In February, a poll conducted by Brown University found that 74 percent of the respondents thought Rhode Island is going in the wrong direction. It was not exactly shocking news, given the state’s ongoing budget deficits and the frequent state of stalemate between Republican Governor Donald L. Carcieri and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
Could a Moderate Party of Rhode Island, by operating from the center and focusing on the state’s central issues, make the situation better?
Ken Block thinks so. Block, a Barrington resident who owns a Warwick software company, says he’s long been frustrated by the shortcomings of the local status quo, in which Republicans don’t offer a viable alternative and legislative Democrats operate with a lack of accountability. As a businessman with elderly parents and school-age children, Block, a self-described centrist, says neither party adequately addresses his various concerns.
If his nascent Moderate Party could pull enough people into the center, he reasons, it could have an impact, helping to put some pressure on the ruling Democrats.
While efforts to develop third parties have had little success amid America’s two-party duopoly, a poll recently commissioned by Block, among other results, found that 78 percent of the respondents felt that neither major political party represents their views on the way state government should be run.
Seventy-four percent of the respondents said they would be supportive of a new moderate political party that was “not beholden to the state’s labor unions and special interest of the left or in lock step support of Republicans on the right.”
The Moderate Party of Rhode Island (moderate-ri.org) advocates the immediate adoption of five core principles:
• Toughen ethics laws and employment agreements to make our elected, appointed and employed state officials far more accountable for their actions.
• Stop spending money that is not well spent.
• Induce businesses to locate to Rhode Island by bringing RI's business taxes in line with Massachusetts’ business taxes.
• Bring the total compensation packages (including wages, benefits, pension amounts and pension eligibility) for state employees in line with what private sector workers earn.
• Produce a balanced budget by reducing spending and waste and by not relying on one-time gimmicks like selling tobacco settlement funds or revenue anticipation bonds.
Block says he is focused on raising awareness about the Moderate Party, attracting support from such individuals as former attorney general Arlene Violet, and starting a related political action committee. In time, he hopes to establish the Mods as a state-sanctioned political party, an effort that would require the gathering of a number of signatures equal to five percent of the voting in the last gubernatorial election.
With 2008 shaping up as in important political year in Rhode Island, Block says he is encouraging people to run for the General Assembly and to support the Moderate Party’s goals, even if they identify as Republicans or Democrats. “People in this state, we believe,” says Block, “want an alternative.”