August 13, 2008

William Felkner: It takes a thief lobbyist…

Engaged Citizen

When Cumberland Democrat Mayor Daniel McKee took the teachers’ union - the National Education Association - completely off guard by successfully championing legislation that would provide education choice and remove the burden of union control, the response was predictable: "They cheated!"

On the Dan Yorke show, Bob Walsh, president of the NEA suggested that the mayor co-mingled federal funds in an account used to purchase lobbying services – a funding no-no. Well if they did cheat, or bend the rules, the NEA should know because they are the reigning kings of NOT paying for lobbying services.

Besides the four senators and two representatives currently in office that work directly for or sit on the board of organized labor, they take a less direct route to political power as well. Weeks ago, the Providence Journal highlighted the network of social and environmental activists working with the unions to influence legislation in RI. One of the most blurred lines between legal and illegal political activity is seen right inside the NEA building.

Ocean State Action (OSA) and Marriage Equity Rhode Island (MERI) are organizations that promote “social and economic justice.” They are actually a combination of non-profits (c 3’s & c 4’s) and political action committees ensuring that a legal funding stream is available for every occasion.

All affiliated organizations are located in the NEA building and are run by the same people. One quarter of the OSA funding comes from organized labor and the OSA Fund covers the payroll for everyone in the office. Furthermore, the NEA executive director, Bob Walsh, is also the secretary-treasurer of Ocean State Action and Working Rhode Island, another organization located in the NEA building. Working RI is the “conduit that distributes large sums of money to and from labor allies.”

Working RI, if you didn’t know, was created by disgraced former labor and gambling lobbyist Guy Dufault and has no paid staff. Their top four donors are the RI AFL-CIO, the NEA-RI, the United Nurses and Allied Professionals and Harrah’s Operating Company. Dufault was banished from sight after he was recorded scheming with casino lobbyist and Republican activist Mike Levesque on a way to sabotage Republican Governor Carcieri’s campaign.

The web of political influence is so convoluted that you don’t know who is doing what. I’m sure that everyone involved with OSA, MERI, and Working RI lobby the State House but you would never know how they don’t get paid for it. Technically, the NEA admits that some union dues go towards political activity but claim that it is only $10 per union member, per year. So they must be tremendously thrifty lobbyists.

But if you think that looks shady…nobody knows how to work the system better than the queens of tax funded advocacy, the Poverty Institute and One Rhode Island.

One RI is a coalition of 160 organizations that are all funded in whole or in part by tax dollars. These are the people that rally at the State House (besides the union activists). The Poverty Institute is an organization designed “to bring about systemic change by providing policy analysis, education, and advocacy statewide on issues effecting the well-being of all low-income Rhode Islanders.”

One RI compiles a platform of legislation that represents the collective wants of the coalition. This platform of legislation is also given to students at Rhode Island College who, as candidates for the Master’s of Social Work program, are required to lobby the State House – often led by the Policy Director of the Poverty Institute, Linda Katz. This is no small contingent as it is approximately 60 student lobbyists per year.

The Poverty Institute website names eight staff; most familiar are Linda Katz, Ellen Frank and Kate Brewster. The website also includes the One RI website which lists Heidi Collins as the contact person. But what exactly are One RI and the Poverty Institute? There is no paperwork registered at the Secretary of State’s office nor is there any information at Guidestar, an online directory of non-profits.

According to Heidi Collins, One RI is a project of the Poverty Institute and according to the Rhode Island Foundation which provides funding for them both; the Poverty Institute is a project of the Rhode Island College Foundation. Both One RI and the Poverty Institute are located at 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue in Providence, the same address as the state-run and tax-funded Rhode Island College.

According to the RIC School of Social Work Reaffirmation for Accreditation, “the School of Social Work operates the Poverty Institute,” and the Institute provides “field placement opportunities and material for course assignments, research projects for students from both levels, and graduate integrative projects.”

However, the registered lobbyists associated with the Poverty Institute – Linda Katz (Policy Director), Ellen Frank (Sr. Economic Analyst) and Kate Brewster (Exec Director) – are listed as employees of the RIC Foundation and it’s mission is "to encourage and receive gifts on behalf of RI College that provide financial support for the improvement and expansion of RIC."

But here is where it really gets confusing. When the ladies at Rhode Island College notify the RI Secretary of State that they will be lobbying at the State House, they claim payment from the Poverty Institute. However, the Poverty Institute has never registered as a lobbying firm. And how could it; it is not a real organization.

And here’s the kicker - if they are registered lobbyists for a lobbying firm that is really a project within the Rhode Island College Foundation, why does page 10 of the 2006, IRS 990 form answer “NO” when asked if "during the year, has the organization attempted to influence national, state, or local legislation, including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislative matter or referendum?”

I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation. After all, the Poverty Institute has had this symbiotic relationship with Rhode Island College for about a decade. If it were illegal for lobbying activity to take place at a tax-funded college, some smart taxpayer would have turned them in to get the reward the IRS provides for citizens who turn in tax cheats, right?

The lessons here are two fold. Firstly, if a fictitious lobbying firm can operate out of a state-run, tax-funded college, then Mayor McKee should be able to creatively finance a lobbyist with legal funds, whether or not they came through a bank account that also holds federal funds.

Secondly, there is a vast network of advocacy groups that work with the cash rich unions. If you pay union dues or just pay taxes, you need to understand that your money is being used to lobby the State House for illegal immigrant rights, same-sex marriage, abortion on demand, universal healthcare, an expanded welfare system, and/or more redistribution of wealth policies than you can shake a stick at.

