

- employees of train car manufacturers;

- employees of a trash disposal yard;

- college professors teaching classes about environmental studies;

- someone who works at an antique dealership;

- someone who sells rare manuscripts;

- an oil lobbyist, if his work is related to environmental issues.

Additionally, this excellent analysis by the Heritage Foundation's David W. Kreutzer points out, inter alia, that over 80% of the "green" jobs that the Obama administration counts in electric power generation are in nuclear. Zero carbon emissions, yes; but is nuclear power green???

To reiterate, these are not jobs necessarily created during the Obama administration by the billions President Obama has spent on green jobs; in fact, it looks like most on the above list were not. They are jobs that the administration has simply placed in the "green" category.

Why would they finagle government labor stats that way? Two reasons come easily to mind. Firstly, Chairman Issa hypothesizes that

the administration is reclassifying such jobs to prove that billions of taxpayer dollars, through the federal stimulus program, have created green, or environmentally-focused jobs – a major initiative for President Obama.

I would add that it undoubtedly doesn't hurt the campaign's fund-raising efforts with eco groups. "Look at all of the green jobs I created! So make your checks out to ..."

Anchor Rising Readers Poll: Favorite Local Radio News-Info/Business/Lifestyle/Advice Talk Show?

Marc Comtois


The fifth and final "question" in our Readers Poll deals with favorite Local Radio News/Info/Advice/Lifestyle type talk shows. As I looked for "candidates", I discovered that there was such a broad array of shows that I broke them up into a few categories. Here are the groups with choices (listed alphabetically).

First up is News/Info these are primarily news or current events news shows that also do interviews.

What is your favorite Local Radio News/Info Show?
pollcode.com free polls 

Next are the Business/Investing shows

What is your favorite local Business Talk Show?
pollcode.com free polls 

Next is the Lifestyle/Entertainment category:

What is your favorite Lifestyle/Entertainment Radio Show?
pollcode.com free polls 

What is your favorite Advice show:

What is your favorite Advice Show?
pollcode.com free polls 

Here is the schedule of polls:

Tuesday, June 19th (today) - Favorite Radio Political Talk Show
Wednesday, June 20th - Favorite Political Roundtable Show
Thursday, June 21st - Favorite Local Electronic Media News Team
Friday, June 22nd - Favorite Local Media Investigative Team
Saturday, June 23rd - Favorite Radio News/Info/Lifestyle/Advice Talk Show

All polls will be closed by next Tuesday, June 26th (yes, that means unequal polling time length, but live with it!).

June 22, 2012


Engaged Citizen

That is the headline you might be reading in your local paper this coming Thursday! Unless YOU do something about it!

The R.I. GOP Candidate Recruitment Committee has come up with strong candidates in about half of the 113 Legislative Districts (38 Senate & 75 House). They have vetted these people. And have provided practical training for them, on effective campaigning.

But we are still missing candidates in about half of the Districts in the state.

Candidates file to run, at their local City or Town Hall, on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday (until 4:00 P.M.), June 25 to 27. After that, if no Republican has filed to run, it is too late, and the Democrat wins by default.

A rogue's gallery of incumbent Democrats still do not have opponents. These include an accused rapist; an alleged embezzler; a leader with multiple arrests; union employees with major conflicts of interest; the Speaker of the House; and a lot of people who have not done anything illegal (at least, that we know of), but who just vote the wrong way, almost all of the time.

If you are in one of these Democrat incumbent's Districts, do you want to make sure he or she is not re-elected unopposed? WOULD YOU CONSIDER RUNNING YOURSELF? If so, reply to me via e-mail right away. We will check to see which District you are in, and whether we still need a candidate in that District. (Because of reapportionment this year, you might not be in the District you think you are in.) For obvious reasons, we are not looking to recruit additional Republicans, where we already have a candidate, and cause a Primary. But we have to check to find out if we need you.

This E-Mail went out to all 9,000 people on our statewide E-Mail list. So we apologize if you are in an area where we already have candidates for both State Rep. & State Senate. (This would be mostly in South County). Most other parts of the state need one or the other.

So it is up to you now. Will you do something to ensure that no incumbent ultra-liberal Democrat gets re-elected unopposed?

David Talan is a member of the RIGOP Candidate Recruitment Committee. His e-mail address is davetalan@aol.com.

Libby, Libby, Libby Is Using Labels, Labels, Labels

Patrick Laverty

I tried this earlier over Twitter but the 140 character limit doesn't really lend itself to good debate. Mr. Plain over at RIFuture tweeted about Libby Kimzey's article on the need for more diversity at the State House. Ms. Kimzey has announced that she is running for a seat in the General Assembly this year.

First, the part I agree with. We do need diversity, but we need more diversity of opinions. We need diversity with regard to following the more powerful members of the Assembly. We need people who will say no to the horse-swapping and arm-twisting that goes on. We need diversity among people to stand up for what's the right thing to do, even if some high-powered lobbyist tells them otherwise. I'm not advocating for more people in the Assembly to be conservative, though that would be nice, I'm just looking for more divergent thinkers and more people who aren't there just go along and get along.

So here's where that article falls apart.

You can’t fix problems you don’t see, and so I want my General Assembly to have eyes in as many places as possible, and I do believe that requires diversity in all factors, from gender, race and age, to class, employment history, and experiences with poverty.
No, no, no. I agree that you can't fix problems you're unaware of, but I disagree that it means we necessarily need more people of different gender, race or age. Intelligent people can see problems that don't affect them and can see arguments from all angles. I don't care if we elected 100% 95 year old green women, if they were all smart and wanted to do what's best for Rhode Island. Just because someone is of a certain gender or race or age doesn't necessarily make them better suited for the Assembly. That sounds a lot like profiling, and I thought people who come from the progressive camp, like Ms. Kimzey, are against profiling, no? So why is it ok to profile people when it suits the argument?

Then there's this:

So, if you’re a cashier, or a waitress or a salesperson, it’s time you gave some thought to running for office. Your community needs you. The stakes are too high to sit on the sidelines.
What? Why? Is that all we care about? Cashiers and waitresses? How about smart people, Libby? Yes, cashiers and waitstaffers can be smart, but that's not a quality you wrote that you're looking for.

Again, I'm glad any time anyone is willing to give up their own time and energy to make a run for public office. However, I think when asking people to run, we should seek out those most qualified and those who would do the best job in the office, and not just those who we can use to check off some boxes.

I'd say good luck to Ms. Kimzey in her run for office but if this is the type of logic and reasoning she'd use in the State House, I think i'll pass.

PS. In case you're too young to get the reference in the title: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fivBoHfgEs

Anchor Rising Readers Poll: Favorite Local Media Investigative Team

Marc Comtois


The fourth question in our Readers Poll deals with favorite Local Media Investigative Team. Caveats: 1) had to have statewide coverage; 2) couldn't be from an overtly partisan outlet or advocacy group (that eliminates us at AR as well as folks like RI Future's Bob Plain or that guy Justin Katz over at The Current). Here are the choices* (listed alphabetically):

What is your favorite Local Media Investigative Team?
pollcode.com free polls 

*Note: I didn't include talk show hosts even though they often investigate plenty of stories, too. Names in ( ) are primary personalities associated w/investigative journalism (except w/ProJo - too many to name!).

Here is the schedule of polls:

Tuesday, June 19th (today) - Favorite Radio Political Talk Show
Wednesday, June 20th - Favorite Political Roundtable Show
Thursday, June 21st - Favorite Local Electronic Media News Team
Friday, June 22nd - Favorite Local Media Investigative Team
Saturday, June 23rd - Favorite Radio News and Info Talk Show

All polls will be closed by next Tuesday, June 26th (yes, that means unequal polling time length, but live with it!).

June 21, 2012

Anchor Rising Readers Poll: Favorite Local Electronic Media News Team

Marc Comtois


The third question in our Readers Poll deals with favorite Local Electronic Media News Team.* The requirements for being put on this list were: 1) Had to Rhode Island based; 2) Had to provide local news coverage w/actual in-the-field reporters.** 3) Had to be non-partisan (so no RIFuture or Ocean State Current).

Here are the choices (listed alphabetically):

What is your favorite local electronic media news team?
pollcode.com free polls 

* Why only an "Electronic" Local Media News Team poll? Because the ProJo is the only statewide newspaper and it's kinda/sorta a different animal, IMHO.

** WHJJ AM 920 has regular newsreaders, but no independent reporters. Fox 25 shares their news team with CBS 12.

Here is the schedule of polls:

Tuesday, June 19th (today) - Favorite Radio Political Talk Show
Wednesday, June 20th - Favorite Political Roundtable Show
Thursday, June 21st - Favorite Local Electronic Media News Team
Friday, June 22nd - Favorite Local Media Investigative Team
Saturday, June 23rd - Favorite Radio News and Info Talk Show

All polls will be closed by next Tuesday, June 26th (yes, that means unequal polling time length, but live with it!).

Goldberg on who's imposing what on whom

Marc Comtois

Columnist and author Jonah Goldberg was on C-SPANs "Afterwords" recently to discuss his latest book, Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas. When asked by Nia-Malika Henderson, National Political Report for the Washington Post, about the clichés in the gay marriage debate, he expounded upon the rhetorical turnabout--imposing social or cultural mores on someone--that the Left has successfully deployed against the Right on a variety of issues.

I was on the San Francisco NPR station…the callers would keep calling in and basically confirming the point I was trying to make in the book: that they don’t think they’re ideological. They only think conservatives are ideological. At one point this guy calls in and--you could just almost hear his ponytail over the phone--he’s like, “You know, you conservatives you’re all into these labels and ideology and stuff and I don’t think liberals think it that way, you know we just care about equality and I don’t understand why, you know, this gay marriage stuff, why you want to impose your views on us."

It’s this "impose" thing that really bothers me. You hear it all the time. Like conservatives are trying to ‘impose’ their idea of what marriage is. Now, I’m sort of an outlier on the gay marriage stuff. I was for civil unions 10 years ago and my view on gay marriage has always been: maybe it’s inevitable and, if it is, worse things have happened to the Republic. But at the same time, as a conservative and a Hayekian and someone who thinks we have traditions for a reason--we have social institutions for a reason--and there’s a lot of knowledge that we may not be able to access, you know, rationally, [so] we should be very humble about all of this.

I do not think it’s a ridiculous or bigoted position to say that marriage should be between a man and a woman and I do not think it is a Jacobin bit of lunacy to say that people should be able to marry whoever they want. I think both sides have merit to them. But this imposing thing is what drives me crazy.

The definition of marriage--depending on how you do your math--has been a union between a man and a woman for, like, I don’t know, a thousand--five thousand--years. I don’t know, you can check the book; it’s been there for a while. And the idea that people of the same sex can marry has been around, basically in our lifetimes and not even all of our lives. When I was born, I think, the psychiatric community in America still considered homosexuality to be a mental defect and a kind of a psychopathy or something. So we’ve come a long way and it is the Left that is trying to impose its definition of marriage on the country.

This is sort of a microcosm of a more basic point. It is the Left that has been from the beginning the aggressor in the culture war. And sometimes they were right. I have nothing but respect for the advances that liberals made in the civil rights struggle in the 1960’s. They were on the right side and--I’ve written this many, many times--conservatives were on the wrong side. (Now, once you admit that you can have all sorts of caveats about going too far or what our point was and all the rest, but at the end of the day the Right was wrong on the civil rights stuff in the 1960’s). I don’t get that much grief from the Right for saying it. But you can’t on the one hand claim credit for women’s suffrage and for gay rights and for civil rights--and all these things--and at the same time complain about how conservatives are the aggressors in the culture war.

The self-anointed forces of change, the forces of progress, the people who want to move forward, as Barack Obama likes to say, these are the people who are trying to impose their ideas on society. The reaction you get from the Right, from the Evangelical Christians or from people who want to keep VMI (Virginia Military Institute) all male or whatever it is; these are the victims, so to speak, in the culture wars. It doesn’t mean they’re always right, but the idea that, somehow, trying to defend the definition of marriage that has been around for a thousand years is somehow an imposition strikes me as ludicrous. It is the other side that is trying to impose things.

Yet, the way the press covers it, the way people talk about it, the way the Left certainly talks about it, it is always about how the Right wants to control how people live on the Left. When in reality it is the Left that is initiating these things, that is pushing these arguments, that is trying to change the country. Barack Obama is the guy who campaigned in 2008 saying he was the one who wanted to "fundamentally" change America. You can’t say you want to fundamentally change America and at the same time say that it’s the other side that is trying to impose it’s ideas.

ADDENDUM: Incidentally, because it strikes me that I may not have been been entirely clear on the issue (at least for a while), I'm basically of the same mind as Goldberg with regard to gay marriage.

June 20, 2012

Gist Recommendation to Close Charter School is a Positive for School Reform

Marc Comtois

Education Commisioner Deborah Gist is recommending that the state's first charter school be closed.

Gist is recommending that the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education not renew the charter for the Academy for Career Exploration, formerly Textron/Chamber of Commerce, when its five- year charter expires next year....Gist criticize[d] the school’s performance while noting that its reading scores are higher than the average in Providence, the district where the school is located.

While 80 percent of ACE’s juniors scored proficient in reading, none were proficient in math on the 2011 New England Common Assessment. Ten percent were proficient in math in 2010; 2 percent in 2009.

