Devious Democracy

This time of year, you can tell quite a bit about a writer or publication by the items it highlights from the past year and wishes it expresses for the coming one. This gem of a wish, from the Sakonnet Times, is an excellent example:

That Tiverton’s new Financial Town Referendum really does bring peace and fair play to budgets (and that it’s not merely a devious way to cut the life out of town services).

As much as I hate to play the villain, I’d like to take a moment to emphasize the deceptiveness of my master plan by revealing my scheme — along with 50 other petitioners — to place a 0%-increase budget on the FTR ballot. Once the petitioners’ identities are reviewed and verified by the town clerk and officially in the public record, my next step will be to sneakily make the case for my proposal in every available public forum. Then, on the day of the referendum, perhaps some of my co-conspirators will join me in a stealth operation to stand outside polling places with large, brightly colored signs encouraging voters to consider our case when they engage in the most devious activity of all: entering the privacy of the voting booth to express their degree of willingness to continue increasing their taxes at a rate well above inflation.
I’ll admit that ends do not justify all means, but this evil plot at least has as one of its objectives the fulfillment of another of the Sakonnet Times editors’ wishes:

That town/school unions grasp the fact that Rhode Island (which is losing population faster than any other state) is in this tax mess because the gold plated benefits they demand cannot be sustained (they need merely glance across the border into Westport and other Massachusetts towns for a dose of contract reality).

Such wishful thinking — that public employees and the politicians whom they help to elect — will simply accept the necessary restraint — and the pain associated with addressing the lack thereof in the past — may play well in editorials, but Rhode Island is among the best examples in the nation of the consequence when wistfulness is treated as a basis for public policy. Sometimes firm action is necessary, and if voters must make the dastardly statement that enough is enough, well, so it must be.

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11 years ago

Yeah, I saw this piece and was completely confounded by the contradiction of the two statements that you highlight, Justin.
How do we know if, in the process of fixing the “tax mess”, we are “cut[ting] the life out of town services” or we are “fairly” bringing “gold plated benefits” (their term) more in line with those of the private sector??? Especially as there are some who equate “the life of town services” with the “gold plated benefits”.

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