Town Democrats Just Say Whatever
I’ve meant to address a letter in the Sakonnet Times (not online) that attacks Tiverton Citizens for Change, not because it’s particularly worthy of response, but because it’s such a clear illustration of the up-is-down rhetoric that our local opposition has decided to pursue as a political strategy. The letter, expressing concern about an “extreme right-leaning campaign,” is by Charlie Moran, arguably the town’s most partisan Democrat, and Nick Tsiongas, arguably the town’s most prominent left-wing radical:
The Tiverton Democratic Committee believes we need to work together to solve our problems rather than making unfounded accusations and turning residents against each other. Our town council and school committee need our support and input as the make difficult financial decisions, which will include negotiating concessions with all our unions.
The letter itself is an attempt to turn residents against each other, and its substantive claims are based on unfounded accusations. On the latter count, there are two examples:
First, Tsiongas and Moran bring up the controversy, mostly out of public view, around an attempt by some to change state law such that a simple majority at the financial town meeting could vote to exceed the cap on budget increases. That story culminated in a town council meeting at which not only a large number of concerned residents, but also Harry Staley of the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition showed up in opposition. In a curious maneuver that I’ve seen before, the solicitor raised the issue during his comment period (just about dead last on the agenda) and Councilor Louise Durfee practically jumped out of her seat to pivot the discussion away from where everybody expected it to go and toward an attack on TCC. Had we not been there, the result may have been quite different. (I’ll have video of the strange moment up later this week.)
Specifically, Tsiongas and Moran note a press release from TCC President Dave Nelson citing “months of negotiation behind closed doors” and an effort at “keeping the effort under wraps, with the topic quietly inserted into the agenda.” They emphasize that the negotiations were part of a lawsuit, and so were kept secret for that reason, but the legality of secrecy does not negate the fact that it is, indeed, out of public view. Moreover, it is entirely true that the issue was slipped onto the agenda in a surreptitious way, appearing on the published agenda just a couple of days before the meeting and, as I said, raised during the solicitor’s segment at the tail end of a predictably long meeting.
Second, the Democrat duo raise the school committee meeting at which Dave Nelson and I suggested that freezing or slightly reducing salaries/benefits would be a preferable approach to resolving financial difficulties to cutting pencils, technology, and programs:
… the TCC called on the school committee to unilaterally impose contract terms on our school employees, a strategy that is not only illegal in Rhode Island but also not in the best interests of our community. A similar strategy pursued in a neighboring town has resulted in legal fees in excess of $750,000 and has torn that community apart.
What is tearing communities apart is the ever-increasing tax burden that goes to the benefit of highly paid adults, a majority of whom often live out of the town in question, even as children cannot grasp simple mathematics and science. The citation of East Providence’s legal bills is misleading, inasmuch as that town has already blazed the trail. The law is such that each town needn’t reinvent the wheel every time. Additionally, as the court battles in East Providence prove, it isn’t a statement of fact that its methods (which are currently in effect, saving the town much more money than the litigation costs, I believe) have been “illegal.” That is the question that the judiciary is considering.
Most conspicuous of all, however, is Tsiongas and Moran’s complaint about Harry Staley’s presence at the town council meeting. Shall we expect the Democrats to speak out every time a union fills the school gymnasium with out-of-town hacks who jeer at residents who have the courage to speak up? Are we to believe that they would hesitate to bring in state-level interests when local bodies are considering matters of statewide concern?
No. We need only understand that the letter is mere political calculation that will disappear into the continuing noise of the left-wing and partisan political strategy bent on attacking Tiverton residents with opposing views, tying the hands of grassroots groups that seek to counterbalance entrenched interests, and distorting the issues to the benefit of unions.