A Central Landfill meeting gives a sense of what’s being lost from media.

Considering how frequently I criticize professional journalists, I may too infrequently convey how powerful I think their role can (and should) be.  A recent Johnson Sunrise article by Rory Schuler, about the resignation/retirement of Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) Executive Directo Joseph Reposa, is an excellent example of what we’re losing.  Without making a gooey statement so unctuous you can’t miss it, his selection of details conveys the sense of a more-important-than-most-realize public meeting (and the implicit corruption) so well the implication is unmistakable:

Chairman Michael F. Sabitoni, of Johnston, a local labor leader and union official, arrived. He was shortly followed by fellow governance committee member Diana Ducharme, of Cranston, meeting the quorum requirement of two.

Ducharme lost her voice and whispered when required to speak.

The morning’s two-member governance committee voted to go into executive session to discuss Reposa’s “annual Job Performance Review.” Reposa had the option to have his review in public session, but chose to have it behind closed-doors. …

Rodio, Ursillo’s law partner, doubled his reading speed, firing off the motion, almost approaching an auctioneer’s cadence.

“Following a thorough review of the executive director’s performance, and achieving the performance metrics as outlined in his contract, and finding that he excelled therein, the committee recommends that the board authorizes the award for his performance compensation in the amount of $25,000,” Rodio said. “In furthermore that the board authorizes the chairman to negotiate and execute a consulting agreement with the executive director on mutually acceptable terms.”

The motion carried unanimously.

Currently, the bedtime-story book I’m reading to my youngest is The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, so I’m primed to see Schuler’s presentation as Twainesque.  (Ol’ Mark would have done better than “almost approaching an auctioneer’s cadence,” but such are the differences between admirable practitioner and master.)  Literary allusions aside, the salient factors are clear.  Tiny quorum… big budgets… crucial infrastructure.  The way in which Rhode Island manages its basic services is worthy of parody.  Sadly, we’re short of parodists, these days.

One can’t blame the characters for playing their roles.  Mr. Reposa was making “at least” $245,000 at this quasi-public organization and walks away with a completely discretionary, union-approved $25,000 bonus, even as he stays on as a consultant to help with the organizational hand-off to the next director, who’ll probably work there for less than a decade, too, and rely for his parting bonus on how well he satisfies the workers he oversees.  Some folks might wonder why it isn’t basic integrity to have a successor prepared as part of a chief executive’s ongoing duties, but never mind.  The more-salient problem for Rhode Island, given the condition of our political scene, is that mere competence carries a justifiable salary premium in our government operations.

Short of parodists we most certainly are, but our deficit is even greater on the ledger of citizens with an ear for parody.  Perhaps this is why no market exists for good journalism.  We’ve reached the point that our local society is indistinguishable from the casually ignorant racists lampooned at the end of The Adventures of Huck Finn — and our journalists not only cater to that crowd, but they are its chief representatives.

Alackaday.  As the curtain closes, give the article linked above a read.  We need more like it, but like more than not, we can only hope to wish goodbye to the world that was.


Featured image by Justin Katz using Dall-E 3 and Photoshop AI.

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