Opinião Politica

Violet: Legislators’ self-monitoring efforts are laughable

By Arlene Violet

Stories pop up in regular intervals in Rhode Island which make you scratch your head. Just what must these people be thinking? Here are a few doozies.

• Curfew — Six organizations have sent an objection to the Providence City Council about a proposed nighttime curfew for teenagers up to age 18. The target time is around midnight. Groups who have complained about violence on the streets are some of the opponents as they argue that it’s discriminatory against teenagers. What? Anyone reading this column who is 40 years old or older remembers curfews imposed regularly by their parents. Authorities didn’t have to take the responsibility because parents did their jobs of raising kids properly. As of this writing, the Providence police have seized 80 firearms this year while arresting just last week two 16-year-olds and two 17-year-olds for murders, felony assaults and possession of a firearm, a 9mm gun. You’d think that parents would want some help to protect their children instead of jawboning about children’s rights!

• Voter I.D. — Some natives continue to chafe about the voter I.D. requirement in Rhode Island. Through 2013 voters merely have to show a Social Security card, a bank statement or some other government issued document to vote. Just how difficult can this be? Virtually everyone has a photo I.D. because they need it to cash checks or apply for government subsidies. It really takes a minimal effort to secure proper identification. If people are too lazy to get credentials then they shouldn’t vote. All the menacing talk about challenging the requirement was recently muted when a Pennsylvania court upheld its constitutionality on a similar provision.

• Lincoln patrolman — The 12-year veteran of the police force who was convicted in January of felony battery for a kick to the head of a handcuffed woman outside the Twin River slot parlor has resigned. While the town hails this as a great outcome, the fact is that the former officer is eligible for a pension. Had he fought and lost his hearing for reinstatement, the town could have moved to have his pension revoked. The deal here keeps him eligible for future payments.

• North Providence patrolman — The town has relieved a police officer from his duties on the basis of information his wife collected secretly on his computer. Exactly what was on the computer is unclear but an internal investigation was launched and witnesses interviewed and, thereafter, the cop got the heave-ho. He’s now trying to quash the information she gathered and subsequently used by the police department in his ouster in an effort to retain his job. The Von Bulow case in 1985 set the standard here for the use of such information in criminal trials and that case law is probably good in any civil matters. Under that ruling, he doesn’t have a prayer of having it quashed if the wife gathered the information without direction from the police department.

• Legislator — On “Newsmakers” last week, Rep. Peter Petrarca (Lincoln) argued for a lawmakers’ ethics panel instead of oversight by the Ethics Commission, which he previously supported. The history of self-monitoring has been laughable. From the days of legislators John Celona and William Irons et al. to Christopher Maselli, Frank Ciccione and now Rep. Leo Medina, who faces criminal charges, the legislature seems unable to establish a standard of ethics let alone an enforcement of them.


Over 300 Women Join to Launch ‘Women for Cicilline’

On the heels of endorsements from two powerful national women’s groups, the Cicilline for Congress campaign rolled out a “Women for Cicilline” Leadership Team consisting of over three hundred women from every city and town in the First District. Also, the campaign announced the first of several Women Taking Action house parties. Starting today, women volunteers across CD1 will be hosting their friends and neighbors for “action parties” where they will call women voters in their communities and write personal postcards to them to spread the message of exactly what is at stake in this election.

“What the Republicans have tried to do to women these last 18 months has been completely outrageous,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “From voting to defund Planned Parenthood and undermine access to contraception to blocking legislation that would help women achieve equal pay for equal work and failing to support stronger protections under the Violence Against Women Act, they have been waging an all-out assault on women. I am proud to have the endorsement of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America and I am proud to stand up for women every day.”

Both national women’s groups have endorsed David in part because he is the only person in either the primary or the general election they trust to defend women’s rights. “With women’s rights under attack, we need someone we can always count on to protect a woman’s right to choose…” added Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The first “Women Taking Action” house party will be tonight in Middletown.