In the end, every taxpayer and every hard working, dues paying union member needs to ask themselves: “If I was free to choose how to spend my money – if Bob Walsh, Linda Katz, Kate Brewster, and Guy Dufault weren’t doing it for me – would I voluntarily give my money to support those issues?”

William Felkner is the president of Ocean State Policy Research Institute –

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

But corporate lobbying - OK, right?

Posted by: rhody at August 13, 2008 11:06 AM

Personally I think all lobbyists should be shot. They are the poison in politics today.

Posted by: Greg at August 13, 2008 11:10 AM

Great expose of the maggots that have infiltrated every orifice in RI.

Sounds like the AG should be looking into this illegal activity of the unholy alliance of union whores and poverty pimps.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at August 13, 2008 12:38 PM

Yeah, Mike. That'll happen.

Posted by: Greg at August 13, 2008 12:59 PM

Bob Walsh was also one of the bosses who fought the Voter Initiative (VI) amendment back in 2006, denying his fellow citizens better government, presumably so he and the other 'powers that be' could maintain their iron fisted control over the state.

As I recall, Walsh publicly debated Bob Arruda about VI.

Posted by: Citizen Critic at August 13, 2008 1:35 PM

While I disagree with Bill Felkner on most issues, he is generally more factual than he was in this post. As my many AR critics know, I am the Executive Director of NEARI, not the President. Mr. Felkner’s inaccuracies continue from that point, and I would expect him to correct his mistakes.

He correctly raises the unanswered question of whether or not Mayor McKee improperly used federal funds for lobbying, but this was an odd jumping off point for the rest of his commentary. His suggestion of illegal activities on behalf of the labor union that represents his wife is unfounded, however. (Bill hates it when I remind folks he benefits directly from our efforts, but full disclosure of potential conflicts seems to be something he takes quite seriously.)

It is certainly true that I wear many hats, as do many truly involved citizens in our small state (Bill leaves out my appointment to the Governor’s Tax Policy Workgroup for some reason). He mentions OSA, a group with which I was involved before I came to work for NEARI in 1992, and a tenant in this building since they were founded in the late 1980’s. Not surprisingly, there are many union folks involved in a coalition that includes union members. MERI currently sublets an office from OSA, as other groups have done in the past. RIARC was a long term tenant; the Down Syndrome Society still is a tenant and the hair salon Elan rents space from us as well. Conspiracies everywhere, I presume, even if you have a bad hair day.

Working RI has no office space here – meetings are held at the RI AFL-CIO building and as Secretary-Treasurer, the correspondence comes to me at this address. Mr. Dufault was not the founder of Working RI, which was founded by the several labor unions that constitute its membership. Unions primarily fund Working Rhode Island - Harrah’s gave a one-time donation to the group, despite our neutrality in the casino issue (although, not surprisingly, we were quite vocal in suggesting that if a casino was approved, it should be built and staffed by union labor.) This is all a matter of public record. By the way – who funds Mr. Felkner’s activities?

Mr. Felkner does not understand the law, NEARI’s policies, or both. We have several folks, myself included, who are registered lobbyists, file the appropriate reports with the state, etc. and unions dues cover those member representation activities as allowed by law. We also have a separate political action committee not supported by dues (that’s where his $10 per member donation figure comes from) that files the appropriate paperwork and reports in that domain. All of this, too, is a matter of public record.

Posted by: B at August 13, 2008 3:02 PM

I don't begin to know enough about the tangled web of rules defining allowable use of funds vs disallowed uses for various types of organizations and activities.

But I damn sure know that unions hide lobbying behind "education" and the IRS lets them get away with it. Whale away on them Mr Felkner, its about the hypocrisy, but much more than just that.

Posted by: chuckR at August 13, 2008 3:52 PM

B is Bob Walsh, of course, for those that did not figure it out.

To chuckR - who is hiding (besides you, behind an alis?), and why would the IRS be involved at all?

Posted by: Bob Walsh at August 13, 2008 4:09 PM

Thank you for pointing out my error. You are the exec dir, not the president. I was originally going to bring in Purtell (the NEARI president) and some other connections, but it hit the editing floor. I didn’t catch the mix-up. Thank you for correcting.

The rest is backed up via the links – except the claim that Dufault created Working RI. To support that statement I would have to divulge who was at the meeting that told me – and I won’t. So we can agree to disagree.

But the NEA/Cumberland issue is secondary to the tax-funded poverty industry. That’s the point. Nothing personal, but you’re just a segue.

And who funds OSPRI you ask… People that do so voluntarily. Are you willing to ask your membership for dues rather than take them from their paychecks?


PS. harking back to when the NEA filed a Labor Relations Board complaint challenging my First Amendment rights – you never followed up on the offer but I’m still open to that chat on merit pay and other contract issues… Public or not...

Posted by: WJF at August 13, 2008 4:13 PM

Bob - its not who but what is being hidden. If you really can put together a well researched position that no union dues are used for lobbying false flagged as education or similar termed activities, I'll look forward to seeing it in your next editorial in the ProJo. Make sure to include citations to support your opinion. I know that people are often intimidated not to exercise their Beck rights and to pay only for local activitie/strike fund, etc.

The IRS comes in only in that this is a cheat also - either the activities are taxable or shouldn't be funded.

Look, both circumstances - looks like a duck, has feathers, quacks like somebody you know, flies, swims. You figure it out, its not hard if you aren't willfully denying it.

