Operation Clean Government Breakfast & Panel

Just checking in from Operation Clean Government’s event at the Quonset Club. A little shy of 200 people are here, many of them familiar faces, but not all. My initial thought is that there are a number of people from different segments of local activism. Local Tiverton folks, RISC folks, politicians, activists, and so on. OCG seems to cut across the categories.
Hopefully I’ll be more insightful after I’ve had some breakfast…
10:06 a.m.
The governor is giving a surprise speech, mainly focusing on pensions as the next stop. Some pictures thus far:

Governor Carcieri works his way into the room:

Carcieri at the podium:

Dan Yorke arrives & Senator Leonidas Raptakis walks the room:

Treasurer Frank Caprio moves table to table:

Len Lardaro at the panelists’ table:

Sen. Raptakis chats with somebody and RISC’s Jim Beale chats with RIILE’s Terry Gorman:

10:10 a.m.
Governor: “It’s time to ratchet up the game to a higher level so that the people who are going to make the votes at the end of the day understand.” Referenced OCG, RISC, the tea party.
10:13 a.m.
OCG’s Chuck Barton is pointing out people of importance in the audience, legislators, RISC folks, some business people, former OCG leaders. Also Colleen Conley of tea party fame.
10:19 a.m.
Dan Yorke has taken the podium. “My goal is to see if anybody will say something new… not repeat the same old crap.”
He also expressed hope that the presence of Jim Baron and Ed Fitzpatrick will ensure coverage beyond his radio show.

OCG’s Chuck Barton opens the panel:

Dan Yorke takes the podium:

The panel assembled:

