The Invisible, the Unaccountable
A growing grumble in the comments sections relates to the odd exclusion of Rhode Island state legislators from news coverage of events in the state, particular related to its looming collapse, and the accusation is certainly something worth watching. The print edition of a Providence Journal story about the latest annual meeting fo the RI Economic Summit, for example, bears the lead “small-business people talk to the legislators,” but the text doesn’t mention a single legislator by name, much less by opinion. Reporter Paul Grimaldi writes:
… both the businesspeople and the elected officials assembled in a meeting room at the university’s culinary museum spoke as if they all understood a “paradigm shift” is needed to get the state’s finances back in order.
Governor Carcieri gets a quotation… and a criticism:
“You can’t just sit back and say we’re going to keep doing it the same way we’ve always been doing it,” Governor Carcieri said. “That isn’t a formula for success.”
But Christopher Nichols, of Ettem USA, of Warwick, which develops underwater propulsion systems, asked whether the governor’s efforts to consolidate agencies wouldn’t simply create new bureaucracies.
Lieutenant Governor Roberts gets to make a sound-good political statement (without criticism):
Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts added: “Tough budgets are an enormous opportunity. You can have conversations you don’t normally have. The politics of polarization, of name calling, finger-pointing are not going to work here.”
Earlier meetings with actual legislators are noted:
Earlier in the day, the businesspeople met with state legislators in group discussions centered on five broad policy topics, all but one a repeat of the debate from the first small-business summit held last year. The topics were: taxes and budget; regulations; health care; education/work force development; and the newest, energy.
But no legislators are made to go on record with a response (let alone have their names associated with a particular criticism of the General Assembly). Moreover, after a list of legislative priorities for the business group, Grimaldi informs the reader that:
Not one of the proposals that came out of last year’s summit, including revisions to the stringent new fire code, made it into law.
Small businesses are a group without a champion in the legislature. Of course, as far as the reader can tell, they are also a group without any vocal, principled opponents. One can hardly doubt that this is how the my-guy’s-alright attitude is perpetuated in Rhode Island.
I’ve emailed Senate President Montalbano, House Speaker Murphy, and my own two representatives for comment. I’ll let you know whether they’ve anything to say. In the meantime, feel free to email them your own questions or comments, even if only to encourage them to answer mine.