Who’s the next mayor of Providence? 16 names to consider

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo could be headed for a seismic clash in the 2014 Democratic primary for governor. If that happens, who will be in the hunt to suceeed Taveras at City Hall? To stand a shot, candidates will need to build a strong East Side base while develping crosstown support. Being a solid fundraiser is important, although not necessarily decisive, considering how Taveras was outspent by Steven Costantino in 2010.

Here’s an initial breakdown of possible contenders (if Taveras moves on): 

– Like few others, City Council President Michael Solomon bridges the old and new worlds of Rhode Island politics. Solomon has been a steady partner for Taveras, and would benefit from his profile as council president. His home base of Ward 5 is a crucial part of Providence elections, too. ”Obviously, it’s something I would consider,” Solomon says of a possible run, emphasizing that he’s focus remains on current council business.

– House Speaker Gordon Fox has a base on the East Side and his powerful post translates into fundraising prowess. Yet in the aftermath of Costantino’s third-place finish, it’s unclear if voters would rally behind another high-profile lawmaker, particularly one with ties to the state’s deal with 38 Studios. Spokesman Larry Berman says Fox is “only looking at his re-election this November and is not thinking past that at all.”

– Speaking of the Statehouse, Representative Christopher Blazejewski is a young rep with a potentially high ceiling. He’s polished his public speaking skills and pushed some good-government legislation. Asked about running for mayor, Blazejewski says he appreciates having his name mentioned, “but I am fully focused on and committed to winning re-election this year and continuing to represent Providence at the Statehouse.”

– Ward 3 Councilor Kevin Jackson says he’s very interested in a run for mayor if Taveras moves on, and he hopes to make a decision by as soon as next January. “It’s a very strong possibility,” says Jackson, the council’s longest-serving member, who believes that and his advocacy on issues affecting l0w-income residents would be an asset. His electoral base in Mount Hope also hugs more prosperous parts of the East Side.

– State Senator Juan Pichardo has been mentioned as a possible secretary of state candidate in 2014. Yet might he move in a different direction with an increasingly crowded field for that position? “You never know,” said Pichardo said, adding, like most of those interviewed for this post, that’s he focused on the present.

– Former state Treasurer Frank Caprio. Caprio’s father previously sought the mayor’s office in a crowded field, and Caprio himself looked for a time like the next governor before his 2010 campaign came crashing down. Losing the 2002 Democratic primary to Myrth Yorke was the best thing that ever happened to Sheldon Whitehouse. So will Caprio re-enter the political fray with a run for mayor? He declined comment.

– Former City Council president John J. Lombardi has a good shot at capturing the seat currently held by state Representative Michael Tarro. Yet if Lombardi doesn’t win the three-way Democratic primary, he’d quickly become part of the discussion for the mayor’s race. Lombardi ran a solid second to Taveras in 2010, and can build on that base.

– Former Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr. lagged behind David Cicilline in the four-way Democratic primary in September 2002. He passed on running in 2010. Paolino gives Taveras high marks for his performance. Asked about a potential run, he says, “That’s two years away. We’ll look at it at that time.”

– Ward 14 Councilman David Salvatore has emerged as a reform-minded ally of Taveras, and may perhaps one day before Finance Committee chairman. Salvatore says he hasn’t given the idea of a mayoral run much thought, but wouldn’t rule it out.

– ward 15 Councilwoman Sabina Matos says she putting all her energy into her work on the council, although she adds that her political future is “wide open.” She’s “undecided” on the possibility of a mayoral run, but says the idea of being Providence’s first female mayor “sounds very nice.”

– Ward 4 Councilman Nicholas Narducci would draw support from those angered by school closings last year, but it remains to be seen if he could attract citywide support. Narducci couldn’t be reached for comment in time fo this post.

– Meeting Street School president and CEO John M. Kelly was hovering for a possible mayoral run in 2010, although he never pulled the trigger. Kelly could put some coin together and has other assets if he wanted to make a run. He didn’t return a call seeking comment

– City Solicitor Jeff Padwa was a key part of President Obama’s RI campaign in 2008, and his interest in politics can be seen in how he’s the treasurer of the Providence Democratic Party. But, Padwa says,”Running for mayor is not something I’m entertaining.”