10:24 a.m.
Dan presents the question as providing a diagnosis. “Quickly, because if I go to the doc, I want to know if I’m going to live or die.”
Treasurer Frank Caprio is trying to give a solution-type speech, and Dan keeps trying to drive him back to the question.
Dan “This is just a little group to practice on if you’re going to run for governor.”
“Everybody on this panel is a great citizen, but they’ve got to answer the question.”
10:32 a.m.
John Hazen-White: Higher taxes, fewer payers.
Gary Sasse: Tax structure
Elizabeth Dennigan: Lack of efficiency and transparency.
Leonard Lardaro: Costs beyond taxes. “Do a dynamic or temporal analysis.” Addressing the governor directly. “Can’t afford to raise taxes.”
10:33 a.m.
Yorke: “A lot of smart things are being said, but nobody’s answered the question.” In advertising, the message is the most important thing. “What is the product of Rhode Island; who are Rhode Islanders? You have to know the patient.”
“Can we have a philosophical discussion among the audience and the panel about who we are? What is the Rhode Island disease.”
10:36 a.m.
Caprio: “We’re the product of families that sacrificed for us to get where we are today. Are people willing to have shared sacrifice to get our government in order?”
Yorke: “Are Rhode Islanders of a mindset to know what quality of life is and to make it a goal?”
Caprio: I think Rhode Islanders are different. [Catholic and other community-engrained religious groups.] “That’s who we are.”
10:40 a.m.
Hazen-White: “[RI] is a very unique place from the standpoint that it’s so small.” Tremendous opportunities; tremendous problems. Tremendous ingenuity; tremendous people. “Perhaps the greatest available workplace of any place I’ve ever been.”
Huh? Based on what.
10:43 a.m.
Dennigan: “Something that really annoys me” is RI’s talking about all the problems. “If we’re always complaining and encouraging our young students to leave and go somewhere else… there’s no state that doesn’t have problems with ethics… [one film producer} said to me, ‘I just love Rhode Island'” — referring to the geographic diversity.
Gimme a break.
Dan: “Obviously, there are wonderful things about living in Rhode Island.” His point is that people who live in Rhode Island can be honest about the problems in Rhode Island.
10:45 a.m.
“The doctor doesn’t say, ‘You’ve got cancer, but you know what: you’re a good egg.'”
Lardaro: It’s a consumption-oriented, immediate state that’s too trusting in its leaders. “Tone always seems to overweigh accuracy.”
Sasse: What happened? “We became an entitlement-oriented state.”
Yorke: “Why?”
Sasse: “Those were political decisions.” Unrest from the crowd. “People voted that way. People were not informed.”
10:48 a.m.
Sasse: Rhode Islanders have an inferiority complex, founded in the principle that government owes you something.
Yorke to Dennigan: “Do we have courage amongst the people of Rhode Island.”
Crowd: No!
Dennigan: Blah, blah, blah.
10:53 a.m.
Yorke listed a pretty rigorous health regime and asked if Rhode Islanders would rather die.
Crowd: “They don’t believe they’re going to die.”
Hazen-White: “There is a tremendous lack of courage.” “If you keep doing what you always did, you’re going to keep getting what you always got.” He was “dumbfounded” that Democrats increased their share of state government. Voters… it isn’t their guy; it isn’t their gal. And another thing: “We got a union problem.”
Crowd: Cheers.
Hazen-White: “And damn it, unless and until that whole thing is dealt with — doesn’t mean it needs to be squashed.”
Caprio: “We have a special interest problem.” “It’s like a football game… If the other team doesn’t show up, the other team isn’t going to go home; they’re going to score touch downs.”
Yorke: Where was the other side?
The audience seems to think that he means the working people of Rhode Island. Dan’s rightly pointing to our elected representatives.
Dennigan: “We need more of the public doing their homework.”
10:55 a.m.
Yorke’s observing that none of the legislative leaders are in the room.
Yorke: “Do you think they give a damn?”
Crowd: No!
Dennigan: Thanked the leadership for letting her be here.
Crowd: What???? Shouts; anger.
Bad, bad answer.
10:57 a.m.
Breaking news: The legislative leaders advised Dennigan to participate in this event.
Yorke is mentioning that nobody from labor is in the room. (“Usually they hide with YouTube cameras.”)
Yorke: Bob Walsh is the only one who will come to the fight with his legitimate point of view.
10:59 a.m.
Yorke: “The general assembly runs the show.” “The sick people of RI have let the general assembly run wild.” To Caprio: How are you going to change that.
Audience member: “You’re grandfathered in.”
Caprio: “You dig in against the General Assembly.” Lay out a plan, and if they don’t want to go there: “If after the first year, if the legislature doesn’t want to solve the problem, it’s up to the leaders to get people elected who will solve the problem.” I [he] can pull those resources together.
11:03 a.m.
Yorke’s trying to elicit the one thing that the governor needs to bring things into line.
Lardaro: “The people of this state have to demand results.”
Yorke: “Do they know what result they want?”
11:07 a.m.
Yorke: “Is it possible that Rhode Islanders instinctively know that they don’t want a nanny state?”
Audience member: Define that.
Yorke: “I have to define that?” … We have to get out of a certain number of businesses in this state. Those who don’t listen to his show don’t seem to understand that he’s talking about government actions — whole categories of them. Poses the question to the panel, what businesses do we have to get out of?
Hazen-White: Government. [Too many people work for the government.] Sasse: Need efficiency. Pension reforms. Management rights. Tenure. (“I have people working in my departments who really don’t deserve tenure.”) Three things government should do are education, infrastructure, and realistic safety nets to move unfortunately people up the ladder, with emphasis on realistic.
11:13 a.m.
Yorke has redirected to what we have to get out of.
Sasse: “They’re tough choices.” A checklist, such as state libraries. “We haven’t discussed what we can afford. That’s why we’ve become an entitlement society, because we never assess what we can afford.”
11:16 a.m.
These pictures are a little out of order (I took them earlier), but I think they catch good moments.

Several times, the discussion dipped into a Yorke v. Caprio battle:

Several times throughout the event, depending upon what she’d just said, Rep. Dennigan looked as if she felt physically ill. Here she is after admitting that the legislative leaders had allowed her to participate. (Right click and choose “view image,” or equivalent, for a larger image.)

