A Couple of Comments on the VRT
Last week’s Violent Roundtable on the Matt Allen Show featured Rep. John Loughlin (R, Tiverton, Little Compton, Portsmouth) and Senator Leonidas Raptakis (D, Coventry, East Greenwich, Warwick, West Warwick) and is, as always, worth a listen. As one might expect, the three participants (John, Lou, and Matt) were in agreement on most issues, albeit with differences of emphasis, but two points stood out as worthy of further comment.
First is the humorous moment in which Loughlin caught Matt not knowing the names of his state representative or legislator. In fairness, Matt hasn’t been in Tiverton but so long, and I’ve gotten the sense that his living arrangements are transitional. Still, I’ve increasingly been wondering whether gerrymandering helps to create a distance between residents and their representation. We’ve got all of these towns, with their unique character, and representatives often cover swaths of three or four of them.
My senator, for example, Walter Felag, covers Tiverton, Bristol, and Warren. One needn’t drift into stationary Rhode Islandism to think it inappropriate to lump Tiverton with the other two, and one can be forgiven for not associating Felag with the town. (To be sure, I don’t see him around very often.)
Second is the disagreement of Loughlin and Matt on compensation for legislators. Matt puts a hard-line emphasis on the “service” in “public service,” suggesting that remuneration (especially healthcare) shouldn’t be a factor. That might have been arguable in a time when Americans’ lives progressed at a different pace, when families typically had one spouse staying home and seeing to property and family matters during the day, but in the current context, it pretty well ensures government by the independently wealthy. Or worse, people whose jobs allow for and encourage such participation, such as lawyers and union workers. Some sort of pay or benefits might make the difference toward encouraging participation.
Of course, so might changing the start time to an hour convenient for people who work more normal business hours. There’s a reason most public meetings start no earlier than 6:00 p.m.