Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rhode Island Job Opening: LEADER

Halfway through the 2013 season and there’s a stunner atop the AL East. No one could have predicted these standings by looking at the roster on Opening Day or reflecting on the lost season of Bobby V. This team is not as entertaining as the “idiots” of 2004, but the between the stars, the veterans and the rookies, they’ve figured out a way to play great baseball and lead the league. Their secret: leadership. I don’t pretend to know what happens in the locker room or on the team plane, but when David Ortiz took the microphone on April 20 and told the terrorists (in very clear, obscene English) that they didn’t scare him, he not only puffed out the chest of Boston Strong, he showed his team what a leader does in a time of crisis. A leader steps up and shows the team a path forward.

So who will step up to the mike for Rhode Island? I’m not suggesting that we need a major disaster in Rhode Island to get our house in order, but we are desperate for leadership. It’s becoming clear that Governor Chafee is not the contemplative, independent person that a bit more than a third of us voted for – and it’s not clear at this point if his ethical compass is even pointed in the right direction. In the last two weeks alone, a member of his staff received a $60,000 raise and he’s offered the $200,000 Commissioner of Higher Education job to a crony who a. doesn’t appear to have any qualifications to oversee our colleges and universities and b. according to an Ethics Commission regulations is not eligible for the job because she chairs the Board of Education which (that’s right) hires the Commissioner of Higher Education. I’m just not sure we can “Trust Chafee” to do anything besides make bad decisions.

It’s clear that we can’t rely on the General Assembly to define a path forward either. We’re coming off of a tumultuous legislative session that saw additional burdens being placed on Rhode Island businesses and a mixed record on economic development initiatives.  Legislators voted to allow daycare workers to unionize and for an expansion of TDI - both competitiveness killers.  The Sakonnet River Bridge toll was backroom politics at its worst. If our East Bay legislators were as double-crossed as it seems they were, I hope they will introduce a bill to assess a user fee for snow removal based on the inches of snow a town gets in a year. If we have to bear the burden for maintaining the bridges, others should have to pay more to maintain their community roads with exceptional snow removal needs. Why should I pay to plow Route 5? I never use it.

We cannot continue the path we are on. Our jobs numbers are improving but primarily because job seekers have left the state or just stopped looking. While we did manage to claw up one spot in the CNBC “Top States for Business” rankings to 49th, there’s no pride in being one notch ahead of Hawaii and one below West Virginia. We need leaders who can drive policy changes that matter and don’t waste effort or political capital on frivolous legislation.

There’s only 81 games left in the regular season but we’ve got more than a year to go before the “Help Wanted” signs are up for every elected position in the State House. Let’s pledge to make good choices. After all, this is our “bleeping” state and it’s time that we dictate what happens here.

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