— Bristol —

February 19, 2010

A Negative Approach to Governance

Justin Katz

And around and around not-my-town goes:

Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), whose district encompasses neighborhoods on both sides of the Sakonnet River Bridge, has introduced legislation that will prohibit tolls from being charged on the bridge. ...

Instead, Rep. Edwards proposes placing a toll on Interstate Hwy 95 (I-95) in Westerly and in Pawtucket as an alternative revenue source.

As a political matter, it's an easy call to reject state-level policies that will affect one's subregion negatively. And sure, perhaps there are marginal justifications for putting a toll in one place rather than another. However, this is just gamesmanship. If Rep. Edwards wishes to submit legislation that will solve the acute problem of a toll proposal while addressing the underlying difficulty, he should propose that the General Assembly allocate money from its general revenue to the basic infrastructure matters to which it ought to be going before anything else.

Of course, that would require the risk that people in his own district might dislike the decreased revenue for the ancillary government expenditures that would have to be cut, such as nanny state programs, inside deals, and union giveaways.

July 15, 2009

Not Banned, but Invited?

Justin Katz

Well, it appears that the RI Tea Party is not banned from next year's Bristol parade:

[Tea Party treasurer Marina] Peterson said she was given a copy of [Bristol Fourth or July Committee Chairman David] Burns' apology, in which he says:

"The Fourth of July Committee regrets and apologizes for any miscommunication to the Rhode Island Tea Party group and assures them that they are not banned from future parades. In addition, it has not been determined that materials were distributed from the Rhode Island Tea Party float," Burns said.

"It is not the policy of the Fourth of July committee to 'ban' floats, marching units or parade participants, the Burns statement said. "The parade units participate in the parade upon invitation only. If a particular organization violates policy the committee would investigate the violation," Burns said.

Funny how explicit statements can become "miscommunications." But note the emphasis on "invitations." On the other hand, note that the chairman was careful to specify that it is of particular relevance whether handouts were made "from the float."

Keep an eye on this one; we may have reason to infiltrate the crowd with Constitutions, yet.

July 14, 2009

The Constitutional Villain Speaks!

Justin Katz

Christopher Kairnes, of Warwick, claims — trumpets — responsibility for handing out the pocket Constitutions:

I had nothing to do with the Tea Party float nor did I ride on it. I never talked with the parade committee before the parade nor signed any agreement with it. I am an individual. I report to no one and do not owe anyone an apology for what I have done. If handing out the Declaration of Independence to people who are sitting down on their properties is dangerous, I am guilty of that. ...

I walked up and down that parade route with my 11-year-old son twice before the Tea Party float even hit the road, and people were happy to see us. When the float finally did join the parade, I did keep handing out copies of the Pocket Declaration of Independence/U.S. Constitution.

That was when the parade staffer tried to take them out of my hand. I told him I would not let him have them. He tried to grab them again, and at the same time he grabbed my arm. That is when I got loud and told him to back off. He threatened to have the Tea Party float taken off the parade route and have me arrested.

He called a police officer over and I explained to the officer that I was handing out the copies of the Constitution all day and that I was not on the float. He recognized me from earlier and let me go back to it.

With all of the parsing going on about "soliciting" and "entries," Kairnes clarifies that he was soliciting nothing and was associated only in sympathy with the Tea Party float. He also brings us back to the crux reflected in the title of my first post on the topic: A minor civic functionary attempted to confiscate the Constitution.

Apparently, when the back-roads totalitarian was thwarted in this endeavor, he was so incensed that he lashed out at a group that he and his friends (no doubt) didn't like anyway. If that assertion of petty authority isn't corrected, I propose that next year's parade feature several dozen people handing out the books.

July 9, 2009

Confiscating the Constitution

Justin Katz

If nothing else, this illustrates how the celebration of an event can become more about the tradition of celebrating than about the event itself:

In a temper-filled tempest, the Bristol Fourth of July Committee has barred the Rhode Island Tea Party from taking part in the annual Independence Day parade next year — or any other year.

Marina Peterson, treasurer of the organization — it opposes government spending and new taxes — said she was told "not to waste the stamp to send in an application" to appear again in the Bristol parade, which the town says dates to 1785 as the oldest continuously observed Fourth of July celebration in the nation.

In the latest march, on Saturday, Tea Party sympathizers handed out copies of the U.S. Constitution as they ran alongside the organization’s first-ever float, a replica of the Beaver, the British ship ransacked by Colonists during the Boston Tea Party, in 1773.

Sounds to me — especially with the RI Tea Party's account in mind — like a local somebody wanted an excuse to exert petty power over a disfavored group — disfavored by those in the staid, corrupt establishment — and took the handouts as an excuse. A more reasonable, civilized approach to dealing with a new participant's inadvertent rule breaking would be a sort of probation at next year's parade. Otherwise one ends up with shocking symbolism like this:

"They endangered public safety," he said. [Float Committee Chairmain Jim] Tavares said he personally confiscated some of the handouts.

Confiscating the Constitution... at the nation's oldest Independence Day parade. Tea Party Treasurer Marina Peterson says that the rules prohibit "solicitation," which does not describe complimentary copies of our founding legal document. Mr. Tavares calls that word games. I expect King George would have agreed; the rules listed online state that "Soliciting along the parade route is illegal unless a license has been obtained from the Fourth of July Committee." Apparently, safety concerns are alleviated through payment of a license tax.

Incidentally, the Bristol Fourth of July Committee's Web site has a wealth of information, such as the general chairman's and parade chairwoman's email addresses.


The conversation continues here and here.