February 27, 2010

Town Democrats Just Say Whatever

Justin Katz

I've meant to address a letter in the Sakonnet Times (not online) that attacks Tiverton Citizens for Change, not because it's particularly worthy of response, but because it's such a clear illustration of the up-is-down rhetoric that our local opposition has decided to pursue as a political strategy. The letter, expressing concern about an "extreme right-leaning campaign," is by Charlie Moran, arguably the town's most partisan Democrat, and Nick Tsiongas, arguably the town's most prominent left-wing radical:

The Tiverton Democratic Committee believes we need to work together to solve our problems rather than making unfounded accusations and turning residents against each other. Our town council and school committee need our support and input as the make difficult financial decisions, which will include negotiating concessions with all our unions.

The letter itself is an attempt to turn residents against each other, and its substantive claims are based on unfounded accusations. On the latter count, there are two examples:

First, Tsiongas and Moran bring up the controversy, mostly out of public view, around an attempt by some to change state law such that a simple majority at the financial town meeting could vote to exceed the cap on budget increases. That story culminated in a town council meeting at which not only a large number of concerned residents, but also Harry Staley of the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition showed up in opposition. In a curious maneuver that I've seen before, the solicitor raised the issue during his comment period (just about dead last on the agenda) and Councilor Louise Durfee practically jumped out of her seat to pivot the discussion away from where everybody expected it to go and toward an attack on TCC. Had we not been there, the result may have been quite different. (I'll have video of the strange moment up later this week.)

Specifically, Tsiongas and Moran note a press release from TCC President Dave Nelson citing "months of negotiation behind closed doors" and an effort at "keeping the effort under wraps, with the topic quietly inserted into the agenda." They emphasize that the negotiations were part of a lawsuit, and so were kept secret for that reason, but the legality of secrecy does not negate the fact that it is, indeed, out of public view. Moreover, it is entirely true that the issue was slipped onto the agenda in a surreptitious way, appearing on the published agenda just a couple of days before the meeting and, as I said, raised during the solicitor's segment at the tail end of a predictably long meeting.

Second, the Democrat duo raise the school committee meeting at which Dave Nelson and I suggested that freezing or slightly reducing salaries/benefits would be a preferable approach to resolving financial difficulties to cutting pencils, technology, and programs:

... the TCC called on the school committee to unilaterally impose contract terms on our school employees, a strategy that is not only illegal in Rhode Island but also not in the best interests of our community. A similar strategy pursued in a neighboring town has resulted in legal fees in excess of $750,000 and has torn that community apart.

What is tearing communities apart is the ever-increasing tax burden that goes to the benefit of highly paid adults, a majority of whom often live out of the town in question, even as children cannot grasp simple mathematics and science. The citation of East Providence's legal bills is misleading, inasmuch as that town has already blazed the trail. The law is such that each town needn't reinvent the wheel every time. Additionally, as the court battles in East Providence prove, it isn't a statement of fact that its methods (which are currently in effect, saving the town much more money than the litigation costs, I believe) have been "illegal." That is the question that the judiciary is considering.

Most conspicuous of all, however, is Tsiongas and Moran's complaint about Harry Staley's presence at the town council meeting. Shall we expect the Democrats to speak out every time a union fills the school gymnasium with out-of-town hacks who jeer at residents who have the courage to speak up? Are we to believe that they would hesitate to bring in state-level interests when local bodies are considering matters of statewide concern?

No. We need only understand that the letter is mere political calculation that will disappear into the continuing noise of the left-wing and partisan political strategy bent on attacking Tiverton residents with opposing views, tying the hands of grassroots groups that seek to counterbalance entrenched interests, and distorting the issues to the benefit of unions.

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.

HI AR bloggers, I Am Ed Davis, Tiverton Teacher, who Justin was referring to when he said” a teacher is claiming that he can't possibly survive with a 5% cut. The disconnect from what the rest of us have been experiencing is palpable.”

Justin……the left is the ones attacking?…Are you a blogger or a fictional writer?

My initial quote was:

Just like you perceive us “unionist” as the reason your family is struggling, did it ever occur to you, that many on our side of the fence, view you and your fellow TCC buddies as a group who is trying to take food off our children’s plate? If your idea of reasonable cuts were to ever go through, I could loose my house! Am I supposed to just lie down and let you do it?????

You responded:

justinkatz says:
Ed, With your income and (as I recall you mentioning somewhere) rental properties, you couldn't afford a 5% decrease in remuneration?

My only direct response to your 5% suggestion was:

edavisiii says:
Justin....$600 per paycheck Mass. child support....won't berate the point. Not the forum to get into this!

First, as all can see, I NEVER SAID I CAN NOT SURVIVE A 5% CUT. In fact, I have stated to my union leadership, that I am willing to take a cut, or increase my co-pay, to save programs and jobs. I am only one voice. I can not speak no should speak for the rest of the body. But, many other members have similar feelings.

