COINCIDENCE OR CRONYISM? Several months ago the State Property Committee approved a no-bid contract to relocate a probation and parole office to the downtown Providence area. Gubernatorial candidate Ken Block sought information about the seemingly improper no-bid decision and found the property committee had failed to file with the Secretary of State’s office minutes of five meetings leading up to the no-bid decision. He filed an Open Meetings Law complaint with the Attorney General about the failure of a public body to file legally-required minutes. And then Block waited...and waited...and waited...
In early June in an interview with the Providence Journal, Block contended that Attorney General Peter Kilmartin was stalling and one reason might be that Governor Chafee’s nominee to a superior court judgeship, his administration director Richard Licht, was a member of the property committee. Clearly, any bad publicity about the committee and Licht before the Senate considered his judgeship nomination might derail the nomination.
The Senate approved Licht’s appointment to the $149,000 per year, lifetime judgeship last Thursday and, low and behold, the very next day Kilmartin issued a decision on Block’s complaint in which he held that the committee had violated the open meetings law.
Was this coincidence or cronyism? Most of us would agree that it was cronyism, pure and simple. That’s just what we need in Rhode Island - more cronyism!
COURT RULES AGAINST TEACHER TENURE: In a decision that will likely stimulate similar lawsuits nationwide, a California superior court judge has ruled in favor of two students who sued the state contending that strong teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional since they mandate onerous (some would say impossible) dismissal procedures and “last in, first out” lay-off policies that serve to keep ineffective teachers in classrooms, thus lessening students’ chances to succeed.
In ruling in favor of the student plaintiffs, the judge cited the famous 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education in his decision that teacher tenure laws “impose a real and appreciable impact on the students’ fundamental right to equality of education.”
Meanwhile, here in Rhode Island, our General Assembly is virtually eliminating teacher evaluations; a move that will impose a real and appreciable impact on our students’ fundamental right to a quality education.
RHODE ISLAND TILTING AT SOLAR WINDMILLS: In our ever-increasing desire for clean, renewable energy, we have become myopic about how to achieve that goal. At times our actions accomplish nothing more than that accomplished by Don Quixote in his jousts against the windmills he perceived to be giants. One such ill-conceived joust is the bill just passed by our General Assembly that will expand incentives for companies and residents to install solar panels.
What makes it a “tilting at windmills” initiative is its dramatic cost to ratepayers!
The bill will result in creation of 246 jobs in Rhode Island over the next 25 years. The cost to electricity ratepayers will be an additional $354 million over those 25 years.
Dividing the $354 million additional cost by the 246 new jobs, we find that the cost of creating each job is a whopping $1,400,000 per job!
It’s the epitome of tilting at windmills when our legislators think it is economically sound to create $50,000 jobs by requiring electricity consumers to pay $1.4 million to create each one. There’s no other name for it but “solar welfare”. It’s no wonder our state is going to hell in a hand basket!
CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION BILL FLAWED: A bill is working its way through the General Assembly that would establish a 12-member preparatory commission that our state’s constitution requires to be in place before the question of whether or not to convene a constitutional convention is placed on the ballot. The constitution does not mandate who will sit on the preparatory commission.
The bill now being considered says the preparatory commission shall be made up of four state representatives, four state senators and four members of the public. The commission will hold public hearings to determine what questions on constitutional change should be placed on the ballot.
The preparatory commission will clearly have the most important role in any changes to our constitution since it will decide which constitutional change proposals are worthy of voter decision. Yet, the bill currently being considered would mandate that eight of the twelve commission members be members of the General Assembly.
The public doesn’t have a shot when it is outnumbered two to one! The special-interest backing politicians who will hold a super-majority on the commission will only allow self-serving constitutional change questions to go to the voters.
What’s the point of a constitutional convention when the public is not able to determine which constitutional questions are worthy of consideration?
WILL OBAMA IMPOSE MORE SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA? Pro-Russian separatist insurgents shot down a Ukrainian Army aircraft Saturday killing 49 soldiers. It has now become apparent that Russia is arming the insurgents with tanks and anti-aircraft missiles. The big question is: will President Obama have the courage to finally levy meaningful sanctions against Russia - especially against its large export companies like GasProm, whose sanction-related losses would severely weaken Russia’s economy?
CHINA OVERTAKING U.S. AS WORLD’S LARGEST ECONOMY: Although President Obama says the U.S. “has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world,” the facts belie such deceptive hubris.
The U.S. has boasted the world’s largest economy for the past 120 years. Yet the World Bank’s analysis of the rapidly growing Chinese economy and the snail-growth American economy shows that China will overtake the U.S. this year.
Not only has President Obama led our nation to a position of global weakness with his foreign policy failures and his apparent fear of taking the lead to resolve global problems, he will be at the helm when our country falls behind China to become the world’s second largest economy.
IRAQ AN EVIL PORTENT FOR AFGHANISTAN: Militants influenced by Al-Qaida have taken control of a large portion of Iraq, to include two of its largest cities, in their attempt to create an Islamic caliphate that would impose Sharia law on large areas of both Iraq and Syria and that would welcome Jihadist terrorists from throughout the Middle East. The terrorist insurgents’ advance puts them only a short drive from Baghdad.
The environment for terrorist-inspired, anti-government militancy in Iraq was created when President Obama’s foreign policy weakness resulted in the abrupt removal of U.S. forces from that country before the democratically-elected civilian government had an opportunity to establish firm security throughout the newly-freed country. The export of terrorists from Syria to Iraq was then increased by Obama’s failure to conduct air strikes against Syria’s dictator and Obama’s refusal to support the dictator’s more moderate opponents.
It looks like 4,500 American lives lost in Iraq and countless billions of our dollars have been sacrificed for naught. To make matters worse, it looks like Iran is preparing to send military forces into Iraq to exert the influence our troops previously enjoyed - an opportunity Obama made possible with his full withdrawal from Iraq.
Iraq on the verge of falling to terrorists provides a “teachable moment” for President Obama about the use of U.S. military power. That lesson is that it is senseless to pour American lives and money into a country to free its people and then abruptly leave. Hopefully, the Iraq disaster will cause Obama to rethink his policy about removing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Otherwise, that country too will fall to terrorist and, once again, thousands more of our soldiers and billion of our tax dollars will have been lost in vain.
IRONY AT ITS BEST: If President Obama decides to renew the Iraq war he opposed so vehemently while denigrating President George W. Bush for starting it, he will likely send in military air strikes. The great irony of the situation is that the air strikes will come from the only aircraft carrier in the area - the USS George H.W. Bush.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: An editorial in the Sydney Australian newspaper that spoke despairingly of President Obama’s foreign policy weakness included this: “Unless he shows more resolve in his final two years, his presidency will be seen as a period of drift when global threats from Iran and Russia went unchecked, the Middle Eastern quagmires deepened, and China ever so surely began to feel emboldened.”