To the Editor:
As a state senator, I do what I think is right.
That’s how I’ll act, and that’s how I’ll vote.
Last Thursday, a sizeable crowd of firefighters picketed a fundraiser I held at Iggy’s in Oakland Beach. Their contention was that, because of my vote on 2019-S 747 and comments on the floor of the Senate, I don’t care about firefighter safety. That’s simply not true. I am deeply concerned for the safety of firefighters, as well as the public.
Unfortunately, my words were taken out of context in video snippets of my remarks. From that, the contention was that I said firefighters don’t care about their own safety. I did not say that, and never would. Of course firefighters are concerned for their own safety.
The firefighters were exercising their First Amendment rights by protesting, and I have no problem with that. However, I was disappointed that many of them did not know that I had apologized. In mid-May, when I learned that my remarks had been considered offensive by some,
I spoke with union officials Paul Valletta and Michael Carreiro and told them that I did not mean to offend the firefighters. Understanding that I did, though, I apologized.
For every bill, though, there are arguments in support and against. I didn’t consider the safety argument to be strong, given the extent of voluntary OT many firefighters choose to take. I’ve heard this from firefighters before. I simply noted my thoughts on that argument. At the same time, I spoke about the dangers firefighters face, on our behalf, on a regular basis. I made clear that I appreciate that. I appreciate the service of all those who put themselves in harm’s way.
I am a new senator. I don’t purport to be a veteran speech-giver. So, sometimes what I’m looking to say might not come across perfectly. But I wish the folks picketing had known that I had apologized – long before my event.
These are difficult times, financially, in Warwick and elsewhere. We are seeing cities and towns have a lot of trouble balancing their budgets. I fully expect firefighters and other workers to advocate for themselves and try to get everything they can get. It’s elected officials who have the obligation to look at all sides of every issue and make the tough choices.
I appreciate the support I’ve received from firefighters. While we may not always agree on everything, I’m always grateful to them for the work they do to keep us safe. I’ll work to help them do that, just as I work every day to do what I think is right for the people of Warwick and the State of Rhode Island.
Senate District 30