“ACE has consistently failed to educate its students in math,” Gist wrote in a four-page memo to the Regents, who will likely vote on the matter later this summer. “Overall, the school’s administrative and board leadership has not provided oversight for student learning.”

As I recall, when it was still Textron Academy, the former head of the school, Rick Landau, left because of frustration with the school's teachers union, who insisted on maintaining the practice of "bumping," which meant that teachers versed in the pedagogy of Textron could be removed by teachers with more seniority and without relevant training. I'm not sure if this practice continued, but it's clear the school has not lived up to it's part of the bargain.

Those dancing on the grave of the Academy for Career Exploration because they think it proves charter schools are universally bad are missing the point. For instance, while RIFuture's Bob Plain pithily commented, "So much for the private sector being able to do it better…", it's hardly the case that the failure of one charter means all charters are bad (but that's not to say they're a panacea, either).

Charters--even unionized ones--are generally more flexible than public schools when it comes to reforming and applying new teaching methods and, yes, even when it comes to shutting them down. So the real takeaway from this story is that, because it was a private endeavor, the commissioner is able to close it down because it didn't perform and she can do it much more quickly than if it was a public school (Central Falls, anyone?).

That Gist can recommend closing--and presumably actually close--a charter because it's not performing is a mark in favor of the charter school model. Shutting down a bad performer is exactly the sort of immediate accountability (relatively speaking) that school reformers are looking for. If this flexibility existed in our public school system, then maybe there wouldn't be a need for charter schools at all.

Which Office Should I Run For?

Patrick Laverty

Well, I'm not even considering running for office, but quite a few other people are right now. I'm also guessing that many of them have their mind made up as to what seat to try to win. Some will decide to run for a seat in the General Assembly as they're either tired of the performance of their legislator or they're tired of seeing their legislator run unopposed. Both are perfectly valid reasons to run. But I'm also unhappy with the Red Sox' performance this year, but that doesn't mean I can just head to Fenway, suit up and help out. I'd be out of my league, literally.

Unfortunately, that is also the case for some that will run for a seat in the General Assembly. When you run against an incumbent General Assembly member, they have a huge advantage. They often have more money, they have some number of experienced people willing to help and they have name recognition.

Let's take a minute to analyze the options here. Plus, let me say again that I think it's great any time someone gets involved and is willing to put their name on the line to run for office. That takes a great deal of time, money and effort. But it's also a matter of whether you've chosen the right office to run for. If you live in a district where the vast majority of voters are affiliated Democrats and you plan to run as a Republican or Moderate, you better have some incredible plans or at least some photos of your opponent hanging out with OJ Simpson or Jerry Sandusky. It's going to be a big uphill climb. Plus, there's the money. Some will say that to be competitive for a General Assembly seat, you must have at least $5,000 ready to spend and maybe even upwards of $15,000. Lastly, when you head out to the local Dave's Marketplace or the CVS, do people say hi to you by name? Are you recognized in the neighborhood? In all likelihood, your incumbent opponent is.

So what's the alternative? You want to get involved, you're sick of what's going on in politics and you're ready to do something. Here's an idea. Start local. There's no shame at all in running for your local town council. We do need smart and conscientious people running the town. Very often in some towns, those seats go unopposed. Basically, one person signed their name on the line and that got them the seat. Plus in many towns, you're one of seven making big decisions for your own community. In the General Assembly, you're one of 75 in the House or one of 38 in the Senate. Additionally, many local councils are non-partisan. So that straight ticket voting isn't going to affect you as badly if you don't choose to run as a Democrat. Running for a council seat still isn't cheap, but often it needs less funding than a General Assembly run.

Another area to consider is that in many towns around the state, the largest part of the town's money goes to the schools. In my own town, a little under 80% of the entire budget funds the schools. Are you upset about the way your town taxes you or how it spends the money? Maybe consider a run for your local School Committee.

A seat on your local Council or School Committee isn't the "junior varsity". It's not a step down from the General Assembly. If you really want to affect change in your town, often serving on one of these committees will be able to do more than going to Smith Hill. Plus, if you really do have your sights set on getting to the General Assembly some day, but you see it as a long shot this year due to some of the things I mentioned, then why not start local? Work hard, walk your district, knock on doors, meet people and get them to know you and what you believe in. Then over time, you'll have the same advantages as the incumbents in Providence. You'll get the name recognition among the voters, you'll have the groups of people to support you and you'll have a database of people that you can call on for fundraising.

I think what I'm saying is too often, people see themselves as a sacrificial lamb one year, thinking that this will be the practice run, you'll get your name on the ballot and people will remember you in two years when you're really ready to make a run at it. If that's the case, you can get all the same benefits by staying local, and like I said, you can often even do much more locally, than you can at the State House.

Whichever way you decide, best of luck to you, do what's best for the people in your district, get a good campaign treasurer and don't miss any deadlines. The deadline for declaring with the Secretary of State is next week.

Anchor Rising Readers Poll: Favorite Political Roundtable Show

Marc Comtois


The second question in our Readers Poll deals with favorite Political Roundtable Show* (TV & Radio). The requirements for being put on this list were: 1) Had to be a show based in Rhode Island (so no Boston-based shows); 2) Had to focus primarily on news and political analysis with multiple viewpoints represented.

So without further ado, here are the choices (listed alphabetically):

What is your favorite political roundtable show?
pollcode.com free polls 

*Note that RI Public Radio's political roundtable show is actually called Political Roundtable. Clever marketing!

Here is the schedule of polls:

Tuesday, June 19th (today) - Favorite Radio Political Talk Show
Wednesday, June 20th - Favorite Political Roundtable Show
Thursday, June 21st - Favorite Local Electronic Media News Team
Friday, June 22nd - Favorite Local Media Investigative Team
Saturday, June 23rd - Favorite Radio News and Info Talk Show

All polls will be closed by next Tuesday, June 26th (yes, that means unequal polling time length, but live with it!).

ADDENDUM: Most of the above media organizations do a terrible job of highlighting these shows on their websites and often don't even point to the shows even if they have a "Politics" category listed (WSBE did provide a link to their schedule where you can easily find the show). Of course, you sure can find the weather!

June 19, 2012

Anchor Rising Readers Poll: Favorite Radio Political Talk Show

Marc Comtois


This is the first in a series of polls that I'm putting together this week to find out who our readers turn to for their news and political analysis in the Mainstream Media (that means no bloggers or website-based organizations <--I changed my mind in a couple areas...stay tuned).

UPDATED: Here is the schedule of polls:

Tuesday, June 19th (today) - Favorite Radio Political Talk Show
Wednesday, June 20th - Favorite Political Roundtable Show
Thursday, June 21st - Favorite Local Electronic Media News Team
Friday, June 22nd - Favorite Local Media Investigative Team
Saturday, June 23rd - Favorite Radio News and Info Talk Show

All polls will be closed by next Tuesday, June 26th (yes, that means unequal polling time length, but live with it!).

First up are the local radio political talk shows. The requirements for being put on this list were: 1) Had to be a daily show based in Rhode Island (so no Boston-based shows); 2) Had to focus primarily on news and political analysis (WPRO Morning News didn't qualify--they'll be in another category); 3) I had to be able to hear their signal in my car (which eliminated the shows on the Woonsocket Radio station. Sorry guys!).

So without further ado, here is the first poll questions (listed alphabetically by last name):

What is your favorite local political talk radio show?
pollcode.com free polls 

Pew: RI Still has "Serious Concerns" About Unfunded Pensions & Health Care

Marc Comtois

The Pew Center on the States is out with an "update" (PDF) on public employee retiree pension and health care benefit debt owed by the states (h/t ProJo).

They provide three ratings for the two categories: Solid Performer, Needs Improvement and Serious Concerns. Despite giving Rhode Island (report here) positive marks for addressing it's pension problem with "an unprecedented package of reforms," the fact remains we are so far behind the 8-ball that they still rate our pension liability as a having "Serious Concerns." As for Health Care, they note Rhode Island has a $775 million liability and had not funded any of it by 2010. Again, they rated it as having "Serious Concerns." In 2010, Rhode Island did pay 100% of the "recommended" contribution to fund retiree pensions, but only 69% of "recommended" contribution to fund retiree health benefits.

Nationally, Rhode Island joined ten other states who had serious concerns in both categories (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey & New Mexico). Several states were "Solid Performers" in one while they didn't do as well in the other category. Only one state was deemed a "Solid Performer" in both categories: Wisconsin. I wonder what they did?

June 18, 2012

Reducing Government Growth isn't Austerity

Marc Comtois

One meme that some are attempting to make take hold (including the President; "the public sector isn't fine") is that the high unemployment we're seeing is in large part because of the loss of public-sector jobs and especially at the local level:

See that little dip in public sector employment? That right there's you're problem. But, given the 50 year(ish) growth trend, that little dip doesn't seem like much. You see, the greatest portion of governmental growth has historically been at the local level, as this graph from Menzie Chin at the Econbrowser blog shows:

Hm. How to make the argument, then? Ya gotta shape the data! This is how a comparison of private sector to public sector unemployment looks when both are compared to their own relative peak employment (instead of raw numbers), as done by Yale's Ben Polak and Peter K. Schott.

Mon dieu! Look at that, the public sector is going down while the private sector is recovering, just like President Obama said. Yet, as Mickey Kaus explains, the loss of many of these local government jobs can be attributed to the disappearance of federal subsidies:
In this recession, Democrats voted a temporary subsidy for state and local governments to keep up their hiring–and when it expired, those governments found they couldn’t afford to keep on as many employees–especially given the unsustainable pensions and benefits Democrats and others had granted oft-unionized public workers in good times (and that the Dem stimulus subsidized).
That's what happened around here when the Department of Labor and Training announced the layoffs of around 60-70 workers. There is also a shift in priorities as older workers retire and aren't replaced. Regardless, the most telling graph shows that it's still the private sector that has bore the brunt of this recession:

We're a long way from saying the private sector is "fine".

RIRA to Hold Biennial Endorsement Convention

Community Crier

Rhode Island’s largest conservative organization, the Rhode Island Republican Assembly (RIRA), will hold its next monthly meeting and biennial endorsement convention this Thursday, June 21st, 2012, at 7:00 p.m.

Unlike its regular gatherings, this month’s RIRA meeting and biennial endorsement convention will not be held at the Rhode Island Shriners. Instead, it will be held at the Coventry-West Greenwich Elks Lodge No. 2285, at 42 Nooseneck Hill Road, in West Greenwich, RI (Exit 6 off of Route 95). Additionally, the group will not be having a sit-down dinner prior to the endorsement convention. However, there will be a great selection of complimentary appetizers available during the convention, as well as a cash bar.

The convention is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. Any like-minded Republican may attend. However, only RIRA members "in good standing" may vote (and annual dues must be paid current).

The meeting agenda will primarily deal with consideration of possible RIRA endorsements for the several federal races; for Republican National Committeeman and Republican National Committeewoman; and for Rhode Island General Assembly. A number of candidates have asked to personally address the organization and will be taking questions from the membership. Endorsements by RIRA require the assent of two-thirds of eligible members present and voting. Endorsement by RIRA is one of the requirements for candidates to be eligible for financial assistance from its political action committee (PAC).

The Rhode Island Republican Assembly is an affiliate of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, a thoughtful organization of GOP conservatives working to grow and strengthen the Republican Party, in the tradition of President Ronald Reagan. They encourage the active grassroots participation of their members toward the endorsement, support, and election of principled Republicans.

For more information, contact RIRA President Raymond McKay at (401) 487-2514 or president@ri-ra.org or visit http://ri-ra.org.

The Current Week 06/11/12 - 06/15/12

Justin Katz


06/11/12 – Senate Floor and Committees - Liveblog
Justin tries to keep an eye out, live, during what may be the second-to-last night of the legislative session. EBEC, casino, budget, campaign finance, and felony dog leashing rules.

06/12/12 – The Whole Mad Jumble of the Last Day - Liveblog
Justin writes live from the final day of the legislative session.

Justin's Case

Netroots & Rhode Island More Alike than Patinkin Admits - Opinion
In Justin's view, the similarities between Netroots and Rhode Island extend to similar internal contradictions.

Nationally Recognized Investigative Reporter Joins the Ocean State Current - Interviews & profiles
Kevin Mooney has appeared on Breitbart and Glenn Beck.

Afterthoughts - Opinion
Still over-tired from the General Assembly's final night in session, Justin draws some lessons from the experience.

K-12 Enrollment Versus Expenditures in RI and Woonsocket - Analysis
Although enrollment is down in almost every Rhode Island city and town, expenditures have continued to grow at several times the rate of inflation.

General Assembly Budget Gradually Undoes State Workforce Cuts - Analysis
Under the radar, the state government of Rhode Island has gradually been reversing the workforce reduction achieved during Governor Carcieri's second term.
MA Comparison Overwhelms One-Month Improvement in RI - Analysis
RI's employment slide stopped in May, but comparison with MA shows just how much ground it has to recover.

COLA Freezes, Salary Cuts, "significant cuts to healthcare and benefits" - Everything Now on the Table

Monique Chartier

So said Council President Budget Commission member John Ward on the air Friday to RIPR.

