Taking Over Municipalities: The Governor’s New Toy

Somehow, I thought the state would go a bit more slowly when it came to using its new “tool” for taking over governance of Rhode Island municipalities:

Again raising the sense of urgency and severity, Governor Chafee appointed a financial commission to oversee East Providence on Tuesday. The decision makes the city the state’s first municipality to receive such intervention, renders the City Council a mere advisory board, and stunned city officials. …
East Providence officials were bothered and offended by the governor’s decision and dumbfounded by how it was delivered. They said they first learned of the news in a TV report Monday night on Channel 12, when Chafee reported being “very close” to appointing a financial commission.

No review, negotiations, or appeal. No judge, no legislative approval. Just the governor, invalidating the votes of the city or town. I can’t help but wonder what effect this will have on that famous Rhode-apathy.

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Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

Municipal governments have run amok, someone has to crack the whip. It is truly unfortunate that this is done by executive fiat, still was there not ample time to create a better system? The question is why that was not done. Everyone chose to turn a blind eye, a deomcracy gets the government it deserves.
“They said they first learned of the news in a TV report Monday night on Channel 12,” Where were they

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

It seems that the theory of government as a “cycle” holds true, at least on the municipal level.

Andrew
Editor
10 years ago

East Providence had been on its way to fixing its finances. Under the Anthony Carcieri school committee, it was taking steps that were regarded as dramatic (i.e. not treating expired contracts as if they were in force), and are likely to be more dramatic than what “a budget commission” appointed by the Chafee administration will do (“emergency” tax increases, maybe “consolidating” a few department heads mostly as show).
Then the people voted the Carcieri school committee & the old city council out. OK, they have the right to decide on the people who will set their tax rates and spend public money for them. The new officials should have been required to make good on their promises that they would basically revert to pre-Carcieri days, without implementing crushing tax increases, and then have stood for reelection. Out of this process, EP would eventually settle on a set of leaders who found a taxing and spending level the community could live with.
Instead, we’re now going to get a fix imposed by an unaccountable authority, which no one will feel an obligation to steward after the budget commission is gone. Anything the people of EP don’t like will be blamed on the mean budget commission (whose state members can’t be changed by the people anyway), and we will likely be back where we started in a few years. In this way, suspending democracy accelerates the Central Falls-ifcation of a community; it doesn’t slow it down. It was the break between taxation, spending and public accountability that created the original Central Falls situation in the first place.
And Warrington, will you be cheering, if binding arbitration passes in the next GA session, and unaccountable arbitrators start “cracking the whip” and telling communities it’s time for increased school-side spending and the associated tax-increases?

Monique
Editor
10 years ago

“Somehow, I thought the state would go a bit more slowly when it came to using its new “tool” for taking over governance of Rhode Island municipalities”
Scary. He accelerated the process by two full months.

ANTHONY
ANTHONY
10 years ago

Mama Govt. will gladly step in when the children misbehave. GM, the banks, AIG, etc. it’s happened nationally also. Which state will be the first to go bankrupt……….wanna guess?

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

Posted by Andrew:
“and are likely to be more dramatic than what “a budget commission” appointed by the Chafee administration is likely to do”
“A moose is a deer, designed by a committee” – T. Roosevelt

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

Unless something is done within a couple of years to curb the municipal pension crises and minimum staffing scams a whole bunch of places, starting with “The Capital City” are going to be in bankruptcy court and the pigs are going to have their pensions slashed big time.
Ga-Run-Teed.

Sean Gately
Sean Gately
10 years ago

Another scam to protect special interests vs private sector. As the takeover process only allows for raising taxes not addressing contracts. That was the reference to broad and diverse tax base. As shown by this administration there was no reference to a broad a diverse way to reduce expenses. I guess EP has the leanest running municipal government in the state.

David S
David S
10 years ago

Dan which one of the three are you suggesting?

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

I don’t understand your question, David.

Bill
Bill
10 years ago

Note that we don’t hear anyone even suggesting consolidation of the 39 cities and towns. Failure to apply this obvious, long-overdue solution will result in bankruptcy for lotsa RI cities and towns. It’s amazing how terrified all the pols are of this needed action.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

Posted by Bill:
“Note that we don’t hear anyone even suggesting consolidation of the 39 cities and towns.”
It only seems obvious until the nature of government is taken into consideration. That is why we were a republic.
To the extent that city and town finance problems can be dealt with, it is best done locally. The further the problem is removed from the voters, the less likely an efficient system will develop. The further a problem is removed from the voters, the more likely it is that the “politicans” will enshroud it. We must understand our heritage,honest government is a long way off.
If a public school system begins to fail, you can move to another town and still be in Rhode Island. What do you do when a whole state system begins to fail? (one could say that we are on the werge of that)

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

I think ‘closing down’ ‘failed’ towns and merging them with neighbors might be the only way to get out of contracts, now that ‘property rights’ to retirement have been somewhat established.
Also, outside of the relatively small direct fiscal benefit of having less granular localities, consider the ‘brain drain’ on a limited (and shrinking) population when there are 39 municipalities with positions, elected and non, to fill. In most areas of Rhode Island, half the ballot goes uncontested, or the choice is ‘pick four of the five listed’ (top 80%). I’d rather have slightly less ‘local control’ and select the ‘pick eight out of fifty’ (top 16%).

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