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PowerPlayer: Tea Party Leader Lisa Blais

Monday, July 02, 2012

 

This week’s PowerPlayer is Lisa Blais, head of the Ocean State Tea Party in Action. Mr. Blais was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about her organization’s work and the issues Rhode Island is currently facing.

1) Rhode Island is considered one of the most liberal states in the country. How difficult has it been to push the Tea Party's agenda in this state?

The Ocean State Tea Party in Action’s agenda is focused solely on the economic health and welfare of Rhode Island. Our agenda can be viewed at www.oceanstateteapartyinaction.com. We are independent of other tea party movements across the country, and so to suggest that the OSTPA has “pushed” a “Tea Party” agenda is misleading. We enjoy tri-partisan agreement on many of our positions (Democrat, Moderate, and Republican). Each state has its own political culture, and Rhode Island is certainly unique both in culture and political ramifications because of its history, one party system, and size. A few years ago the tea party movement emerged, and it happened to be the perfect portal for average taxpayers to voice concern about Rhode Island’s governance.

In a nutshell, our agenda has overarching themes: eliminate our structural deficit; reduce the state tax burden; reallocate the use of taxpayers’ dollars to deliver necessary services in a cost-effective and efficient manner by reducing waste and abuse in our government services; and finally reduce political insider cronyism.
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Over the past 2 years, we have witnessed an improved reception from legislators in the State House. No longer are they surprised or taken aback by our presence in committee hearings. Many have come to accept the fact that it was long overdue for average citizens to have a persistent, consistent, credible voice in the political process. They have been respectfully reminded that people outside of the hallowed halls of lawmaking are directly impacted by, and struggle under, many of the policies that they have approved over the years.

Yet, the difficulty of advocating for average taxpayers comes as no surprise. It lies with some legislators who are key committee members, or chairs of those committees who are tied to special interests via their employment, or by virtue of campaign donations or political promises. They cling to the status quo rather than providing for sound public policy that benefits all Rhode Islanders.

The upside of this past session is that taxpayers, through the advocacy of the OSTPA, had a direct hand in pushing for pension reform in 2011. While the municipal reform fell short this year, it paved the way to finish the work that must be done in that area. We successfully and relentlessly testified against many bills that were aimed to weaken the steps that have been taken to improve our public education system, or undo the tax reform enacted, and lastly our efforts stopped the East Bay Energy Consortium bill that would have allowed a public agency to wade into private enterprise under the umbrella of the EDC.

2) What are the three biggest problems plaguing the state and how do we solve them?

Unemployment level - Very few businesses are coming to RI or expanding, and small privately held businesses are struggling in our backward economy, as compared with other states. We must complete a comprehensive, coordinated review of all tax policies, regulations, business mandates and the so-called property tax cap, and then simplify across the board. We must also implement zero-based budgeting.

Public Education – We cannot continue to graduate students who are not “work-ready”, or qualified to enter mid-to top-tier colleges. Instead we must reallocate more of the money that we are spending on K-12 to the classrooms, and not to increased salaries and benefits.

The Scope of Public-Sector Collective Bargaining – Public sector wages and benefits have become unaffordable, and unsustainable through promises that have been incorporated into collective bargaining agreements over many years. We must narrow the scope of bargaining to prevent this in the future.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

When the GA was in session, and as a volunteer for the OSTPA, much of the time was spent tracking our bills of interest, writing to and speaking with legislators to ask questions, seeking their opinion and sharing our own. Hours were spent researching and writing our testimony along with my volunteer colleagues. OSTPA was in committee hearings almost every night of the session to present our testimony (we testified on approximately 110 bills) or submitting testimony in writing. A substantial amount of time was also spent weekly to prepare for the distribution of our weekly Legislative Alerts.

4) Election season is heating up. Give us three predictions for November.

There will be new faces in the State House in both chambers, and at the local school committee and council level.

EDC (if kept in place - OSTPA does not think that it should operate as it has) will be re-vamped.

Gina Raimondo will take on a larger role in state politics.

