Citing city woes, taxpayer group appeals for candidates

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Mark Desdourian gave an audience of angry Warwick taxpayers Monday night the three keys to winning an election, and not one of them was money. In fact, all three words were the same – “walk, walk and walk.”

Desdourian, who will be running a school for candidates, was one of five speakers at a meeting organized by the Warwick Financial Crisis Committee and held at the Warwick Public Library aimed at looking at the financial condition of the city and recruiting candidates willing to take on the challenge of addressing those problems.

The problems – from City Council members who reportedly don’t listen to their constituents to unfunded pension and other retiree benefits – were enumerated by local activist Rob Cote, former councilman and School Committee chair Robert Cushman, Warwick businessman and former GOP candidate for governor Ken Block and state Rhode Island Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Cienki. All three called on members of the audience, numbering more than 70, to consider running for office.

Cote showed clips of council meetings and efforts he said to shut him off, from disclosing paybacks through the award of jobs through assertions that what he planned to talk about was a personnel matter and cannot be discussed at a council meeting without consent of the people named.

“They violated my First Amendment rights,” he said, charging that council members prevent people from speaking and use “false information” to validate their action.

“It’s election time now,” Cote said. “There are things we can do.”

Cushman, whose detailed analysis of escalating pension and OPEB costs have been the trademark of presentations made to the City Council and the Financial Crisis Committee, chose a different tack Monday. He showed slides of Beacon headlines ranging from the collapse of sewers that closed Sandy Lane for weeks to the storming of City Hall by students protesting the proposed elimination of sports to balance the school budget. He noted that in his first State of the City address, Solomon said Warwick has a major fiscal crisis, yet his tune has changed and there’s no longer a sense of emergency.

“You know what’s going on. They’re playing games. They’re pushing it off to the side,” he said.

Cushman sees the situation worsening as replacement and renewal of roads, sewers and water lines aren’t addressed, automatic cost of living adjustments (COLAs) exponentially increase pension payments and retirees don’t share in the cost of health care.

He said six firefighters who retired in 2016 paid $750,000 into their pension, and then asked the audience what they are projected to receive in pension payments over 20 years. After there were a few guesses of one to two million dollars, Cushman said $11 million.

Even with maximum tax levy increases of 4 percent annually, Cushman forecast legacy costs would be “so high [the city] won’t have the money to do anything…you can’t have it all, you can’t continue to pay lifetime health care.”

“It’s a call for action. We need to make change,” he said.

In a call Tuesday, Cushman questioned how the council could move ahead recommending school bonds – the council approved a $56 million school bond to appear on the November ballot and is considering another $10 million for the construction of athletic fields at Toll Gate and Pilgrim – without looking at the city’s indebtedness and what it would face in annual interest and principal payments. Yet a third school bond that would eclipse the other two at close to $200 million could be likewise on the ballot depending on the outcome of the master planning process being undertaken by a consultant. The funds would be used for a new high school or extensive renovations to the two existing high schools.

Cushman said Superintendent Philip Thornton is seeking to bring change to the schools, but the School Committee is under the control of the teachers’ union. He urged people to consider running for School Committee.

Cushman said there is a “big rift” in the council, as evidenced by the 5-4 vote on the three-year firefighters contract.

“They ratified this contract without information on the costs,” he said.

Cushman and Cote were critical of Warwick state legislators, noting that many hold leadership positions and asking, “What do we get for it?”

Rallying the audience, Block placed the Warwick per capita cost of unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities at $10,000.

“Doesn’t that make you mad? It’s outrageous,” he said.

He put the cost of addressing the aging sewer infrastructure at $100 million, saying it “is out of control and corrupt.”

Block also talked about the efforts of five council members to approve the firefighters’ tentative contract agreement at a special council meeting the Friday before Christmas. He called the effort wrong, adding, “It’s up to us to fix it.”

“Vote some of these bastards out,” he said.

Block offered to start PACs, or political action committees, on behalf of those choosing to run for office.

Cienki said the GOP stands ready to assist those considering a run for office, whether as a registered Republican or an independent. Additionally, she said, “It’s not a hard ask to run for office.”

Desdourian reminded, however, “in order to make the change you have to run for office.” He urged those interested not to delay and start walking their wards or districts now because that is how they are going to win.

He asked those thinking of running for office to stand up. Four stood.

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Honestinfo

Should be interesting to see the ticket led by Cote and Cushman.

Thursday, February 6
PT Barnum

Absolute clown show from this group.

Thursday, February 6
Daydreambeliever

Most lead by example and should be running for council or school committee before they reach out to the public and beg others to run.

I would be more willing to listen if they practice what they preach.