Posted by: chuckR at August 13, 2008 4:35 PM

Spin on, Mr. Walsh!

Click on the link and note the pattern from state to state, and nationally. Where there's smoke ...

"As part of the Foundation's NEA Accountability Project, Landmark uncovered overwhelming evidence that the National Education Association has financed and run coordinated political campaigns with the Democratic National Committee, other Democratic campaign organizations, the AFL-CIO and Emily's List-without reporting the expenditures to its members or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), as required by federal law."

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at August 13, 2008 5:51 PM

RIGHT ON Mr. FELKNER !!!!!!! PLEASE keep shining the LIGHT .

Posted by: leprechaun at August 13, 2008 8:21 PM

Hey Bob W.,

Let's see if I've got this straight.

You support the notion that leeches, I mean lobbyists (such as yourself), are engaged in honest, transparent and fair activities with respect to your lobbying efforts. After all, lobbyists are simply excercising their rights to influence legislation, right?

So, why don't you support the Voter Initiative efforts, which would afford EVERYONE an opportunity to influence legislation, as opposed to just Lobbyists funded by Union dues & taxpayer subsidies?

Is it because you would then have to convince, I mean lobby, the broader Taxpaying public with respect to your Entitlement-minded nanny-state Union insanity, as opposed to convincing just a handful of Union-owned legislators?

I guess it is similar to the way you believe it is fair that the members of the Union get to vote on / ratify Contracts that are negotiated by the Union leadership, yet you insist that the Taxpayers have no vote on the Contract (that their leaders negotiated).

In fact, your Teachers Union insists that School Committees don't discuss the negotiations in public with their constituents (Taxpayers), but Union negotiators get to go back and discuss it with their constituents (i.e. members of the flock).

Posted by: George Elbow at August 13, 2008 11:26 PM

--on behalf of the labor union that represents his wife is unfounded, however. (Bill hates it when I remind folks he benefits directly from our efforts, but full disclosure of potential conflicts seems to be something he takes quite seriously.)

Well Bob, I think that it’s a good bet that Ms. Felkner’s school district is some form of a closed shop / union shop, meaning (as you well know) that if she doesn’t join the union / pay dues she gets fired. So for her (and thousands of other Rhode Island educators) “membership” in your union is not only involuntary, but under major duress.

I can’t wait for NEA and the AFL-CIO unions in Rhode Island - demonstrating their confidence that most workers will see the value proposition of union membership (that “union advantage” that we hear union leaders espouse, which if it is true then there should be no need to force workers into unions) - and will change course to embrace respect for the rights of individual workers by supporting (and continuing to support) legislation making Rhode Island a “right to work” state. This will not only reinvigorate workers’ rights to enjoy freedom of association, currently infringed under our non-right to work regime, but also serve as a major catalyst making Rhode Island attractive to employers (and as Professor Lardaro’s index indicates, right now Rhode Island needs all the help it can get to jump start our economy).

Posted by: Tom W at August 13, 2008 11:43 PM

PSS. I don't hate that you bring up the fact that my wife is an NEA member - I strongly dislike the fact that you said it on TV and embarrassed her. It served no purpose (unless you are suggesting that my activities will benefit her somehow - maybe get her one of those "pay off" jobs or a low numbered license plate).

Besides, it’s not about the employees, it’s the system. Remember, I am a school board member as well. I have sat across the negotiation table and watched the NEA fight for "equality" over fairness. I know lots of great public sector employees - but I also see ambitions fade because of a system that rewards excellence the same as mediocrity. I have seen sloth that is protected by the constant threat of litigation. How many cases have we had at Chariho just in the last year? That should be public information...

Posted by: WJF at August 14, 2008 12:58 AM

School boards...please fill me in here because I am confused... school committees are there to represent the taxpayers, right?

Well, how do school committees fairly and accurately represent the taxpayers when they are riddled with conflicts of interest?

How can school board members fairly and accurately represent the taxpayers when many of them are teachers, spouses of teachers, union members, and even union leaders?

Maybe someone can explain this to me..

Posted by: Citizen Critic at August 14, 2008 2:38 AM

Bob W.

{Some colorful language, not advancing the discussion deleted}

You suggest Felkner's wife "benefits directly from our (UNION) efforts".

How so?

Is she not forced to be in the Union, as RI is NOT a Right-to-Work state (as Tom W. noted)?

Is she not forced to pay dues?

Is she not forced to to be paid the SAME as the best and worst teachers in the district, sapping any incentive for excellence?

Is she not forced to work with incompetent hacks that can NOT be fired?

You hide behind BS Union instigated laws and contracts, creating artificial / subsidized market conditions.

Do you not refuse to support Right To Work legislation, Voter Initiative legislation?

Do you also refuse to let the Taxpayers paying the bill vote on your Union contracts in the same manner as your Union members are allowed to vote on them?

That's right. YOU know what's best for workers? YOU are smarter than the public at large, who can't be trusted to make the right choices and decisions?

In your arrogant warped mind, people are benefiting from your efforts ... whether they want to or not. Correct?

{Some more colorful language, not advancing the discussion deleted. Commenters from this point forward should consider themselves warned not to try to turn this thread into a discussion of what and what not will get edited. This is a serious topic here, and any attempt to hijack it will be deleted in its entirety - CAM}

Posted by: George Elbow at August 14, 2008 6:29 AM

The one thing that really frosts me in this conversation is that Bill is on the school board in the same town that his wife is a teacher?

