Robert Flanders’ Answers to Questions on Receivership
Central Falls Receiver Robert Flanders certainly cannot be faulted for not responding to inquiries in a timely fashion…
Q1: You have been quoted on the Buddy Cianci radio show as saying that some sitting Rhode Island Mayors should approach the state government and ask to become the receivers for their cities. Is this indeed a course of action that you advocate?
Central Falls Receiver Robert Flanders: It depends on a number of factors, including whether the State (i.e., the Governor’s office and legislative leadership) would be likely to have some measure of confidence that that particular sitting mayor would be able to and willing to take the sometimes politically unpalatable actions that might be needed to restore the City to fiscal solvency and whether the mayor in question has the credibility, capacity, political will, and respect needed to accomplish such a goal and to work cooperatively with the Director of Revenue, the Governor, and other stakeholders to do so.
Q2: Conflicting accounts of the rescinding of the recent parking ban in Central Falls have been presented to the public. Most recently, W. Zachary Malinowski of the Providence Journal attributed the rescinding of the ban to the Governor of Rhode Island and not the Office of the Central Falls receiver (February 4 Providence Journal, “The next day, Governor Chafee, reacting to a public outcry, suspended the parking ban”). Could you clarify the process by which the parking ban was rescinded?
RF: The Receiver suspended enforcement of the parking ban, after obtaining input from the Governor’s office, local elected officials, and a number of Central Falls residents.
Q3: In Federalist 47, Montesquieu was quoted by James Madison: “There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates”. Do you believe it is a wise course of action to tell the people of Central Falls, of Rhode Island, of the United States and of the world that fiscal crises justify restructuring of government in a way that removes what some of the great thinkers of the Western political tradition believe to be an essential safeguard to liberty?
RF: To my knowledge, no one associated with the Receivership is telling people that or saying that, nor have they said that. Rather, what state policy makers decided when they enacted the Fiscal Stability Act (providing for the appointment of various levels of state fiscal oversight when a city or town experiences extreme financial difficulty) is that fiscal emergencies call for extraordinary temporary measures to correct a problem that threatens to cause a City or Town to default on its obligations and/or to run out of cash. When the emergency and crisis ends, then the temporary and extraordinary measures used to deal with that situation also end. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of this statute in the teeth of arguments such as those that your question adopts, expressly rejecting them as legally unsound. A corollary to the quote in your question is that there can be no liberty when the executive and legislative branches of a state are powerless to prevent a city or town (and therefore the residents who depend on its viability) from experiencing utter financial ruin.