November 20, 2014
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Expect a flood of complaints over higher insurance rates
Lonnie Barham

FLOOD INSURANCE INCREASES: How would you like it if you were told your mortgage was going to approximately double this year and that you could attend a meeting to see how much the increase would be and why the government was forcing it to happen - but, you were given only one day’s notice of the meeting? That’s what the Federal Emergency Management Agency is doing to Warwick home and business owners whose properties are on or near the water.   

Starting in January, FEMA will eliminate subsidized flood insurance by 20 percent each year until it more than doubles in most cases, yet FEMA delayed notifying city official of the public meeting until so late that it could only be published in Tuesday’s Beacon for a Wednesday meeting. Clearly, none of the bureaucrats who are engineering the huge insurance increases live on or near the water. Otherwise, they would be a bit more sensitive to the schedules and pocketbooks of our citizens.

Because of the ridiculously late notice, Mayor Avedisian has requested a second meeting for Kent and Providence County residents. In the interim, affected Warwick homeowners should “flood” our U.S. representatives’ and senators’ offices with complaining phone calls and email messages.

FUNNY NUMBERS IN CRANSTON: The old economic axiom, “liars figure and figures lie,” seems to apply in spades in Cranston when it comes to the recently negotiated labor contract between Mayor Allan Fung and the firefighters’ union. Fung insisted the contract would cost Cranston taxpayers only an additional $252,277 per year by the end of the contract in 2017. The Cranston City Council’s finance chairman, Steven Stycos, who previously worked for a union and seems to be well versed in what constitutes contract savings versus added contract costs, disagreed strongly with Fung. Stycos’ calculations show the added annual costs by contract’s end to be almost $778,000 per year - more than triple the cost Fung wants taxpayers to believe.

The easy way for municipal negotiators to gain union agreement when there is little money to offer them is to play with the numbers so that it looks to taxpayers like the union is getting little when, in reality, they are getting exactly what they asked for in the beginning. It’s sloppy, dishonest negotiating on the taxpayers’ behalf. In Cranston, Mr. Stycos’ numbers seem accurate and the city administration doesn’t seem to disagree, simply saying that their way of calculating savings is “how we’ve always done it” - even though the calculations appear grossly inaccurate and misleading at best.

Mayor Fung is a good mayor. He has done some wonderful things for his city and has caused substantial savings for the taxpayers in the past. However, with a possible gubernatorial run in his future, is he now be trying to improperly appease unions while pulling the wool over taxpayers’ eyes? Say it ain’t so, Allan!

PREEMPTIVE ACTION ON SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS: The Obama administration spent over a week trying to determine which side used chemical weapons in Syria, the government or the rebels, in order to determine the U.S. course of action. Having now concluded with near certainty that it was Syria’s dictator government that was the culprit, U.S. military action in some form is anticipated.

Who used chemical weapons should not have been the question. The mere fact that Syria possesses so many chemical weapons, including enough nerve and biological agents to kill millions, and that those weapons are not secure from pilferage by terrorists and jihadist groups intent on harming the U.S. should have been enough justification for the U.S. to already have taken at least enough military action to ensure the chemical weapons do not fall further into the wrong hands - regardless which side has already used them against Syrian civilians.

President Obama needs to think preemptively. Should chemical or biological weapons be used against Israel - by the Syrian government, the rebels or terrorists, the U.S. would be drawn into the resulting region-wide war and would suffer far more casualties than would be risked in a preemptive strike to destroy or secure Syria’s weapons of mass destruction.

CHAFEE AGAIN PUTS FOOT IN MOUTH: Some people never learn. Governor Chafee is one of them, apparently. A Superior Court judge imposed a gag order on all participants in the state’s ill-advised effort to mediate with public service unions over the historic pension reform engineered by state treasurer Gina Raimondo. As governor, Chafee is clearly a “participant.” Yet, at a Latino political barbecue several days ago, Chafee spoke openly about the issues being discussed in the mediation. Intentionally or not, he clearly violated the judge’s gag order. Not only were his statements foolish, they were illegal. This time he put both feet in his mouth!

It looks like Gina Raimondo is the only potential gubernatorial candidate who has the guts to stand up for what’s right for taxpayers. For what appears to be purely political reasons, Chafee pushed pension reform into mediation even though it had already been settled by the legislature and the matter was before the courts. Now Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, both potential candidates for governor, are making statements that support negotiating with the unions to water down the tax-saving provisions of pension reform.

Raimondo made pension reform happen in Rhode Island and she is the only potential gubernatorial candidate who has the gumption and courage to stand up to the unions and say it was the right thing to do and, rather than negotiate a law already passed, that we should let the chips fall where they may in the courts. Considering the widely-used anatomical term for “courage,” it makes one wonder whether there are any real “men” among the male candidates for governor.

RIDOT AND FARMER’S MARKET FIASCO: In 1998 the Rhode Island Department of Transportation paid $14.1 million for about 9 acres of property that was once the old Farmer’s Market behind what is now the Providence Place Mall. Even though the RIDOT needed only one acre of the property, it paid AMTRAK for the entire 9 acres. Nine years later in 2007, RIDOT sold seven of the acres, almost 80 percent of the parcel, to a developer for $4.4 million – only about 30 percent of the $14.1 million the parcel had cost taxpayers.

Upset that RIDOT charged such a low price, the federal highway administration made RIDOT reimburse it $4.4 million. So, in the end, taxpayers paid $18.5 million for the property and got back only $4.4 million in the sale to the developer.

Not content to walk away from the loss of over $14 million, the RIDOT now has decided to pay the developer $600,000 for short term use of a fraction of an acre of the property it previously owned and practically gave away to the developer. Is it any wonder that our state is broke when those charged with spending our tax money responsibly do so in such an irresponsible manner?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Rick Wilson, past president of both the Rhode Island and New England Press Associations, writing in Sunday’s Providence Journal, spoke about how we base our energy policies on scientific theories and consensus instead of on scientific facts, and how those policies place U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage in the global economy.

Regarding President Obama’s plan to increase federal revenues through carbon taxes on industry, Wilson reminds us that three fifths of the world’s population live in China and India – countries reluctant to impose any carbon restrictions, and that both countries continue to build coal-fired, carbon-belching electricity generation plants while their cars produce a huge percentage of the world’s vehicle-emitted carbon pollution. Wilson’s quote: “Unless the entire world agrees to eliminate the use of carbon-based fuel, we are on a fool’s mission to destroy our economy.  We are using a teaspoon to empty the bathtub while the water is running.”


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