September 23, 2014
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Pell, ‘a celebrity who knows nothing about RI needs’
My take on the news
Lonnie Barham

LET’S STOP VOTING FOR A FAMILY NAME: Clay Pell, the 31-year old grandson of the Rhode Island’s late U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, has indicated that he may seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2014. Pell is probably a very nice young man. Further, he may have many admirable qualities that would serve him well in political office. However, his primary asset is his name; and names should not trump merit!

Pell is nothing more than a celebrity because of his name, his marriage to Olympic skating star Michelle Kwan, and because his political name got him an Obama appointment to a third-tier position in the U.S. Education Department. He is also a Coast Guard Reserve officer.

Pell is one of thousands of very good Coast Guard Reserve officers; so that’s no qualifying experience to become governor. More important, young Pell is no Gina Raimondo. He’s no Allan Fung. He’s no Angel Taveras. And, he’s no Kenneth Block. He’s only a famous name, a celebrity who knows nothing about Rhode Island’s needs. He’s not someone who deserves consideration to be our next governor, so let’s stop talking about it.

It’s high time we stopped voting for candidates simply because of their family names. We’ve had enough Kennedys, Bushes, and other political dynasties. In the state founded on principles of individual merit, selection of our leaders should be made purely on just that - merit.

TAVERAS AND DAVEY LOPES SWIMMING POOL: Providence Mayor Angel Taveras has hit a snag among those voters most likely to support him in his likely gubernatorial bid in 2014. It’s the minority community that has been served for decades by the Davey Lopes swimming pool in south central Providence. His decision to close the pool and divert the money to other recreational programs for children has elicited widespread objections from the minority community. Even though offers have poured in to help finance the pool’s continued operations, to include an offer from the Republican Party of Rhode Island, Taveras steadfastly refuses to reverse his decision and has opened bids from companies vying to fill the pool with concrete.

With a likely primary election pitting him against General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who has more than $2 million in her campaign chest, Taveras will need the complete support of the minority community in Providence and elsewhere in the state. Though Raimondo is too professional to use the pool closing as a campaign issue, political action committees that support her will not hesitate to excoriate Taveras for his stubbornness on the issue. Additionally, his opponents will emphasize statistics on the abnormally high number of black children who drown, primarily because they never learned to swim since they grew up with no pool available as youngsters.

Perhaps it’s time for Taveras to admit that he is wrong and show that he can be conciliatory, an attribute that can very valuable to a successful governor.

NOW FOR THE REST OF THE STORY: First, the Rhode Island Ethics Commission ruled, against all common sense, that the state director of administration, Richard Licht, one of Governor Chafee’s closest confidants and a key advisor, is not in “a senior policy-making, discretionary or confidential position” and, thus, is eligible to skirt the Code of Ethic’s revolving door requirement and be immediately appointed a superior court judge if selected. As discussed last week, that inane ruling smacks of politics and favoritism and reduces the Code of Ethics to mere rubbish.

“Now for the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say. It has now been revealed that a law passed in 1974 that was clearly meant to benefit only one person, deceased former governor Frank Licht - Richard Licht’s uncle - will also apply to Richard if he retires from the superior court bench. The law, which has become known as the “Frank Licht” rule, says that anyone who served as a legislator, a state officer and a judge is eligible to receive in retirement 75 percent of his active pay. But wait; there’s more! How does the law affect Richard Licht? Without being appointed to a judgeship, he is eligible for a $49,122 annual pension. Retiring from the judicial bench, however, boosts his retirement pay to $128,691 per year.  What a story it is!

Fortunately, practically all senior lawmakers and potential gubernatorial candidates have indicated their objection to the law and have promised to work to repeal it.

WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: When voters in the 18,000 population Central Coventry Fire District rejected the district’s proposed $6.6 million budget last February, they were saying “enough is enough.” They voted down a subsequent proposed budget of $6.3 million the very next month. Finally, Monday night – after months of court arguments, a union contract rejection, and talks about liquidating the fire district - they voted to accept a proposed $5.3 million budget that is much smaller than what is needed to fund the district if it is not to be liquidated. The voters were, in essence, saying once again that enough is enough; either live within a budget that is affordable to taxpayers or liquidate. It looks like liquidation is on the horizon.

Finally, at least in Coventry, taxpayers are showing enough concern and courage to reject tax and spend politicians and their union backers. It’s about time! Now, if only the rest of Rhode Island’s taxpayers will be as courageous as those in Coventry and vote such politicians out of office in 2014.

EXETER RECALL ELECTION: It is unfortunate that voters have to resort to forcing a recall election in order to protect constitutional rights. The U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment is clear and the Supreme Court has agreed. Americans have the right to own and bear arms. Certainly, government can place reasonable restrictions on this right - such as requiring background checks and waiting periods. Government cannot, however, arbitrarily restrict gun ownership and the right to carry firearms once a citizen has overcome the reasonable hurdles. Yet, that is exactly what happens when the attorney general’s office is involved in issuing concealed carry permits.

State law rightfully requires that local police chiefs or other local issuing officials “shall” issue such permits so long as a background check is negative. The same law, however, says that the attorney general’s office “may” issue a permit - even when a background check is negative. This constitutes an arbitrary exercise of unconstitutional power by the attorney general’s office that is frequently used or abused.

Our General Assembly needs to strengthen the law and make sure all permits issued by local police chiefs and other local officials are entered into a statewide database so that police can immediately determine whether a permit is valid, and the law needs to require a waiting period with a new national criminal background check before a permit holder can purchase another gun. Additionally, the new law needs to read that the Attorney General’s office, just like local officials, “shall” issue permits to those who have passed the background check. Were this the case already, Exeter residents would not have had to resort to a recall election to protect their constitutional rights.

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ADMITS FAILURE: The Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Department finally admitted failure Sunday when it posted a blog apologizing to the American people for its ineptitude in failing to create a functional website for Americans to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  After three weeks of claiming the website was experiences “glitches” but was performing effectively overall, the administration has finally admitted that after spending millions of dollars and devoting countless man-years of effort, the government just couldn’t create a functional website. The administration is now calling in private experts to help it get the program on track.

The question every American should be asking is this: If the government isn’t even capable of registering Americans for health insurance, how in the world will it be able to administer such a colossal, expensive program as Obamacare?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: I was in Arlington, Virginia last weekend for the Army Ten Miler road race that starts at the Pentagon, crosses the Potomac, goes by DC monuments and government buildings, then crosses the Potomac again and ends back to the Pentagon. There were many memorable signs being held by onlookers along the running route. The best: “Keep going! You’re working a lot harder than Congress!” 


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