How is that not a gigantic conflict of interest? "Gotta get a good deal for the taxpayers, but not 'too' good because I don't want to cook my own golden goose..."

Posted by: Greg at August 14, 2008 7:37 AM

CAM - fair enough. I agree with your edits you probably know, I just can't help myself sometimes. You can delete this post.


Posted by: George Elbow at August 14, 2008 7:38 AM

-How can school board members fairly and accurately represent the taxpayers when many of them are teachers, spouses of teachers, union members, and even union leaders?

In Rhode Island, the Constitution grants essentially total power over education to the General Assembly.

In turn, it has been construed that School Committees are actually functioning as agents of the General Assembly, even though "elected locally."

I'm not sure, but I believe that school committee members receive some orientation (indoctrination) along these lines when elected (at RIC?).

The entire system is gamed so that no one can be held accountable, for no one has total authority or responsibility for anything, and so we get a "bureaucratic circle jerk" of pointing fingers. School committees (and administrators and education officials) all say that they're just following and/or are restricted by RI statutes and/or RI Department of Ed requirements and/or U.S. Department of Ed requirements and/or RI Commissioner of Ed requirements and/or the almighty teachers contract.

The "public education" system is designed to be bureaucratic and unresponsive and ineffective and ultimately unaccountable.

Add in the deleterious impact of the parasitic teachers unions, who are the behind the scenes puppetmasters here in Rhode Island, and you get the rotten system we have today, condemning thousands upon thousands of Rhode Island to a diminished economic future.

It can be improved,tweaked at the margins, but it will never be high performing. That is why the ultimate answer for children, parents, taxpayers and our future economic competitiveness is universal vouchers, allowing concerned parents and motivated children - no matter their ethnic background or economic circumstances - to escape the dysfunctional by design public education system.

Posted by: Tom W at August 14, 2008 8:56 AM

The whole system is a joke and skewed towards the Union and the teachers getting whatever they want. I still can't understand why the teachers only work 180 days? They are always asking for more professional development time, always during the school day/year, no afterschool time for tutoring, parent conferences or the like? Just because the kids have the summer off, why do the teachers? Why aren't they there Monday through Friday, 8:00-5:00 like everyone else? I have three teachers in my neighborhood. Yesterday as I was off to work and dropping my kids off at daycare, they were hosting pool parties! This is insanity. I'm working my ass off to pay for daycare, my health insurance and yes...for the teachers to have it as easy as humanly possible. F them! And as was town is in contract negotiations...when I call the Superintendent and ask about the progress, he tells me he can't discuss it...WHY? You raise my taxes, I pay for those bull$#^t contracts and they take away rights from my kids but I can't know what's going on. Again, FU!

Posted by: Bill at August 14, 2008 9:56 AM


Bill in on the School Committee in a different district from the one that employes his wife. And no objective person would accuse him of not putting forth his own point of view on the range of issues for which he advocates. I may disagree with him on many things, and challenge his assumptions or facts on others, but he puts his name behind what he says,a nd I respect that. There are even a few things upon which we agree (in a world where Justin voted for Sheldon Whitehouse, all things are possible!)

Posted by: Bob Walsh at August 14, 2008 11:16 AM

When you really really really hate the RI system --you move.

Once you get out of there, you can fully appreciate how badly Rhode Islanders are getting screwed.

Out here in the Idaho panhandle, I live in twice the house for less money, I save 75% on my electricity bill, and my heating bill is also alot less.. probably half. And I am surrounded by astounding natural beauty. My stress level is way down.

You hardly notice government here. During the first few months, I actually got a $30 taxpayer refund check from the state, which I am still trying to figure out, because I hadn't paid in any money yet. When you do see government, they are doing their job. In my county, they made budget error which resulted in a $1.4 million shortfall, and they were all apologetic about it in the newspaper, even though the impact on the taxpayers was minimal. The state of Idaho has a $220 million surplus. Cops will help a stranded motorist change a tire. DMV gets you in and out in an hour, and they even do the VIN check right there for you. I actually got a notice from one utility company of a rate decrease. Can you believe it? And unions are few and far between --what a strange coincidence!

My suggestion is to get out of there. These days, RI is not a good place to live.

Posted by: Citizen Critic at August 14, 2008 1:33 PM

Turning back to George Elbow for a moment:

If you were aware of the number of emails and such that I've fielded in my resistance of efforts to ban and habitually censor yourself, you'd have better context for understanding this demand: Learn to control your impulses.

You don't seem to understand the many advantages of mutual dialog. When you allow — indeed, invite — those who reside across vast ideological and practical divides into conversation, you:

1. Enable yourself to understand where they sincerely are coming from.
2. Create the circumstances in which you can perhaps change their minds.
3. Allow them to play cards that may ultimately prove to be your own.

Such are the conversations that we, the contributors of Anchor Rising, wish to have in the comment sections, and you are increasingly inhibiting them. Learn to control yourself, or you're gone. Agreeing with us in principle is not an immunization.

And that goes for the whole "lazy ass" litany. No more. I, for one (perhaps the last), have had it. Your underlying point is sound, and your grasp of the issues is valuable, but we want to encourage debate, not rhetorical pugilism.

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 14, 2008 9:13 PM

Ok, ok.

Thanks for the feed-back. I will try to work on my shortcomings.

My doctor told me I suffer from Union-leech induced Tourette's Syndrome.

But I'm working on controlling it.

I don't doubt that you've received a number of, shall we say, "grievances".

