To the Editor:
Recently, Governor Chafee proposed giving cash-strapped Pawtucket, Woonsocket, West Warwick and Providence more control over their budgets. Chaffee stated, “We are facing three choices in Rhode Island: let our communities go bankrupt, watch property taxes continue to skyrocket, or give our municipal leaders the tools and relief they need to achieve fiscal stability.” The fact is; this crisis has been in the making for decades via the Democratic Party by order of greedy government labor unions in which all communities must demand total control now.
Some of the state mandates that maybe could be suspended are some pay increases for teachers and public safety personnel, and consolidating municipal and school functions, including disability pension reform and local pension benefits caps. The problem is Chafee was elected by the unions, for the unions and is indebted to the unions, like most Democrats in our state, which is why there was no mention of privatization of services. In fact, the Pawtucket Democrat mayor said any changes locally would come through the proper political and legislative process and Chafee seconded that assertion. Again, the reality here is 92 percent of Rhode Island politicians are Democrats and approximately 60 percent are directly or indirectly involved in civil service; a conspiracy indeed.
Of the various proposals, one was to suspend non-public school transportation. Johnston taxpayers need to realize we have approximately 750 students whose parents are paying out of pocket to send their children to private and religious schools and many need the use of public school buses. The present cost per pupil is $15,300 and when you do the math, it could cost our town additional millions and it was by order of the teacher unions, from which there are approximately 28 in the General Assembly.
The president of the state AFL-CIO stated, “Governor Chafee’s proposal to let financially distressed cities and towns make significant changes to union contracts represents a ‘fundamental assault’ on the labor movement’s core values.”
What core values? They have bankrupted our state, cities and towns. The statement from the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers was, “Giving certain cities and towns the ability to freeze annual salary increases for teachers and change medical benefits were particularly offensive, considering local chapters have, over the years, made concessions in their contract negotiations.” If meaningful concessions had been made, we wouldn’t be in this fix. Note the following: school vouchers would save millions annually for every community; the Council on Foreign Relations claims 75 percent of public school children are unqualified to serve in our armed forces. China is number 1 in education and our country is ranked 14th. Note: last week when our mayor was asked about fiscal mismanagement of some school boards, he said he doesn’t see that problem in Johnston. When you consider our fiscal crises and what school vouchers could accomplish, it doesn’t add up and our mayor should be demanding this option.
One statement from the State Association of Fire Fighters was, “The proposal essentially allows executives of financially distressed cities and towns to ‘rip up’ collectively bargained union contracts,” so what are communities suppose to do when there is no more money? The reality of the above statements and frivolous proposals are an insult to all taxpayers whose generosity has been taken advantage of, and have now become slaves to the unions. The concessions they claimed to have made weren’t worth the paper they were written on. Just last year in our town, our unionized Fire Department went $2.3 million over budget in overtime because of unscrupulous, greedy demands. Did you know if a town firefighter works 15 minutes over their scheduled shift they demand we pay them for one and a half hours?
In closing, this is the year for lifelong Democrats to realize the party has sold them and their families down the river. The only recourse for our municipalities is to stand up to the General Assembly and take realistic measures into our own hands. We need to throw out the Democrats and give Republicans and Independents, who have the courage to stand up to these disgraceful unions, the chance to serve. We need leadership that understands the necessity to throw the contracts into the trash along with all the promises that never should have been made or accepted. Our true national debt is over $150 trillion and soon, our currency will be worth much less and China’s currency will be in greater demand as our once great country spirals into an abyss. Thank you.
Peter A. Filippi III
Founder of the Johnston Taxpayers Association