If we can’t get negotiated settlements, we’re simply going to have to do much like Providence did and simply do it by ordinance. And we”ll freeze the COLA and we’ll change the health benefits, and we’ll cut salaries across the board by a fixed percentage.

And if they take us to court, we’re going to fall into the compelling public interest argument, which is the court standard for what you do to make changes where you break contracts.

Any grievances should be filed with the General Assembly.

... because the court can’t order us to go raise taxes when the General Assembly hasn’t authorized it.

June 17, 2012

Review: The Price of the Ticket by Frederick Harris

Marc Comtois

Fredrick C. Harris is a Professor of Political Science and the Director of Columbia University's Center on African-American Politics and Society. In the world of academia, his racial/political bona fides are beyond reproach. so when he proposes that our first African-American President hasn't adequately addressed racial inequality, it's worth a read. In his Price of the Ticket, Harris explains that the election of President Obama has allowed the country to feel good about itself for choosing a black man as President, even as this President has done little to forward the causes for which so many of his fellow African-Americans have long fought. Harris hopes to put "Obama's race-neutral campaign strategy and approach to governing within the context of history, politics and policy."

Much of the book does just that. Harris spends a few chapters providing historical context that explains the two strategies (and the tension between them) used by African Americans to achieve political power:

The coalition-politics perspective calls on black voters to build coalitions with whites and other racial and ethnic groups to develop support for issues and policies that help most everyone. The independent-black-politics perspective presses blacks to work independently of other groups to push for community interests with the aim toward building support with other groups around both universal policies and community-specific issues.
Harris' telling of the evolution of these strategies over the decades is an interesting story and he provides valuable insights as to how the political campaigns of Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson and the late-Chicago Mayor Harold Washington laid the groundwork for Obama's successful 2008 run for the Presidency. Focusing on Obama, Harris contends that the race-neutral politics of the President--which go hand-in-hand with coalition politics--"has marginalized policy discussions about racial inequality."
Proponents of "race-neutral" universalism fail to acknowledge that policies that help everyone--what can be described as a trickle-down approach to eradicating poverty and social inequality--are not enough to correct the deep-rooted persistance of racial inequality. In many ways, the majority of black voters have struck a bargain with Obama. In exchange for the president's silence on community-focused interests, black voters are content with a governing philosophy that helps "all people" and a politics centered on preserving the symbol of a black president and family in the White House.
This is the "price of the ticket" and it's clear that Harris is no proponent of coalition-politics. To bolster his point, he contrasts the gains made by the LGBT community under the Obama Administration to the lack of progress made on racial equality. The former, Harris contends, has kept the pressure on Obama (as has, according to Harris, the Tea Party) and been rewarded while the black community has given the President a pass, a dynamic he delves deeper into in his chapter, "Wink, Nod, Vote."

Further, Harris argues that Obama has become a "hollow prize" for Black America because the President has been forced to contend with an economic downturn instead of turning his attention to implementing policies--however modest--that dealt with racial inequality. Worse yet, by Harris' contention, Obama hasn't adequately addressed inequality even within the context of the economic downturn. When asked in 2009 about the "mounting problem of black unemployment" and why he hadn't targeted it:

Obama provided the same pat answer. Obama acknowledged that black and Latino workers were disproportionately affected by the great recession, but he still insisted that policies that helped everyone would cure the catastrophic unemployment rate in minority communities.
This was in contrast to a proposal by the Congressional Black Caucus, for instance, that:
...incorporated the principle of "targeted universalism"; an approach that would geographically target government-sponsored job projects in communities most affected by the recession and with the greatest concentrations of poverty. By default, such legislation would not help everyone equally but benefit those most affected by the recession.
In other words, blacks and other minorities.

In a comparison between Herman Cain (running for the Republican Presidential nomination at the time Harris' was writing the book) and President Obama, Harris finds that both fall short of the promise that politically powerfull African-Americans are supposed to fulfill.

When you place Cain next to Obama, who appears to be too timidly strategic to raise questions about--and work overtly against--racial inequality, the actions (or in the case of Obama inactions) of both diminish black interests on the national political scene. One black candidate for president spouts bigoted views about blacks and the poor. The other is silent on issues of racial inequality and poverty. In the end, neither political party is a vehicle for blacks to directly confront inequality, because both parties push black-specific issues to the margins of national policymaking. This development tells us something about the durability of racism as an ideology in American politics. Instead of fading away in an era celebrated as "postracial," race as ideology demonstrates convincing staying power, endowed with the ability to readapt and readjust as new political situations arise. {emphasis added}
Thus, we see that Harris' critique of Obama is rooted in his apparent belief that America, as whole, is still a racist society. By Harris' interpretation, electing a black man president is not to be taken as a symbol of the end of widespread, institutional and cultural racism, but rather a signal that such racism has changed and "readjusted."

The problem is that his interpretation is based on his contention that Obama hasn't done enough to address what Harris refers to--multiple times--as racial inequality. Yet, he never truly defines that inequality and the reader not versed in contemporary African-American politics is left wondering, "so what could Obama do in the realm of addressing racial inequality that will make Harris happy?"

Harris does spend time giving examples of, and discounting, what he calls the "politics of respectibility" (Bill Cosby comes in for some criticism on this front). But without more specificity as to what policies Harris supports towards racial equality, as opposed to explaining what he doesn't support, we are left guessing. In the end, Harris has provided a fine history of the development of contemporary black political strategies. He is less convincing in supporting his contention that President Obama's decision to govern America as a coalition--and not focus on acute issues affecting African-Americans--marks Obama as a failure as an African-American president. As a result, we're just not sure, exactly, what President Obama could have done to have been a success in Harris' eyes.

"Retroactive Judgement": RI-1 Race Makes This Week's Weekly Standard Magazine

Monique Chartier

For the most part, a thorough and well-informed article by Ethan Epstein. And the sub-title

Mayoral malpractice comes back to haunt a ­congressman.

is a perfect description of the current tableau.

However, in one regard,

An internal audit commissioned by the city laid much of the blame at Cicilline’s feet. It found that he had not provided financial information on a timely basis to the independent auditor, the city council, or the internal auditor, and that he had not provided the city council with monthly financial statements or with projections of year-end surpluses or deficits. Even more damning, it found that Cicilline had papered over huge deficits by depleting the city’s reserve funds—this without the approval of the city council.

the article is a little too passive in describing one of David Cicilline's most egregious actions as mayor. He didn't just not provide "financial information on a timely basis ..." As Mayor, David Cicilline LOCKED OUT the Internal Auditor, James Lombardi, preventing him from accessing accounts, records, information so he could not reveal the true financial condition of the city.

Mr. Lombardi eventually obtained the information by - incredibly - resorting to a FOIA request. But it was very late in the campaign. The Providence Journal chose not to cover the critical development to any significant extent and, remarkably, the paper actually endorsed David Cicilline three days later.

With his action in locking out the Internal Auditor (are we sure that this was not criminal on its face? also, what about perjury or obtaining money under false pretences for any financial statements about Providence that he signed as mayor during the period?), David Cicilline had successfully dragged out disclosure of the bad news just long enough to secure himself the political promotion that he so wanted, representing the people of the First District of Rhode Island in the United States Congress.

Now that this has been exposed, as Ethan Epstein goes on to point out, it is correct that David Cicilline should have very low approval numbers and actually be trailing his Republican opponent, whose character and reputation are pretty much the antithesis of Cicilline's. It isn't that people believe, as my friend Phil West wrote, that David Cicilline caused Providence's financial troubles. It's that he stated over and over to voters in RI-1 AS HE WAS DELIBERATELY SHUTTING OUT THE INTERNAL AUDITOR that the city was in excellent fiscal condition. It's that he resorted to subterfuge; that he covered up and repeatedly lied about serious matters for political gain.

That's completely unacceptable to a lot of us. It appears that a significant number of RI-1 voters are laudably in our ranks.

June 16, 2012

Brits To Withdraw All Windmill Subsidies By 2020; Rhody Does Not Need To Take That Long

Monique Chartier

From today's Telegraph (U.K.).

Despite opposition from the Liberal Democrats, who strongly support more renewable energy, the subsidy regime for onshore wind and solar panels is now firmly expected to be phased out by the end of the decade.

A senior Conservative source said: “This is now very much the direction of travel.”

At present, householders pay for subsidies to renewable energy producers through an extra charge on household electricity bills.

"Extra charge on household electricity bills" to pay for a clumsy, inefficient but politically correct (in more ways than one) source of electricity. Where have Rhode Islanders heard that before? Oh,yes.

Terry Stewart, president of the Dorset branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England gives the perfectly cogent reason, involving a splendid vocabulary word that I had never heard before.

The subsidy for wind turbines is iniquitous. It is a stealth tax.

A mandate to purchase electricity at an artificially high price is, indeed, a stealth tax, and an unjustified one at that. The only weakness in this phaseout plan is that the Cameron government is taking eight years to implement it.

Rhode Island does not have to make that mistake. The current phase of Deepwater Wind is essentially an experimental one. As the full-blown project will require rateholders across the board to pay two and a half times the market rate for electricity, it is time to conclude that this experiment is a failure (p.r. pros, give us a softer word!) and pull the plug on it.

Why Are We Transferring Ownership of Two (Two More?) State Bridges to a Quango?

Monique Chartier

This Bristol-Warren Patch article is comprised mainly of a press release from the R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority announcing that tolls (amount undetermined) will soon come to the Sakonnet River Bridge and that there would be no change in the amount of the tolls charged to cross the Newport bridge. But it also contained a separate, equally disturbing announcement by the RITBA.

Ownership of the Sakonnet Bridge will be transferred from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to RITBA, who will manage the tolling, maintenance and operations.

The Jamestown Bridge will also become RITBA’s property and will remain toll-free.

Is the Newport bridge currently owned by the RITBA? If so, why? Aren't these state assets? Presumably, the power of the Prince, i.e., the state of Rhode Island, was exercised at some point to seize (fine, take by eminent domain) private land to construct the bridges. At that point, the bridges became the property of the state, meaning all of us: residents and taxpayers of Rhode Island.

It's one thing to contract out the upkeep and management of the bridges, though at some point, I would ask for a review to be certain that the state shouldn't ask for profit-sharing from the tolls. But do we need to go so far as to actually give away our assets - in this case, the bridges and the state land that they sit on?

June 15, 2012

Didn't Obama Kinda Heckle Himself?

Justin Katz

The Big News on Friday is that Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro "interrupted" President Obama's statement on granting a sort of limited work-visa amnesty for young illegal immigrants. (The official transcript admirably captures what words from the reporter's questions were possible to hear.)

Mr. Munro explains himself thus:

I always go to the White House prepared with questions for our president. I timed the question believing the president was closing his remarks, because naturally I have no intention of interrupting the President of the United States. I know he rarely takes questions before walking away from the podium. When I asked the question as he finished his speech, he turned his back on the many reporters, and walked away while I and at least one other reporter asked questions.

And indeed, the transcript shows that the president did not take any further questions. That leads to what I see as the more relevant observation: It was Barack Obama, the President of the United States, who made an issue of the interaction.

In the immediate case, he did so by his reaction to Munro's audacity in disturbing the ambient peace of the President's press event. As the videos and the transcript show, had Obama not stumbled over his recitation in order to scold the journalist, nobody would have been any the wiser. It displays a characteristic peevishness that the nation's top executive was so disturbed by the nearly inaudible interruption that he could not ignore it in the course of finishing his remarks.

More importantly, the President brought the interruption on himself by giving members of the press corps the sense that he considers their role to be stenographers of his statements, without opportunity for questions. If Munro had reasonable expectation of an opportunity for some Q&A, he wouldn't have tried to slip a bit of Q at what he thought to be the President's closing.

By way of comparison, take a look at this video of President George W. Bush's indulgence as David Gregory, first, deals with the technical difficulty of his microphone wire and, then, offers a long-winded, ideologically charged question. Or better yet, consider a tweet that Prof. Jacobson highlighted from Jim Treacher:

If you cheered when a reporter threw a shoe at Bush, but you booed when a reporter threw a question at @BarackObama, #YouMightBeALiberal.

Chuckles aside, revisit the video. President Bush's reaction? "So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?"

When the missile is a question that's sure to be on the minds of many Americans (likely a majority), President Obama's reaction is, "I didn’t ask for an argument."

In a democracy, the relevant factor isn't what the President "asks for" or allows, but what the people request and demand.

The Nanny State, Part 4

Patrick Laverty

I'm hearing a bit of a buzz about this new law the General Assembly just passed about requiring a doctor's note or a parent's signature every other visit to a tanning bed for minors. My first thought was also as some are making this out, "More anti-business legislation." But then, it's really a decision on how harmful the tanning beds are. If you believe they are and that they cause skin cancer, then tanning beds are harmful to people. We've also decided as a society that we don't want to let minors make decisions for themselves about things that could be harmful to them. Other examples would include the drinking age for alcohol and the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes. Both have been deemed harmful to minors, so they're not allowed. Is a tanning bed at least as harmful to minors as those other two things? I don't know, you can decide that for yourself.

