On Lame-Duckedness

Brian C. Jones over at the Phoenix (via N4N) has a story on Governor Carcieri, the focus of which is a question: is the Guv already a lame duck? At the heart of the problem is the budget and the perception that Governor Carcieri doesn’t play well with others and somehow it’s all the Carcieri’s fault. Just ask Robert L. Carl Jr., “the tough-talking administrative chief under Carcieri’s GOP predecessor, Lincoln C. Almond.”

“I think the state is in big trouble, because we are not creating lots of new jobs, lots of new opportunities,” says Carl. “I don’t think we’ve made much progress.”
The former aide says the legislature — and many others in public life, himself included — may share some of the blame with Carcieri. {Gee, ya think?} However, Carl says, it’s happening “on his watch. If you run for office, part of the reality is you’re responsible if you win.”

Well, that’s true. And Carl goes on to talk about how divisive the Governor is. As if it’s a one-way street.

Although Carcieri has succeeded in trimming state employee payroll costs where others had failed, Carl says: “He did it at what short- and long-term cost? What’s the cost of having your employee base lose confidence in your leadership? What’s the cost of having people antagonistic to the administration, and who spend all their time in fear and worry?”

And what, exactly, was the alternative? Leave ’em alone and keep ’em happy? That’s worked so well…The reason the don’t like the Governor is because he actually did something. Of course they’re pissed! They’re losing money and benny’s. I understand their point of view, but it needs to be done. But that resentment has morphed into distrust, which is why they’ve interpreted anything the Governor has said or proposed regarding reducing the government payroll as an “attack.” Example “A”, George H. Nee of the local AFL-CIO:

“What bothers a lot of us is that there’s been this constant drumbeat of, you know, just attacks and denigration of the state workforce, and this playing one group off the other,” says Nee….Nee contrasts Carcieri’s style with that of another former governor, Bruce Sund¬lun, who came into office in 1991 while facing a severe budget crisis. Sundlun actually went to AFL-CIO headquarters to ask for suggestions. Out of that, says Nee, came “Sundlun days,” in which workers gave up some immediate pay for later benefits when conditions improved.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Carcieri try to do that early in his term only to be laughed out of the room? It’s no wonder that he concluded that the local unions wouldn’t be amenable to any further requests and decided to take it over their heads and, using the bully pulpit, go directly to the people. But he’s asked again in the most recent session, and again, the union has essentially said “no way.” (Though, as Jones writes, “The state and the unions are in secret negotiations about the current budget, which no one, at the time of this writing, would discuss in detail.”) So, Carcieri continues to “denigrate” the unionized state workers:

The governor says he has a new study showing just how expensive personnel costs are: the average state worker’s salary is $58,000, and pension, health-care, and time off bring the figure to $95,000. “All I’m saying is that we can’t afford it,” Carcieri says. “That’s sort of the campaign I’m on, if you will: to make sure that is understood.”

Additionally, even though the NEA’s Bob Walsh seems pessimistic–“I think it’s hard to get the type of reform he likes to talk about without involving people on the front lines”–and Marcia Reback (Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals) thinks the Guv is a do-nothing–““Governor Carcieri has played no role in advancing the state aid to education formula development, unless he has played a role behind the scenes”–that ain’t so.

As to “big picture” education reform, he’ll soon be naming an overseer of a “21st Century Education Commission” he mentioned in his State of the State message. It will include three working groups to look at consolidation or cooperation among the state’s 36 school districts, the unique needs of urban schools, and teacher pay and quality.

The truth is, the Governor has been battling “The Entrenched” since day one and they’ve been counter-attacking tooth and nail and still lobby hard for more money from the cash-strapped state.
In a perfect world we’d have enough revenue to fund the sort of safety net everyone in this state seems to want. (Whether or not that would be a plus is a debate for another day…) Surrounded by uncooperative politicians and interest groups, the Governor has been left to make the difficult choices on his own.
ADDENDUM: When asked about his proposed cut in services for orphans at 18 (vice the current 21), the Governor offered some perspective.

“My brother at 18 went to Vietnam,” the governor replies.
“There are lots of young people at 18 years old that are going into the military or serving, and he went to Vietnam,” Carcieri says. “People have to make decisions. And I understand, you know, life often isn’t exactly the way you’d like it.”

Generations have know this to be true. It’s called growing up. It’s about time more of the adults who claim to be leading this state do the same thing.

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16 years ago

Jeez there must be at least one more slimey union hack Brian C Jones (a union hack of many years himself) could have found for this story isn’t there?? lol
Carl, Nee, Walsh, Reeback. Why stop there? No input from Thuggy Montanaro or Larry wandering eye Purtill?? Guess Brian has an off day.

16 years ago

Don’t tar the Providence Newspaper Guild with the same brush you use to tar public sector unions. If you feel the ProJo isn’t as good a paper as it used to be, it’s because of decisions that are made in Dallas (with the Guild standing up for the rights of ProJo readers).
And the Phoenix is not a union paper.

16 years ago

What are you talking about?
Brian C Jones writes for the Providence Phoenix and Brian C Jones has a long history of union advocacy in his writing. Jones is union water boy. His counterpart at BeloJo would be Scott McKay. Rhody can you possibly explain away how the only people Jones could find to critique the governor are union wanks? Case closed! lol
Rhody do union folk like you ever think for yourselves? I’m embarrassed for you at how you blather the company line all the time. Do you ever desire for self respect and a soul of your own? It’s quite sad really.

16 years ago

Tim, you’re right. I believe you. I also believe members of al-Qaida’s cell in lower Manhattan got into Ground Zero and removed Mohammed Atta’s union card from the rubble so it could not be entered as evidence in the 9/11 investigation.
That’s ridiculous. But not any more so than your anti-union screed. I’m laughing at you, not with you.

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