August 22, 2010

Power Politics Illustrated

Marc Comtois

In a recent column having to do with Warwick GOP infighting, former Democrat City Council and School Committee Chair Bob Cushman explained the machinations that go on at the party level amongst the power brokers in Warwick.

[Councilman Steve] Colantuano in 2006 ran and was defeated in the Democrat primary by me. In 2008, he once again met with the Democrat Ward 1 chairperson and was unsuccessful in his attempt to acquire the endorsement. Fearful of losing in the Democrat primary again, he switched to the Republican Party at the last minute, receiving their endorsement along with the promise of a legion of volunteers and thousands of dollars to support his campaign. Mayor Avedisian personally contributed $1,000, the maximum amount allowed by law, to his campaign....

The old political adage – make your adversary your supporter – has been a key to Mayor Avedisian’s success since Republicans haven’t had more then two members on the City Council in over 10 years. The mayor has been so successful that he has literally crippled the Democrat party, and in the process, undermined the concept of separation of powers.

The legislative branch has effectively become a yes-man for the mayor. In return for not only political support but also for the jobs and appointed board positions the mayor has given their family and friends, these candidates, once elected, support his legislation, sponsor his appointments, and give him control over the legislative process....With new first-time Republican candidates for City Council in Danny Hall in Ward 5 and Mike Mulholland in Ward 6, who seem to have a mindset independent of the administration, challenging pro-Avedisian Democrats, will they receive the same campaign cash from the mayor and support from Warwick’s Republican Party that Mr. Colantuano received two years ago? I seriously doubt it.

Setting Cushman's obvious personal stake aside, the machinations he describes are illustrative and indicative of a sort of insider politics that outsiders are sick of. We'll have to wait until November to see if voter disgust rises high enough to change the status quo. I've got my doubts.

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Once again Mr. Cushman does not tell the entire story. While he alleges that Mayor Avedisian is handing out jobs and commission appointments to friends of members of the city council, Mr. Cushman doesn't inform the readers how half of his fellow Ward One Democratic Committee members are or have been members of city boards. Here is the breakdown:

Kenneth Smith - Alarm Review Panel
Gary Jarvis - Sewer Authority
Margaret Dolan - Housing Authority
Linda Dale - Juvenile Hearing Board
Tracy McDermott - Juvenile Hearing Board
Robert Cushman - Juvenile Hearing Board

Seems to me that Mr. Cushman has no problem with his own Democratic Party rewarding his fellow ward committee members for their "political support" (i.e donating a money to the Democratic Party). Why is it ok for the Democrats to hand out appointments but not Republicans, Mr. Cushman? Sounds hypocritical to me.

In addition to the above

Posted by: Tired of Bob at August 22, 2010 9:03 PM

What a joke, the Alarm Review Panel,
Housing Authority and Juvenile Hearing Board.

These positions are actually real community service type positions.

What kind of influence can one weld on them? Come on, most have vacancies because no one wants to serve on them.

As for Mr. Jarvis the only paid position in the bunch with any kind of influence, he doesn't support Cushman and has publically made that know at sewer authority meetings.

I guess you think everything is A-ok in Warwick. How about Mr. Langseth, is he a bad republican as the city chair says he is? Why is that? Shouldn't the party boss stay neutral? Why didn't she when the only Republican's on the council past background as a Republican is questionable.

Answer those questions instead of attacking the messenger.

Posted by: Roger at August 22, 2010 11:40 PM

In Hopkinton we have numerous boards,committee, and commission openings in fact, dormant bodies let alone vacancies.
In my current town council race we have two Democrats, three Republicans, and two independents for the five at-large seats. On the ballot I will be listed second.
The present town council bypassed me for appointment to the town council vacancy of Bill Felkner and as an alternate to the Zoning Board of Review.
You should understand and remember the fact not all boards and commissions have the same interest in the public.Some have power others are just advisory. I think a number people want to have authority if they are on a board.
Are vacancies on boards and commissions posted in Warwick and public encouraged to apply? Also in my town service on more than one board is prohibited by charter unless another person cannot be found to fill it. Does that exist in the Warwick charter? Also I do not believe that members of the Board of Tax Reviews cannot serve on another municipal board in any community?

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at August 23, 2010 11:34 AM

Scott Avedisian is what the RI Republican party is all about...status quo. Keep the unaccomplished in positions of power for no other goal than to stroke their egos. What has a Republican accomplished for the people of this state lately? Avedisian has taken the mantel of poster child for the lame, unaccomplished, phoney, same-ole, same-ole Republican Party from his pal Linc Chafee... with Fung in the wings. We need men... we no longer have any men.

