Carol Costa: Hamlet in the State House
Thursday, March 27, 2014
The metaphors and similarities proved to be a lesson in literature, philosophy, civics and the process of political brawls, fragile coalitions and unlikely alliances as they unfolded in full view and in real time. The velvet curtains, pristine white marble, huge echoed halls and closed doors etched in gold leaf provided a majestic backdrop. The theatrical performances of the cast and understudies which swirled about Marcello and Mattiello; the 2 main characters proved the most interesting part of the drama. If you close your eyes you can almost see the angst ridden Hamlet dragging poor Polonius’s dead body around, as he feverishly seeks a hiding place for the corpse, as the ghosts of Speakers passed eerily loom.
“This above all: to thine own self be true.”- Polonius
Clearly exposed in the wrangle for the top spot was a house fraught with gelatinous spines, ironically the building is so sturdy on the outside. Realistically and unfortunately that is the game of RI politics. As the camps gathered on Friday evening to plan and investigate coalitions in order to guide the leaderless house, developments and alliances were built swiftly and expertly reported by solid social media updates. The public was apprised of the dealings and the tone and tenor of the front runners. Twitter became a legitimate source of information for RI in this very fluid story. Many people met both Marcello and Mattiello via social media reporting.
The vote counts from each camp over the weekend proved to be as malleable the sense of commitment of those purportedly giving their “word”. So to those who kept their word from the beginning on either side of the fight I say,”well done.” To those who abandoned their word and commitment I say, “ I hope it was worth it.” I only hope you extracted legislation that will truly help the people of your districts. For those in the end who abstained, I can only say, “You just became totally irrelevant.”
Full disclosure, Mike Marcello and I are close friends, teammates in Scituate and of course I was pulling for him to ascend,as his dedication to his district and good government initiatives are well documented. I had moments of great hope that he would be delivered to to the speakership, and in my view the house and our state would better for it. After all, I stood shoulder to shoulder with Mike as we fought to bring a strong voice for all the people of our town and in the process brought reform, ethics and open government for all of its citizens. A man of integrity, I salute Mike’s effort and laud the 5 legislators; Joy Hearn, J. Patrick O’Neill, Greg Costantino, Linda Finn and John Lombardi who stood with him until the end,as they are men and women of character and backbone. I know, for them this election was never personal. Conversely, it was principled.
“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.” - Machiavelli
I know, like and respect Nick Mattiello and I wish him well as he takes the gavel. Let’s face it, we are all depending on this House and his leadership team to begin anew the task of governing and setting our state on a path to secure a future for us, our aged, our homeless, our business community and above all our children. I would be remiss if I did not point out some challenges for the new speaker. As Nick rightly points out jobs and the economy must be a priority but, ethics issues and they way business is conducted in the people’s house must also be a top tier issue. I am certain a multifaceted approach will be on the table. Nick has embraced a daunting task to reshape the House and I am confident he will do his very best to make the economy begin to recover trust in its methods. But, it is in his selections of leadership positions and key staff positions that will be a marker for the citizens to begin to evaluate the progress of his administration. As those key positions are not solidified as of yet the jury will be out until they begin work in earnest.
Ahh, here is the rub. As Hamlet demanded of Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery, go. Farewell.” Where will the women be? I will be looking long and hard at the elevation of women in that chamber. In order that the house reflect more accurately the people it represents women must be at the table and at the helm of powerful committees. Similarly, key staff positions long held by men must be afforded to smart and powerful RI women, regardless of stripe. Is the Speaker prepared to empower a strong women's legislative caucus in the house? I challenge the Speaker to these most important tasks. Good and equal governance depends on it.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” - Nietzsche
What emerged from this week’s tumult is the outstanding performance of the press. GOLOCAL, WPRI, WPRO and The Providence Journal’s web based reporting was phenomenal. Ted Nesi, Katherine Gregg, Ready Edgar, Ed Fitzpatrick, Jared Pliner, Dan Mcgowan, Andrew Augustus and many others who were reporting live on Twitter, this was no small task, they ferreted out the stories, players, intel and tweeted updates on the ever-changing developments. In what would have ordinarily been a Friday news dump, these journalists kept RI on the pulse of the story. If not already, it would be very prudent to get on the Twitters, especially the new Speaker, and start following these fantastic reporters. I know these fierce journalists will plugged in and giving the public real time, quality reporting as the session unfolds. I wish the Speaker and his leadership team all the best as they embark on an arduous journey.
