When you and I went to school, our “three Rs” were distinctly different from the life lessons Gov. Lincoln Chafee taught the citizenry last week. His mastery of subjects was repudiation, revocation and relinquishment. For all those who pontificated that the governor won’t run for office again, his actions show he very much plans to stay in office. So, he had to show he “gets” it to various constituent groups that returned the same crew to the Statehouse.
• Repudiation — The governor signed the landmark pension reform into law but apparently wants to separate himself from gubernatorial contender, Treasurer Gina Raimondo who wants the legislation defended. His ploy is now to talk about negotiating a settlement of the lawsuit pending in Superior Court in order to ingratiate him to the unions, a vote he needs. By embracing a negotiated settlement via a sit-down with union honchos, he also neutralizes potential opponents like Mayors Angel Tavares (Providence) and Allan Fung (Cranston), both of whom had an “edge-up” with the unions by sitting at the bargaining table.
Now, any politician does not come right out and show his real reason for any action. In this case, Gov. Chafee has resorted to the old saw that lawsuits should be settled, if possible. Next, he’ll bring out the old chestnut that it’s better to settle than to lose everything. The fact is, that even were the unions to win, they will lose. The pensions are unsustainable. Tumbleweed will be floating around the abandoned state as companies and taxpayers exit for better climes. Money will dry up. Case law does support the assiduous process used in the pension modifications. It is pure politics for the governor to abandon the defense of the very bill he signed into law. Repudiation is really about another “R” — re-election.
• Revocation — The appointment of a 37-year veteran of the state’s economic development agency to head the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is a slap in the face to every recent “study” done to improve that agency. Both in 2010 and in a 2012 study funded by taxpayers, the analysts urged the equivalent of an intergalactic search for “new blood,” describing the present higher echelon staff as not suitable for the role of leadership. The governor, in effect, revoked the raison d’être for the studies in the first place by naming a partisan to the job.
To add insult to injury, the man chosen for the helm had honesty problems while at the agency. He approved an unauthorized trip to Disneyland for the son of the legal counsel of the agency. He charged some of his personal bills and took a cash advance for himself using the agency credit card. The culture of spending money for personal meals and booze back then led me to christen the EDC as the Eating and Drinking Club. His involvement in the disgraceful bacchanal activity is now rewarded by giving him the highest post. The governor is sending another political message to insiders; namely, he’ll maintain business as usual so they have nothing to fear from his administration.
• Relinquishment — The governor couldn’t get down the Statehouse stairs fast enough to insure a demographic whose votes he needs, that he is on the road to letting them on the road notwithstanding that they are illegally in this country. A driver’s license opens the door to many benefits, including voting. He, no doubt, is abandoning all legal distinctions and, in effect, making Rhode Island a sanctuary state.
He has reelection at any cost (to you) on his mind.