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Arthur Schaper: Is Freedom of Petition Dead in RI? Why?

Friday, March 21, 2014


Since when should a man have to give up his job to represent his city or his state?, asks Arthur Schaper.

It was bad enough when Massachusetts expelled Roger Williams over freedom of religion. Then there was the union-backed petition drive against shock-jock John DePetro because of his “war on women” (or really his outspoken criticism of unions, thus attacking his freedom of speech).

By the way, how is that “For Our Daughters RI” boycott working out?

Last I read, For Our Daughters was putting pressure on Alex and Ani Jewelers, because of their support for John DePetro. What happened? In the past four years, the company’s profits have soared (not soured) from $4 to $200 (hundred) million dollars. Maybe DePetro should send them a “Thank You”, (rich sponsors make the radio stations go round), and then other RI businesses should ask the Daughters (Or Checkmate Consulting?) to boycott them, too, since a union-backed boycott is so good for a business, especially in a state where business has been so bad.

Hey, FYI, FODRI, would you boycott me, too? Then maybe I go from roughing it to rolling in it!

US Senate Saga

Now to the US Senate saga of Senator Jack Reed, and (possibly) Warwick technician administrator Raymond T. McKay of Warwick. From press releases to the release of the statewide press, McKay is gearing for a campaign run. Except for one little problem: An obscure little Warwick code bars classified employees (including McKay) from running or he must resign.

After my three calls to Warwick’s Personnel Director, Ms. Jane Jordan, she emailed me the press release, which repeated Section 48-107, precluding classified employees from retaining their jobs if they run for office. Yes, it’s “the law”, but other similarly unjust statutes that have been struck down throughout history—so why not this one?

What does the Constitution say about running for office? For those unaware (whoever came up with that rule in Warwick) and those who care (the Rhode Island ACLU and a growing consensus of voters):

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

No actions shout, “I want to petition my government” louder than running for office: speech, petition, and redress all rolled into one. Since when should a man have to give up his job to represent his city or his state? A former Warwick city employee confirmed two issues about this statute: “Just for the record, Jane Jordan is correct,” then the source countered that the Merit System Ordinances (including Section 48-107) are “arbitrary and capricious”. This employee pledged to testify on McKay’s behalf regarding this matter that the Warwick city code is unconstitutional. McKay has sought injunction relief in state court, but the city of Warwick has moved the case to a federal forum, whose judge will not hear the case until March 31. McKay's legal team is seeking another judge to adjudicate the matter as soon as possible.

Now another question springs up. Why won’t Warwick mayor Scott Avedisian say or do something about this silly rule? Could not he and the city council have repealed it? After three attempts to contact Mayor Avedisian, nothing.

Avedisian-Reed Connection

Choosing not to comment on the matter directly because of his party affiliation, does Avedisian stand to gain or lose something? Is he a closet supporter of incumbent Democrat Jack Reed, thus angling to keep Reed challengers at bay?

Looking over prior press releases, one finds a trail of earmarks connecting Mayor Avedisian and Senator Reed. In 2008, a Warwick Beacon column reported on Mayor Avedisian’s efforts to restore public access for Rocky Point, including thanks for Congressman Langevin and Senator Jack Reed for securing $2.2 million of matching funds to purchase 41 acres of the land.

Going further, one of Senator Reed’s press releases features Governor Chafee and Mayor Avedisian celebrating renewed FAA funds for the upkeep of T.F. Green airport. The specific amount: $110 million. Later in 2012, Avedisian was celebrating with Senator Reed (as well as Congressman Langevin and Senator Whitehouse), a $3.1 million grant for training 17 more firefighters in Warwick. Recently, Senator Reed and Mayor Avedisian (along with Governor Chafee) partnered regarding the Warwick Station Development District.

Fine, Avedisian may have a reason to support Senator Reed, yet I am not inclined to believe that the mayor is so avid that he would block a fellow GOP from running. What can a GOP do in a Dem state? Besides, Whether Reed or Ray goes to Washington, Warwick would get its money worth.