Hell, you must feel like poor Providence Fire Chief, George Farrell, who is currently fielding over 80 whiny & costly Union grievances, filed by none other than ....Union President, Mr. Paul Doughty (how's that for progress?).

With respect to the "lazy-ass" litiny, you can see from the previous sentance, I'm working on it.

But I do stand by the assertion that "Lazy-ass" and "No Show" properly and accurately describe / define an individual who does NOT show up to the job that he is well paid to do.

And I do understand the benefits of mutual dialog. For example, this dialog right now is my effort to enable yourself to understand where I sincerely am coming from. But I appreciate the reminder, as periodic reminders never hurt anyone.

And as you know, I am a big advocate of reminders. For example, I like to remind folks about certain Union Presidents who arrogantly don't show up to their Taxpayer funded job.

But I also understand that dialog can only go so far. And at some point, the dialog becomes the end-game as opposed to a means to an end; and at that point you need to take the gloves off and call a spade a spade.

For example, a certain Teachers' Union official has been "dialoging" since the early 1990s. In fact, the individual is a master dialoger and proudly dialogs on many boards & commissions.

Yet, by any honest and objective measure, RI's public education system has gotten progressively worse in all areas during this Union leader's decade-and-a-half long dialog.

In fact, incessent dialogging is a strategy employed by the likes of these individuals in the hopes that the people they are screwing stay distracted long enough to allow them time for one more screwing.

Meanwhile, as the dialog & studies rage on unabated, our state's infrastructure (roads, bridges, school buildings, city halls, IT systems, etc.) is crumbling around us because we've had our pockets picked while dialogging.

OK, I better stop, as I feel an attack of that pesky Union-leech induced Tourette's Sydrome coming.

PS to Bill who ended his above post with "FU Again": be careful ...that's how it starts! Before you know it, you'll be suffering from a full blown outbreak of Union-leech induced Tourette's Syndrome.

Posted by: George Elbow at August 15, 2008 12:35 AM

Know how you feel, George. That big storm in South County yesterday...unions' fault.

Posted by: rhody at August 15, 2008 11:48 AM

Hi George,

I must say that I really do enjoy reading your posts. I for one don't take offense to characterizing someone if the characterization fits. I too, as you so astutely pointed out am also reaching my boiling point. I don't think I should have to move away from a lovely state, house order to keep what I rightly earn through my own hard work. I own my own company and have worked, as the teachers like to say, "without a contract" for 25 years. I said before...I cannot figure out why more people aren't enraged about this whole entitlement thing. Why are the teachers the chosen ones that only work "mothers hours", weekends, holidays & summers off and yet they earn as much if not more than many people who work 50-60 hours a week, sometimes six and seven days a week? We pay a MAJOR co-pay for our health insurance, if not the whole thing as in my case. Do they not realize that the contract that just expired is still better than not having any job or benefits at all as evidenced by 51,000 Rhode Islanders right now? I would challenge any teacher to tell me that somehow they are being screwed right now. Sign another contract now, open the schools and start teaching our kids. If not...give your job as the contract currently is written to any one of those 51,000 people who are out of work and would gladly trade places with you. So yes, my comment to the teachers right now is still FU!

Posted by: Bill at August 15, 2008 11:53 AM

Hey Mr. Walsh,

I see you posting here occasionally. Just read the news...RI has achieved a 7.7 percent unemployment rate, nearly two percent higher than the national average. Perhaps in your own unique way you can enlighten me and everyone else as to how any of your teachers can even possibly think of holding out for more money, benefits etc... when 44,000 (I read elsewhere it was 51,000) people have nothing. If they are so concerned that people have no respect for their profession, that they are such professionals, tell them to accept and ratify whatever proposals have been made so far and open the schools with no conflict. Of course, I'm living in another world and those teachers need more because they care so much for the kids and deserve it. They deserve to be fired for even asking for more at a time like this. George, I learned to bite my lip from you and not repeat what I wanted to end with.

Posted by: Bill at August 15, 2008 2:54 PM


That big storm in South County yesterday was indeed the Union's fault.

It was actually the tear-drops of the whiny PFD Union, as they were filing yet another of there frivolous grievances.

Turns out that it is not good enough that RI leads the nation with the highest (or amongst the highest) per-capita cost for Fire Safety.

Now the whiners want to lead in another area. They want to be amongst the only Fire departments in the Nation with bullet proof glass on their Fire Trucks.

Just curious why they haven't filed a Grievance on this matter for the past 30 years? Why now?? Hmmm.

Posted by: George Elbow at August 15, 2008 7:55 PM


If you are waiting for a cogent answer from Bob Walsh to your specific and substantive questions, be prepared to wait into perpetuity.

Bob has no answers, especially to your questions.

You see, the answer to your questions would require Bob to actually explain to his flock that the party is over.

Remember, Bob told us “I don't think that most folks in general (union or not) are specifically aware of just how tough the state's short term financial outlook really is.”

For once, Bob was right.

His Union members are too busy feeding at the Public trough to notice the realities of the real world.

Unfortunately, for Bob to be wrong on his assertion, he would have had to break the news to his Entitlement-minded flock of dependent sheep that the economy is in the tank and that the Taxpayers have no more blood to give to Union leeches.

In other words, it would require Bob to actually dialog with his flock about REALITY, as opposed to the usual rant brainwashing the flock that they are Entitled ...and therefore they should continue paying dues.

So sorry, Bill. You ain't gonna get any answers from Bob. You'll just get the big "FU".

Actually, in keeping with the Union way (i.e. dependancy), Bob depends on his #2, Patrick "I struggle with basic math" Crowley (aka "The Finger") to deliver the FU.