One thing that gets me about the bill is how it doesn't really have the guts one way or the other. If it's harmful, then ban it. If it's not, then leave it alone. Plus, look at the nightmare of enforcement that the law just created for the tanning studio operators. The minor needs the in-person parental signature at least every two visits. Oh great. So 17 year old Brittany comes in for her pre-prom tan and the person working has to figure out if this is an odd-numbered visit (first visit requires a signature too). Or is this an even-numbered one? Or what if there are multiple studios around? Can she go to each of them for her even-numbered visit and rack up the exposure without Mommy or Daddy knowing?

It also comes down to a parenting issue. But that would be similar for the alcohol and tobacco as well. If I'm doing my job, I should be able to instill values in my child to know what's bad for her to the point where she can make those decisions in a smart way for herself. If I can't, odds are that I'll probably just sign the paper anyway.

So come on Assembly, if you're going to take on an issue, let's do it. Enough of this half a loaf stuff.

June 14, 2012

Media Sensationalization

Patrick Laverty

Well, that word is a big of mouthful. I even have to slow down to make sure I type it correctly. Sensationalization.

Anyway. I get a morning email each day of the top stories from GoLocalProv.com, which include some headlines and a brief blurb about the story. So this morning when I saw there were some "secret" documents uncovered, I couldn't wait to see it. Additionally, Helen Glover has the "Big Story of the Day" around 7:40 each morning and this was the topic and how exciting it was that these secret documents were discovered. So what were they about?

They explained that lending money to 38 Studios was a huge risk. One that should not be taken lightly. These disclosures were made to another potential investor in 2009, when the company was seeking a $25M loan. However, similar documents were not made available to the EDC prior to backing the $75M loan to the company.

Is that a big deal? I don't know, maybe. Should the company have offered the same disclosure to the EDC? Of course. However, this seems like an attempt to imply that something really dastardly or underhanded was done here and possibly give a reason for why the EDC didn't properly evaluate the risk. C'mon. If the EDC didn't have any idea of the risk without being told that it was a high risk, then they are far more incompetent than we could have previously imagined. I mean, if the EDC were handed these documents, do we really think that then they would have thought to themselves, "Oh, this really is a big risk. We don't want to do this deal." Seriously? They had no idea that the full investment could be lost? I dabble in the stock market every so often and I fully understand that all the money I put into it could be completely lost. I'm aware of that kind of risk. If I'm aware of it at this level, then how in the world could the EDC be unaware of it at their level without that disclosure? Clearly, they weren't unaware. They knew at least that much. So when you take that away, what then is really the big secret?

I can understand what GoLocalProv is trying to do. They're new, trying to establish themselves in this media market, trying to take on the Journal head on. I get that. But they have some great writers over there that work hard and do some excellent work. I'm not sure that the headline writers need to embellish quite so much. This wasn't the first time I read an article and felt the content didn't quite match the excitement of the headline. Eventually, you get a "Boy Who Cried Wolf" mentality with that kind of stuff, but like I said, the writers are great, so that in itself keeps you coming back.

June 13, 2012

School Committee to State: Take Over Woonsocket School System

Monique Chartier

So they voted just this evening.

Woonsocket school officials have asked the Rhode Island Department of Education to take control of their schools.

In a meeting Wednesday night, the school committee voted 4 to 1 to draft a letter to Commissioner Gist seeking assistance.

The vote comes after the General Assembly failed to pass a supplemental tax bill that would help fill a $10 million budget deficit.

Incompetence and gross mismanagement on the part of the School Committee (though not all current members) have in large part precipitated the city's likely plunge into receivership. Accordingly, part of me cannot help but wish that the School Comm had taken this vote a good five years ago, especially as this dangerous lack of competence continues to manifest itself even this week in the (in)actions of the Woonsocket school superintendent.

Last week, for example, [Supt. Giovanna] Donoyan said the WED, though already “crucified” by cuts in programs and personnel, could hobble along next year without recalling 42 of the 98 teachers still on layoff.

Yesterday, Donoyan did an about face, saying that all the teachers who were notified of layoffs earlier this year will be needed. But she couldn’t say what they’d be needed for, what schools they’d be assigned to or how much money it was going to cost.

“We can’t seem to get good information,” Commissioner Dina Dutremble, a former business manager for the WED, complained at one point. “We get a lot of stories and analogies. We’re not getting data.”


Such an option might be a non-starter. This morning on the Helen Glover Show, Mayor Fontaine indicated that the Woonsocket School Comm had in the past asked the state to take over their school system and the state's reception to such a proposal was "cool".

March 1 vs. June 1

Patrick Laverty

One specific bill did not pass in this General Assembly session and it should have been a slam dunk. The bill would have moved the teacher layoff notices from March 1 to June 1. It was sponsored by Senator DiPalma, was last seen back in February by the Senate Labor Committee and you guessed it, was held for further study.

Two groups are affected by the teacher layoff notices, school districts and teachers. Everyone that I've heard from, school districts and teachers included, wanted the date pushed forward to June 1. The March 1 deadline in the middle of the school year causes stress for teachers who then worry about their job status for the next few months, until they're notified that they will be brought back.

Each year, far more teachers receive this notice than actually get laid off. If the date was moved to June 1, school districts would have a better idea of their needs for the upcoming school year and fewer teachers would receive the notice.

So why didn't this pass? No idea. I've spoken with a few in the media covering this as well as elected members of the GA. No one has any idea why it didn't pass. It seems like a no-brainer.

Now because everyone wants this to pass, sometimes extreme measures are required to get peoples' attention to enact change. Here's my suggestion on how to get the General Assembly's attention on this one. Next March 1, every school district in the state should send the layoff notice to 100% of their teachers. Every district, every teacher. Remember the uproar it caused a couple years ago when Central Falls did then and then again last year in Providence? What if that happened throughout the state? We'd have everyone up in arms asking why this date is the law. I'm pretty sure at that point, we'd have every teacher telling their representation to get the law changed and the school districts would be fine with moving the date as well.

It seems that possibly in their haste, the General Assembly and the Senate Labor Committee dropped the ball on this one, someone just "forgot" about it. That is, unless there actually is someone or some group that thinks the March 1 date is appropriate. If so, that person should explain it to the teachers. It's only fair.

The Politics of Woonsocket

Patrick Laverty

This morning saw dueling press releases, both issued shortly before 4 am. They were in reference to negotiations between the Woonsocket delegation of state representatives, including Jon Brien and Lisa "You're cute" Baldelli-Hunt, and Governor Chafee.

Rosemary Booth-Gallogly, the state's Director of Revenue and Leo Fontaine, Woonsocket's mayor, have come to the conclusion that one step to possibly save the city from bankruptcy is a 13% tax to property owners in the city. No one takes these things lightly and taxes in an amount like that are never something that anyone enjoys. But just like when a patient is sick, medicine is required. This is the medicine that is being prescribed by the experts at this time.

Late into the night and early morning, the Woonsocket state reps negotiated with the Governor's office, but couldn't come to an agreement. In their press release, the representatives offered:

“We cannot force our residents to pay a 13.8 percent supplemental tax,” said Rep. Lisa Baldelli Hunt (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket). “We originally started with a five-point plan and narrowed it down to a two-point compromise for the governor. But in the end, he said our proposal for an 8.5 percent tax, which would not have been added to the base, was not large enough.”
Aside from the compromise on the tax, Woonsocket legislators in both the House and the Senate had reached a consensus on another item that would allow the city to push back the start of construction for the DEM-mandated wastewater treatment plant.
“We made it known that we would be willing to meet in the middle, but we would not go back to the original proposal for the $6.6 million tax levy,” Rep. Jon D. Brien (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket) said.

Meet in the middle? Is that how it works? So how about this, the next time I need a car, I'll go pick one out. Let's say its price is $20,000. Well, I want to pay zero. I'll tell the dealer, "Let's meet in the middle!" Maybe I can try the same thing on a house. How's that work? Or even better, when that payroll comes due up in Woonsocket, maybe the mayor can tell the employees, "Let's meet in the middle and we'll pay you half."

Additionally, the state reps' press release included:

“I’ve grown even more concerned after seeing the number of homeowners on the most recent tax sale list,” Representative Phillips said. “This isn’t fair to them. I’m sure the governor’s decision today will not ease their minds.”

Really? You're concerned about the number of homes on the tax sale list? So your concern is the taxpayer and homeowners of Woonsocket and elsewhere around Rhode Island? If that's true, then did we see a push for Governor Chafee's "tools bill" that would have eased burdens on cities and towns and given the mayors the tools necessary to cut costs from crazy mandates. If the reps were being honest with their intentions, they'd have pushed for the Governor's bill even harder than they fought against this tax hit.

So why are they doing this? I don't know, though it wouldn't be a stretch to wonder if Ted Nesi was on to something yesterday with his questioning of Representative Lisa Baldelli-Hunt and her desire to be Mayor of Woonsocket, and the whole strategy was to tar up current Mayor Fontaine. Once they started down this road, they had to see it through, not thinking it would come to this and be this visible. Over the next few months, if the city does get forced into bankruptcy, many people will be asking questions and looking for reasons why.

Maybe a part of that will be answered for us by June 27.

Addendum: Thank you to commenter brassband who reminded me that Woonsocket's elections are in odd years, so there is no election this year. I did know that, but clearly forgot it while writing this post. Thus, we get a whole additional year to see what happens with the political drama up north.

Representative Bob Watson Not Seeking Re-election

Patrick Laverty

According to multiple sources, State Representative Bob Watson will not be seeking re-election in November.

Watson has been in the General Assembly for 20 years, and served from 1998 to 2011 as the House Minority Leader.

Representative Watson was always known to be very vocal on many issues and was never afraid of a fight in the State House. I'm sure his voice will be missed by many (but certainly not all) on Smith Hill, especially on those very late nights at the end of an Assembly session.

Thank you and good luck Representative Watson.

June 12, 2012

It's Not Quite A Media-Savvy Assembly

Patrick Laverty

I'm not expecting much from these people, our General Assembly, but is it really too much to ask to have them be aware of the media around them? I don't think anyone expects to be treated like Mick Jagger or something, but a minimal understanding of who media members are would be nice. It would at least show that our Assembly's members are informed when it comes to the local news.

First we had one state rep being overheard asking "Who's that?" in reference to Tim White of WPRI testifying before a committee. Then our own Justin Katz being asked multiple times in the State Senate who he is and what he's doing there. And today, we get the doozy. We get the whole deal. Both a "who are you" and either borderline sexual harassment or complete condescension.

After WPRI reporter Ted Nesi asked State Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt about her mayoral aspirations in Woonsocket, she had a question for him:

BALDELLI-HUNT: Quite frankly – are you Ted Nesi?
Well, points for that one. At least she had an accurate guess. But later in the conversation, after some testy exchanges, she ended it with:
BALDELLI-HUNT: You know what? You’re very cute.
I was not there and am merely reading Nesi's account, but you can see where it devolved and she may have been baited. However, when you're involved in politics and you're not answering the questions directly, reporters will try to get an answer by asking a different way, but that doesn't excuse her response. Can you even imagine the outrage that would come of this if a male state rep answered a Kathy Gregg or Kate Bramson or Erika Niedowski the same way? Any of those women would probably be outraged to be spoken to that way by anyone on Smith Hill and rightfully so. Should Rep. Baldelli-Hunt get a pass on this for some reason?

I have no idea whether she does have her eyes set on the mayor's seat in Woonsocket, but if this is the kind of heat that she can't take in stride, she might want to answer the reporter's question next time with a genuine "No."

Simultaneously Jarring and Gratifying: "Democrats for Doherty"

Monique Chartier

On the one hand, as a Registered Republican, this makes me a little queasy and uneasy.

The [Doherty] campaign announced on Monday a new group they are coining “Democrats for Doherty,” that includes several former mayors and state representatives.

The coalition will kick off at a fundraiser headlined by former Democratic Mayor of Boston Ray Flynn On Thursday June14. Flynn served as Vatican ambassador to the U.S. under President Bill Clinton.

On the other, considerable schadenfreude satisfaction can be derived from the fact that the Democrat candidates undoubtedly had the same reaction, perhaps only stronger, when they, too, heard the news.

June 11, 2012

Why the East Bay Energy Consortium Should Be Rejected by the General Assembly this Session II

Carroll Andrew Morse

Another amended version of the East Bay Energy Consortium bill has appeared on the General Assembly website. This latest version of S2870 would allow two (or more) town/city councils to get together and create a corporation for the newly defined "essential governmental function" of developing "renewable energy resources". A corporation created under this law would not be able to issue bonds -- this version of the bill says so explicitly -- but would be able to create "notes or other obligations".

If the project fails or is substantially delayed, who would be on the hook for these "notes or other obligations" is not clear from the law. To be able to sell "notes or other obligations" as "risk-free" municipal-grade investments, the corporation will need to be able to point to a method for raising revenue that is guaranteed to be there in the future, such as access to direct government appropriations or the ability to add surcharges to energy rates. If there is no public backstop, meaning that money to pay back the "notes and other obligations" might not be available and there is a real possibility of default, then interest rates on the "notes and other obligations" issued by the corporation will be high, and how the corporation provides any advantage over more conventional methods of financing, from the perspective of taxpayers and ratepayers, is uncertain at best.