11:18 a.m.
Sasse: There are too many cities and towns.
Yorke: “Are you saying that we need to get out of the business of provinciality?”
Me, I disagree. I like the variety. Push more responsibilities to the towns. Reduce the repetition at the top.
11:20 a.m.
Q&A period. Many hands go up.
11:22 a.m.
The first questioner thinks Caprio is “grandfathered into being our next govenor.” “Do the right thing.” The question: Why don’t Rhode Islanders vote for the right people? Yorke changed to, “What’s the right kind of person to elect?”
Dennigan: Voters have to be discerning.
Hazen-White: “Being a public servant should not be a career.”
Question 2: To Dennigan: “Why don’t you stop the grants that are going out to everybody?” [Rub and tug.] Dennigan: We need more information.
After prompting from Dan, Dennigan: It’s not an equitable system, and it’s not dispersed equitably, so it shouldn’t be dispersed at all.
Question 3: One or two good reasons that companies should move to RI.
Caprio: “We’re here to serve you, period.” Shouldn’t be overregulation, overtaxation, headaches. “Every time business deal with government, it’s confrontational.”
Question 4: As a landlord, I want to know where are the people who are going to come into Rhode Island to live. A lot of people can’t afford to live here, and those who can are on system-supported incomes, and then the government regulates my property.
Dennigan: We need to keep the property taxes down, as a result of looking at our spending.
Questioner: I’m fed up with the little guy being tax.
Yorke: What are you going to do with your anger?
She goes to the statehouse. Has brought people together. Went to the tea party. “I don’t want to run for office until it’s cleaned up.”
Dan brought it back to the “who we are.” “You don’t want to enter the lion’s den until it’s cleaned up for you.” “We have mad-as-hell people” who won’t put themselves on the line to fix problems. “We’ll only put our toes in the water in our comfort zone to fix the system.”
11:34 a.m.
Next questioner: Cut taxes. Diagnosis: for years, the people who run this state have been running the state as their own companies… friends, families, business associates, and so on.
Terry Gorman of RIILE: I have a solution for the whole thing. “Why can’t the state of Rhode Island pass E-Verify?”
Dennigan: Kicked it back to the feds.
Caprio: “Pass e-Verify. We’re a country of laws, and we should enforce the laws.”
11:41 a.m.
RISC’s Harry Staley: Regionalization will cause certain people to object to sending suburban money to Providence. He thinks that regionalization ought to be RISC’s driving issue.
Another question for Dennigan; actually not a question, but a promotion of elimination of straight ticket.
Caprio answered: Eliminate the straight ticket.
Another question/statement answering the diagnosis question: “Rhode Island is a victim of rape?”
Next audience member: “We don’t know what we believe in, and we don’t know who to believe.”
11:48 a.m.
Question: Should there be a search for a new economic development director, considering that previous versions haven’t resulted in good people?
Susan Carcieri: “Because we are dominated by one party (without naming names), we have a serious problem.” What does the panel think about voter ID?
Caprio: Referenced Anchor Rising’s ranking of him on the top 10 conservative list.
Yorke: “You could save a lot of dough in a primary with Lynch if you hopped over to the other side.”
Caprio: “That’s not under consideration.”
A college student asked if the people who are leaving RI are graduates looking for work or rich people. General answer: both. I’m not so sure. I think the people who are leaving, but whom we want to stay, are the “productive class” in between.
Bruce Lang: The unions and social services advocates run the legislature.
Dennigan: 55% of our budget is social services.
Her answer to whether these groups should control government was that they have a lot of influence. Dan pressed for a specific answer, and she replied by bringing it to specifics about reviewing cases on their individual bases. As I paraphrased her earlier: blah, blah, blah.
11:59 a.m.
Rod Driver: “I want to throw out a specific suggestion… We need to cut back the mandates,” including prevailng.”
Panelists on what they learned this morning:
Hazen-White: The level of frustration and the regionalization question.
Sasse: There’s a need for change, but we don’t have a game plan.
Dennigan: Learned about straight-ticket.
Lardaro: People are concerned by a wider range of things than I knew about. People are getting upset about things enough to do something.
Caprio: Don’t give an inch; take the spirit of this room.
Governor Carcieri: “I’m going to become a radio talk show host.” “We don’t know what we want; we’re really confused.” Government is not the proper venue for charity and social justice.

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14 years ago

Meanwhile, in other local events, proven by election rather than speculation:
In trying to win the NY-20 special election, the RNC, NRCC, and their Republican allies went all in on the losing gamble that voters would prefer their ‘just say no’ approach to President Obama’s bold plans to get the economy back on track.
Scott Murphy’s victory in this district where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 70,000 represents a rejection of the obstructionist agenda and scare tactics that have become the hallmark of House Republicans.

