Oh Come On

There’s surely an explanation for this that would have merit in less strapped times, but as far as I can see, it’s difficult to justify given current circumstances:

Steve Kass, a former radio talk-show host and governor’s director of communications, is now the spokesman for the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency.
At $126,541, Kass will make about $50,000 more than the new executive director of the agency and nearly three times as much as its current spokeswoman. …
…Candidates were interviewed this week for the executive director’s job, which pays $74,168 to $85,220.
Bray said Kass would be spokesman for the EMA and occasionally, himself. The Rhode Island National Guard already has a spokesman and a public affairs team. Kass takes over from Brittan Bates, the current EMA spokeswoman, who is paid about $47,000 and will continue coordinating the agency’s training exercises.

Based on periodic experience and conversations with Kass during his radio host days, I like the guy and think his judgment generally sound, but are high-dollar communications professionals really a priority during our pitfall toward billion-dollar deficits? At the very least, shouldn’t a governor currently facing the collapse of his state — even if others had more to do with that state of affairs than he — be extremely concerned about appearances’ ability to undermine his battle against the corrupt and bloated status quo?

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
22 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David
David
13 years ago

Just when you think that the Governor may institue a policy of accountability, things like this happen. How do propose to eliminate 1,200 state jobs and then hire someone at such an outrageous salary?
Sounds like he’s worth every penny, especially when Bray says, he’ll (Kass) need to learn about what emergency management is. I would like to make $126,000.00 and learn as I go. Talk about plum OJT.
This state is going down the drain and it seems to me that everyone in a position to grab as much as they can, ie: teachers, politicals etc…are going to do it, leaving the rest of us holding the bag!

rhody
rhody
13 years ago

With the governor playing so hard to the talk radio crowd, this is inevitable. WPRO probably had to shell out for raises for DePetro and Torke to keep them off the state payroll, too.

Tim
Tim
13 years ago

Justin,
Your comments about appearances and the undermining of the governor’s abilities are spot on. What’s so shocking is how this governor is so learning disabled. Carcieri has been shooting himself in the foot with silly and embarrassing PR moves like this for years. Apparently he loves the pain and enjoys the public humiliation because he keeps doing it over and over again. He’s learned zero lessons from his 6 years in office thus far. None! The governor is a bright man but unfortunately his genius most certainly does not involve the world of governing or politics. Rhode Island has paid and will pay a heavy price for having a vacant governor’s office lo these past 6 years. I have no confidence Carcieri will suddenly ‘get it’ and start to lead this state. As Dan Yorke so accurately put it yesterday Carcieri loves to play the role of governor but has no stomach to actually govern. Any doubt Kass was shipped to EMA because Carcieri didn’t have the balls to fire him from his own office?
Not one leader to be found in a state with such a desperate need for ideas and inspiration.
We are so screwed!

Will
13 years ago

I will admit that on the surface, it may look suspect (though you should never take anything from the Projo at face value). While I can understand why people might be questioning it, one also has to recognize that communicating with the public about emergencies is a pretty important thing — and certainly something that was not effectively done by the former communications director. Perhaps they think having a familiar personality as the public face at EMA during emergencies will be more reassuring to Rhode Islanders (time will tell).
My understanding is although Kass will be making significantly more at his “new” job than his predecessor did, that he will actually be making pretty close to what he did while working as the governor’s communications director. It’s essentially a lateral move, not a promotion. Supposedly, half his salary for the new position will be funded from a federal grant and some it will come from the governor’s office budget.
If one is concerned about appearances, then, yes, it does “appear bad” at this point in time when we’re looking for creative ways to avert fiscal disaster. However, in reality, it’s not a budget buster. As most us know, the Gov’s people have never been all that politically astute — and occasionally give the appearance of being tone deaf. It’s more of a political gaffe than anything else.
PS By the way, I find it highly ironic that the Lt. Governor’s “Chief of Staff” is criticizing this. Talk about a job which should be eliminated!

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

Perception is everything. Thanks again, Don for taking the weekly RIGOP two steps back that are apparently required by law.
Morons.