Whether you like it or not, there is a process in place, that has a protocol and often moves slow. But a reasonable resolution, for both parties, could take place.

Point Number 2….Rental Properties…….it’s nice of you to assume I am making a boatload of money! Did it ever occur to you that the bad economy could be affecting my tenants? I HAD TWO TENANTS OUT OF WORK! They are months behind on their rent. You are not aware of all the foreclosures with rental property? My tenants are working as mechanics, electrician’s apprentices, pizza delivery etc. Go tell them they are disconnected to what everyone else is suffering! Maybe the sad story of the overtaxed million dollar condo owners will bring them to tears and make them realize how great they have it in their blue collar world!

Finally, with regards to my response, the reason I am paying $600 per check, while my son is already past 18, is because HE LOST HIS JOB! He, like you, is in the construction trades, and has been out worked since last spring. His situation has been compounded by some bad decisions and serious personal issues. You have no right to bring my situation to the public through this forum when you have no clue of what I am going through! I made the statement “this is not the forum” because of the personal nature of my son’s predicament. It was a mild suggestion, to let that debate die, because there was a lot more, to the story! Does this sound familiar?

Justin….You have a great vocabulary and writing style, but Zero listening skills. You’ll dissect and counter every point, but you never understand what they are saying. Unless, of course, if they are agreeing with you.

Thanks for starting the discussion and proving my point!

Although I DO NOT THINK IT WAS INTENTIONAL, using our discussion as a reference, forces me to defend myself and shines a light on some personal struggles. Shame on me, I aired my laundry. But, I have often been in a position where I could use references to your personal life, to defend my stance. I have respectfully declined. Please do the same!

So don’t sling rhetoric such as, “The disconnect from what the rest of us have been experiencing is palpable.” Carpenters from garden heights and over taxed TCC members are not the only ones struggling in this mess! Once again your inability to grasp what someone is really saying, and your failure to analyze in an objective manner, is blatantly apparent!!

Posted by: edward davis at February 27, 2010 11:29 AM

Oh by the way Justin…I just bought another piece of property…..with the money I received from a settlement. I woke up after an operation with a 4” by 10” patch of 2nd degree burns from the heated IV bag they placed under me. Didn’t want you to think I was spending your hard earned tax dollars on my luxurious life!

Posted by: edward davis at February 27, 2010 11:47 AM

Is your bolded text a warning shot, Ed? Who holds the launch codes? Don't think I've failed to notice them before in public forums from you... reference to the vehicle that I drive, and so on. Go ahead and get personal if that's your strategy. I'm a flawed person no doubt, but I don't take stands in order to back down because I'm afraid to defend who I am.

Anybody who reads your comment who isn't immediately inclined to be hostile toward me will note some interesting things about it. First of all, I referred to your rental properties in passing in a local newspaper comment section, which is (I'm almost positive) precisely the location in which you told me about them. Perhaps I overstepped in raising the detail, and I apologize for doing so; such slips are the risk of the Internet's immediacy. That's why I referred to your comment only generally on Anchor Rising. It wasn't meant to be a political hit, but a recent, representative example from a field of interactions.

All subsequent details that you've divulged, here, though, are entirely your decision. You could have replied, on eastbay.com that you have, indeed, experienced economic difficulties. You could have, here, done the same.

Most importantly, though, why do you and other teachers think that the public ought to sit quiet while union members privately express their disagreement to their leaders. If you think that teachers should take reductions in remuneration rather than watch their associates lose their jobs and their students lose their programs, then you should be speaking up in public. Silence on the teachers' end is part of what forces residents to be more and more aggressive.

I want to add, in closing, for your benefit and probably for others, that you should keep in mind that I've got nothing to lose. I make no significant money through Anchor Rising. I have no intentions of running for a political office. And in an ideal world, I'd be writing anything but political commentary as a professional writer. So if somehow you manage to stain my credibility and make the entire thing go away, well, you'd probably be doing me a favor.

I apologize for getting a toe over the line of public discourse, and your example and others are why I've been intending to regroup and retool now that my ultra-busy week (under the cloud of layoffs at work) is over. But the threat isn't going to scare me off.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 27, 2010 12:08 PM

JUSTIN I have read and reread the comments above, Where is the threat from Mr. Davis?

Are you just upset because he has clearly pointed out how you misquoted his words to suit your point?


Posted by: ARPESTAND COOL WITIT [AR codenamed: Assigned Pest] at February 27, 2010 1:14 PM

More importantly, where is Mr. Davis's point? All he does is rant, whine and accuse. Does Mr. Davis have a position on the issues in the blog item?

Posted by: BobN at February 27, 2010 6:10 PM

no threat Justin....your business is your business......I would not go there. ......... as I said, I do not think you did it intentionally!

Posted by: edavis at February 27, 2010 7:51 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.