Silence of the lambs

Smith Hill takes the budget blues out on the vulnerable
By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  June 25, 2008

The sheep at the General Assembly silently went off to slaughter again this year, led with barely a bleat by their five diabolic avatars of Little Bo Peep: House Speaker Bill Murphy; House Majority Leader Gordon Fox; Senate President Joe Montalbano; Senate Majority Leader Teresa Paiva Weed; and House Finance Committee chair Steve Costantino. In case you are late to the game, boys and girls, five people control what goes on at the State House, although Governor Carcieri is occasionally allowed to offer his two cents.

When they come for the innocent without crossing over your body, cursed be your religion and your life. — Anon.

As far as Phillipe + Jorge are concerned, quite a large number of legislators are walking around with cursed lives and purported religions, as the grab was put on the innocent this year — with very few oppositional dead bodies visible once the carnage was over.

If you are unfortunate enough to be a foreigner; young and/or poor; or unable to defend yourself, you took a serious hit during this legislative session. The same thing happened to those paying their share of taxes and who were unable to spring for big-ticket lobbyists. Ditto that for those who didn’t happen to be buddies with the General Assembly leaders or who didn’t come from their districts, the places where pork miraculously takes on the green tinge of money. 

But that’s an old game that everyone understands. The powers that be cater to the almighty buck, and then feed money back to their constituents in exchange for the votes that keep them in office. No huge harm, no foul, just a tip o’ the hat to Boss Tweed.

And we loved how the legislators moaned about how they had to make hard choices, when it was these self-same bozos whose shortsightedness and greed got Little Rhody into this mess in the first place.

But where it gets abhorrent — and where the blame should really be laid — is how most of the remaining 108 members of the General Assembly are complicit through their si-lence.

The big boys (and girl) ram bills that are unconscionable, self-serving, and totally wrongheaded down the throats of the quiescent majority, because they don’t have the guts to speak out. What, and lose my own little community grant that I can brag about to the neighbors? What, jeopardize my committee chairmanship or piss off the current chair? Sorry, fresh out of the cojones for that.

Oh, some legislators have enough courage to not roll over for the leadership. Representative Donna Walsh and Senator Sue Sosnowski, and Representative Amy Rice, showed they have some grit, respectively pushing against the leadership cabal to save a minimal bill for farmland protection, and to have legislators pay part of their health insurance. Unbelievably, while the House could actually feel the gun barrel of public outrage against its temple, the Senate, led by Majority Leader Paiva Weed, still balked at the latter idea. 

The most egregious example of democracy gone south, however, was in House Finance, which, under the chairmanship of Costantino, killed the governor’s proposed $35 mil-lion Open Space/Clean Water Bond for the November ballot.

Never mind that this is the sort of wise, long-term investment needed to support and protect the Ocean State calling card — our natural resources. Never mind that all previous land/water bonds have mustered 70 percent approval by Rhode Island voters.

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