Regardless of why (rules, politics, or both), a man should not have to lose his job to run for office. And it’s not as if Reed has to worry, right? Early 2013 polling showed Reed with a commanding lead over potential challengers (including Avedisian), dubbing him “the least vulnerable Senator in the country” per Public Policy Polling. Then again, despite a 62% approval rating in February 2013, a December, 2013 NPRI poll showed Reed at 55%. With high unemployment, and a bungled Obamacare rollout, Reed may face a real challenge.


Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter @ArthurCSchaper, reach him at [email protected], and read more atSchaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.


Related Slideshow: Infamous Talk Radio Controversies

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Arbitron Ratings Scandal

In 2008, radio host John DePetro found himself in the midst of a ratings controversy.  The Boston Herald reported,

The briefly stellar ratings of controversy-dogged-talkmeister John DePetro’s Providence radio show tanked yesterday after a whiff of scandal forced Arbitron to reissue its spring survey of listener-dial habits.

In the 6 to 10 a.m. weekday slot occupied by the self-proclaimed “Independent Man” on WPRO-AM (630), “the reissue ranked WPRO at number nine” among valued 25- to 54-year-old listeners, “down from the number four rank in the original release,” program manager Paul Giammarco and station market manager Barbara Haynes announced in a joint statement.

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Candidate Name-Calling

DePetro was fired from Boston radio station WRKO in 2006 for calling then-gubernatorial Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross a "fat lesbian." 

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Office Scuffle

The Providence Journal's Mike Stanton reported on an altercation in 2009 between DePetro and radio host Ron St. Pierre.

DePetro said he was hit -- and scratched -- in the eye with a balled up paper with a staple thrown at him by St. Pierre.  

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Buddy's Return - to Radio


After five years in prison for racketeering conspiracy from 2002 to 2007, former Mayor of Providence Buddy Cianci returned to the public eye with a radio show on WPRO.  

While controversial, Cianci's continued popularity has people wondering if Buddy might just make another run for Mayor in 2014.  

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Chafee's Talk Radio Ban

Upon taking office in 2011, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee announced that he would not appear on talk radio shows and barred state employees in agencies and departments that report to him from doing the same during work hours.  

Governor Chafee is among the elected officials who have signed the "For Our Daughters" pledge.  

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Dennis and Callahan

WEEI sports radio hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were suspended in 2003 when they referred to an escaped gorilla as a "Metco gorilla" waiting for a bus to Lexington -- with Metco being bus program that buses inner-city students to suburban schools.

Boston's http://www.wcvb.com/Radio-Station-Gorilla-Remarks-Spur-Advertiser-Concerns/-/9849586/11281756/-/5lg3o9z/-/index.html#ixzz2nbPAwzd2" target="_blank">WCVB reported that advertisers Dunkin' Donuts and Blue Cross pulled back station support in light of the incident.  

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Severin Suspended

WTKK's Jay Severin was fired for making comments about sleeping with female employees over the years.  

Radio Ink reported on Greater Media's reaction to the incident.  

"Greater Media today ended its relationship with Jay Severin. Our company has always encouraged a free and open dialogue on a variety of issues and topics, and we will continue to be guided by that principle. But we also demand that our on-air talent maintain an appropriate level of civility, and adhere to a standard that respects our listeners and the public at large.

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Imus' Racial Remarks

in 2007, nationally syndicated talk show host Don Imus called Rutgers women's basketball players "nappy-headed hos."  Imus was suspended -- then fired -- by CBS Radio.  

Five years later, Imus was back on the national radio circuit, as reported by New Jersey.com

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Rush Limbaugh

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is no stranger to controversy; his latest remarks prompted the Democratic National Committee to call on Republican leaders to boycott the Daily Caller, which defended Limbaugh's remarks in an article entitled, "Liberals want to stop men from checking out women." 


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