Posted by: Ronaldo at August 23, 2010 5:07 PM


I don't think everything is "A-ok in Warwick". The point I'm making Roger is that Mr. Cushman can't say that it is basically wrong for Mayor Avedisian to hand out commission appointments to supporters when the Democrats, and especially Mr. Cushman's fellow Ward One Democratic Committee members, are benefiting from these appointments. In regards to Gary Jarvis, he is a joke. Mr. Jarvis is not qualified to serve on the Sewer Authority. The City Council should have the courage to remove him when his appointment expires in January, but some how I doubt the Democratic dominated counil will have the courage to do so. I guess being the former Chairman of the Warwick Democratic City Committee has its privelages.

Regarding Mr. Langseth, no I don't consider him a "bad republican'. I welcome everybody into the GOP. However, Mr. Langseth does not educate himself well on the issues. He needs to do his homework a little better. If he knew the issues a little better I would consider voting for him.

I hop I answered your questions, Roger.

"Scott", in answer to your question, the City of Warwick has no limit on how many boards or commissions a person can serve. The City Council never voted on the legislation.

Posted by: Tired of Bob at August 23, 2010 7:04 PM

To “Tired of Bob”:

I would have much more respect for you and your opinion if you had the courage and conviction, as I do, to engaged in this debate by exposing your true identify.

From your extensive knowledge of the political dynamics in Warwick, it is apparent that you are affiliated with the Warwick Republican Party, maybe a city employee or even a member of the Avedisian administration that has a personnel grudge against me.

It’s interesting that what you imply regarding the corruption in the Democrat party in Warwick actually verifies my assessment in my column that both parties are equally corrupt and affiliation doesn’t matter in Warwick - it’s all about corrupt political leaders maintaining power.

If my intentions were to maintain power I would have kept my mouth shut while on the city council not proposing reforms to combat the unsustainable debt being racked up in Warwick because of the pension and healthcare plans for employees that is bankrupting the city.

The simplest way to be reelected year after year is to become the go along - to get along council member and sell your political soul to those in power.

I choice the noble cause to expose the problems that most other politicians in the city continue to ignore regardless if it caused people like you and the equally corrupt union leaders in the state and city to mount the unprecedented campaign to oust me from office.

Your argument loses credibility when you claim that the appointment of Democrats to city boards by Mayor Avedisan and members of the city council has anything to do with me. I actually agree with your point on this.

What I don’t agree with is, if the appointee results in a “quid pro quo” for those involved instead of doing what’s best for the community as a whole.

Instead of answering the questions I pose in my column regarding the hypocritical stance against Mr. Langseth and the two new Republican city council candidates, while Republicans accepted Mr. Colantuno with unprecedented support two years ago, in your dislike for me, you simply throw out untrue statements in an attempt to discredit my overall objective assessment of city politics.

My only connection to those Ward 1 Democrat members on city boards is through the Juvenile Hearing Board.

In fact, Mr. Jarvis and Ms. McDermott no longer support me precisely due to the fact that my criticism of elected officials in Warwick includes elected Democrats, including Mr. Jarvis on the sewer board, and my involvement with the Warwick Tea Party.

That Juvenile Hearing Board has no other purpose but to help kids. If you had any idea of the function of the board and its importance in helping troubled kids, the fact that at many points in time, getting enough people on the board in order to have a required quorum, has been difficult.

I joined the board at the request of administrative officials before I was in elected to office. With 25 years of experience as the Executive Director of a non-profit youth sports organization, my credentials were what officials were seeking in a volunteer on the board.

Upon being elected to the Warwick School Committee in 2004, by city ordinance, I was forced to resign from the board. Soon after, I recruited Tracy McDermott to take my place. Ms. McDermott was not on the Ward One Democrat committee at the time.

Upon hearing from the Director of Youth programs while on the city council that additional people were needed, I asked Kristen Rice to serve. She did until she was married and moved to Cranston, thereby resigning. I then recruited Linda Rice to replace Kristen. Linda was not on the Ward One Democrat committee at the time.

As for your point about Mr. Jarvis, I agree and for your edification, that is exactly the point of my column. I equally castigate both the Republican and Democrat party leaders.

It’s too bad your personnel bias toward me prevents you from seeing the truth and realizing the fiscal problems facing the city that would lead you to propose changes to those you know in power.

However, that would take some courage on your part. However, as someone who is probable benefiting from the current system, you are in no rush to see it change. Unsustainable tax increases, lost services to taxpayers, senior citizens struggling to stay in their homes, businesses closing and young people fleeing Rhode Island because they can’t find jobs, is not your problem.

The definition of a hypocrite is “somebody who pretends to have admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings but behaves otherwise” - that my friend, describes you to a tee.

Bob Cushman

Posted by: Bob Cushman at August 24, 2010 12:54 PM
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