Posted by: George Elbow at August 15, 2008 11:14 PM

George, I knew I could count on you to come up with a bigger stretch than anybody in the Fantastic Four.
Guess it was also unions' fault that Michael Phelps failed to break another world record tonight.

Posted by: rhody at August 15, 2008 11:49 PM

The unions are corrupt, there is no other way to say it.

The unions helped to kill the voter initiative amendment, which would have enabled better government in Rhode Island, and they are still involved in numerous conflicts of interest at the state and local level.

Reform will always be hard in Rhode Island --because of Rhide Islanders. As a group, Rhode Islanders like their socialism, and their unions, and their old boy network. They like their corrupt politicians. They like to be coddled by big government. And they love Hilary Clinton.

Rhode Islanders love their two-time convicted felon/ mascot/ celebrity Buddy Cianci. They aren't going to change. Recognize this, and deal with it.

Sure, it is 'unfair' to live in a corrupt cesspool where these idiots call the shots --but it won't change because some intellectuals on a blog want it changed.

Don't try to change 950,000 people, because you won't get anything but heartache.

There is an old saying in therapy --"you can only change yourself."

Once you move out of RI you will feel alot better, trust me. The process of moving is painful, but once you set up shop in a place with people who closer represent your personal values, you will be much happier.


Posted by: Citizen Critic at August 16, 2008 12:40 AM

The unions are corrupt, there is no other way to say it.

The unions helped to kill the voter initiative amendment, which would have enabled better government in Rhode Island, and they are still involved in numerous conflicts of interest at the state and local level.

Reform will always be hard in Rhode Island --because of Rhide Islanders. As a group, Rhode Islanders like their socialism, and their unions, and their old boy network. They like their corrupt politicians. They like to be coddled by big government. And they love Hilary Clinton.

Rhode Islanders love their two-time convicted felon/ mascot/ celebrity Buddy Cianci. They aren't going to change. Recognize this, and deal with it.

Sure, it is 'unfair' to live in a corrupt cesspool where these idiots call the shots --but it won't change because some intellectuals on a blog want it changed.

Don't try to change 950,000 people, because you won't get anything but heartache.

There is an old saying in therapy --"you can only change yourself."

Once you move out of RI you will feel alot better, trust me. The process of moving is painful, but once you set up shop in a place with people who closer represent your personal values, you will be much happier.


Posted by: Citizen Critic at August 16, 2008 12:41 AM


Actually, the Union had NOTHING to do with Michael Phelps' performance.

If the Unions were involved, Phelps would have NO records and NO medals.

He'd have to give away / share some of his winnig times to subsidize the other athletes with less ability.

It is just not fair that this guy harnesses his talent, works hard, makes sacrifices, takes risks and becomes successful and EARNS gold.

Like any hardworkding "rich" person who should have all incentive taxed out their system, Phelps should be cutting his Gold medals up to share with all the other athletes that are ENTITLED to a piece of the Gold for "giving selflessly", regardless of ability. Wouldn't you agree, Rhody?

PS - who / what is the Fantastic Four?

Posted by: George Elbow at August 16, 2008 9:45 AM

-Actually, the Union had NOTHING to do with Michael Phelps' performance. If the Unions were involved, Phelps would have NO records and NO medals.

Actually in a union environment the medals would be awarded based on seniority. Actually, one could argue that the union system and its bargaining agenda was designed by and for slackers and the less competent.

Which is largely true, for those are the people most inclined to be "active" and "activists" in the unions by running for union office etc. - which makes sense for they're the ones who are protected by (and most need the protection) of non-merit / non-performance systems.

Consider the teachers unions. Truly excellent teachers suffer under the seniority system, so it's not something they'd be fighting tooth and nail for. So the teacher union agenda isn't set by the higher end of the teacher skill bell curve; so it must be set by ...

Posted by: Tom W at August 16, 2008 10:15 AM


"Don't try to change 950,000 people, because you won't get anything but heartache."

Sadly, you make a very good point.

I'm quite certain dialoging with people that subsist on the Public-tit will have NO impact.

Their minds will not be changed, no matter how much or in what manner or tone one engages them in dialog.

For them to change would require some of them to actually show up to the job they are paid to do. In other words, they could no longer be "Lazy-ass No Shows".

For others, in order to change, they'd actually have to be independent and go without the artificial security blanket of "seniority", "tenure", guaranteed pensions, etc.

They would have to get by on hard work and merit. Quite simply, the horror of letting the Free Market (as opposed to some weasle lawyer / arbitrator) determine their worth will never allow them to change ...dialog or no dialog.

And those that make their livings by perpetuating the Entitlement-minded nanny-state (e.g. Union "leaders") will never change that is how they make their living. Leading and convincing flocks of mindless, dependent, DUES-paying sheep that they are Entitled is critical to their own survival.

The best you can hope for is that some of the dialog will expose and REMIND the long suffering Taxpayers of the inequities and insanity of the nut-bag Entitlement minded Unions.

And perhaps, as a result, such dialog will incite Taxpayers to change rise up in disgust and say No-F'ing-More!

A few hundred years ago, a group of people decided they'd had enough with dialoging over tea with the folks that were taxing them to death. They realized endless sipping of tea and dialoging with the tax collectors was not changing squat.

So they endevoured to change the tone of their dialog and engaged in a form of tea pugilism, so to speak.

So the next time they dialoged over tea with the folks collecting oppressive taxes, the tone was quite different. In fact, so different, it became know as the "Boston Tea Party".

