Has Lincoln Chafee Given Up?

During his State of the State address, Governor Lincoln Chafee seemed to strike most of the right notes, including freezing tuition for higher education, town and city fiscal support, and the importance of supporting the arts. It was a virtual love fest as his Democrat legislators greeted his remarks with rousing applause. Of course, his rosy picture of the state fortunes and the self-congratulations were surreal. I was expecting that the Governor would use his last year in office to summon the legislators to do exactly what is needed for the state to grow. Talking nice doesn’t erase the unemployment rate that has mired us in last place or the fact that our brightest and the best are following the jobs to other states.
I was left wondering what had happened to the Lincoln Chafee of yesteryear. He went out on a limb oppose war on Iraq. He issued clarion calls that spoke to the very best in the heart and soul of this nation. Now, he was tossing around pious platitudes.
His speech could have been that of the former Lincoln Chafee. He used to know that throwing money at problems doesn’t make them go away, but rather gives them life. I was hoping that he would have called for an end to the giveaway union contracts in our cities and towns, as opposed to granting more money to feed business as usual. Health care “promises” for public employees are bankrupt in many towns and cities and are simply unsustainable. The old Lincoln Chafee would have proposed a carrot and stick approach to demand the funding of  future health care rather than the fly-by-the-seat-of-one’s-pants funding, as is the case in at least half of our municipalities. This is another boondoggle, waiting in the wings.
Education funding increases he proposed should have been targeted to programs for children — not to abet bigger and better raises for personnel. Where was the explication of trade-offs that are necessary to develop jobs and a business climate here? He knows the solutions. He just didn’t speak up.
“Trust Chafee” was the mantra he used to get elected. He will have one more year to make that a reality instead of a silly slogan. His first test will be in selecting a new judge. His director of administration, Richard Licht, is in the mix for a judgeship, a lifetime position, with huge perks because of a law that benefitted a relative of Mr. Licht’s. It is preposterous to think that the present position of Mr. Licht isn’t a policy-making one which the ethics laws should have prevented him from attaining under the “revolving-door ‘provision that bars such appointments for at least one year after departing from a government post. Mr. Chafee can either sing a “la la song” and appoint him or remind us why it was that we thought we could trust Chafee.
I hope that the former Mr. Chafee, a fearless and noble leader, makes an appearance during this last year in office. Hopefully, the bumps and bruises he has sustained to date won’t make him so cynical that he appears a shadow of his former self.
Get your guts back, Governor!

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