December 18, 2014
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My take on the news
Vote for further study as good as killing bill on master lever
Lonnie Barham

WARWICK AND CRANSTON SENATORS DEFY CONSTITUENTS WISHES: When voters go to voting booths in November they should remember which senators voted to keep the master lever. Study after study has shown the master lever disenfranchises voters. The vast majority of Rhode Islanders are in favor of abolishing it while every clean government organization wants it gone, also. Yet some politicians refuse to honor their constituents’ wishes.

A committee vote to “hold for further study” is the legislature’s disingenuous term for killing a bill. By casting such votes, Senator Erin Lynch of Warwick and Senator Frank Lombardi of Cranston voted to kill a bill that would have eliminated the master lever. Thus, they voted to keep the master lever. Warwick and Cranston residents should remember these two names when they vote in November: L-Y-N-C-H and L-O-M-B-A-R-D-I. If you believe in democracy and fair ballots, you will vote against both of these entrenched politicians who seem to care little about democracy in our state.

PENSION REFORM COURT CASE LONG OVERDUE: Finally, after the state and public employee unions wasted well over a million dollars on legal fees, the recalcitrant judge in the pension reform case has scheduled the matter for court. Taxpayers and union members should place the blame for the delay and for the costly and unnecessary legal expenses squarely where it belongs - on the unconstitutional actions of an activist judge, Judge Sarah Taft-Carter, who erroneously decided that she knew better than the legislature and the governor. She was obviously wrong. Unfortunately, her foolish actions were very costly at a time when our state’s budget and our dismal economy can ill afford it.

RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS ALSO BLUNDER: We have become almost immune to stories of outrageous decisions made by a small number of public school administrators - the proverbial “bad apples” who bring discredit to all dedicated public school administrators. We seldom hear of private and parochial school administrators displaying such poor judgment.

Prout School disproved the notion that administrators of religious schools are above exercising bad judgment that leads to unfathomable decisions. Prout’s principal invited a far-right religious firebrand to speak to a captive audience at the school’s assembly. Surely, the principal must have realized the overly-zealous speaker would talk about his well-known fringe religious beliefs that are fervently anti-gay and anti-reproductive rights. Sure enough the speaker poured forth his over-the-top beliefs to the dismay of students. The principal later apologized for not stopping the speaker when he began offering his upsetting views. The principal also reported that students had told him “they felt trapped and used.”

School administration is an extremely hard job with little benefits beyond satisfaction derived from student success. And certainly school administrators are not infallible. Prout’s principal has expressed heartfelt remorse for his poor judgment and should be forgiven; however, all administrators should learn from this. Outside speakers remarks must be vetted ahead of time and they must be stopped if they venture into offensive topics.

REED A SHOO-IN, CICILLINE IN DANGER: A new Brown University poll of likely voters in Rhode Island has returned some expected results and a couple of somewhat unexpected ones. The gubernatorial race for Democrats is virtually tied between Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras, with Clay Pell not even an honorable mention. Among Republican gubernatorial candidates, Ken Block outpolled his Republican opponent Allan Fung by almost 4 percentage points. Jack Reed, our state’s senior senator, remains quite popular with voters; he garnered a 55.3 percent favorable rating for his performance in office. Congressman David Cicilline, on the other hand, fared dismally in the poll; his favorable support rated only 26 percent.

Right now the political picture looks like this. Reed is a shoo-in for reelection, it seems. Congressman James Langevin seems safe. The gubernatorial race will continue to be a horse race for both Democrats and Republicans, though Chafee-clone Clay Pell should just drop out now. And, perhaps most noteworthy, polls show that David Cicilline is so weak that he may be defeated this year.

DEMOCRATS PROMISE THE WORLD: The Democratic candidates for governor answered questions at a Warwick forum last week and, in accordance with the Democrats’ decades-long playbook, promised “everything to everyone”. From universal pre-kindergarten, to virtually free “cradle to career” education, to cheap housing, to low-cost loans for minorities and women, to a $10+ minimum wage, to free or low-cost health care, to eliminating income inequality, and on and on.

Of course, everyone would love to have all these things for free. The problem is how do we pay for them. Redistribution of income from producers to non-producers is already out of control in Rhode Island, indeed in our entire country. That’s what has led to exorbitant government spending, huge deficits, and sinfully high taxes. It’s not by happenstance that our little state is listed as one of the top states for the amount of income our citizens have to pay in taxes. And it’s certainly one of the reasons why a Gallup Poll says 58% of Rhode Islanders have little or no trust in government.

But will we continue to elect Democrats to fill the vast majority of state offices? Of course we will! Why? Because every day more and more of us are eschewing productive lives and jumping on the “give it to me for free” bandwagon that is paid for by that great government program called OPM - other people’s money.

FUNG BLASTS RAIMONDO ON PENSION REFORM: Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, also a Republican candidate for governor, had this to say about Governor Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a Democratic candidate for governor, regarding their support for continued negotiations on pension reform that, had they continued, might have added millions to taxpayer liabilities after both Chafee and Raimondo had proclaimed the reform was constitutional at its enactment: “If the governor and general treasurer believe the state would be successful in litigation, then why settle for an additional quarter of a billion dollars in new unfunded liabilities and $24 million in increased operating costs to the taxpayers? Why not fight for the taxpayers and the cities and towns? This is simply outrageous.”

Fung is 100 percent right! Why had Raimondo become so reluctant to take the issue to court on the constitutionality question? It’s simple; gubernatorial politics swayed her. As a Democratic candidate for governor, she was desperate to appease public service unions, even though it would have been at taxpayers’ expense.

HEROES, ADOLESCENTS AND JOBS FOR FATHERS: In a commentary piece in last Friday’s Providence Journal, an Exeter psychotherapist and grandfather, Michael C. Cerullo, spoke of our society’s loss of character-building story telling about family and mythical heroes, especially as told by fathers and grandfathers to adolescent boys, and how this deficit has filled adolescent minds with “bad data” coming from media-driven, culture-molding replacements such as “Gangsta Rap and Grand Theft Auto.” He says our hero narratives have been lost. He summed the situation up in his statement that “We must find ways to get mature, engaging, good men back into the hero-story business and support them as they clean up the bad data that has invaded the realm of so many young men’s dreams.”

Though Mr. Cerullo did not offer how this might be accomplished, it seems clear that creation of jobs is the answer. Until fathers have decent jobs that restore their sense of manhood and pride about raising adolescents, they will be unable or unwilling to help restore the hero-story narratives to the lives of their growing children. House Speaker Mattiello is saying the right words about job creation. If he read Mr. Cerullo’s commentary, he will surely struggle heroically to put action behind those words.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: From an editorial in the Washington Times that spoke about our state’s proposed 2015 budget: “Perhaps no governor introduced a more irresponsible budget, or intends to pay for it in more irresponsible ways than Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island...” More bad publicity for the Ocean State.


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