Could the same end-of-session process that has led many Rhode Island legislators to claim they didn't know what they were voting on when they approved the 38 Studios loan guarantee program be used to speed an East Bay Energy Consortium bill through the RI General Assembly this year? Two years ago, a bill modifying the Economic Development Corporation's loan guarantee program to provide for the 38 Studios flew through the final three days of the General Assembly session. A Senate Committee passed the bill two days before the Senate adjourned. The full Senate passed the bill on the day after that. The bill then went from the Senate directly to the House Floor calendar (no House committee hearing was involved; this appears to be allowed by the rules after the budget has been passed) and was approved by the full House on the final day of the session.

The East Bay Energy Consortium bill goes before the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee this afternoon, on what is expected to be the day before adjournment of the 2012 General Assembly session. Legislators, in both chambers, whether in committee or floor sessions, should not vote to approve S2870 in any form until they understand -- and can explain to the public -- who it is that will be assuming the real risks that this bill enables.

The path of the Senate version of the 38 Studios bill, as reported by the Rhode Island General Assembly website:

Senate Bill No. 2923 SUB A
Chapter 29
BY DaPonte, Connors, Felag, Ruggerio, Lynch
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO AUTHORIZING THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION TO CREATE THE JOB CREATION GUARANTY PROGRAM (would authorize the economic development corporation to issue revenue bonds or guaranty obligations that result in the creation of jobs in Rhode Island)
05/20/2010 Introduced, referred to Senate Finance
05/27/2010 Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration
05/27/2010 Committee heard
06/04/2010 Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration
06/04/2010 Committee recommended measure be held for further study
06/08/2010 Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration
06/08/2010 Committee recommends passage of Sub A
06/09/2010 Placed on Senate Calendar
06/09/2010 Senate passed Sub A
06/10/2010 Placed on House Calendar
06/10/2010 House passed Sub A in concurrence

06/11/2010 Transmitted to Governor
06/11/2010 Signed by Governor

The Current Week 06/04/12 - 06/08/12

Justin Katz


06/05/12 – House Floor & Committee on Environment and Natural Resources - Liveblog
Justin whiles away the evening writing from the State House floor (campaign finance) and House Environment and Natural Resources Committee hearing (EBEC).

06/07/12 – House Floor: Budget - Liveblog
Justin sets up camp to write live from the RI House’s discussion of the budget.

Justin's Case

Trading Budgetary Restraint for Economic Recovery - Opinion
Projections of a sales-tax phase-out in Rhode Island show a stark decision for the people of the state, with a little government restraint yielding accelerated economic recovery.

The State GDP Growth Race and Some Taxing Milestones - Analysis
Trends in GDP growth for Rhode Island and three other New England states suggest that its general policy approaches during the last decade might be worth reconsidering.
Poll: Teachers' Union Opinion Downslide - Analysis
NEA Executive Director Robert Walsh may disagree with findings of deteriorating opinions of teachers' unions, but technology and events of recent years suggest reevaluation may be in order.

The Titles of Offices or Offices of Titles? - Opinion
Justin muses about the inappropriateness of honorifics in American politics... especially in Rhode Island.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Patrick Laverty

A few nights ago, I just happened to be reading through David Cicilline's twitter feed and stumbled across this one:

David N. Cicilline ‏@davidcicilline
In the Wisconsin recall, Walker outspent Barrett seven to one. Another reason we need to get corporate money out of politics.
Great! Cicilline is opposed to corporations giving money to campaigns. Hmm, let's take a look over on opensecrets.org as to who Cicilline's donors are.

#1. Waterson Terminal Services. An LLC. LLC stands for "limited liability corporation." Interesting. The Cicilline campaign's #1 donor is a corporation. Ok, fine, let's keep looking.

#2 AmeriPAC: The Fund for Greater America. Well, it's not a corporation, so as long as Cicilline is cool with the Citizens' United decision, then I guess we have no problem with him taking big money from PACs either.

#3. Gilbane, Inc(orporated). Another corporation.

The next four are all tied for fourth place, two unions and two PACs.

#8. Raytheon. Another corporation.

Oh man, check out #12. Could he get any further from his progressive roots than to be taking campaign money from Goldman Sachs? Plus, another checkbox on the page shows he takes money from a Goldman lobbyist.

Continuing on down the list shows some other PACs, some unions and then you get to another interesting one.

Bain Capital.

The list goes on and on. And before anyone says "well yeah but the Republicans do it too", where are the Republicans tweeting complaints about corporate spending on elections?

Here we are, yet again, seeing David Cicilline telling us one thing, apparently what he thinks we want to hear, but then doing the exact opposite.

June 10, 2012

Coming up in Committee, Special Sunday Edition: Sixteen Sets of Bills Scheduled to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, June 11 - June 12 (That's Monday and Tuesday), Part 2

Carroll Andrew Morse

8. H7173/S2052: A statutory "bill of rights" for homeless individuals (H Judiciary; Tue, Jun 12). The section guaranteeing a "right to fair, decent and affordable housing in the community of his or her choosing, and access to safe and proximate shelter until such housing can be attained", noted previously in these updates, has been removed from the amended version of the bill. This is a definite improvement given that this "right" was unenforceable if taken literally, and laws as much as possible should be written to be understood literally.

7. H7842/S2684: Establishes a "conciliation conference" procedure that must be followed by mortagagee, before "any owner-occupied, one-to-four unit residential property" can be foreclosed upon (S Judiciary; Tue, Jun 12).

6. S2572: A major rewrite of the law concerning sexual offender registration and notification, in order to comply with Federal law, introduced at the request of the Attorney General (S Judiciary; Mon, Jun 11).

5. S2880: Introduces four criteria that must be present to establish criminal intent in cases where the law does not specify "the criminal intent required to establish an element of the offense". The four elements are 1) a conscious object to engage in conduct of the nature constituting the element; 2) a conscious object to cause such a result required by the element; 3) an awareness of the existence of any attendant circumstances required by the element or with the belief or hope that such circumstances exist; and 4) either specific intent to violate the law or knowledge that the conduct is unlawful (S Judiciary; Mon, Jun 11). Question for Anchor Rising's legal-eagle commenters: Doesn't criteria #4 introduce a big loophole into the law, and run counter to centuries of common law holding that ignorance of the law is not a defense?

4. S2569/H7859: An attempt to bring independent electioneering expenditures under a campaign-finance regime. Not just corporations, but also individuals (though not 501c(3)s) who want to independently spend more than $1,000 in a calendar year supporting/opposing a candidate for office or a position in a referendum would have to register with the Board of Elections, and any "written, typed, or other printed" electioneering communications would be required to carry a "paid for by" message (S Judiciary; Mon, Jun 11).

3. H8213/S3001: Regulation of casino tables games (assuming the passage of a constitutional amendment allowing them (H Finance; Mon, Jun 11 & S Finance; Mon, Jun 11 & S Finance; Tue, Jun 12). The same bill being scheduled for hearings in the Senate on back-to-back days is not a typo. It's actually on both calendars.

2. H7413: "No state assessment conducted pursuant to this chapter, and no other standardized testing program or assessment, shall be used to determine a student’s eligibility to graduate from high school" (H Health, Education and Welfare; Mon, Jun 11). Addendum: There's an amended version of S2274 posted on the General Assembly website, where the blanket prohibition on standardized testing as a graduation requirement has been replaced by several alternative pathways for students who don't pass a standardized test.

1. S2870: The East Bay Energy Consortium and its mysterious financial machinations (S Environment & Agriculture; Mon, Jun 11).

Coming up in Committee, Special Sunday Edition: Sixteen Sets of Bills Scheduled to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, June 11 - June 12 (That's Monday and Tuesday), Part 1

Carroll Andrew Morse

What is the legislature working on, in what is almost certain to be their final week in session? Well, for one thing, giving lots of bills getting House and Senate hearings at the same time:

Local Impact: Cranston 2, Exeter, Glocester, Middletown, North Providence, Portsmouth, Providence.

16. H7026: Allows the State Insurance Commissioner to grant "licenses to permit an experienced motor vehicle appraiser to act as a motor vehicle physical damage appraiser in this state without a Rhode Island license" in the event of an emergency (S Judiciary; Mon, Jun 11).

15. H8189: Bill from the unofficial board of directors of the RI Resource Recovery Corporation (i.e. the House of Representatives delegation from Johnston) prohibiting corporation facilities from using "construction and demolition debris" to cover compacted solid waste at a sanitary landfill (H Environment and Natural Resources; Mon, Jun 11).

14. S2962: Resolution asking the Federal government to lift its ban on sports betting and other forms of wagering in states where it's not currently allowed (like Rhode Island) (S Special Legislation and Veterans' Affairs; Mon, Jun 11).

13. H7721/S2465: Increases the surcharge on rental vehicle contracts from 6% to 8% (H Finance; Mon, Jun 11 & S Finance; Mon Jun 11).

12. S2395/H7910: Requires monitoring for the Johnston landfill, specifically for "the presence of odorous contaminants from landfill gas" (H Environment and Natural Resources; Mon, Jun 11 & S Environment & Agriculture, Mon, Jun 11).

11. H8110/S2969: Eliminates a section in the law governing state lotteries that says, after prizes and operating costs have been paid, that "the amount to be transferred into the general revenue fund" from what remains "shall equal no less than twenty-five percent (25%) of the total revenue received and accrued from the sale of lottery tickets plus any other income earned from the lottery...but the amount transferred into the general revenue fund shall equal no less than fifteen percent (15%) of the total Keno revenue received", and doesn't replace it with anything (H Finance; Mon, Jun 11 & S Finance; Mon, Jun 11). OK, then how much does the state get?

10. H8195: Removes the exemption from "all taxation" of the real and personal property of Bryant University "used exclusively for educational purposes" (H Finance; Mon, Jun 11).

9. S2411: "No application for any license or employment from any public agency or private employer shall be denied by reason of the applicant's having been previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses", with some exceptions (S Judiciary; Mon, Jun 11).

June 9, 2012

Cicilline, Langevin Tried to Increase Health Costs on Thursday

Patrick Laverty

I remember seeing all those senior citizens during the election cycle two years ago. That David is such a sweetheart. David will protect Social Security. David is looking out for the seniors. I don't remember seeing anything similar from Langevin, but he wasn't campaigning quite as hard.

So exactly how are Cicilline and Langevin looking out for the seniors when they're trying to increase the cost of health care on medical devices? As part of Obamacare, a 2.3% tax was added to medical devices. We're not talking pennies here, we know how much health care costs and how much medical devices cost. Often, for cardiac care or dialysis or joint replacements, costs can run into the thousands of dollars. Yet here we have Cicilline and Langevin trying to add to that cost. Heck, the manufacturer will just eat that cost right? Let's stick it to big business. HA! No, it'll be passed on to the hospitals who will then pass it on to the patients.

On Thursday, the US House voted in favor of repealing this tax on medical devices. Here is how the vote broke down, including Cicilline and Langevin on the "nay" side, meaning they wanted to keep the tax, add more cost to health care on everyone, but especially on our senior citizens.

Add on to this, more "par for the course" from Cicilline. On his Saturday Twitter feed:

David N. Cicilline ‏@davidcicilline
Had a great time at Netroots today. Excited to participate in a panel on high-tech manufacturing in the morning.
Oh good. I'm guessing the point of him being on that panel was how to stick it to high-tech manufacturing? How to tax them more? How to drive up their costs? I hope that is the tack he took because that is how he voted in Congress.

Remember, don't go by what a politician tells you, go by what he does. Even for a "sweethaht" like David Cicilline.

House Democrats Opt For The Money

Patrick Laverty

One of the underreported stories from Thursday night/Friday morning's General Assembly budget session is how House Minor Leader Brian Newberry attempted to prevent the new tax on dog grooming and taxi rides.

Any time a legislator wants to amend the budget in a way the removes taxes (income), the budget becomes unbalanced unless they can offer up a solution. So how did Newberry expect to offset the lost revenue from eliminating the taxi and dog grooming tax?

From the On Politics blog by Ian Donnis:

Newberry said the lawmakers could make up the same amount by cutting into the $2.3 million budget for legislative grants. His amendment to make that change — like scores of others opposed by leadership — was soundly defeated.
Right. Don't you dare touch that sacred cow also known as the legislative grants fund. Oh sure, the Democrats will tell you they care about the working man and small business but if you force them to put their money where their mouth is, nope, they won't go there.

Here's an alternative for Newberry then. They all know how much they expect to receive in the new tax. In spite of a pledge to never request any legislative grants, make an exception this time. Request a grant and use it to pay back the tax paid by these small businesses. Let the leadership look them in the eye a third time and say "No, suckers!"

Gotta love that legislative grant money. Just don't call it a slush fund.

June 8, 2012

First Annual Breitbart Awards to be Held Right Here in Little Rhody

Monique Chartier

... tonight! Thanks to the Providence Journal for the heads-up.

Two conservative organizations will present their first Breitbart Awards on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Providence Marriott, timed to "collide" with the Netroots Nation 2012 convention at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

The awards honor controversial journalist Andrew Breitbart, revered by conservatives and derided by liberals, who died in March. He was 43.

The Heritage Foundation and Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity cite Breitbart's "monumental journalistic achievements."

That's right, timing of the two day "Future of Journalism" summit vis a vis That Other Conference is strictly

"... no coincidence, said Franklin Center spokesman Erick Telford. "In no way are we taking them [Netroots] on or trying to compete with them head-on. It's more just serving as a leverage point for contrast."

