Monday, January 26, 2009

Cicilline: Believe Him or Not(?)

Let’s get this straight. The former Tax Collector in Providence states that on numerous occasions he was pressured to give preferential treatment to friends of and contributors to Mayor Cicilline – including not cashing a $75,000 bad check written by the mayor’s brother.

1) The mayor himself acknowledges that he stepped in on behalf of these friends and contributors.

2) Two (not just one, but two) senior staff members of the mayor state that they spoke to the mayor regarding his brother’s bad check.

3) According to one of these mayor’s aides, the mayor simply stated (about the $75,000 check), “Why would he do something like that?”, but did not even give the aide any instruction as to how to handle the situation.

4) This above mentioned Tax Collector was put on paid leave shortly after a ProJo story reported the mishandling of the mayor’s brother’s check, yet the mayor states that “management deficiencies” on behalf of the Tax Collector had convinced the mayor to get rid of him just prior to the ProJo story – even though he (the mayor) took no action toward this end until after the ProJo story triggered a possible corruption investigation in the Cicilline administration.

The statements above are the reported series of events regarding the Tax Collector’s Office under the Cicilline Administration. Inventoried on the following list are the explanations of these reported facts by Mayor Cicilline.

1) The mayor states that there have been no improprieties in this area by himself or his staff. According to the mayor, “Campaign contributions should not disqualify someone from relief from unfair treatment”.

We are left to take the mayor’s word that despite the “appearance” of preferential treatment, there was none

2) The mayor’s “explanation” to these official statements made to authorities investigating possible corruption under the Cicilline Administration. “I told him (former Chief-of-Staff Christopher Bizzacco) that I know that you think that we had a conversation about this (John Cicilline’s $75,000 check) but you’re mistaken.”

Despite overwhelming evidence that the mayor was informed about his brother’s bad check early on in the process, we are left to accept the mayor’s explanation that he remembers what didn’t happen and that two of his top aides are mistaken in their remembrance of what they say did happen.

3) The mayor’s non-committal as to a plan of action regarding his brother’s bad check left the decision as to whether or not to go after the brother of the man who controls their employment squarely on the shoulders of his aides. This ‘dodging of the tough decisions’ is not the type of leadership we need from our elected officials.

This type of action is, however, exactly the type of behavior one would expect by a person who wanted the “issue” to disappear but did not wish to go “on record” as to having been responsible for the decision.

4) The suspension of the Tax Collector after the ProJo story accused the mayor of inappropriate interference on behalf of his friends and contributors would seem to be nothing more than political retribution. The mayor, however, states that the decision to replace the Tax Collector was made before the story broke – he had simply not shared this decision with anyone else.

We are forced to believe the mayor at his word on this issue, despite the obvious conclusion one would arrive at after reviewing the chain of events.

The only way to avoid the acceptance that there was, at minimum, inappropriate behavior and possibly full-fledged corruption in the Cicilline Administration is to accept the word of the mayor over the word of his former Tax Collector; to accept the word of the mayor over the word of two (2) of his top aides; to accept the word of the mayor over common sense regarding a seemingly political retaliation on his part against the person who began the allegations against him.

For myself, I don’t have that type of blind belief in David Cicilline. I have personal knowledge of lies he has boldly told in the past.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Governor's Irresponsible Proposals

The Governor’s Irresponsible Proposals

In the year 2012 (or so) former RI Governor Donald Carcieri will be the defendant in a wrongful death suit brought by the widow of a RI firefighter, police officer or the family members of multiple fire victims.

Unfortunately for the taxpayers of RI, a wrongful death suit will also be brought against the State of RI and a city or town to be named later by the same victims.

The exact legal issues and the time frame stated here are not written in stone, but the fact that people will die in this state as the result of Governor Carcieri’s proposed changes in his supplemental budgetary proposals is, in my opinion, only a matter of when, who and how many people will die. The changes he proposes are far-reaching and very dangerous, not to mention completely irresponsible.

Public Safety is not a convenience; it is a necessity, and should always be a priority – not only when the economy is flourishing. In fact, when the economic climate is at its worst is when the greatest demands are placed on both police and fire departments.

For those of you who may not be aware of the changes the governor is proposing that would trigger a chain of consequences that would result in decreased public safety throughout the state of RI (particularly in fire departments), I will attempt to connect the dots.

First of all, the governor’s proposed supplemental budget cuts millions of dollars in promised state aid to RI’s cities and towns. This is a substantial amount of money per town. Mayors and Town Managers throughout the state are already publicly stating that layoffs of municipal workers are the most likely place to cut such an amount from their budgets. This, in itself, is a matter of great concern. RI’s unemployment level is already the 2nd highest in the nation. These types of layoffs would certainly gain us the dubious distinction of being #1 once again.

The sole ‘safety valves’ in the present system that could keep desperate Mayors and Town Managers from ravaging their public safety personnel, to a more dangerously critical level than they are at present, are the minimum staffing provisions in the respective CBA’s (Collective Bargaining Agreements) with their police and fire unions. If not for these provisions, there would be nothing to safeguard the minimum number of firefighters or police officers on the street at any given time.

Governor Carcieri, being well aware of the minimum staffing levels in public safety contracts, has also proposed that police and fire unions be allowed collective bargaining and the right to “binding” arbitration on issues that cannot be resolved via negotiations. Police and fire unions already have these ‘rights’ under RI law. Governor Carcieri is, however, proposing changes to these rights as currently enforced.

He proposes that the right to “binding” arbitration remain intact for monetary issues regarding salaries and benefits. He wants to take away the union’s right to “binding” arbitration regarding minimum staffing levels, minimum equipment levels, and deployment of personnel issues. In other words he wants to put the question of how many police officers or firefighters are on duty at one time into the hands of the politicians. He wants to give the politicians the right to close fire stations (by not replacing worn out Engine companies or Ladder companies). He wants to allow politicians to double up police officers and cut the number of vehicles responding to calls in half – or worse.

His irresponsible handling of the State’s fiscal crisis is putting the cities and towns in desperate financial shape. They have been put in a position where the only options afforded them are to raise taxes or to cut services. These types of choices are never easy but, no matter how desperate the economic climate, we should never allow our citizens to be placed in harm’s way to help balance some politician’s budget.