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Sorry Will, there’s more than surface appearance problems, here. A spokesman making 50% more than an executive director? Why not:

  1. Pay the director more and require that he have a background in communications?
  2. Announce that all communications will be handled from within the governor’s office and switch Kass laterally that way?
  3. Create a central office from which to handle all communications and pay its members whatever they’re worth?
Tim
Tim
13 years ago

Will,
Political gaffes are all we ever get with this governor. Has no serious legislative initiatives on the table. Talks of medicaid reform in the budget but has no meat and potatoes behind the talk. When’s the last time the governor broached the subject of badly needed airport expansion in this state? Where is his economic development plan? His EDC team? Frank Williams has to send him letters imploring him to fill vacant judgeships.
What is Don Carcieri’s problem Will?
His problem is he likes to play the role of governor without actually wanting to govern. Steve Kass was a terrible hire from day one. He brought nothing to the table and Carcieri removed him as his communications director but doesn’t have the balls to fire Kass so he sends him over to EMA.
I’ll predict here and now Steve Kass will refuse this job and will resign from government service. Unlike the governor Kass will stand up and be a man.
Btw agree with you about being skeptical over anything appearing in the Projo but after reading that sorry story in yesterday’s paper about this same governor backing off a budget cut based solely on a Projo tearjerker (that embarrassing admission made directly to the Projo came from the gov’s own incompetent spokesman Jeff Neal) I figure this story is probably also true. The gubernatorial incompetence of it all rings so very genuine.

Jim
Jim
13 years ago

Wait a minute – where were you pinheads when Montabano and Murphy hired re-tread talk show host Dave Barber to create their own prime time Pravda show on Cap TV called “From The Grovel”?? At least Kass will be putting our real information, not just GA leadership spin and bull-blank!

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

Jim,
This governor is talking the talk on shrinking the size and cost of government. He walks the walk of an incompetent boob who’s giving fat paychecks to his political friends in the waning years of his crappy administration. Every move he makes betrays HIS OWN WORDS. He’s a hypocrite of the highest order. He’s the Lance Armstrong of putting your foot in your mouth.
We expect that level of crap from the General Assembly. It doesn’t change the political landscape like when the gov screws up like this.
Kass has to turn this job down, retire, go back into radio and get DiPetro’s gig.

Monique
13 years ago

“Pravda show on Cap TV called “From The Grovel”??”
… isn’t that “From The Babble”?

Ken
Ken
13 years ago

Look people,
Please be nice to Steve Kass.
The governor is trying to be nice and make sure Steve gets his ten years in for public tax supported State of RI retirement!
Don’t forget, Don and Sue can get out-of-state teaching credit added to their 8 years of service for their State of RI retirement!

Phil
Phil
13 years ago

One would think that after the nation watched the attack on NY and Washington in 2001 people would have had a better idea of the daily sacrifice of police and firefighters. There was an immediate recognition of not just the bravery of those trying to help people out of the towers and giving their lives as a result ,but we were reminded that our government did some things (police and fire protection)well. Of course as time evolved the mayor of NY and the new President did what politicans do and claimed credit for their standing up to those who attacked us and saw their popularity rise. There were the solemn funerals of course … more TV time for the “leaders”. What we saw locally was also of interest. Steve Laffey was elected mayor of Cranston.We know that he humiliated the lady crossing guards and made a statewide name for himself. While running up huge legal fees and raising taxes he started a vendetta against the firefighters… a little tougher than the ladies. While his efforts did not bring the citizens much he did draw attention away from his tax policy and resulted in statewide notoriety for his eventual run for U.S. Senate. The perception of firefighters as a result of the mayor’s efforts and a docile news media changed from hero to union goon. This occurred in a very short time after Sept. 11. Had the firefighters caved to Laffey when he threatned layoffs the organization would have been weakened. Their ability to protect the city residents would have suffered. (Also the surrounding areas would have suffered if Laffey had gotten his way in respect to mutual aid agreements that he wanted to end.) So at the nation level with its uneven response with homeland security ( who can forget… Read more »

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Phil,
I think that anybody who isn’t intent on assuming that our priorities are out of whack would understand that the effectiveness complaint is inherent in raising the issue at all.

