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Dan Lawlor: Time to Drop Dominick Ruggerio Like a Hot Potato

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Newsflash: Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed has just demanded that Dominick Ruggerio and Frank Ciccone resign.

Just kidding.

Pity Senate President Paiva Weed; some of her subordinates (namely Majority Leader Ruggerio and former Oversight Chair Ciccone) seem to think they're in a Keisha video: "Drop-toping, playing our favorite cds, Pulling up to the parties,Trying to get a little bit tipsy."

No one was hurt, thankfully. The big issue seems to be, why, after breaking the law, should Ruggerio be in charge of a group of people who make the law? He's going to be fine financially - he makes nearly 200,000 dollars a year. His bonehead activities, even as he accepts responsibility for them, do nothing to helping working people, or to further the cause of a more just Rhode Island. They simply continue to make us a laughable place to do business. Which is so frustrating - especially with our official unemployment once again at 11%.

Concerned Rhode Islanders should tell Paiva Weed to drop Ruggerio like a hot potato - damaged goods, dangerous to the Democratic Party, a testament to mistakes of judgment. From this DUI incident to hiring a friend's son for an 80,000 dollar gig - come on! Paiva Weed has a choice - she can maintain the network of older, politically active middle aged men who look out for each other, or she can break ranks, and push for some real change. I also point out that the same legislator who stole condoms (albeit years ago), is the one who is leader in a legislative body which refuses to support marriage equality, for tradition and religion.

It's time to end the nonsense. Clean house. Start fresh. Ask these characters to resign.

Back in 1970s, Providence Journal columnist John Hanlon wrote, "What hurts and rankles most of all is that they take us for such fools." He was referring to that generation's crop of elected "big-deal" politicians. Today, what's most glaring is the continuing issue of political leaders failing to act with integrity, even as the state is in crisis. Particularly in a state our size, a state which national companies polluted before cutting wages and jobs, the bozo-act politician is pathetic. We need leadership, not suburban imitations of Tammany Hall.

Many people - private and public - have worked hard to step up to the plate in these hard times. More need to. Awesome individuals elected and in private life are struggling to maintain integrity and quality, not favors. I could name dozens of individuals smart and intelligent enough to be good legislators, majority leaders, committee members and the like. Knowing of those creative, hardworking individuals, the "big deal" politicians, who fail to reach out with the people and instead make idle threats of power, embarrass us all. Still, let's keep this in perspective - the "bad guys" in state politics didn't cause the global economic collapse, arm terrorists, send riot police to beat up protestors, arrange hits, nor organize drug cartels. Our "bad guys" are more timid, petty. I remember a colleague talk about the statehouse "politics behind the politics," and, sad but true, "if you really want to understand this place, watch the Godfather trilogy." Contrary to some perspectives, the really danger to economic growth here isn't Karl Marx, its old-fashioned Rhode Island bossism.

This state has become much better since its corruption heydays. There is now an ethics commission, the mafia is on its last legs, there are no more race riots between Central and Classical High Schools, it is much safer place to be gay, the bay is much cleaner, and we're trying to restore, not demolish, downtowns and historic homes across the state. Through hard work, the culture has changed a lot since the 1970s. Now, it's our time to work for a better culture.

So, what will it be Senate President? To paraphrase another "big-deal" politician, Chicago's Mayor Daley, "Will you be the last of the old bosses, or the first of the new ones?"

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