November 23, 2014
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My take on the news
Let them pay for the full cost of an emeritus plate
Lonnie Barham

EMERITUS LICENSE PLATES: It would be interesting to know exactly what it costs to design, set up machinery for, and produce a one-of-a-kind license plate for an esteemed former public servant who wants his own emeritus license plate. The emeritus retirees who ask for such plates are generally among the best compensated retirees in Rhode Island. The cost to produce an emeritus plate should be borne by the recipient – the entire cost of set up, manufacture and the $86 vanity fee. These plates are not the run-of-the-mill vanity plates; they are truly one of-a-kind plates. Our taxpayers have been taxed enough. Let’s not make them pay the production costs for “self-esteem” plates issued to well-off retirees.

CHAFEE EQUIVOCATES ON CICILLINE’S HONESTY: Governor Chafee has decided to back Congressman David Cicilline in his run for reelection against the seemingly stronger Republican, Brendan Doherty. When asked whether Cicilline should have been more honest about the financial problems facing Providence as he ran for Congress, Chafee would not answer the question. Instead, he equivocated by blaming state-aid cuts for Cicilline’s dishonesty. Chafee said that Cicilline should have been more critical of state-aid cuts and their effect on Providence. What does criticism of state-aid cuts have to do with being honest to your constituents? Whether the former Mayor was critical of state-aid or not during his candidacy for Congress, he certainly should have been honest about the dismal financial shape the city was in at the time. Instead, he proclaimed that Providence was “…in great financial condition.” Two months later, with a new and honest mayor who inherited a $110 deficit, Cicilline’s dishonesty became apparent. Exactly what does Governor Chafee not understand about this documented history and Cicilline’s fabrication?

THE SPEAKER IS THE FOX IN THE HEN HOUSE: After admitting automatically renewing $8.3 million in community service grants to recipients who had not asked for the money – some who said they didn’t want it, House Speaker Gordon Fox now says he will schedule hearings on such grants. This comes, of course, only after the press uncovered numerous examples of the General Assembly giving money away year after year to organizations that had not requested it. Does Speaker Fox plan to stop such distribution of taxpayers’ money? No! Instead, in an attempt to push more of our tax dollars out the door, Fox is having staffers send letters and take other proactive measures to contact previous grant recipients who did not ask for more money to make sure they really don’t want the taxpayers’ money. Worse, Fox plans no hearings on $2.2 million in legislative grant money he doles out through individual legislators as “carrot grants” to ensure legislators vote the way he wants them to on key bills. When a government official like Fox can so callously throw taxpayer money away, should any of us wonder why our state is in such dire financial shape?

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY: Sometimes when it’s least expected, a conversation meant to be kept secret is heard by others. Often it is an accidentally open microphone that spills the beans. That’s what happened to President Obama during a “private” conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in South Korea last week. Referring to stalled missile defense negotiations between the U.S. and Russia, Obama “secretly” told Medvedev, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” The White House tried to downplay the embarrassing slip while Republicans pointed to Obama’s statement as an indication that he secretly plans to make major concessions to the Russians if he is reelected – concessions that will be harmful to our national security. It certainly sounds like the Republicans are right. Obama’s words, taken at face value, indicate he is fearful of conceding any ground right now because of the upcoming election. If reelected, however, Obama’s newfound “flexibility” would allow him to give away the store, so to speak, regarding the U.S. missile defense system. Such secret plans, or uttering words that imply such plans exist, are not becoming of our commander-in-chief. What else is he not telling us about his post-reelection plans?

QOUTES OF THE WEEK: In a Providence Journal commentary piece, Steve Bucci attempted to convince readers that we all must get more involved in our government. Otherwise, we will continue to have “government of the government, by the government and for the government.” He also reminded us of an old saying by the ancient Greeks: “The price of indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by unwise men.” The current state of affairs in RI proves both quotes to be accurate and timely.


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