14 years ago

I’ve never understood why RI had more than one “town”… nevermind deserved to be its own State.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
14 years ago

–A college student asked if the people who are leaving RI are graduates looking for work or rich people. General answer: both. I’m not so sure. I think the people who are leaving, but whom we want to stay, are the “productive class” in between.
If they don’t leave during working years because work keeps them stuck to RI, the “rich” retire and do establish residency elsewhere. Just ask any financial planner or CPA.
For decades college graduates have left RI due to lack of job opportunities here.
The “productive class” – middle and upper middle class people – are increasingly leaving if they can, for they see that the ship is sinking.
These two videos from AR tell the story. Note that the one with the “history” includes quotes from the early 1980’s regarding RI’s dysfunctional economy – from an RI General Assembly history of Rhode Island!
It hasn’t changed since then, and the productive class is increasingly realizing (particularly after last November’s election) that it probably won’t change for the better anytime soon, and likely not until after the total fiscal collapse of government in RI.
The Madams of the unions and poverty industry control the Democrat whores on Smith Hill, and until their red light is snuffed out RI will continue to decline under the burdens of political corruption, escalating taxes and hostility to business and, well, productive people. With each passing day more and more Rhode Islanders are realizing that, and voting with their feet.

14 years ago

York did not do a great job IMHO. Too many openended questions. I did not move in the direction I was hoping for.

14 years ago

Awesome coverage, Justin. Lots of juicy details.
[I would like to thank the leadership of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy for letting me comment here …)

14 years ago

Fascinating coverage. I think lots of speakers were on the money about why RI finds it so hard to escape the hole it is in. Here’s my take: 1. Small size, and a historic mix of ethnic groups and political history that emphasized tight family/tribal ties. This dense web of interconnections means that the losses and gains associated with any change are both visible and personalized. 2. That density of internal ties has limited the construction of external ties over the years. Hence, many people find RI a very provincial place. But that lack of external ties and awareness (e.g., just look at the negative response engendered by any comparison of RI to another state) limits the ability of all but the most forceful outside pressure (think financial crisis) to cause change in RI. 3. You also can’t escape the path dependence caused by RI’s cultural history. It should come as no surprise that the nation’s most heavily Roman Catholic state has a long-standing ambivalence towards private enterprise and the profit motive, as well as an instinctive desire to help the poor. Nor should you be surprised that the nation’s most heavily Italian state (and, more specifically, the state with perhaps the highest percentage of citizens whose roots are in the Mezzogiorno — southern Italy) is characterized by high levels of corruption and a tendency to see government as part of a spoils system for “taking care of your own.” Moreover, the states rising numbers of Hispanic residents, both legal and illegal, also come from cultures with this attitude towards corruption and government. Latin countries lack the same concept of civic virtue as found in Anglo Saxon and Northern European nations. 4. Finally, if you look at the General Assembly, you see a body finally balanced between two parties —… Read more »

14 years ago

“If we’re always complaining and encouraging our young students to leave and go somewhere else”
Um, respectfully, no.
What happens is, the recent graduate says, “Whoopie! I made it!” and begins diligently looking for a job. Those who geographically limit their search to Rhode Island look. And look. And look. At some point, he or she finds no suitable (suitable being defined as generally within his/her field and offering semi-reasonable compensation) jobs and begins reluctantly looking outside of the state.
In short, college graduates are not “encouraged to leave the state”, but rather, are driven out of the state by the decades of onerous, anti-business policies which have emanated from Smith Hill. And one particular party. Not that anyone is pointing fingers, Mr. Speaker …

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

Bravo John!
Often politically incorrect, but you’re spot on regarding Rhode Island’s dysfunction.
One point of disagreement though.
>>Neither has sufficient power, yet, to force significant spending cuts on the other and in so doing restore fiscal sanity
I believe that up until now the public sector unions and poverty industry have had a symbiotic relationship. After all, poor children require more unionized social service workers, ESL teachers, and on and on.
So the more poverty, the more the Poverty Institute’s “beneficiaries benefit” (not just welfare recipients but those who dole out the welfare checks) and the more the unions benefit – more unionized employees paying dues to the union bosses. (Consider the attempt a few years ago to unionize the welfare-funded home-based daycare workers.)
For a good description of this read Steven Malanga’s article “The Conspiracy Against the Taxpayers” (available online the the City Journal site).
However, as Margaret Thatcher said, the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money. That is occurring in Rhode Island, and the split you describe is coming soon. It’ll be interesting to watch the battle between the somewhat less organized / monied, but more numerous (and growing more numerous by the day) poverty industry and the more organized and monied but less numerous public sector unions.

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