Dave Richards for January 29th…………
--Before we get into state and local issues, I just want to make a quick comment on the big federal issue of the day. The partial government shutdown has been suspended for now. The battle is not over, it’s just a cease-fire. My optimism that a final resolution will be next took a hit over the weekend when I saw something even more unattractive than bull-headedness. Mocking. They were mocking President Trump for calling the cease-fire, saying he “caved in” and they tried to humiliate him for thinking of the workers.
Mocking is destructive to reaching any compromise when one side will chide the other if they give in on a point. It is tantamount to being a poor winner, and is certainly a factor in each side refusing to compromise for fear of being mocked. And, as we all know, compromise is necessary to agreement and vital to progress at any level of government.
--It was with some sadness that I read last Friday of the departure from city service of Joel D. Matthews. Joel and I have had our agreements and our disagreements over the years, and I’m not going to take either side in this matter. But I think something must be said here. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong I still think this is a rotten way for more than four decades of public service to end. Just a rotten way, I say.
--Here it comes, folks. Judgement day for a General Assembly who has made a habit of spending money meant to be for other things than what they’re spending it on.
Yes, I’m talking about scooping. But I’m also talking about a bigger issue. Really big.
You’ll remember some years ago when the so-called “Tobacco Settlement” money came in that our intrepid legislators were having difficulty that year coming up with the cash for their budget.
Not to digress, but can you name me one year when that does not happen?
So, we had these millions of dollars given to us as proceeds from a lawsuit with the caveat that the money was to be used to fund smoking cessation and related health program efforts. But, instead the legislature used it to continue to spend more money than it had.
Some of us commented at the time that “someday you’ll have to pay for those programs and you won’t have the money to do it.” Well, “someday” is here.
The American Lung Association is about to release a study. The study itself is embargoed until tomorrow, so I cannot quote it today. But I can quote the headline on the press release sent to our station Monday. “[The American] Lung Association Finds RI Failing to Fund Proven Tobacco Prevention Efforts.” Ooops. Our dirty little secret is out. Now everybody knows we didn’t do what we promised to do. And it really couldn’t come at a worse time. We are once again wondering how to plug a big income hole in our budget, so there is no extra money to replace what we mis-appropriated years ago. In the private sector, people go to jail for this.
Forgive my cynicism but I don’t anticipate the leaders of the General Assembly today will be terribly concerned about the revelation that we broke our word. After all, it has happened before. I remember being taught in high school that when each state comes into the union, they promise to not make laws which conflict with the laws of the federal government. Yet Rhode Island seems to be following other states in marching toward the eventual full legalization of marijuana, clearly in violation of federal law and the promise we made when we joined the Republic.
Using the vernacular of years ago, the idea “Blows my mind” that the state of Rhode Island would legalize and promote the smoking of marijuana with the excuse of needing the money to, among other things, fund smoking cessation efforts!
The late Joe O’Donnell of North Smithfield was a former Lt. Governor of our state. Joe knew a lot about government. Many years ago Joe told me history proves that when a government sanctions sin and vice in order to raise money to govern, it has already failed. He was speaking during the debate of allowing a state lottery. He said the easy money associated with such activities acts like an intoxicating drug to government. It can never get enough of it, and it eventually clouds the judgement between right and wrong when trying to get more of it. If Joe were still with us today, he would be very disappointed in the state he loved and served.
--That's what I think. What do you think? Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org or postal mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332.
Thanks for reading.