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Carol Anne Costa: The Senate Cannot Hide from Reality

Thursday, May 08, 2014


What will Teresa Paiva Weed do?

As the House breathed new life into the Master Lever bill with a unanimous vote, the Senate chamber has grown ominously quiet. It feels a bit like the Benny’s commercial where the patron is ambling through empty isles beckoning , “hello.” For me, the silence is deafening. Look, we have traveled as far as ever on this voyage of reform. Fifty one years is a very long trip. So will the journey end with safe harbor embodied in a Senate vote; up or down. Or will the hopes of good government Rhode Islanders again succumb to rogue waves of political survival? I am betting on the public. This bill has champions like Representative Mike Marcello and Gubernatorial candidate Ken Block and I am well aware they will push this legislation to a vote on the Senate floor with all of their might.

My GoLocal colleagues Don Roach and John Perilli had great takes on the issue at hand and clearly prove that this is not a partisan issue.This is about good government and empowerment of the voter, it turns out we all agree on that, no matter our party affiliations or stripe. So about the politics of this “oh so close election reform” - It was Marcello’s tireless pursuit of this goal which proved to be an ironic trod to the House’s unanimous vote. In losing the the Speakers battle his promise to deliver a vote within 30 days came true and his voice for reform was heard. So, his loss was truly our gain. In the end Representative Shekarchi carried his newly introduced bill over the goal line, only after acquiescing to the wishes of the people by making the act effective in time for the 2014 election. This bill H-8072, as amended, if it prevails in the Senate will have an immediate and positive impact on our elections.


What will Teresa Paiva Weed do? The proverbial ball is in her court and as I see it the house has thankfully placed a tremendous amount of pressure on the Senate chamber. The stone wall that has been the Senate leadership team may finally meet a sledge hammer that will, when well swung begin to chip away until ultimately delivering a resounding blow for sensible and long over due election reform. The people have spoken. And, what I get from the totality of the dialogue is, “abolition of the master lever is a no brainer.”

I watched with great interest the people’s testimony before House Judiciary and to say the citizenry was literally pleading for passage of this legislation should not be lost in the Senate chamber. An older gentleman from West Warwick challenged lawmakers saying “You people have a chance to move RI forward or again delay this bill. This legislation is way overdue we have been fighting for this for decades.” Another woman pleaded in part, ”Please please please, it is time.” These sentiments cannot and must not be ignored by the upper chamber. All the Senate President must do is deliver a vote. Seems simple enough, but yet it remains in limbo. I hear that deafening silence again.


What will Ken Block do? Tweet the living daylights out of it, thats what! He has called leaders to the carpet via social media. In a May 6th Tweet from @Ken BlockRI, Block wrote, "Elected officials and candidates are asking Senate Ldrshp to bring the Master Lever up for a floor vote. Will you join them?" With this call to action Ken Block will exert extraordinary pressure on those in office, those seeking office and those who have the power to enact this law. As of this column both Ernie Almonte and Frank Caprio Tweeted their support for the measure. I know Ken Block will keep this pressure up until the Senate moves.

Other notable supporters are numerous and include the General Treasuer and Guberatotial candidate, Gina Raimondo where according to masterlever.org, she said, "Eliminating the master lever will send a clear message to Rhode Islanders that we as elected leaders expect to be held individually accountable for the actions we take, which will only serve to strengthen our great state." But it is John Marion of Common Cause RI who really cuts to the chase, "Almost two decades ago Rhode Island had the foresight to move into the 20th century with our voting machines. Unfortunately our ballot design is stuck in the 19th century with the outdated and confusing master lever. It's time for it to go."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures Rhode Island is one of only 15 states remaining with straight party voting, and that is a reality. The people have spoken in unequivocal terms in both chambers to eliminate this archaic practice, and that is a reality. The RI House has voted unanimously to ban the lever, and that is a reality. All proponents are asking for is a vote; up or down and that is a reality. The bill languishes in a state of flux on the Senate side, and that is a reality. I think we can all agree the Senate can no longer hide from reality. The time is now and they simply must take the helm and navigate pursuant to the wishes of the people.. "Land ho!" The journey to a vote is within site. Let us move Rhode Island forward.


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 the Executive Director of the Warren Housing Authority. Her work has been published in several local outlets including GoLocal, Valley Breeze, The Rhode Island Catholic, and Currents Magazine.





Related Slideshow: Ken Block—Timeline

Former gubernatorial candidate and Moderate Party head Ken Block has announced his intentions to run again in 2014.  Here is a timeline of his professional and political background.  

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Early Years


Block was born in 1965 and grew up in Milford, CT as the oldest of three children.  He graduated from high school in 1983 and attended Dartmouth College, earning a BA in Computer Science in 1987.  

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Career Beginnings


Block began his career writing software for Wall Street trading desks.  He went on to Bank of New England in Boston, and then to job at a small software consultancy in the Boston area. 

In 1991, Block began work in Rhode Island on a one year consulting job with GTECH Corporation, and by 1992 took a full time position at the company.  Block left GTECH in 1997 to form Kinetic Consulting and after the dot-com bust he formed Simpatico Software.

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Moderate Party Formation

The beginnings of the Moderate Party of Rhode Island were started in 2008, when a website was established and candidates were endorsed in the general election.  

The Moderate Party faced several legal hurdles however seeking official recognition by the state.  The party filed a lawsuit against the state in February of 2009 to be able to gain official party stauts, and a US District Judge ruled ultimately in the Moderate Party's favor in May 2009.  

Over 33,000 signatures were collected ultimately validating the party, and placing it on the 2010 ballot.  

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2010 Election

Running as the Moderate Party candidate, Ken Block finished 4th in the statewide general election with 6.5% of the vote -- 22,146 in total.

Governor Lincoln Chafee won with 36.1 percent (123,571 votes); Republican John Robitaille took 33.6% (114,911 votes), and Democrat Frank Caprio 23% (78,896). 

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Political Presence

Following the 2010 election, Block continued to push for political change in the state, undertaking the Rhode Island Health and Human Services Waste and Fraud Report, with the preliminary findings submitted earlier this year.  

Block has spoken out on such issues as abolishing the master lever, opposing payments to bondholders on 38 Studios, among others.  Block also served as President of RI Taxpayers.  

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2014 Governor's Race

Block announced his candidacy for the 2014 Rhode Island Governor's race earlier this year in May.  


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