However they would rather have others run even though they have all the facts and information.

They can’t use the excuse they don’t have time as they have plenty of time to get facts, information, spread sheets, post on line and have meetings at the library.

Block can’t run as he’s not a resident but Cote and Cushman are so why won’t they ?

Speaks volumes to me ....

Thursday, February 6
Cheer up sleepy Jean

Daydreambeliever, please read more carefully before you write your false commentary.

"Former councilman and School Committee chair Robert Cushman outlined fiscal challenges facing Warwick ....".

Once again nothing but personal attacks from the peanut gallery. Speaks volumes to me too!

Thursday, February 6
Daydreambeliever

Well aware he’s a FORMER school committee member. Can you say possibly disgruntled FORMER council member ?

Why not run again ? Others have in the past and it was far from a personal attack it was stating he obvious.

If your the best at fact finding, producing spread sheets, supposedly know how to read fiscal notes and decipher pensions, sick time, Cola’s, APRA requests and know the city charter why not run ?

As for Cote (his words not mine) he’s an expert at just about everything he touches the mentions why not run for council or school committee ?

As I said it speaks volumes ......

Thursday, February 6
Thecaptain

So according to the Daydreamer, if you are a resident with an education and understand how to read a balance sheet, and you don't run for political office, you have no credibility.

So what he really is saying is that unless you run for office you do not have the right afforded to you by the 1st amendment. Naturally, a beneficiary of a union pension, paid for by the taxpayers, would try anything to discredit anyone who comes from the public with facts, official documents, and analysis. That is the game they play.

What we do know fro certain is that none of the union membership can perform simple math. If they could they would be concerned as we all know that these promises will never be made whole. Particularly for the younger members. The older members are getting out while they can to take whatever they can until the house of cards collapses. And it will collapse.

Thursday, February 6
Free market enterprise

One is free to move their residence and/or business from any City or Town to any other City or Town if after over a decade of complaining they don't see changes they'd like. Shame on you for staying after years and years of dissatisfaction

Thursday, February 6
??????

@Free market enterprise - I can't stand it when someone says move! Moving is NOT EASY! If it was as easy this city would be empty. SMH to ridiculous comments such as yours.

Friday, February 7
leaving town

Over the last decade Warwick has see plenty of people leaving the city. Cranston is now the second largest city in the state. Isn't that what is contributing to the problem.

I attended this meeting and a gentleman who is a real estate professional told the audience that people do not want to move to Warwick. He attributed that to the continued tax increases, poor roads and outrageous fees for swers and the poor school system.

If this trend continues, all the folks living large on their 6 figure pensions and free retiree healthcare may very well soon see the day come where the fiscal crisis starts effecting them.

Friday, February 7
Retirees should be worried

Not even so much for their pensions but for the free lifetime healthcare they are promised. The city can't tax itself out of this mess and when the city can't extract another dime from the taxpayer (and they will try I promise) - they will look to the unions and the retirees for concessions. Maybe not in the next 5 years, but it's coming.

Friday, February 7
Daydreambeliever

If and when that day does come the retirees will deal with it myself included.

Saturday, February 8
Educated Voter

Apparently the news reports were wrong about the circus not coming to town until May-it came to the library 3 months early in the form of this clown convention.

First of all, there were are grand total of 70 people in attendance, and with a city that has 65,000 registered voters, that comes out to .001 of the voters, or one tenth of one percent-hardly anything to celebrate.

Next they had the speakers-Cushman-election LOSER, Block-election LOSER, Cienki-election LOSER. Anyone see a pattern here? What the heck-they should have invited their fellow THREE TIME election LOSER Stacia to speak-at least she would have been in good company.

Moral of the story here-with the group of clowns and sore losers that put on their presentation, the incumbents have nothing to worry about come November. But wait-there may be hope for this hapless grang-they might be able to convince the gasoline dumper/animal gasser and retired Providence cop with the phony disability to run for office-that would be par for the course for this pathetic bunch.

Saturday, February 8
Fed up

Hmm,

On Monday night there were 3 people at the city council meeting. Seems like the residents are paying more attention to this group of educators than they are to the council. Wonder why these guys have a full house? Just sayin'.

Saturday, February 8
Educated Voter

Overheard at last week's clown convention held at the library:

Speaker: "We need volunteers with no money, no experience, and no campaign staff to run for office as sacrificial lambs."

Audience member: "Why don't you speakers lead by example and run for office?"

Speaker: "We have all run for office in the past and have been trounced, so we need some new candidates without a snowball's chance in hell of winning to throw their names in the hat and get trounced just like we did-it's called sharing the pain."

