Carol Anne Costa: Guess Who’s Coming to the State of the Union?
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Anticipating the message, poking fun at the line up of the 2014 quadraphonic rebuttals, listening carefully to the run-up to the speech and assessing the assessments is “what we live for.” But, we can thank Peggy Noonan, Reagan speechwriter and author of one of my favorite books, Patriotic Grace, for the added frivolity of the SOTU... the guest list. It seems even Ms. Noonan of late is downplaying her own role in what the SOTU has become, as she considers it a real yawner these days. Not me, as I really love the show!
In 1982 when Ronald Reagan pointed up into the gallery (as only Reagan could) and and celebrated the bravery of Lenny Skutnik, a young government worker who jumped into the frigid Potomac to rescue plane crash victims of Air Florida’s doomed Flight 90 as it clipped the 14th Street Bridge in DC, ahh I remember it well. That SOTU moment was pure political gold, orchestrated by Ms. Noonan and delivered masterfully by the Great Communicator. Speechwriters everywhere were envious of the ingenious method of bringing the people into the people's house, as the country erupted in unison when Reagan cheered this ordinary hero. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Noonan’s plan is a gift that keeps on giving. But in typical American fashion has the practice become overused and ultimately cheapened? Only the American public will make that determination.
Politics Embodied in the Company We Keep...
My mother frequently admonished me as a kid, “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are!” She'd usually say it after I made some foolish misstep or bad choice. The older I get the more I embrace that warning, and try to surround myself with people who are passionate, funny, clever, honest, charitable and kind, as I find these types of people uplifting. So who was in the company of friends inside the Chamber for SOTU 2014, and what message did it send?
The Obamacare backlash was in full force on the GOP guest list. The Republicans marched out a cadre of people negatively impacted by the ACA including a New Orleans businessman, Larry Katz, who claims the ACA will cost his diner chain $50,000.00 per year. Representative Marsha Blackburn brought Emile Lamb, a constituent who suffers from lupus and since enrolling in the ACA claims her premiums have quadrupled.
The Dems guest list included folks saved by the ACA in “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours” posturing. DNC, Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz invited Martin West, who’s ACA experience has helped to cut his deductibles and premiums in a big way. Texas’s Marc Veasey was accompanied by Jason Roberts, a cancer survivor being afforded continuing care through enrollment in the ACA. Also in the House were Americans who suffered job loss, cut unemployment benefits and Dreamers. Every guest has a story and it always fits nicely with the invitation issuer’s narrative.
But, the fun guests were in attendance too. Vance McAllister rolled out Duck Dynasty’s reality star Willie “We Are Still on the Air” Robertson. And, not to be outdone the ever present Louie “Terror Babies” Gohmert of Texas brought lightning rod and Fox News host Sean Hanity. Turns out Hanity is a SOTU virgin, I hope Louie was gentle.
Closer to Home
Rhode Island’s senior Senator, Jack Reed’s had a real go getter on his arm for the SOTU, Anne Nolan, president of Crossroads RI. Anne’s record for creating solutions to combat RI homelessness is unmatched. Our junior Senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, brought Scott DePasquale, CEO of Utilidata, a company founded and running to make energy solutions more efficient. Sounds like someone good for the environment. Congressman Jim Langevin’s guest was delicious, as he brought Davide Dukcevich of Daniele Foods, while Congressman Cicilline brought Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, a rising star in the RI Democratic party. I hope they all had a great time.
But, it was some on the President's guest list I find most uplifting. It included a school house heroine, Boston Marathon survivors and first responders and the first openly gay athlete in the NBA. Antoinette Tuff is the heroic bookkeeper who saved countless lives when she intervened with words of love and averted what could have been a Newtown like incident in Georgia this spring. She is exemplary and I wrote about her in the wake of the incident. I am looking forward to her new book, Prepared for a Purpose. Boston marathon survivors Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman, who's bravery and resolve in the wake of the of the bombing in April, are captured in the image that will live forever of the bloody Bauman being helped by the man in the cowboy hat. That picture epitomized how quickly strangers jump into danger in true American fashion. Look, these guests on every level say much about who we are individually and collectively. They recognize varied points of view, diverse political positions and the cultural richness of who we are as a people. For me, the SOTU is way more than a speech, it is a symphony.
Thank You, Peggy
After the speech I felt good, I realize as a nation we have problems, but the tone on Tuesday was a bit different it had the sound of movement. The President sounded as if he has new resolve, the Congress seems ready to begin the work of governing and I was pleasantly surprised by the rebuttal from Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, as it was about moving forward. Both sides appear poised to reject “the no” and replace it with “the how.” Maybe the SOTU 2014 address hit a reset button; if so, wouldn't that be great, only time will tell. It is you Peggy Noonan, even though by your own admission you probably dozed off, who is responsible for the tradition of introducing us to our best and brightest and for that, I thank you.
Carol Costa is a public relations and community outreach specialist; she has experience in both the public and private sectors. She is the Chairwoman of the Scituate Democratic Town Committee and has extensive community affairs and public relations experience. She previously served in the Rhode Island Judiciary for nearly 17 years. Carol also enjoyed a successful development stint at the Diocese of Providence as Associate Director for Catholic Education and is currently a public housing manager. Her work has been published in several local outlets including GoLocal, Valley Breeze, The Rhode Island Catholic, and Currents Magazine.
Smallest + Largest Tax Increases in RI
Below are the largest—and smallest—tax increases in Rhode Island cities and towns for fiscal year 2014. The data measures the overall change in the amount levied in taxes between last year and this year. It does not compare changes in individual tax rates for homeowners, which may have been higher than the overall increase if the change in the rates was lower for another group of taxpayers in the community. This year, for the first time, all communities stayed below the annual tax cap, which for 2014 was 4 percent. (The cap applies to the overall levy not individual tax rates. Note that the levies for any independent fire districts in a community are not included.) Below communities are ranked starting with those that had the lowest increases. Data was provided by the state Division of Municipal Finance and is current as of January 7.
FY 2013 to FY 2014 Tax Increase: 1.53%
FY 2013 Tax Levy: $59,560,610
FY 2014 Tax Levy: $60,472,810
Amount of Increase: $912,200
Note: Has an independent fire district. Levy for fire districts not included. Cumberland actual amount is an estimate reported by the town. Final levy will be set in May 2014
FY 2013 to FY 2014 Tax Increase: 1.91%
FY 2013 Tax Levy: $101,738,436
FY 2014 Tax Levy: $103,679,393
Amount of Increase: $1,940,957
Note: East Providence fiscal year is Nov. 1 to Oct. 31. Figures represent an state estimate which will be finalized in spring 2014.
FY 2013 to FY 2014 Tax Increase: 3.91%
FY 2013 Tax Levy: $49,896,853
FY 2014 Tax Levy: $51,845,789
Amount of Increase: $1,948,936
Note: East Greenwich fiscal year 2013 & 2014 levies reflect the towns merger with the fire district in June 2013.
Photo: Flickr/Jimmy Wayne
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