Tom W
Tom W
13 years ago

>>Wait a minute – where were you pinheads when Montabano and Murphy hired re-tread talk show host Dave Barber to create their own prime time Pravda show on Cap TV called “From The Grovel”??
And let’s not forget our “Chief Justice” hiring (Dianna Koelsh?) as a full-time PR hack for the court system – as if it needs one.
This doesn’t excuse what at a minimum is a boneheaded PR move on the part of Governor (how ironic that it involves a PR position) – but that this idiocy is endemic in RI government.

Tim
Tim
13 years ago

Ken,
Only Democrats like yourself drool at the thought of a Rhode Island pension after 10 years of service. lol How very silly! Steve Kass made big six figures at WPRO. Left that lucrative job to join the Carcieri admininstration because he didn’t need the money. The Carcieri’s are multi-millionares. Guess again kiddo!
Phil,
Golly gee you wouldn’t be a Cranston firefighter would you? Or related to one at the very least? Could you possibly make more references to Steve Laffey in a thread about the governor and EMA? lol
Sorry Phil but your fellow Montanaro mob member Bob Warren richly deserved the firing he got. Bad enough he did nothing but sit on his a$$ during the December snowjob but to go on the radio and announce it to the world was not very smart. We need smart people running that agency Phil.
Sure you’d agree! Wouldn’t you?
Monique,
I was thinking “From The Horses Arse”
Greg,
Spot on! The great frustration is the governor does not think things through from a pr perspective before he acts on them. Then once the sh!t hits the fan he backtracks. So he initially looks bad and then he looks weak. The discouragement comes because Carcieri never learns from his mistakes and becomes a better leader. He just continues on the same downward spiral. Much like the state itself.

Ken
Ken
13 years ago

Tim,
I hope you understand what the word “Assume” means in relationship to calling me a Democrat.

John
John
13 years ago

I can understand the disappointment and frustration, but why the surprise? Don Carcieri spent his whole life in Rhode Island. He is/was a creature of the Ocean State’s “business community” such as it is. Anybody who spends more than 6 months in the state quickly realizes that said business community — as it stands today — is really part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Just look around — CVS? GTech? APC? Amica? FM Global? All compromised, in one way or another. Cut their deal and have kept their heads down ever since. Don’t want to rock the boat. Leave the hard work, or so they thought, up to organizations like RIPEC, the Ed Partnership, or the Providence Chamber. But look at the landscape now — CVS wondering what else the feds have in mind; APC on the way out; post takeover Brooks is gone; Fleet bailed when they took over Bank Boston, and Terry Murray is enjoying tax life as a Florida resident (grew up in Woonsocket, didn’t he, and knows what the score is here); Citizens/RBS — will be interesting to see if they stay now that Fish is gone; Textron — leadership really has little to do with the state — worried about maximizing shareholder value rather than Royal Little’s feelings for Ocean State; BankRI and Washington Trust — too small, too scared of what their credit portfolio looks like to rock the boat (and, hey, Merrill S. is a Democrat, after all); all the Defense Contractors on Aquidneck — no interest in state politics; Amgen — has realized what RI game is about and doesn’t like it (note where the corporate cuts fell); RI small busineses — most struggling, many have already made deal with devil (er., RI “system”) to stay alive; no… Read more »

David
David
13 years ago

Justin, I don’t think this is difficult to justify, it is impossible to justify. To begin with, Was the Kass hiring in the first place – to burnish the governor’s reputation- justifiable? How does this square with the governor’s stated goals of accountability and efficiency in government.

