To the Editor:
A wise man once said, “You can’t blame things for being dark if the light bulbs aren’t working.” Well, in Warwick there are a lot of light bulbs that aren’t working and haven’t for a long, long time.
The chief light bulb that had been shining over Warwick for 18 years chose to resign last year to take a position with RIPTA where, hopefully, he can shine some light on that inefficient, indebted organization. Unfortunately, in the wake of that light bulb’s departure, other light bulbs began shining their light onto the former chief light bulb’s actions and inactions during his tenure as Warwick’s “brightest light bulb.” The remaining Warwick light bulbs have found much to blame on the departed light bulb, to include possible contractual malfeasance regarding the firefighters’ contracts. The remaining bulbs are screaming accusations tantamount to criminal acts or treason on the part of the departed light bulb. The light bulbs now in power in Warwick claim their bulbs were purposely dimmed by the former bulb’s administration so that they could not see the malfeasance that has led to a structural deficit of $18 million. Did the former chief light bulb get out of town just in time? Or, did he delay his departure too long, so that he now cannot escape blame for the financial mess Warwick is in?
Even if all the mistakes, “crimes,” or carelessness that caused the current deficit that is being blamed on the former chief light bulb are true, the remaining light bulbs who were among the council of nine light bulbs who were supposed to exercise oversight over the chief light bulb are certainly not free of blame.
The former head of the council of light bulbs, now the city’s chief light bulb, voted to approve the contracts the former chief light bulb negotiated with the firefighters’ union. The new chief light bulb says the former chief bulb briefed the council with inaccurate, misleading, or purposely deceiving information that caused him to vote in favor of the contracts. The new head of the light bulb council says virtually the same thing.
This raises some disturbing questions. Both the former and current light bulb council head are lawyers. Why didn’t they read the contract before voting to approve it? Why did they cavalierly accept verbiage and briefing notes provided by the former chief light bulb without taking the time and effort to actually read the contracts? Isn’t that their job? Didn’t they have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers to actually read the document they voted to approve?
There is plenty of blame to be shared for Warwick’s current fiscal mess. All of the light bulbs involved were a lot dimmer than the voters who elected them thought.
The former chief light bulb, in office for years and years, had likely become complacent and allowed his own bulb to dim as the years went by, thus allowing subordinates to make too many decisions and/or failing to properly oversee their actions. And, of course, there could have been purposefully improper actions taken to protect the financial standing of the firefighters’ union, a source of votes that helped keep the former chief light bulb in power for so long.
The members of the light bulb council, both current and past, either dimmed their own bulbs or timidly allowed the former chief light bulb to cast shadows over their lights, preventing them from exercising proper oversight or giving them plausible deniability to go along with the former chief light bulb’s wishes – even when those wishes were suspected of being self-serving or not in the best interests of taxpayers.
The chief light bulb of the firefighters’ union may be the dimmest of all. After pushing the grievance that resulted in a $2.6 million bill for the city, he had the audacity to say, “We’ve always been trying to work on resolving this while not burdening the city’s taxpayers.” In what universe is a bill for $2.6 million “not burdening the city’s taxpayers?” Of course, one might say he is the brightest bulb since he certainly outwitted the dimmer bulbs who were elected by the taxpayers.
Being the chief light bulb of a city the size of Warwick is a very difficult job. Likewise, serving on the light bulb council is both difficult and time consuming, especially considering there is no remuneration. Normally, voters and taxpayers should honor all the light bulbs that are willing to shine on behalf of the entire city.
Unfortunately, the longer a light bulb burns, the weaker it becomes. Eventually, it is so dim that it is ineffective and soon blows. The former chief light bulb was allowed to burn for way too long. Unfortunately, voters kept screwing that same light bulb in every election cycle. Complacency, overconfidence, boredom, or just plain old weariness apparently overcame that bulb eventually and, based on what is now being learned, it became dim and weak.
To his credit, the new chief light bulb promises that he will not be in office for as long as the former chief light bulb. And, perhaps because he is new to the position, he is displaying energy and determination to keep taxes in check while streamlining city government to keep costs in line with the city’s ability to pay. It won’t be easy considering that the vast majority of city expenses are in the form of salaries and the unions that demand ever-increasing salaries and more lucrative benefits are so strong.
In the real light bulb world, innovations are legion. Old incandescent and fluorescent bulbs are being replaced with brighter, longer lasting CFLs and LEDs. That’s the cycle of technological life; and it should be the cycle of political life.
Our city needs term limits for its elected officials, for both the mayor and city council members. Light bulbs that power city government can last only so long before they grow too dim to remain effective. Voters should be required to purchase and screw in new, brighter, more efficient bulbs after older bulbs have been shining for two or three terms. It’s time! Let’s not allow our light bulbs to grow dim again! We can’t afford it!