The dialog from that discussion incited a few other people to join in and say "No F'ing More" ...and the rest is history.

Posted by: George Elbow at August 16, 2008 10:20 AM

Tom W.,

I'll save Rhody the time & trouble...

Are you blaming the Unions for the piss-poor performance of our public schools?

If you are, perhaps you should sit down and dialog with Bob Walsh. I'm sure that will help matters and fix things right up in no time.

Posted by: Geogre Elbow at August 16, 2008 10:28 AM

--Are you blaming the Unions for the piss-poor performance of our public schools?

The teacher unions aren’t the only reason for the “piss-poor” performance of public schools (in Rhode Island and across the nation). But they are a major, if not the major, causative factor.

Far worse, they are by far the greatest roadblock preventing real change and improvement, and will continue to be so long as they wield power (and they practically own the Democratic Party, so don’t hold your breath for the reduction of their power so long as the Democratic Party wields power).

--If you are, perhaps you should sit down and dialog with Bob Walsh. I'm sure that will help matters and fix things right up in no time.

Methinks your tongue is in cheek! ; -)

Never met the man; I’ve heard that he’s nice enough in person.

That said, he represents an organization that is often ruthless in achieving its agenda - which is trampling the future of entire generations of children for its self-aggrandizement and economic enhancement.

Further, it has belittled what should be among the noblest of professions (educator), whose practitioners should be highly esteemed in the community, and diminished them into a collective mass of whiny, glorified daycare workers whose respect in the community diminishes with each passing year.

Such an organization cannot be reasoned with - only marginalized and, if possible, permanently defeated – “for the children.”

Posted by: Tom W at August 16, 2008 11:47 AM

Tom W.,

You raise a number of very real, substantive and consequential points. For example:

- tenure and seniority being the basis of advancement, as opposed to merit;

- the best teachers being paid the same as the worst, sapping incentive for excellence;

- the fostering of a collective Entitlement mentality that deprives a noble profession of the respect it deserves.

Seriously, you should sit down and dialog with the NEA-RI’s Bob Walsh on these issues. I have it on good authority that dialoging with him can lead to positive change.

You said you never met him. Not suprised, he's a very busy man. A little background is in order.

Mr. Walsh has been with NEA-RI for 15+ years.

Not only is he a nice guy by all reports, but he is really smart. He worked on Wall Street. That is the place where really smart people brought us the Sub-Prime mess …something to do with selling “equity” in mortgage backed securities or lotteries or something of that nature.

Surely a man as nice and as smart as Mr. Walsh would implement the much needed changes you high-light if someone would just make him aware of these issues via some pleasant dialog.

You see, even though Mr. Walsh has been on seen for a decade and a half, I don’t think he is aware of the critical issues you raise.

As note, Mr. Walsh has been very busy serving on and dialoging on countless boards and commissions that “study” ways to redistribute wealth from those that work hard and take risks to those that prefer to work as little as possible (say, no more than 180 days per year) or not at all (in the case of some lazy no-show folks).

And when Mr. Walsh is not busy serving on numerous boards and commissions, he is busy “protecting thousands of RI based jobs”, although I honestly can not tell you what it is that he is protecting them from.

But, in any event, I am confident that if you can just grab a few minutes Mr. Walsh’s busy day and bring the issues to his attention via some dialog, you will see real change in very short order.

While you are dialoging with Mr. Walsh, perhaps you could ask him a few questions on my behalf:

1) How and why is it fair that Union members are allowed to Vote on the Contracts that their leaders negotiate, but the Taxpayers footing the bill are NOT allowed to vote on the same contracts?

Mr. Walsh proudly noted that the process associated with the Council 94 fiasco was “democratic”, as the members were allowed to vote their views. Is it not the height of hypocrisy to talk about a “democratic” process when only one side gets to practice democracy?

2) How and why is it fair that Union leaders & negotiators are allowed to review and discuss the details of proposed contracts with their constituents (i.e. Union membership), yet School Committees are forbidden to do the same with their constituents (Taxpayers).

In fact, the NEA-RI paid a lobbyist, Henry Boeniger, to fight legislation that would require public review of contracts PRIOR to ratification. Again, do I smell hyprocrisy?

3) How and why is it fair that Union Teachers who, on average, earn more than the Median Household Income of Rhode Islanders (i.e. one teacher earns more than the entire household of many Rhode Islanders) should not pay their fair share (i.e. at least 30%) of the ever increasing cost of their healthcare (particularly, when many Rhode Islanders go without healthcare themselves)?

4) How and why is it fair that Union Teachers already earning $48,000; $51,000; and $55,000 should be receiving 11% salary increases?

How and why is it fair that teachers already earning $58,000+ should receive 18% raises?

5) Why is it that despite the fact that Union Teacher contracts across the State provide annual salary increases that range between ~ 8% and 18% for the majority of the Union membership, the NEA-RI continues to sit silent while the press erroneously reports that the contracts provide salary increases of 3% - 4%?

6) How and why is it fair that Union members are allowed to Retire with GUARANTEED pensions equal to 75% of their highest 3-5 years salaries (that grow automaticly by 3% per year) at the tender age of 59, after contributing a mere 9% of their salaries for less than 29 years?

I’m eagerly await the the results of your dialog.

Posted by: George Elbow at August 16, 2008 1:25 PM

If you went off the piss poor performance of the RI schools, and tied that to a performance model of compensation --which is how the private sector works --you would see teacher salaries slashed, not automatically increased.