Announcement of the summit here. The rumor that Ocean State Current's Justin Katz will address the summit on Saturday has been confirmed. Presumably, however, unlike That Other Conference, the "Future of Journalism" summit will not harbor a senate candidate who has made an undocumented - and, even if proven, remarkably lame - claim of one thirty second Native American heritage.

June 7, 2012

Live from Rhode Island Budget Day, It's Justin Katz!

Carroll Andrew Morse

Justin is liveblogging the Rhode Island House of Representatives' budget deliberations at the Ocean State Current. He's in the media section on the House floor, allowing him to immediately read (and blog about) floor amendments, as they are presented to the legislators.

Rhode Island's Decidedly Non-Austere State Budget History: (Third and Final Update)

Carroll Andrew Morse

As the state budget goes before the full Rhode Island House today, here are a few graphics showing how this year's spending fits into the longer-term pattern of Rhode Island state spending. This first graph shows a slight breather, in terms of current dollars, in the continuing growth in state budgets that has been occurring for over a decade. ("Current dollars" is the formal economics term for amounts spent at the time they were spent, e.g. when your grandparents you that the newspaper only used to cost a nickel, they are telling you what the price of a newspaper was in current dollars).

One point however, related to the recent news about layoffs at the Department of Labor and Training: If you examine the DLT budget, you will find its Federal funding dropping $112M between this fiscal year and next, from about $224M to $112M -- following a jump up from about $70M to $330M between fiscal years 2009 and 2010. So in terms of current dollars, all of the "austerity" in this year's budget could be accounted for by reductions in Federal dollars that were known to be temporary from the beginning.

Chart 1:


Chart 2:

Using inflation numbers published by the Department of Labor and Training, spending totals from the past can be expressed in terms of "2012 dollars" (I assumed 2% inflation between this year and next year, for which there is no definitive data available, since it hasn't happened yet). The inflation adjusted totals show the continuation of a pause in the growth of inflation adjusted spending that began in FY2011, if this budget is held to(*), which follows $2 billion in spending growth above the level of inflation that had occurred over the previous decade. Calling this year's budget an "austerity" budget assumes that automatic faster-than-inflation growth in government spending is the norm.


(*) The state actually overshot its originally passed FY2012 budget by about $400M, though a large portion of that came from Federal money, and none was attributed to the state's general revenues.

Chart 3:

The next graph shows the inflation adjusted Rhode Island government spending from general revenues (basically state taxes). The first budget approved during the Chafee administration grew spending by about 3%, adjusted for inflation, relative to the final budget approved during the Carcieri administration.

And if inflation over the next year is in the 2%-3% range, the growth of spending adjusted for inflation will also be in the 2%-3% range (or, more properly, in the 3%-2% range). In terms of current dollars, general revenue spending is budgeted to grow by about $150M next year, or 5% relative to this year, as part of the some-call-it-"austerity" plan.


Chart 4:

The final chart presented in this post shows the Federal dollars included in the Rhode Island budget. Notable features on this chart are the spike resulting from the financial meltdown and associated stimulus, and a suggestion of what a future normal level of Federal spending might look like.


Figures compiled from data available from:

How to Fix the RI Economy

Patrick Laverty

I'm sorry, I'm having a hard time writing this as I'm still laughing after reading the article. In the software development field, we often have a joke that any time the Quality Assurance department slows down development due to finding too many bugs in the software, the suggestion is that we should shut down the Quality Assurance department to speed things up again. But we mean it jokingly. Unfortunately, our governor is using that logic for real.

On WPRO.com, Governor Chafee is trying to spin the 60-70 layoffs at the Department of Labor and Training (DLT) as an indication that Rhode Island's economy is improving.

When asked if he really believes that this is a sign that the economy is recovering he said, “Yes, I do. Slowly but surely we are stabilizing, and ticking in the right direction.”
Ok Gov, then how do we explain:
In April, the state’s unemployment rate rose for the third consecutive month from 11.1% to 11.2%.
Maybe if we bring that all the way up to 12 or 13 percent, then Rhode Island's economy will be really booming?
Governor Lincoln Chafee says the 60 to 70 layoffs coming to the unemployment office at the Department of Labor and Training is an indicator that the Rhode Island economy is recovering.
Here's my great idea on how to completely fix the RI economy. If laying off DLT employees means we're improving, then let's simply close the office completely! We can then say we have a great economy because we don't even need a DLT!
Chafee said there are less unemployment requests to process so the office can survive with less staff. “Well the DLT is the opposite of the economy when the economy is bad they are hiring to deal with the unemployment insurance issues and as the economy stabilized unfortunately it goes the other way they start to lay off those employees that they had to hire during the glut of unemployment insurance requests,” said Chafee.
We have fewer claims on unemployment insurance, so that means we're improving the economy? Oh boy. Or maybe people have been out of work for so long, their benefits have run out. Or they've just given up. Or they've moved out of state.

Yep, he's our governor. You really couldn't even make this stuff up.

Who's Flying Now? (And Why?)

Marc Comtois

Ted Nesi posted an interesting graphic from the Tax Foundation that shows that:

Rhode Island posted the 18th-fastest growth in high-income taxpayers between 1999 and 2009.

While the total number of Rhode Island taxpayers grew by just 4% during that period, the number with adjusted gross incomes above $200,000 jumped 63%, for a net gain of 58.9% at the top end, the biggest in New England.

This prompted the NEA's Pat Crowley to chime in with a by-now familiar bit of rhetoric:
Vindication once again. The “flight of the earls” myth that was used as a justification to cut taxes on the elite in the middle part of the last decade is, once again, shown to be untrue.
Well, as I responded, whether you believe in the "flight of the earls" theory or not (and setting aside that it's a bit of a strawman set up by Crowley anyway), the Tax Foundation chart and data doesn't really prove or disprove it at all because the data only compares the beginning and end of a time period in which RI cut the capital gains tax and enacted the flat tax (around 2006), which were aimed at keeping/attracting high earners. It’s just as possible that the "earls" were "flying" until the 2006 reforms and then we saw an influx. We’d have to see yearly data to more accurately determine causation/correlation. So let's do that.

First, even though what follows is a more robust way to look at the trend of higher income taxpayer migration, it is by no means comprehensive. It doesn't take inflation into account (though, as the Tax Foundation points out, their percentages are relative so that affect is mitigated in their analysis), which is why the relative increase in $200K wage-earning households when comparing 1999 to 2010 may be exaggerated. Additionally, the multitude of effects that the economic recession has had on wage-earners aren't adequately accounted for in this simplified manner.

I turned to the IRS's Statistics on Income data from 1999-2010 and tallied up the number of + $200K taxpayers. (Yes, I thought I'd look at 2010, too).


Further, thanks to a timeline provided by Justin, we can compare the implementation of tax policies that were meant to impact high wage earners.

2002: capital gains tax phase-out passed to begin in 2007
2006: flat tax reduction begins
2007: capital gains tax phase-out begins with 2/3 reduction; then it's frozen
2010: capital gains tax increased to personal income level
2011: Flat tax rate reduction frozen

Keeping these dates in mind, let's look at the effects on + $200K wage-earning households. In 2000 there were 9,013 such taxpayers and this dropped to 8,259 in 2001, which, if memory serves, may have helped serve as an impetus for the tax policies that followed.

In 2002, when the capital gains tax phase-out was passed (to go into effect in 2007), the number of + $200K wage-earners went up to 8,500. From 2003 thru 2005, the numbers continued to increase, from 9,252 to 10,798 in 2004 to 12,376 in 2005. In 2006 the flat tax reduction begins and the climb continued to 13,387. In 2007, the capital gains tax phase-out begins with a 2/3 reduction of the previous level and the total + $200K wage-earning households climbed to 14,737. That year the General Assembly voted to freeze the capital gains tax (so the other 1/3 reduction did not occur) and the number dropped to 13,475 in 2008 and 12,416 in 2009. In 2009, the capital gains tax was set to be increased by matching it to personal income level in 2010. The number of households earning over $200K dropped to 11,117 in 2010. In 2011 the Flat tax rate reduction was frozen and we'll have to wait to see what happened.

When looking at the data for both "upper" middle-class and (I guess) "regular" middle-class, it looks like there is no relation between these tax policies and the number of wage earners.


For myself, I've been more of a "flight of the squires" kind of guy than "flight of the earls", believing that it's the middle-class who is suffering--and fleeing Rhode Island--more than the wealthy. As the above charts show, maybe that's wrong.

What I think this does show, however, is that there is a link between capital gains and flat tax policies and the impact they have on the number of high wage earners. During the time that these taxes were reduced, the number of + $200K wage-earners increased. After these taxes were frozen or raised, the number of + $200K wage-earners decreased.

ADDENDUM: The freeze/increase occurred before the economic downturn of 2008/2009 and, it looks like, the "earls" were already fleeing. It also looks like a lot of the "earls" became, um, "counts"(?), as the number of upper middle class wage earners seems to to be continually increasing, perhaps because some earls stayed in RI but dropped an income category. Also, the upper middle class is also being continually refreshed by regular middle class wage-earners moving up. In other words, it's important to remember that these classifications don't necessarily cover the same households.

June 6, 2012

Legalize It

Patrick Laverty

First, let me get this off my chest. Decriminalize and legalize are not the same thing. I've seen numerous news reports talking about how the General Assembly voted to legalize marijuana yesterday. That's not true. They voted to decriminalize it. Think of it this way, if you park your car next to a fire hydrant, you will not face criminal charges, but that doesn't mean it's legal to do so. Though I bet Mr. Morse and Mr. Kenney have at times wished it carried criminal charges.

Back to the original idea. Yes, the General Assembly voted to decriminalize marijuana and early indications are that the Governor will not veto it. So all this means now is if you get caught with an ounce or less, it's a fine, you don't go to jail. I say that the bill doesn't go far enough. Why not be the first state to completely legalize possessing less than an ounce of marijuana and legalize and license dispensaries and then tax it to the hilt?

Why not? Let's look at some of the arguments against.

We'll become a state full of pot heads. Oh right, there's that. Rhode Island, where all those pot-smoking hippies live. Just because something is legal, doesn't mean everyone's going to use it. Tobacco is legal if you're over 18, but many thousands of people don't use it. Why will this be any different?

Kids will have easier access to it. I'm not sure how this one is true. Right now, kids can certainly ask around at school and find it if they want to. Very similar to alcohol. I don't see how legalizing it makes it easier to access if it is properly sold, just like alcohol or oxycontin is today.

It's a gateway drug. Is it? It seems from all the historical videos and movies I've seen, in the 1960's, marijuana use was pretty prevalent. So why don't we have millions of grandparent cokeheads running around? Where's grandpa with his track marks and cashing his retirement checks to get his heroine fix? Plus, it's not even physically addictive, unlike many of the other things that are already legal today.

People who are high can't work or drive a car. Yeah, I think we already have laws against impaired driving.

The ATF will come in and bust it up. Maybe. But I'm supposing, and I think Joe Bernstein can confirm either way, that every time the federal government went in on a bust, the local law enforcement was aware and supportive. If the state were to legalize marijuana, the state and local police would have no legal standing to support the ATF's actions. They'd likely decline. If the ATF were to go forth with a bust anyway, we would need state leadership ready to support those who were arrested, all the way to the US Supreme Court. And that's really where this issue would belong. The question would be in regard to the 10th Amendment to the Constitution and whether a state has the right to make it's own laws. Oh sure, there's that interstate commerce thing, but I see that as just another benefit to Rhode Island. Because it would be illegal to transfer any of the product either in to or out of Rhode Island, we'd be 100% self-sufficient. Grown right here in RI (new business), sold right here in RI (increased pharmacy business), plus the state taxes on top of that. It becomes win-win-win all around. Think of the tourism. People from around the world would flock to Rhode Island to indulge in the legal consumption.

Does that create a bad environment? No more so than nightclubs or bars or casinos do. So regulate that part too. Worried about people smoking it in public? That's either akin to drinking alcohol in public, which is illegal, or if you're more on the libertarian side, it's akin to smoking tobacco in public, which is legal outdoors in most areas. Why would we be any more worried about being a state of pot heads than being a state of drunks where alcohol is legal?

Lastly, what would it do to the black market? It would eliminate it for marijuana. Sure, we'd still have drug dealers for the other drugs, but the small-time marijuana dealers would go the way of bootleggers after Prohibition. This would free up law enforcement to go after "real criminals" and also lessen the prison populations.

So maybe it isn't a popular stance, but I think the state's bill to decriminalize marijuana doesn't go far enough, let's completely legalize it. If you're going to argue against that, please tell me why, especially in the context of why alcohol and tobacco should be legal but not marijuana. Unless you're for banning those as well.

Interesting Times in Rhode Island (and Wisconsin), June 6

Carroll Andrew Morse

1. The major national story is that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won his recall election, 53%-46% despite substantial efforts to unseat him from organized labor groups who oppose the budget and collective bargaining reforms he has spearheaded. The real message here is that there are still many Americans who don't like to be told that there is a deep government, superior in certain areas to the governments they elect, that mere elected officials shouldn't interfere with. This is a healthy attitude that should be cultivated.

