October 25, 2014
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My take on the news
Will legislators muster courage to address end of life decision?
Lonnie Barham

RIGHT TO DIE: Massachusetts voters will consider a very thorny question on the ballot this November - the question of whether or not that state should allow physician-assisted suicide. The only truly personal property we have are our bodies and our minds. The ultimate freedom, a freedom we should all legally possess, is the right for that property to be controlled by no one but ourselves. The government cannot tell us who to marry, how many children to have, where to live, how much food to eat, or even whether to get up in the morning. Why should it be able to tell us when and how we must die? Every voter in Massachusetts who believes women have the right to control their bodies in birth control decisions should also agree that both women and men have the right to control their bodies in end of life decisions. Let's hope Rhode Island legislators in the next general assembly can muster courage equal to Massachusetts’ legislators and put this question on our ballot in 2014.

SHOULD INSANE CHILD KILLERS VOTE? Once again, Cranston public officials are making news with a controversial issue. Two members of the 3-member Cranston Board of Canvassers have resigned rather than approve an absentee ballot for a convicted child killer, Michael Woodmansee, who is now locked up in a mental institution in Cranston. The Cranston board lost a similar case in 2010 when the state Board of Elections ruled that two other murderers found guilty by reason of insanity were eligible to vote while still institutionalized for their insanity.
It’s too bad the two who resigned succumbed to the heavy-handed threats of criminal prosecution by the state board. Had they remained on the local board and refused to certify the ballot, the state board would have taken an action that would likely have ended up in the courts. Woodmansee has since dropped his request to vote but nonetheless it's high time for this issue to go to the courts on the constitutional issue involved. The Rhode Island Constitution says that a person deemed to be "non compos mentis," Latin for "not master of one's mind," cannot vote. Doesn’t it make sense that someone committed to a mental institution is, by definition, not the master of his own mind and is therefore constitutionally ineligible to vote? The courts should decide this instead of the Board of Elections.

WIND TURBINES AND BUREAUCRACY: We all complain about how long it takes and the miles of red tape government bureaucracy we have to wade through to do anything in Rhode Island - from starting a new business, to adding an addition to our homes, to simply strengthening a sea wall. Bringing this ludicrous situation to our attention lately are the three wind turbines that have been motionless for the past eight months at Fields Point in Providence. According to the Narragansett Bay Commission, the quasi-government organization that built the turbines, it took seven years for the commission to get to this point with the turbines because of the long planning and permitting processes; and this without any public opposition to the turbines. When a quasi-government organization has to take seven years to get something done that benefits all Rhode Islanders and when there is no opposition to the project, something is terribly wrong with our state's and nation's permitting and regulatory systems.

FINANCIAL LITERACY COACHING: General Treasurer Gina Raimondo is right on target when she says that Rhode Islanders need to "be smart about their money" as she implements a program that will help "financially empower our citizens." Her program will use volunteer financial "coaches," - accountants, credit analysts, tax experts, etc., - who will be organized through the non-profit Capital Good Fund and who will donate 9-10 hours per month to one-on-one financial coaching.
This is a wonderful program. However, for financial coaching to have a real and lasting effect in our state, it needs to also be done in our middle and high schools. Studies have proven that teenagers and young adults who begin their working careers with the habit of "paying themselves first" by putting into savings 10 percent of all earnings, before any other bills are paid and before any pleasures are bought, will have successful financial lives and comfortable, secure retirements.
Yes, let's coach our adults toward more financial literacy; but let's also place a strong emphasis where financial coaching can do the most long term good - with our 12-18 year old students.


THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: Once again this week, the two presidential contenders faced off before a national audience to sell their foreign policy wares to America’s voters. After 90 minutes of heated argument, interspersed with moments of histrionics and hyperbole – and some arrogant, condescending “comedy” by President Obama – the candidates seemed to have demonstrated they are both capable of making good foreign policy decisions for America. Although, Obama spent more time on personal attacks against Mitt Romney than defending his own policies, both candidates agreed that the most important guarantee that any foreign policy decision will be effective with our allies and our enemies is whether or not that decision is backed by American economic and military strength. Getting our economy back on track so we can once again exercise foreign policy from a position of strength seems to boil down to a very simple statement made by Wisconsin's U.S. Senator, Ron Johnson, "You've got two paths: growing government and debt or growing the private sector and creating long-term self-sustaining jobs." If you don't know which candidate stands for which position, you shouldn't be voting at all.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: During last week's televised Cicilline-Doherty debate, Cicilline said he should have used the word "threatened" instead of "excellent' to describe Providence's financial situation at the end of his tenure as mayor. Apparently amazed at Cicilline's slippery semantics, Doherty responded with, "I have never felt threatened, when I feel excellent."


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