Governor Gina and the mommy problem
“Listen to your mother.” How many times during childhood did all of us here those words? Of course, one does not have to be your actual mother to assume a maternal ego-state. A mother theoretically knows more than you do, she is more sagacious as a result of her life experience, and she presumably has the best of intentions in mind for your future.
Of course, that dynamic may work within a family while the same type of relationship between political leaders and citizens surely does not. Our governor, Gina Raimondo, appears to wish to govern in a maternal fashion. No matter which plan she has endorsed or outright pushed forward, she has been appalled that we citizen-children have not complied with her wishes.
We have been incorrigible!
Whether the issue has been the back-door hiring of former representative Donald Lally, the mishandled truck-toll debacle, the more than unconventional hiring of a virtual innovation officer, a strangely financed proposed trip to Davos, Switzerland, and a heartedly endorsed Brookings Institute report which acknowledges the Ocean State’s vast array of problems and suggests a total intrusion of government to remedy what ails us, the majority of Rhode Islanders have not assented to the governor’s desires.
Certainly, part of the mommy problem may stem from Raimondo’s specific background. She is arguably the most accomplished governor academically that we have ever had. With a roster of educational triumphs that includes La Salle Academy, a magna cum laude B.A. from Harvard College, a doctorate in sociology from Oxford, and a juris doctorate from Yale Law School, one might begin to believe in one’s own infallibility and simply expect others to follow like kids trailing after a parent in a supermarket.
From the beginning of her tenure in office, Raimondo has acted in an unorthodox fashion. Last spring under the decaying 6/10 Connector, she announced her intention to install 17 to 22 toll-collecting gantries around the state to effectuate bridge repair. At first, the plan was loosely presented with an unsure design and a complicated financing scheme. In response to many objections from almost everyone except union interests, the proposal has been revised and now stands at an approximate aggregate cost of $1.1 billion over 30 years in order to realize about half of the amount to actually repair the infrastructure.
Although the governor expected citizens to follow her, and support her proposal, complaints erupted far and wide from individuals, businesspeople, and trucking associations alike. In fact, a recent Fleming and Associates poll reflected that only 43.9 percent of Rhode Islanders are in favor of the governor’s tolling and borrowing proposal. Furthermore, the poll results showed that 57.8 percent of Ocean State residents strongly feel that reallocating state money toward infrastructure repair would be preferable to any issuance of bonds.
The administration somehow believes that our rejection of the governor’s intentions is related to the public not being aware of the degree of decrepitude of our roads and bridges. The governor’s spokeswoman Marie Aberger stated the governor’s viewpoint: “We’ve neglected our roads and bridges for too long, and the governor’s call to end the politics of procrastination has clearly sparked engagement on this issue across the state.”
Does the administration think we have not noticed that for years our vehicle front ends have been consistently injured by the horrid condition of our roads? We all know that our infrastructure must be renewed. We simply do not embrace the manner in which the governor wants do effectuate the renovations. Also, we all know that our government has always practiced tax and fee incremental raises and the redirection of funds into the black hole of the general fund. Additionally, the revenue estimates of the toll yield from Class 8 trucks and higher are greatly in dispute. Thus, if gantries are erected, other classification of trucks will soon be included in the tolling revenue, and eventually so will all cars. There will be no choice because the bonds will have to be paid.
In a protest, multi-wheeled, heavy-duty trucks encircled the State House last Friday bearing the signs “Trucks Today Cars Tomorrow.” The governor needs to realize that we will not follow her unless the proposal makes sense to the taxpayer’s pocketbooks. It is not that we are exhibiting the belligerence of wayward children as our governor might perceive. It is our money, we want to be prudent.
The governor has also indicated that if the gantries come to fruition and truckers try to circumvent the collection of tolls by rerouting, she will engage the state police to thwart this action. To countermand that notion of government overreach, Richard Planka, vice president of the American Trucking Association, stated the following: “We also recommend that you inform legislators and members of the public that both the state and federal law impose limitations on the state’s authority to prevent trucks from using alternate routes to avoid tolls.”
If mother knows best in regard to truck tolling, then one might think she knows best in regard to the suggestions of the Brookings Institution’s report on Rhode Island. A six-month study financed by cryptic, unknown entities illustrates a plan to totally revamp commerce in the Ocean State. This template of economic renewal has been fully embraced by the administration. For example, Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor has stated that he and the governor are “paying close attention to the suggestions and expect the administration’s budget accommodations to link closely to this work.”
Centralized planning akin to the Supreme Soviet is the cornerstone to this schematic of servitude. The basic idea is to combine public, private, and philanthropic interests and engineer who will succeed and who will not.
The plan would require a taxpayer expenditure of between $70 million and $100 million. It involves planned industry growth in biomedical, information technologies, defense shipbuilding, and maritime industries, with special considerations and government augmentations to effect success for the chosen parties involved.
Brookings Institution propagandists Bruce Katz and Mark Munro have stated: “We are Bullish on Rhode Island. Let’s be clear on that.” They also emphasize that acting quickly is the crucial, implying urgency.
However, Gary Sasse from Bryant University’s Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership and Mike Stenhouse from the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity take issue with the governor’s enthrallment of the plan. Sasse compared it with the erstwhile, failed Greenhouse Compact proposal of the 1980s, and Stenhouse depicted the Brookings proposal as the means to create an “Elitist Cabal.”
Other questionable moves have been made by the governor. First, the manner in which she hired Lally was ethically provocative for someone who promised clean, transparent government. Second was her recent planned trip to Davos for her and her aide to attend the World Economic Forum. Strangely funded by a University of Rhode Island Foundation meant to benefit students, Raimondo apparently did not initially perceive the unseemliness of this particular use of foundation money. A surge of public animus regarding this misuse of monies caused the governor to cancel the trip. Although the governor cited an impending snowstorm as her reasons for canceling, it was obvious what the real reason was.
Similarly, her recent hiring on an “innovation officer” for over $200,000 per year, plus a $550 monthly car allowance, plus over $20,000 in benefits, has raised eyebrows. Moreover, this gentleman, Richard Culatta, will not even be required to report to an office in our state, for his position is “virtual.” Furthermore, he will be paid by the Rhode Island College Foundation, which is expressly supposed to be used for furthering student achievement. Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, former state senator and education expert Thomas Izzo, and many other Rhode Island notables have questioned the funding mechanism for this newly created post and the reasoning for the job itself. The administration is quizzical as to why so many are questioning this hiring.
Why are we not following Raimondo forward, with her virtual innovation officer leading the way? Simply, the idea itself is ludicrous, and the funding of the salary dubious. Maybe we could give him a virtual car instead of a car allowance, or perhaps pay him in virtual cash.
We all know that a mother speaks in superlatives in an attempt to teach her children to become self-reliant. A governor should present ideas, involve oneself in public discourse, work in concert with the General Assembly, and gain public support before dramatic action. That is democracy. We need you to persuade us, governor, and lead us – not dictate and scold us if we do not oblige your wishes.