2. And speaking of deep government, the East Bay Energy Consortium legislation that I wrote about yesterday was replaced in the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee with a "study commission" bill which was then held for further study (Justin has coverage of this meeting at the Ocean State Current). According to a GoLocalProv article by Stephen Beale, Governor Lincoln Chafee is on record as opposing major enhancements of the EBEC’s powers in this legislative session, which makes last minute passage of the bill, ala what happened with 38 Studios, unlikely.

3. West Warwick appears to be in worse shape than Woonsocket, according to a Brian Crandall report from WJAR-TV (NBC 10)...

Meanwhile, the West Warwick teachers union president confirmed to NBC 10 that they have been notified by the school administration that the school department won't be able to make payroll for the full year, that it will be two paychecks (4 weeks pay) short.
From a fiscal perspective, one way out of this, following the example of Woonsocket, would be to put a budget commission in charge in West Warwick which could request an acceleration of state-aid to address the shortfall. Are there any others? It seems too late for a supplemental tax increase, given that a supplemental would have to be approved by the General Assembly. A budget commission, by the way, would also have the authority to reverse a decision made by the West Warwick school committee, which opposes school sports programs and voted to eliminate them.

The End of Democracy

Patrick Laverty

Yep, democracy is over. Scott Walker won by ordering the Wisconsin National Guard to stand in front of the voting booths and shoot any likely Tom Barrett voter who entered. Yes, democracy is dead.

Wait, what? Walker won because the opposition successfully pulled off getting a recall vote but then more voters sided with Walker over Barrett? Gee, that sounds exactly like democracy to me. Will these same people be crying (literally) when Obama spends more than a billion dollars on his election campaign?

(h/t Helen Glover Show)

June 5, 2012

Why the Move to Put the East Bay Energy Consortium Under the Economic Development Corporation and into the Wind Farm Business Should Be Rejected by the General Assembly this Session

Carroll Andrew Morse

Some Rhode Island General Assembly members want to take the state into the wind farm business. They want to make an already-existing body called the “East Bay Energy Consortium” into a subsidiary of the RI Economic Development Corporation, so that the governmental parts of the EDC's quasi-governmental authority can be leveraged by the EBEC, so that the EBEC can involve itself in the creation, financing and management of an electricity-generating windmill project in Tiverton. The bill that would authorize this has been fast-tracked in this legislative session, even as the collapse of another EDC project, 38 Studios, has played out in public, with some legislators apparently oblivious to the potential downside of semi-attentive politicians trusting quasi-government panels to guide sector-specific economic development. Drawing parallels between 38 Studios and the East Bay Energy Consortium is appropriate, not only because the Economic Development Corporation is involved with both projects (though it is fair to ask if the organization that bungled the oversight of a software company is qualified to oversee a power generation company), but also because both projects center on government presenting itself to the world as a "risk-free" investment.

The State of Rhode Island became involved with 38 studios as a result of its ownership being unable to convince investors that direct investment in the software gaming company was likely to return more money than was put in (at least on terms that 38 Studios owners were willing to agree to). As a result, to generate the startup capital that was needed, 38 Studios found something else, by making a deal with Rhode Island, that financiers were willing to invest in: the ability of Rhode Island's government to raise revenue through taxation. This is what buying bonds that back loan guarantees is, an investment in government's ability to use its sovereign powers to acquire from future citizens the monies that bondholders are owed. Whether the state gets the money to pay bond obligations from a sales-revenue stream, as would be ideal in this case for all parties involved, or from some other source is irrelevant to the bondholder. Bondholders just want to know that some source of revenue that they have access to is certain to be there in the future, so that their investment will be "risk-free". (Contemporary bondholders are also investing in the gullibility of modern government, who are alright with being charged 6%+ interest rates on what are supposedly "risk-free" investments, but that's a separate issue).

Since 38 Studios went out of business before it could pay off its associated bonds, the money to pay the bondholders is obviously not going to come from sales revenue; it will come from revenues taken directly from taxpayers. Likewise, if a Tiverton wind farm financed by public bonds is unable to generate sufficient revenues to cover its operating costs and finance the bond obligations, additional revenue would be need to be raised from somewhere else -- and after the 38 Studios debacle, claims that there is no chance that a startup business backed by Rhode Island government can fail, or that it is impossible for a project to be substantially delayed, or that future market conditions might not be favorable to generating revenues needed to cover operating costs and payoff bondholders are not to be taken seriously.

An underperforming East Bay Energy Consortium wind farm probably would not draw on general taxation if it needed extra money to pay bond obligations. The most recent version of the EBEC legislation that has been made available to the public states that Consortium obligations will not become obligations "of the state or of any political subdivision of the state". But if EBEC bonds are to be made attractive to bond investors, i.e. if they are to be made "risk-free", then some method of raising revenue independent of the success or failure of the Tiverton wind-farm must be possessed by the Consortium. The alternate revenue mechanism is probably the power "to collect revenues under tariffs approved by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission", a power (along with a few others) enumerated in the new law that the state and municipalities "pledge" not to alter the rights of the Consortium until all of its obligations, "together with the interest thereon", is paid off.

Whenever government assumes revenues from the successful future completion of a project, while at the same time presenting investments related to that project as risk-free, a number of very basic questions need thorough public examination, so that lawmakers, taxpayers and, in this case, ratepayers have a realistic idea of how likely it is that taxpayers and ratepayers will end up subsidizing poor business planning, unexpected changes in market conditions or some combination of the two. The highest-level questions are:

  • What is the risk that a Tiverton wind farm won't be able to generate the money to cover its operating costs and pay back its associated bondholders by selling electricity at market rates?
  • If the project cannot generate adequate revenues by selling electricity at market rates, by what mechanism will money be taken from ratepayers/taxpayers to pay off bondholders, and upon whom is the bulk of this burden expected to fall?
  • If the risks are minimal, then why is a long-term subsidy mechanism written into the law needed to find startup capital?
  • And what will be the EDC/EBEC/PUC attitude towards the priority of bond payments, i.e. will it be bondholders-first, where no surcharge is deemed too high to add to a bill, to pay off the project?
There is one final question related to this particular project; several reports on the public forums where the EBEC's bill has been deliberated mention another developer, Apex Wind Energy, also interested in developing a wind farm at the Tiverton site. Apex's plan is to build the wind farm independent of East Bay Energy Consortium involvement and has claimed that it is ready to begin, without reliance on the sovereign powers of the government or on sovereign debt. I don't know at this time if Apex's plans are realistic or not, but why isn't the company that claims that it can get started in the absence of a long-term government subsidies being given priority over the one that says it absolutely needs them?

In the aftermath of 38 Studios, a number of Rhode Island lawmakers have said that they didn't know what they were voting on, or what the real risk was, when they approved the legislation that made taxpayers an alternate source of payments to 38 Studios bondholders. Lawmakers should not repeat that mistake by approving the East Bay Energy Consortium bill before all of the ramifications of the structures it implements have been fully explained to the people who could end up paying for them. Claims of we didn't know what we were voting on will absolutely not be tenable next time around.

June 4, 2012

The Current Week 05/29/12 - 06/01/12

Justin Katz


05/29/12 - Joint House & Senate Finance Committees - Liveblog
Justin writes live from a joint House & Senate Committee Hearing on casino legislation.

With Budget Commission, Woonsocket Deficit Problem Nearly Doubles - Investigative Report
Addressing city's pension shortfall, Woonsocket budget commission faces another $7 million annual deficit, addressing $46 million gap over five years.

05/31/12 - House Finance Committee - Liveblog
Justin writes live from House Finance Committee; House budget.

Justin's Case

Woonsocket's Unique Pension Woes Prove Deeper Problems - Analysis
As public officials debate the appropriate next steps for Woonsocket, the city's local pension plan provides an example for caution.
The Real Disconnect in the "Skills Gap" - Opinion
Continuing talk of the "skills gap" in RI's labor force (with the call for more resources) further defines the extent to which advocates are on the wrong path entirely.

Tax Credits Need Transparency - Opinion
Channel 10's Bill Rappleye interviews Justin about hidden profits from tax credit programs.

Gallogly: Discount Rates and the Oversight Spotlight
- Interview
Dept. of Revenue Director Gallogly comments on pension issues and communities on the brink of state oversight.

Educating in America Is Not Like Educating Elsewhere - Opinion
Teacher unionization may work in smaller, less-diverse systems, but that's proof that those systems are different, not that the United States should match them.
Video Blog: Counting up the Discount Rates - Video
In a mildly whimsical video, Justin explains pension fund discount rates and the risk associated with shooting too high.

Coming up in Committee: Thirteen Sets of Bills Scheduled to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, June 4 - June 8

Carroll Andrew Morse

Usually, there's a pretty clear most important bill of the week that gets the top slot, but this week, cases could be made that any of the top 5 or 6 bills could be number one, depending on which issue areas an individual thinks are most important...

Local Impact: Bristol, Central Falls 2, Central Falls/Cumberland 2, Coventry 2 3 4 5 6 7, Cranston 2 3, Cumberland, Exeter, Middletown 2 3 4, Narragansett, Pawtucket 2 3, Portsmouth, Providence 2, Smithfield 2, Warwick 2.

13. S2816/ H7882: Adds the Governor's Office to the list of government departments that can participate in the operation of a State House gift shop (S Special Legislation and Veterans' Affairs; Wed, Jun 6). Just a reminder of all of the really big issues that the Rhode Island legislature is considering at the end of its session, and what your legislators will be spending their time on, instead of considering the details of the budget.

12. S3002: Governor Chafee's proposed changes to the motion-picture tax-credit law (S Finance; Tue, Jun 5).

11. H8225: Subjects the Bristol County Water Authority to the Access to Public Records Act (H Municipal Government; Wed, Jun 6).

10. H8049: Provides state funding for all day kindergarten in four school districts "to offset a portion of the reasonable one-time, start-up costs" (H Finance; Mon, Jun 4).

9. H8195: Removes the exemption of the real and personal property of Bryant University from all taxation (H Finance; Mon, Jun 4).

8. H7060: An extension of parts of campaign finance regulation to local financial town meetings and referendums (S Judiciary; Tue, Jun 6).

7. S2955: Moves Central Falls into the MERS pension system (S Finance; Tue, Jun 5). The Governor promised to do this as part of the Central Falls pension settlement; Justin has a report on the RI General Treasurer's reservations about this idea at the Ocean State Current.

6. H7916: Resolution opposing the detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (H Judiciary; Wed, Jun 6). My objections to the resolution, for anyone who is interested, are explained here.

5. S2280: Limits the powers of a state-appointed fiscal overseer, budget commission or receiver "to dealing with financial matters" and denies them the authority "to enact any ordinance, resolution or charter revision" or "to abolish any board or committee or reduce an elected body to an advisory capacity" (S Finance; Tue, Jun 5).

4. H8143: Allows "any elected Rhode Island state or municipal official" to designate "a structure, sculpture, inscription, or icon, or similar item" on public property and meeting certain other criteria as a "category one memorial item", and explicitly states that such a designation is not an attempt to establish a religion (H Judiciary; Wed, Jun 6). The courts will probably not take the category one designation into consideration in their rulings. However, the bill also makes it a state responsibility to pay the legal costs associated with lawsuits demanding the removal of a category one memorial item...

3. H7592/S2870: Authorization of the East Bay Energy Consortium as a subsidiary of the RI Economic Development Corporation, so that it can finance and manage a wind-farm project with government backed bonds (H Environment and Natural Resources; Tue, Jun 5 & S Environment and Agriculture; Wed, Jun 6).

2. H7909: Writes various "health insurance rules, standards, and policies" from Obamacare into state law (and that will remain, no matter how the Supreme Court rules on Obamacare); also, S2477/H7784 mandates that the State Health insurance commissioner create a workgroup "for the purpose of coordinating the development of processes, guidelines, and standards to streamline health care administration that are to be adopted by payors and providers of health care services operating in the state" (H Corporations; Tue, Jun 5).

1. H8213: Regulation of casino tables games (assuming the passage of a constitutional amendment allowing them) (H Finance; Fri, Jun 8).

June 3, 2012

Miss USA

Marc Comtois

Congratulations to Cranston's Olivia Culpo, Miss Rhode Island is now Miss USA!

Truth Once Again Blowin' In The Wind At PolitiFact

Monique Chartier

With regard to the Deepwater Wind project, one question and one question only matters:

Is it viable; does it break ground without the government mandating artificially high electric rates?

The answer is a definite "No"! Unfortunately, with its rating today of a statement by Lisa Blais, PolitiFact fogs this, the single most important aspect of the project.

When she speaks and writes, Lisa Blais is one of the most precise and well researched people that I know. So when I heard that she was going to get a "False" or "Mostly False" on the uproarious dreaded Truth-O-Meter because of something she said on the Helen Glover Show, there was no question as to who was correct. It was merely a welcome opportunity to once again smile about a rating "service" that too often rates a statement on the basis of a standard other than the concept that comprises its name.

One interesting item arises from this matter, however - not so much in the rating itself but in the e-mail exchange that Lisa had with the Providence Journal's C. Eugene Emery, Jr. He stated,

Obviously the Deepwater issue is important, but we rate the "truthiness" of the statement on its own. It's limited, but it keeps the fact-checking process from being so unwieldy it would be impractical to do.

Huh, that's interesting. Because "truthiness" was completely secondary when PolitiFact rated as "False" John Loughlin's statement that

94 percent of the carbon emissions which you so want to get rid of are caused by nature.