Related Slideshow: Fox Scandal: Winners and Losers
Peter F, Neronha, U.S. Attorney
The bold action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation coupled with Internal Revenue Service investigators raiding the Speaker of the House's office was a major statement by federal authorities.
The investigation tied to now-former Speaker Fox sets expectations of a far broader probe.
Neronha has also indicted developer Richard Baccari and was key to the http://www.golocalprov.com/news/9949/">Google Settlement that brought $230 million to Rhode Island.
Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed
Generally, the Senate President plays second fiddle to the Speaker of the House, but with a new Speaker to be voted on as early as Tuesday, Paiva Weed's influence will shoot up in the transition.
She will be more influential in the budget process.
Look for Paiva Weed to make a move on controlling the Joint Committee on Legislative Services - the proverbial legislative grab bag for jobs and grants.
Majority Leader Nick Mattiello
As GoLocal Tweeted on Friday, the Cranston Representative and Majority Leader has the edge to take control of the House.
Mattiello (as of Sunday Night) has approximately 40 votes and the momentum necessary to replace Fox.
Mattiello has strong support from former Speaker and lobbyist Bill Murphy. A Mattiello Speakership may cause a big shake up in Committee Chairs and senior staffing.
Former Speaker Bill Murphy
Murphy and Fox worked together for more than a decade and their relationship had both ups and downs. Nick Mattiello, if elected Speaker, is a close ally to former Speaker Bill Murphy.
Murphy had served as Speaker from 2003 to 2010. The former legislator has a successful criminal defense practice and is a lobbyist for notable clients (2013) for UTGR (Twin River), Advance America Cash Advance, and the Brotherhood of Correction Officers.
Murphy will emerge as an ever greater influencer with Mattiello as Speaker.
The resignation by Gordon Fox is a political hit to the General Treasurer who went big for Fox in his surprisingly tough re-election against story teller Mark Binder.
Binder hit Fox both for his role in 38 Studios and his legal work for PEDP applicants.
Raimondo decided to publicly support Fox and walk his district with the embattled Speaker.
It should be noted that Providence Mayor Angel Taveras also supported Fox, but Raimondo claims to be the reformer in this race.
Fox's Committee Chairs (if Mattiello wins)
Fox loyalists who have pledged their support to Michael Marcello will be in trouble as will their agendas if Mattiello is in fact elected Speaker on Tuesday.
Committee Chairs like Helio Mello, Edith Ajello, and Arthur "Doc" Corvese might all be replaced as they backed Marcello.
For the past decade, Providence could always count of Gordon Fox to help bail the Providence Budget out of trouble.
From Finance Committee Chair, then-Majority Leader and ultimately-Speaker, Providence Mayors knew that Fox -- the Mount Hope section of Providence Representative -- would increase aid to Providence in one way or another.
Providence always found an extra few millions from Fox. That access is likely to end in 2014 further impacting the City of Providence's budget issues.
Legalization of Marijuana
The pieces were falling together for the effort to pass legislation to legalize marijuana in Rhode Island. Speaker Fox was a social progressive. Judiciary Committee Chair Edith Ajello, who may lose her post in the power shift, was the legislation's sponsor and in command of the key committee.
In addition, Governor Lincoln Chafee has voiced support for the idea.
But, a shift to a more conservative Mattiello would throw a barrier in the way to a 2014 passage.
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