Audience member: "Now we see why everyone calls you clowns IRRELEVANT-thanks for wasting our time having us come to this useless meeting."

Sunday, February 9
bill123

This is the link to the video of Ken Block’s speech: https://www.facebook.com/WarwickBeacon/videos/2647271668878118/

I agree we need (a lot of) good people to run for office, to replace those who are behaving irrationally or worse, which is pretty much everyone, in my opinion. One problem standing in the way is the electronic programmable ES&S voting hardware. If nothing is done soon, then the same cast of characters will substantially be in place after the 2020 election, and replacements, if any, may be even worse. This problem cannot be minimized or talked around. One person who looks like he’s talking around it is state senator James Sheehan. Read his statement here: https://www.providencejournal.com/opinion/20170524/james-c-sheehan-ri-must-analyze-its-voting-accuracy

He speaks of “substantial inaccuracies” in the vote count. Mr. Sheehan is a Warwick high school (history?) teacher, with apparently no technical background. You can’t write something like what he wrote, where he provides solutions, without first having all the facts. There is an absence of facts. I want to suggest the Warwick financial crisis committee invite Mr. Sheehan (and other officials as appropriate), to give a detailed explanation of this matter. If you do, please video record.

Sunday, February 9
Happy

Anyone who believes that taxes will not go up must come from another planet!

Wages and benefits for EVERY city worker go up after a new contract is signed. ALL vendors who support the city give raises to their workers!

We ALL get raises and to think that taxes won't go up is crazy!

Just thank God that we have a great mayor and city council! Those that don't like it should move to a Trump state, and we know that won't happen (ha-ha).

Monday, February 10
Hepdog

Let it go, dont do anything. It'll collapse under its own weight

Tuesday, February 11
Happy

Just one more note,

Leaders lead and followers follow!

Now look at the picture, all the seats up front are basically empty which shows that no one wants to take the bull by the horn and step up!

Plenty of followers though!

Tuesday, February 11
Cat

If people show up then it means that they are engaged. Not everyone is a good fit to run but everyone should be interested in what is happening in their city and how it affects them. Even if they are "followers" as you stated, they still showed up. Whether you disagree with the speakers and content or not, that is a positive in my book.

Tuesday, February 11
Hillsgrove Hal

Cat, I have no issue with people who want to get involved and highlight the problems with how the city is being run.

I also agree with them, that Solomon's blatant flip-flop on the city's financial condition is a real problem that cuts into his credibility.

But when it comes time to offer solutions, all they seem to want is to dismantle union pensions, cut funding for schools, and accuse elected officials of "playing games" and "being corrupt" -- things that, while they may sound nice to some people, are impractical and ineffective.

As the article notes, four people out of an estimated 70 stood up to show interest in running for office. To me, that's proof that the majority of people won't carry the banner of these "activists," as the article calls them, however loud or persistent they may be.

Tuesday, February 11
Thecaptain

City council meeting held on the same date. 2 members of the general public show up, "activists" hold meeting at the library and its a full house for the 4th time.

Langevin holds a town hall meeting on the same day that the "activists" have a meeting at the library, 16 people show to the town hall, 100 people show up at the library and the room is filled to capacity and then some. Guess someone is listening.

As far as not bringing forth solutions, we have brought forth numerous solutions. In a municipality that is over taxed, over spent, over budget and buried with unfunded liabilities, there are only few choices and yes, they include cutting COLA'S reducing healthcare and increasing copays, and a host of other efficiency programs. In reality, receivership is the only answer. Time to reset the clock.

Tuesday, February 11
Hillsgrove Hal

Thecaptain, I respect your opinion but I'm sorry, receivership is not the answer.

As we saw over the last two years, Solomon and the city council raised taxes without meeting the conditions needed for state intervention (even a seven-month-late audit didn't trigger it), and the city has tens of millions of dollars it could borrow without harming its bond rating.

Please don't misunderstand, I don't see either of those as positive things, especially in the temptation they present to city officials to cover up for their own lack of spine when they had a chance to negotiate for less expensive city contracts, for example.

But as long as the city can tax and borrow to paper over its fiscal situation, Solomon and the council will keep taking the easy way out.

Tuesday, February 11
Robert

Happy, we have a great Mayor and City Council? Yeah, Stalin and his Marxist’s. Or maybe I shouldn’t be insulting Russian communism by comparing its government to Warwick’s.

Tuesday, February 11
Johnny Sweat Pants

This clown committee is so desperate for candidates, they might even try to convince Johnny Pajamas to run for office. On second thought, that probably would not happen, as he's too much of a coward to throw his name in the hat.

Wednesday, February 12