(For the record, this statement is True.)

And, in fact, "unwieldy" - the quality which Mr. Emery indicated that PolitiFact eschews - is an excellent description of the theories that PolitiFact chased down and quoted at length to fill out the "False" that they gave Loughlin on a statement that was ... well, just plain true. The problem, presumably, was that people might (correctly) question how much - more accurately, how little and at what price - man can cure global warming when they learn that our contribution to greenhouse gases is a paltry 6%, stipulating for a moment that the unproven theory of AGW is even correct.

Over at Legal Insurrection last year, Professor William Jacobson pointed to a rating of a Ken McKay statement to make what has turned out to be an object lesson about one of the methods of this rating "service"

Despite the wide-ranging attack by Whitehouse on those who opposed Obamacare, PolitiFact chose to engage in word games to get the rating it wanted, by focusing on McKay’s words “everybody” and “in Rhode Island”:

Too often, it appears that PolitiFact employs an easily shifting standard when it rates statements: at times, just-the-facts "truthiness" when it needs to play word games to distract from a much larger point; for other ratings, the addition of elaborate, "unwieldy" dressing when the public might draw an "erroneous" - dare we say inconvenient? - conclusion about a truthful statement.


Permit me to be more specifical as to how PolitiFact is miss-serving the public and the truth in the case of Lisa's statement. The headline of today's rating is

Tea Party leader Lisa Blais says Rhode Island consumers are now paying for Deepwater wind turbine project in their electric bills.

However deplorable, not everyone delves into an article or an issue. On any given day, many people are only going to skim headlines to pick up the news - I'm guilty of that myself.

And in skimming mode, the all-important modifier "now" in the PolitiFact headline is not likely to register. What will certainly register, however, is the "False". So people are going to come away from this rating thinking, "That's that offshore windmill project, isn't it? I thought it was going to be funded by our electric bills. But PolitiFact says it isn't. That's good!"

No, the funding for Deepwater Wind from higher electric rates has not yet fully kicked in because the main project itself is not yet underway. But with its rating today, PolitiFact has given the impression that Deepwater Wind doesn't involve and will not involve rate-payer funding at all. And that is just False.

Now Who's "Created This Problem?"

Patrick Laverty

Did you catch the article this week by Tim White on pension averages and this other great nugget called "Option IV"?

Of course we all remember a few months back when the Cranston firefighters' union President Paul Valletta accused Treasurer Gina Raimondo of "creating this problem."

Valetta charged that there is no pension problem as stated by the General Treasurer but instead this is just playing politics. “She created this problem, she created this pension problem on April 13th of this year and now she’s riding in on her white horse with this pension legislation before you to solve this problem and why did she do that? We will find that out in three years,” said Valletta.
However, this article by Tim White has to make you wonder who at least is playing a large part in creating this problem.

First we have Providence Firefighters Union President Paul Doughty making some inaccurate claims (yes, I'm looking at you Politifact). White references Doughty's claims of the average firefighters' pension being about $25,000 per year.

But here is what Doughty isn’t saying: the average retired firefighter’s pension is $48,142 a year – nearly double the average amount Doughty highlights in radio, print and television interviews. That's according to 2011 pension data the city provided to WPRI 12 in response to a public records request.
And back to that "Option IV" thing. We hear about how so many of the pension systems are drastically underfunded and many of us have questioned the politicians as to why these systems have been so underfunded. Some have also questioned why the unions didn't hold the pols' feet to the fire in keeping the systems properly funded. Well, we might have found one reason for that.
Here's how "Option IV" works, based on an actual example from city records: When Firefighter “X” retired in 2012, he opted to take $153,000 out of his pension account in a one-time cash payout, which is the amount of money he contributed to the pension fund from his paycheck over the years. That reduced his annual pension from $34,000 to $24,000.

Records show 1,475 of 3,148 retirees – nearly half of all Providence pensioners – used "Option IV." The ratio is even higher for public safety retirees, with 55 percent taking the lump sum cash payment upon retirement.

If "Option IV" wasn't available and those retirees had been forced to leave the money in their pension accounts, the average city pension would be much larger than the amounts Doughty cites in interviews.

Imagine that. You pay into the pension system for your career and then upon retirement, you get to take it all out in one lump sum that you can then do anything you want with it. So at that point, many would think that the retiree is off the books. Nope. That person still receives a pension, however at that point, it is 100% of the taxpayer funded. Part of what helps these investment funds is having the capital to earn interest. If that capital isn't there, less interest is earned and the fund further lags.

What's worse is as White mentions, until the rules changed, retirees on disability could withdraw their own money and not see any reduction in their pension. Imagine what that did for the fund's balance. Oh that's right, we don't have to imagine it, we're seeing it up close and personal now.

It's things like this that show the problems are multi-faceted and the blame doesn't just go in one direction. And as for Option IV, that name is more than a little ironic as this perk has helped to put the state on life support through an IV.

Friends, I Give You The Euphemistic Phrase of the Month (Possibly of the Year): "Premortem Donation"

Monique Chartier

... as in, "donating" - this word actually goes beyond euphemistic to inaccurate as, usually, no consent can be obtained - an organ - yes, your own vital organs from your own personal body - before you're ... well, dead.

From a website called BioEdge, though the suggestion originated in the mind of a professor at Rhode Island's own Brown University, and with apologies for posting about such a subject on a Sunday.

There may be an international shortage of kidney donors, but there is no shortage of creative solutions. In the latest issue of the American Journal of Bioethics, Paul E. Morrissey, of Brown University, in Rhode Island, suggests that both kidneys could be removed from brain trauma patients on life-support. Afterwards, the patients would be removed from life support and would die. Two fresh and viable kidneys become available for rapid transfer to waiting recipients.

Life without kidneys is normally short, but Morrissey argues that the patient is so close to death that it is reasonable to assume that removal of the kidneys cannot be described as the cause of death. Hence, the fundamental principle of transplant surgery is observed, the Dead Donor Rule: that organ retrieval itself must not be the cause of death. He calls the procedure premortem donation.

The argument could probably be extended to other organs, one of the accompanying commentaries notes, although Morrissey is tactful enough not to note this, say, the heart or the liver.

The tricky question is whether the operation causes death. Morrissey says No:

"Medically and legally the donor would be alive at the time of surgery and would die secondary to irreversible head injury as some interval after the surgical procedure. This proposal is therefore unlike proposals for euthanasia by organ donation or criminal execution by organ donation. For the donor or donor surrogate facing imminent death, premortem donation balances the promise of a final altruism against the exploitation of a vulnerable population."

There are many other benefits: the hospital staff can work in an orderly fashion; the family has time to grieve; the public maintains its faith in the Dead Donor Rule; and live-saving kidneys enter the transplant system.

This target article in AJOB was praised for its creativity by some specialist and criticised by others. The authors of one commentary were scathing: “Bilateral donor nephrectomy will have catastrophic consequences on survivors of erroneous prediction of poor neurologic outcome or survival after [withdrawal of life support]. Morrissey's proposal violates the Hippocratic Oath of do-no-harm and the public trust in professional obligations to serve patients’ best interests.”

However, Franklin G. Miller and Robert D. Truog, two well-known American bioethicists, believe that the argument is quite sound. They contend that: “Probably some will oppose the proposal on slippery slope grounds: Procuring both kidneys premortem is the entering wedge for abandoning the dead donor rule. Facing the reality of our current practices, however, makes it clear that the dead donor rule is preserved only as a fiction.”

June 2, 2012

Taking on a Strawman

Marc Comtois

Last week, Tom Sgouros at RI Future wrote a piece explaining how President Obama hadn't really grown government that much; that there wasn't a "spending binge." To support his claim, he posted a chart from a piece written by Rex Nutting. The problem was that the Nutting piece has been completely taken apart by the likes of the Heritage Foundation, Investors Business Daily, The Washington Post and the Associated Press and I pointed this out in the comments to Tom's piece.

Well, now Tom has followed up and has set the tone for his rebuttal on the grounds of logical argumentation:

One of the great things about sophistry is that in any argument there is always enough dust around to throw in people’s eyes. Whatever the argument, the dirt at your feet is always at hand.

One of the great things about intellectual honesty is that you don’t take positions without multiple sources of support. It helps you see through the dust, too.

So, according to the Sgouros Rules of Logical Argumentation, it's "intellectually honest" to make arguments with lots of support but it's sophistry when somebody counters your sources with just as many, or more, other sources. The official term for such counter-arguments is "dust." Got it? Good. He continues:
A week ago I wrote about how spending under Obama has not been nearly as profligate as is widely thought. Marc Comtois, one of the dedicated soldiers of the right who daily lays waste to armies of straw men over at Anchor Rising, thinks he’s found a nut, and complains that an article I used in support of that essay had been amply refuted. (You can find his links in the comments over there.)

What he doesn’t get is that those refutations are just dust. One can go into the weeds of the refutations to show that they are just as tendentious as the original article they critique, but why bother? Even if you pretend the article I cited was all wet, there is ample other support for the assertion that if you really care about responsible spending, you shouldn’t vote for people who promise cheaper government.

Here we see that, evidently, Sgouros has taken an Alinsky rule (personalize and demonize, or something like that) and integrated it into his Rules. This is evidenced by his well-intentioned, good-natured introduction of me to his readers.

From there, Tom apparently applies his rule of sophistry (well, he did mention dust again), because it seems that, while the Nutting chart was important because it confirmed Tom's beliefs (I believe that is called confirmation bias and we're all guilty of it. But it isn't one of Tom's Rules, apparently), it ceased to be important once it was systematically dismantled by multiple organizations (including mainstream media outlets).

Instead, Tom engages what is apparently his Rule of Moral Equivalency as, suddenly, the multiple arguments used to undermine the single argument he relied upon are "just as tendentious" as the original. Thus, because all are tendentious, all are moot and we can just move along. And that's just what Tom does by changing the topic from the Nutting data to presenting his case that "if you really care about responsible spending, you shouldn’t vote for people who promise cheaper government."

But that wasn't the debate I was having with him. My comment provided multiple sources that refuted the one source he used to support the main point of his previous post: that President Obama didn't go on a spending binge. Because Tom couldn't counter those arguments he just dismissed them, accused me of sophistry, characterized me as a marching "soldier of the right" who takes on "strawmen"....and then changed the subject.

Now, as for his premise about what it means to "care about responsible spending," I will say that Tom provides multiple sources supporting his argument. But, since it's intellectually honest when he provides many sources but sophistry when I do it, I guess I won't bother to debate him. Which I guess means he wins...right?

June 1, 2012

Flanders Out as Central Fall Receiver

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to Associated Press reporter Erika Niedowski, Robert Flanders has been replaced as Central Falls receiver...

The state-appointed receiver in Central Falls who has overseen the city's bankruptcy proceedings is being replaced in what the governor's office says is a "new phase" of its recovery.

John McJennett III is replacing Robert Flanders Jr. as of Friday. There will be a period of overlap.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee says Flanders has led the city through a challenging time and that Central Falls is now "stronger and more viable."

Moving Forward in Central Falls

Patrick Laverty

According to the AP's Erika Niedowski, Robert Flanders has been removed from his position as the receiver in Central Falls. However, he has been replaced by a new receiver, John McJennett.

Governor Chafee mentioned that Central Falls is ready for a "new phase", which I guess is just a nice way of saying that he got tired of hearing people like Senator Betty Crowley complaining about Flanders and everything he's doing to her city. It has been interesting to see all the scorn that Central Falls legislators have had for Flanders, yet you don't hear much of their opinion on the previous mayor, Charles Moreau or the City Council that led the city to bankruptcy.

McJennett will issue a five-year plan for the city to continue its recovery and according to the AP story, Central Falls could emerge from bankruptcy as soon as this summer or fall.

Here's to hoping that the people of the city don't ever want to be handed the medicine of a receiver ever again and make wise choices when they are able to select their own leadership once again.

Cicilline a Winner?

Patrick Laverty

In this week's Hot or Not by Dan McGowan, one stuck out at me as a little bit surprising. It's the logic of it that surprises me. I don't blame McGowan for the logic, I think he's just writing what the voters might think.

The Congressman also benefits from the fact that the “B” word will likely no longer be used when describing the capital city.
Agreed that without Mayor Angel Taveras throwing around the possibility of the city going into bankruptcy, or worse, the city actually going into bankruptcy does take a little pressure off of Cicilline during the campaign. But is that deserved? Look at it this way, Governor Sundlun guided the state out of the banking crisis. So does that mean that Ed DiPrete is exonerated?
David Cicilline has said that he inherited a finanically troubled city when he became Mayor. Angel Taveras has been the mayor of Providence for less than two years. Why was Taveras able to improve the financial health of the city in less than two years, yet Cicilline was unable to make it better, or seemingly make it worse, in his eight years, as Helen Glover noted on the radio this morning? How can you mess up a city's finances, hide that fact, then have someone else come in and at least improve the situation and then be considered a winner?

Being a good Democrat, Mayor Taveras might be stumping for Cicilline this summer. But if there is a time that they share the dais, I'd love for a reporter ask either man why Cicilline should deserve any credit for Providence avoiding bankruptcy. After all, it's not like we ever saw Sundlun and DiPrete campaigning together.