May I have a fourth? Gordon Fox remains Speaker of the House.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

RI hosted its first national invitational conference A New Dialogue: Collective Bargaining in Public Education many years ago. It drew union leaders, education reformers and stakeholders, and legislators from across the country. I had a hand in framing the discussion topics and successfully recruiting participation of union leadership with particularly high profiles including Marcia Reback, former President of the RIFTHP, Richard Stutman, President of the Boston Teachers Union, Randi Weingarten, Brad Jupp and Louise Sundlin to name a few.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: My husband. He has the most incredible work ethic and value system.

Favorite Restaurant: Tav-Vino’s.

Best Beach: I grew up on Narragansett Pier, so there you go! Sitting on the wall on Ocean Road makes for great people watching 

Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: I read a great deal, for pleasure, for my passion (public education) and for professional purposes. The Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor, I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb, The Same Thing Over and Over, by Frederick M. Hess. And, all things HR related.

Advice for the Next Lisa Blais: Be well-informed, committed and passionate. Do your homework and always be respectful and professional. Be an active listener and remember that the State House is the People’s House so try not to be afraid or intimidated. Oh, and be willing to give a lot of your time for free!


 

 

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Comments:

Ron Restivo

"Reducing waste and abuse in our government services." Such an admirable goal. Did Ms. Blais learn these skills why working at the Education Partnership? Or was she too busy padding her pocketbook with money from that organization while high school kids got screwed out of their scholarships. This woman is deplorable.

Chris O.

Restivo, go to hell. People are tired of these vague accusations of corruption intended to smear the character of people they disagree with politically. "Padding her pocketbook"??? Screw you. Seriously. Oh, did Ms. Blais have a job or something? I have a job. Am I "padding my pocketbook"?? What are you suggesting? That she stole money from kids? Nobody knows what the hell you're talking about.

Read that interview again. Blais takes the powers-that-be HEAD-ON everyday. And she does it for a bunch of ungrateful RI taxpayers who whine about the unemployment rate, but who'll probably end up voting for the same reckless politicians this fall. She does it all for free! Like all the other Tea Party volunteers who take on well-paid union lobbyists up at the State House.

This woman is a hero.

Jared D

Ron, you have a big, obvious stick up your butt.

Chris, I entirely agree with you on the point you made about "vague accusations of corruption"...That's dirty stuff. That was a great interview, only to be ruined by some jerk who tried to get every reader to doubt Ms. Blais's character and integrity. Typical, typical, typical.

Jeffrey Brown

I've had the pleasure of working closely with Lisa Blais, particularly regarding pension reform. She's of fantastic character and has an undeniable passion for helping to make this state a better place for present and future Rhode Islanders. Too many people sit on the sidelines, whine and complain and do nothing to cause change. And, too many people paint "tea party" with the wrong brush. Fiscal change, i.e. the health and economic welfare of Rhode Island is something we all need to be terribly concerned with and unfortunately, most Rhode Islanders stil don't get it.

Great job, VOLUNTEER and unfortunately unemployed, Ms. Lisa Blais. Keep up the awesome work in exposing the likes of the naysayers who are so threatened by people who are collectively working to help clean up this state.

paul zecchino

Not to worry. The scripted leftist ad homimen comment above, with its usual false accusations and Lenin's Book of Slogans& Insults such as 'padding her pocketbook' nicely illustrate the desperation of the left.

The left is at last exposed, its smiley-face removed to reveal the ugly, corrosive, lying soulless, mindless black hole that is leftist 'ideology'.

Ms. Blais is clearly a making headway for benefit of citizens, something the jealous left detests, as the left was never about 'fairness', 'equality', or 'helping the poor' but instead about helping its crime syndicate members to as much of our liberty and wealth as it could con us into giving up.

It's good when leftist rats mouth off, so that citizens long fooled by the left's altruistic platitudes can see the cruel intent which lies beneath.

Ron Restivo

Chris O. Yes, someone that is part of a corrupt organization like the Education Partnership, an organization that missappropriated lots of money in order to pay staff, is most assuredly padding their pocket. Funny how Blais never talks about her work there. She never shuts up about anything else. So spare me all the plaudits of this clown. Until she comes clean about what happened there, she has zero credibility. Zero!




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