Posted by: Citizen Critic at August 16, 2008 3:46 PM

Wall St.?

Well, I should not be surprised that the fictional character Mr. Elbow gives me a somewhat fictional background! I especially liked the part where he ascribed to me the sub-prime mess. Since I was also a computer programmer "back in the day", I think I should be blamed for Y2K as well, along with various unsolved crimes and mysteries, real and imagined.

Alas, the nice guy thing is probably true - it still gives me hope that someday, I will help you all to see the light. Probably why I never made it to Wall St., though . . .

There is a hypothesis that one of the few ways to get an AR post to generate 50 comments is to mention me - flattering, to say the least, but I feel a moral obligation to give additional fodder to generate at least 10 more posts, so blog away!

I'll even give you a prompt (that's education-speak) to get you going: "The reason I am secretly jealous of liberals is . . ."

Posted by: Bob Walsh at August 16, 2008 6:19 PM

The reason I am secretly jealous of liberals is...
because, South Kingstown & East Providence GOP gatherings and OSPRI social functions excepted, they tend to throw better parties.

Posted by: Andrew at August 16, 2008 8:28 PM

--"The reason I am secretly jealous of liberals is . . ."

Because they get to go through life enjoying the delusion that they are more compassionate, intelligent and just plain know better than everyone else ... faux superiority must feel just, ah, "ducky" when one is delusional and so believes it.

Liberalism = mass narcissism (or should I say "collective" narcissism)!

Posted by: Tom W at August 16, 2008 8:50 PM


Come on now. I said you were really smart, so don’t make a liar out of me.

Go back and re-read the post. I did NOT ascribe to you the sub-prime mess.

I merely noted that some really smart people with Finance backgrounds like yourself (recall one of your previous posts … “back in my finance days, I helped create hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs”) brought us the sub-prime mess.

I would never suggest that YOU brought us the sub-prime mess, as we all know you were busy bringing a different kind of mess to RI in the form of unsustainable pay and benefits for Entitlement minded public-tit suckers when the sub-prime debacle was being created.

Anyways, thanks for the correction on your time (or lack of time) spent on Wall St. You are very good at correcting the non-substantive nits (e.g. correcting Mr. Felkner on your job title).

Looking forward to:

- the correction on Union Teacher Salary increases that are habitually mis-reported by the press

- the correction on your Assistant Executive Director, Patrick “I struggle with basic math” Crowley’s incorrect assertion that the rate of Inflation out-paced the rate of Education spending, when in fact just the opposite was true.

Education spending outpaced Inflation by an unbelievable 42% for the period your boy was measuring. The mathematically challenged lad compared 5 years of spending to 7 years of Inflation.

Your team made that assertion via a letter to the editor sent to numerous papers across the state late last year / early this year. Still waiting for the correction, Bob.

- most of all, I am looking forward to answers to the questions in the above post, particularly on the ones that demonstrate what a flaming hypocrite you are (e.g. you crow about “union democracy” but fight tooth and nail to stifle democracy when it comes to the Taxpayers having a say in your nut-bag Entitlement minded Union-hack contracts).

So come on Bob, try to give one substantive answer to the questions. We know they are hard questions, given that your Entitlement-minded world view is indefensible, but, as I said, your are really smart so I would expect something more than your usual non-answer pithy responses.

By the way, what does "liberal" have to do with the subject at hand? There are lots of liberal folks that believe in the Free Market, Risk / Reward, merit pay, self-reliance and an end to the nanny-state. I just can't name any right now.

Posted by: George Elbow at August 16, 2008 9:32 PM

"more compassionate, intelligent and just plain know better than everyone else ... faux superiority"

Hmmm, I don't think I've ever seen a better description of Bob Walsh and his ilk in quite some time.

Bob tells us Mr. Felkner "hates it when I remind folks he benefits directly from our efforts" due to Mr. Felkner's wife being in the Union.

As previously noted, Bob crows about Union demacracy, but would NOT dare let people like Mr. Felkner's wife chose for themselves weather or not they want to be dues paying members of the Teachers' Union.

Oh no, we could never have that, as that would be true democracy allowing the employee to vote with their feet.

Nope. Can't have that. Bob is "intelligent and just plain knows better than everyone else" what is good for the flock. Right, Bob?

Posted by: George Elbow at August 16, 2008 10:02 PM

"When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume within the powers of the Earth a separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold thee truths to be self evident that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is in the right of these people to alter or abolish it and to institute new government..."

So where is the revolution? Is this it?

Posted by: taxpayer at August 17, 2008 12:41 PM

--So where is the revolution? Is this it?

It seems that the serfs are relatively content here in this Gulag of high taxes; corruption; collapsing infrastructure and low quality government services - they even buy into the guards' assertions that they have a 'great quality of life" in this economic and ethical Siberia.

Posted by: Tom W at August 17, 2008 1:33 PM

So where is the revolution?

Didn't you get the memo? There will be no revolution, no rough stuff. Just dialog! And pleasant dialog at that.

Posted by: George Elbow at August 17, 2008 2:26 PM

"The history of the present [situation]is a history of repeated injuries all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states..."

Tom W - I do not see a relative contentment in Serfdom, rather a deep seated dread coupled with an equally deep sense of apathy. The Serfs are looking for things to burn - not if effigy, but in their fireplaces this winter.

G.E.-The only memo I got was to vote for Nader. I'll do my best with the pleasant dialog part, but I can't make any promises.

Posted by: taxpayer at August 17, 2008 9:28 PM