Today whether it is in Washington or our own backyard, political parties have embarked on a campaign to attack one another in a very personal destructive manner. Even worse, ideas that are good are derailed simply because the opposing party does not want that person to succeed. Frankly American’s are sick of this game, yet Warwick GOP chairman Danny Hall is taking that same approach. In an email message sent by RIGOP Volunteer Coordinator, Eileen Grossman to all Rhode Island Republicans, Mr. Hall writes, “We as a committee and fellow Republicans can no longer stand on the side lines and watch our mayor [Scott Avedisian] continue to take cheap shots. It’s about time we ... take some shots of our own”. Now, if Mr. Hall wishes to engage in a public policy debate on fiscal matters related to the budget, I don’t think anyone would fault him. However, that’s not what he is advocating. In organizing this campaign he has targeted several prominent Warwick conservative activists including me on his hit list. Simply put his strategy is to discredit anyone who disagrees with the mayor’s tax and spend fiscal policy. Why else would his attack on former Warwick Republican mayoral candidate Richard Langseth be so disparaging? He writes, “Richard Langseth couldn’t run a Del’s lemonade stand ... but yet he feels he can run the City of Warwick better.” Instead of targeting him for a smear campaign, Mr. Hall should be congratulating independent Rob Cote for getting Warwick citizens involved with their government by organizing the car tax protest and he should be recruiting him to run for office as a conservative Republican. I guess advocating for cutting spending to balance the budget instead of raising taxes, is not the type of fiscal policy supported by Chairman Hall and the Warwick Republican Party. Take it from me; it surely isn’t supported by the Warwick Democrat Party. One person can’t have all the answers and clearly the facts demonstrate that the mayor’s fiscal policies are not addressing the city’s most pressing budgetary issues. Local tax dollars appropriated to support the city budget have increased over 50 percent since 2007 while only 4 percent for schools. City spending is at an all time high and for the first time under the mayor’s administration incurred a deficit in the last fiscal year. School spending is below 2008 levels. The Warwick Beacon recently reported that Mayor Avedisian admitted that the city “need(s) to address the pension problem now” since it cannot sustain future required pension contributions. Yet the pension reforms just enacted by the mayor did nothing to reduce the combined approximate $600 million unfunded pension and healthcare liability in the city. Warwick Democrats are just as culpable as the Republicans. Having a majority of members in office for years and the power to make change, they have done little to solve fiscal problems because most have adopted the “go-along to get along” philosophy and do not have the courage to make difficult decisions. We can’t sustain that way of thinking any longer. Conservative fiscal philosophy must override party affiliation even if, as in Mr. Langseth case and mine, it isolates us from the tax and spend philosophy of both of our parties. What we must continue to do is to try to change that mind set in each party. Mr. Hall’s problem is that he is conflicted between thinking for himself and pleasing the old Republican soldiers on the city committee who believe their job is to protect the mayor’s spending policies without question, even when it has been proven they clearly are not working. It’s too bad Mr. Hall has acquiesced to this distorted thinking because on occasion, he has shown signs of independence needed to fix the city’s problems. Last month after witnessing my speech at the car tax revolt taking on council members from each party, he wrote to me stating, “Bob, we may have our differences and may not agree on every issue but I feel I owe you an apology. Let me know how I can help”. He can help by moving his party more towards a fiscal conservative approach and distinguish the Republican party from the Democrat party in Warwick. Today there practically is no difference. Mr. Hall should contact the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition or read the blog Anchorrising.com to better understand the type of fiscal conservative platform needed to fix Warwick’s problems And finally he should focus attention on the issues and more importantly solutions to the fiscal problems plaguing our city and not be afraid to question current policy, instead of embarking on a plan to personally attack the few fiscal conservatives left in the city.
Robert Cushman (Cushmanr@cox.net) is a Democrat former Warwick City Councilman and former school committee Chairman.