The Court Rules Against Pawtucket and Another Bale of Straw Is Thrown Onto Everyone’s Back

Thanks to WPRI’s indefatiguable Ted Nesi for the heads-up.

Rhode Island’s largest public-sector union declared victory Friday in a lawsuit against Pawtucket, just hours before the mayor revealed the city is running an unexpected $2.3 million deficit.
Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter ruled Jan. 5 that Pawtucket cannot force retired teachers to start sharing the cost of their health insurance premiums because they are entitled to the benefits stipulated in the contract that was in effect when they retired, according to Council 94.
The contract guaranteed all retired teachers age 58 or older family health insurance coverage from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island until they became eligible for Medicare at age 65.

This, of course, sets the precedent (if it is not appealed) for similarly situated municipalities around the state.
It’s clear from an e-mail exchange that I had with a kindly attorney regarding another recent court ruling that I am not capable of judging the legal merits of such cases. The judge might well have reached the technically correct conclusion here.
What I do know is that this is another item on the long list of unaffordable goodies which duplicitous politicians have for decades been promising to public employees, politicians who happily took campaign contributions from these employees and their union PACs while doing absolutely nothing to ensure that their promises could be kept.
Last week, the Pawtucket Times’ Jim Baron joined the chorus of those of us expressing concern for the threat to democratic processes posed by Rhode Island’s newly minted municipal receivership law.

The thing that flabbergasts me is that so many people seem to think that having communities be ruled by an unelected receiver is a good idea and want more of it. John DePetro on his WPRO radio show has talked several times about the idea of having someone step in to fiscally troubled communities and taking control to straighten out their finances. …
Last week at Governor Chafee’s news conference after he convened with municipal executives, a fellow member of the press corps rhapsodized about how Central Falls is “a perfect example of where somebody comes in with a sharp knife and decimates the way things used to run, and now all of a sudden they don’t have as much of a financial problem as they used to have.” …
Yes, democracy can be messy, and inefficient, and things will not always go the way you want them. But if they don’t, you have the opportunity at the next election to change the people who are calling the shots.
Wielding a sharp knife and decimating the way things used to run may seem like a good idea, but what happens once the guy with the knife starts doing things you don’t like? By then it is usually too late. Rulers who wield sharp knives usually have a few extras to take care of people who start to make trouble.

Not wrong. At the same time, Rhode Island voters have steadfastly declined (in sufficient numbers) to take advantage of

the opportunity … to change the people who are calling the shots

for a variety (“Bush lied, people died”; “My parents always voted democrat”; “Republicans are only for the rich”; “We have to preserve a woman’s right to choose”) of stupid or wildly unrelated reasons.
The results of the electorate’s refusal to “change the people who are calling the shots” has been disastrous to local and state budgets. Us camels have begun to stagger under the weight of the goodies that decades of brain-dead and unscrupulous elected officials so glibly promised or reaffirmed. It is understandable, then, that the guy with the knife hacking away at our burden looks real good to us – all the more so when a court chimes in to confirm that part of the very heavy burden must remain upon our backs.

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Justin Katz
Justin Katz
9 years ago

The answer is one that almost no public officials in this state are willing so much as to voice: Declare that there is a budget for labor and that it will not be exceeded. If that means retirement costs must be taken from current expenditures, well, that’s how it goes.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
9 years ago

Great News! Let the Conga march to Bankruptcy Court, and the gutting of the unaffordable pensions, begin. The Conga line will form on the right please: Come on, shake your body baby, do the conga I know you can’t control yourself any longer Come on, shake your body baby, do the conga I know you can’t control yourself any longer. Come on, shake your body baby, do the conga I know you can’t control yourself any longer Feel the rhythm of the music getting stronger Don’t you fight it till you’ve tryied it Do the conga beat Everybody gather ’round now let your body feel the hit. Don’t you worry if you can’t dance let the music move your feet. It’s the rhythm of the island and like sugarcane, so sweet. If you want to do the conga you’ve got to listen to the beat. Come on, shake your body baby, do the conga I know you can’t control yourself any longer Feel the rhythm of the music getting stronger Don’t you fight it till you’ve tryied it Do the conga beat Feel the fire of desire as you dance the night away. ‘Cos tonight we’re gonna party till we see the break of day. Better get yourself together and hold on to what you got. Once the music hit your system there’s no way you’re gonna stop. Come on, shake your body baby, do the conga I know you can’t control yourself any longer Feel the rhythm of the music getting stronger Don’t you fight it till you’ve tryied it Do the conga beat Come on, shake your body baby, do the conga I know you can’t control yourself any longer Feel the rhythm of the music getting stronger Don’t you fight it till you’ve tryied it, do the… Read more »

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

The RI Legislative Branch is against the taxpayers.
The RI Executive Branch is against the taxpayers.
The RI Judicial Branch is against the taxpayers.
Your choice, as a taxpayer, is therefore to 1) replace 50% of both houses of the state legislature, replace the governor, and wait for the lifetime-appointed judges to retire or die, or 2) move to a sane state.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

FWIW, unless there has been a change, Mass state employees get BC/BS to the grave.

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