– State Senator Maryellen Goodwin couldn’t be reached for comment.

– Council Majority Leader Seth Yurdin seems unlikely to run, given the possibility of a Solomon candidacy. He calls 2014 “a long way away,” and says, “I’m just working on the job I was elected to do.”

– Former mayor Buddy Cianci has set up his own fiefdom as a WPRO talk-show host.  The guy who had a plan for Bob Kerr to do his laundry isn’t short on ambition. You know he’d love the last-laugh concept of Buddy III, coming long after Buddy I and Buddy II. But does he really want to leave the talk-radio realm deal with potholes, snow removal, and the like?


Cicilline flier may mislead elderly on Doherty, Social Security


Congressman David Cicilline’s campaign is defending a document the Democrat is handing out to senior citizens that could mislead them about his Republican opponent Brendan Doherty’s position on Social Security.

“Doherty wants to raise the eligibility age for Social Security benefits for anyone born after 1960,” the flier says, “with no regard for the challenges it would cause for people working in physically demanding occupations.” The one-pager points to Doherty’s March interview on WPRI 12′s Newsmakers as a source.

There’s no dispute about the fact that Doherty favors raising the Social Security eligibility age for those born after 1960. But he was never asked on Newsmakers about the impact on people working in physically demanding occupations, nor does he reference the issue.

Moreover, during the interview Doherty specifically singles out the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan as a good starting point for changes to Social Security – and Simpson-Bowles specifically calls for a so-called “hardship exemption” to allow some retirees to avoid the higher eligibility age.

“The bottom line is that Brendan has consistently referred to the Simpson-Bowles suggestions on Social Security, that plan requires the Social Security Administration to craft a hardship exemption, and any implication otherwise is disingenuous and represents the worst politics has to offer,” Doherty campaign manager Ian Prior told WPRI.com.

Cicilline spokeswoman Nicole Kayner pointed out that the senior handout doesn’t explicitly say Doherty is opposed to a Social Security hardship exemption, and she highlighted the fact that the former state public superintendent didn’t mention the issue. The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has criticized Simpson-Bowles’ approach as inadequate.

“Since announcing for Congress, Mr. Doherty has said repeatedly that he wants to raise the Social Security eligibility age for anyone born after 1960; he has not acknowledged the impact this would have on people working in physically demanding jobs like boat building or construction,” Kayner told WPRI.com. Cicilline, unlike Doherty, specifically mentioned the issue on Newsmakers last December.

Prior argued the Democrats are being disingenuous.

“This is not an argument before a federal judge or a congressional committee – this is a pamphlet being handed out to senior citizens who may not be looking to parse through the statement to separate the author’s creative interpretation from actual fact,” he said. “The clear and obvious implication that the Cicilline campaign is trying to make is that, in advocating the continued gradual rise in the Social Security retirement age, Brendan has no concern for people with hardships.”

“This is the exact type of underhanded behavior that is a consistent pattern with Congressman Cicilline,” Prior added. “While it doesn’t rise to the level of ‘Providence is in excellent financial condition,’ this is more of the same misdirection from a campaign whose clear strategy is to mislead voters.”

Hardship exemptions aside, there are clear policy differences between the two candidates on Social Security, which is projected to exhaust its trust fund by 2033 and at that point would need to cut benefits by about 25% without additional revenue from sources other than the payroll tax.

Doherty’s Social Security policy focuses on the program’s benefits – as mentioned above, he would raise the eligibility age for those born after 1960 along the lines proposed by Simpson-Bowles, which would effectively reduce benefits for younger Americans.

Cicilline’s Social Security policy focuses on the program’s revenue side – he co-sponsored legislation to eliminate the cap on payroll taxes, which currently aren’t levied on earnings above $110,100. The bill would also change the cost-of-living estimate used to calculate annual benefit increases and provide supplemental $250 payments during economic downturns.

In addition, Cicilline co-sponsored a resolution saying “appropriate reform to strengthen Social Security’s long-term outlook should happen in a bipartisan fashion … without further increasing the retirement age or otherwise decreasing benefits.”

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