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

“Since demographic trends are against RI GOP, they might actually be better off running zero candidates for General Assembly this year; let Don resign and hand the keys to Liz Roberts. Then watch from Florida as the whole thing implodes, with the blame on the right hands.”
A familiar refrain I’m glad to see being echoed here. It’s about time we look at this as a serious option. Simply have the RIGOP “Opt-out” of this mess. Walk away. Close up shop. Give up the ghost.
I’m having flashbacks to the Simpsons episode where Homer runs for and wins the job of Sanitation Commissioner over incumbent Ray Patterson. Once Homer (The Democrats) runs the city into the ground, they beg for Ray to return and they have a big ceremony complete with a band. He comes out on stage, takes the podium and pronounces “Oh gosh. You know, I’m not much on speeches, but it’s so gratifying to… leave you wallowing in the mess you’ve made. You’re screwed, thank you, bye.”

Tom W
Tom W
13 years ago

Well said John. Can’t say that it necessarily completely explains Don Carcieri, perhaps in part (after all, he has been willing to criticize the unions, and for a Rhode Island businessperson that’s big). But you’ve certainly nailed the “big business” and “chamber of commerce” dynamic in this state. For years I’ve heard smaller businesses bemoaning the Providence Chamber and its (at least perceived) focus on larger companies and unwillingness to advocate for business / serve as a counterweight to the unions (unwillingness to advocate for any size business, much less small business). >>Textron — leadership really has little to do with the state — worried about maximizing shareholder value rather than Royal Little’s feelings for Ocean State I recall that there was an interview a few years ago with the then CEO of Textron (may still be the same person) – I believe it was in Providence Business News. Anyway, the question began by mentioning that with Speidel gone – which I believe was the genesis of Textron – that Textron no longer had any manufacturing in RI, and asked him if, were it not for the happenstance of having started here, would Textron be in Rhode Island today? Blunt answer: “No.” In other words, it’s headquarters is now only here because they started here, and the cost / benefit ratio between the expense and disruption of uprooting a Fortune 500 (or 100?) headquarters staff means that (for now) the tipping point compelling a move hasn’t been reached. This also explains why Textron is pretty invisible in RI – it’s only here due to historic happenstance, but doesn’t see RI as part of its future other than circumstantial happenstance – everything but the HQ is now gone from RI, never to return. And at some point the HQ itself will… Read more »

Tom W
Tom W
13 years ago

>>A familiar refrain I’m glad to see being echoed here. It’s about time we look at this as a serious option. Simply have the RIGOP “Opt-out” of this mess. Walk away. Close up shop. Give up the ghost.
>>I’m having flashbacks to the Simpsons episode where Homer runs for and wins the job of Sanitation Commissioner over incumbent Ray Patterson. Once Homer (The Democrats) runs the city into the ground, they beg for Ray to return and they have a big ceremony complete with a band. He comes out on stage, takes the podium and pronounces “Oh gosh. You know, I’m not much on speeches, but it’s so gratifying to… leave you wallowing in the mess you’ve made. You’re screwed, thank you, bye.”
Greg,
Perhaps we should call this the “Atlas Shrugged” strategy.
Thousands of middle class (and above) “John Galt’s” are exiting Rhody, deciding that its purported “quality of life” is increasingly becoming just sloganeering to mask the continuing public sector induced economic erosion and ultimate fiscal collapse.

Tim
Tim
13 years ago

John,
Agree with much of what you said however very little of your commentary applies to this latest idiotic move by the governor. This really is quite simple. When facing a huge budget shortfall and when seeking to trim state jobs by a thousand one does not remove a croney from one job due to poor performance and then place that croney in a much lower pay scale job but have him carry his big pay scale salary with him from the job he lost due to non-performance. Then you do not further compound the problem by listing work done for emergency pet shelters as a qualification for EMA employment. The decision to put Kass at EMA was idiotic and politically very damaging. The press release announcing the move was junior high school amateur. (Hoping this crap was not the handywork of Kass’ replacement John Robitaille) This behavior from a sitting governor in his second term. Mystifying! Embarrassing is too light a term to describe this administration right now. Don Carcieri strikes me as a smart man a good man with a good heart and a hard working man. Simply don’t know why he has never grown in the job. Why he continues to make rookie mistakes as a 6 year gubernatorial vet. It’s very puzzling and troubling and it’s hurting this state.

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.