Losing Faith in Our Government
Ed Achorn joins those of us for whom the just-passed session of the General Assembly had the effect of bringing the representative nature of our state government into question:
Rhode Island leaders enjoy having the power to defy the public and render its representatives impotent.
But that power trip costs us dearly. An informed and active citizenry actually makes a state stronger and more vibrant. Citizens bring ideas to the table, help stop bad legislation, and form an important check against public corruption. That makes for a better-run state, with a stronger economy, less waste, lower taxes and fewer cozy deals for special interests.
I’ll tell you truly that I’m finding the evidence to point toward the possibility that our current leadership actually does represent the majority of Rhode Islanders — a blend of self-dealing interests (whether corrupt politicians, unions, or welfare-statists) and apathetic sheep beholden to some notion of government, society, and themselves that reality ought long ago to have proven as false. I mean, look to Andrew’s review of the new municipal receivership law, which (in advance) removes from the table of struggling cities and towns the possibility of repairing the single greatest factor in local governments’ travails: excessively generous employment contracts.
More fundamentally, though, consider a provision of the law that Andrew had previously highlighted:
Upon the appointment of a receiver, the receiver shall have the right to exercise the powers of the elected officials under the general laws, special laws and the city or town charter and ordinances relating to or impacting the fiscal stability of the city or town including, without limitation, school and zoning matters; provided, further, that the powers of the receiver shall be superior to and supersede the powers of the elected officials of the city or town shall continue to be elected in accordance with the city or town charter, and shall serve in an advisory capacity to the receiver.
Financial difficulty, at the municipal level, is now cause for the elimination of democracy, assuming the benevolence of a state-appointed dictator. The only way this provision would make any sense whatsoever would be if the state government clearly understood our political and economic problems and would provide a better result. And the only perspective from which that opinion is conceivable is that of the special interests who are strangling the state. (This, I’d emphasize, is the problem with “regionalization.”)
The behavior of the governments of the cities and towns and of the state as a whole reinforce each other and suggest that a handful of aristocrats are not to blame. They are merely puppets in a corrupt system with no chance of reform or improvement. There will be no outrage as the strategies for keeping the scam alive become more and more egregious as a matter of lost democracy and oppressive taxation. Most Rhode Islanders will lack the awareness to understand the origin of their increasing pain, and most of those who do will take the attitude of, “that’s not how it should be; oh well.”