Besides the blatant and unrepentant influence-buying at the State House, and the preposterous General Assembly tradition of spending the last day of a session passing dozens of bills lawmakers have taken six months to deeply ponder and analyze (honk!), thus making key policy decisions at 2 am, nothing abets the well-perceived notion that Rhode Island’s government is corrupt more than the number of state legislators who run unopposed in the general election.
While the vox populi screams, “Throw the bastards out!” it seems that approximately four in 10 candidates for House and Senate will have a free pass to return to the scene of the (multiple) crimes in 2015. At last count, the number was 17 of 38 senators, and 30 of 75 House members running unopposed, including both House Speaker Nick Mattiello (arguably the most powerful pol in little Rhody) and House Majority Leader John DeSimone, his second-in-command. We get what we deserve.
Admittedly, many people who would make fine legislators either can’t run for family reasons, or choose not to because they don’t need the grief or simply don’t fancy sitting next to a bunch of Neanderthals still tottering around on their hind legs and bellowing in the State House.
But the problem remains. When a lawmaker runs unopposed (which doesn’t mean they won’t hold a few fundraisers for pumping up the rainy-day fund), the idea of responding to his or her constituency essentially vanishes, and it also reduces the chance for an opponent to haul out a sitting candidate’s dirty laundry through an open, media-vetted campaign. And there is enough of that soiled linen in most incumbents’ baskets to fill a clothesline running from Providence to Portland.
The Biggest Little’s citizens have been badly deprived of accountability in government for decades. And when 40 percent of them are beholden to nothing other than their bank account or lust for power, it shows accountability, legitimacy, and responsibility’s train left the station a long time ago.
Brother, can you spare a dime?
It certainly is heartwarming to see the rough, tough creampuffs in the town of Portsmouth rear up and file a motion in a federal lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island demanding that money spent on tolls for the Sakonnet River Bridge during that money-grab fiasco be refunded to all who paid for passage over the river.
Does anyone emember that this onerous burden imposed on the public was 10 cents? A dime? Two nickels? Ten pennies?
Phillipe and Jorge suggest that anyone looking for work immediately apply to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, which will need many hands for jobs stuffing envelopes and sending out tens of thousands of whopping checks with an average of probably around $2 for victims of this hideous imposition. Why not just send them Green Stamps, or two-for-one coupons at Subway which John Q. Public will doubtless use before stopping by his local bank to cash the check?