Guest MINDSETTER™ Dee Dee Witman: Time to Show Gordon Fox the Door

Saturday, November 03, 2012


I want to thank Scott McKay of Rhode Island Public Radio for reminding Rhode Islanders one reason Rhode Island is in the condition it’s in is a media that too often looks the other way or doesn’t go far enough when it comes to holding elected officials accountable for harming our state.

The media often does an excellent job uncovering corruption to help voters make intelligent decisions, but also misses a lot and doesn’t always make a strong enough case of why it’s important to draw a line and throw the culprits out.

The same goes for Fox supporters and self-proclaimed reformers, Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who show they are ready and willing to support a corrupt politician who helped cause the problems they are trying to solve, when it suits their political needs.

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In a recent column , McKay, after citing corrupt legislative practices that “make voters’ blood boil” (while making no mention they are allowed to occur under Fox’s leadership) and the sorry state Providence is in (again, no mention it all occurred under Fox’s watch as a legislator, member of leadership and Speaker), he suggests that District 4’s “among the best-educated and most discerning voters in the state” would be smart to re-elect Fox, in part because Mark Binder has no experience.

Apparently under Scott’s thinking, let’s continue to elect corrupt or incompetent politicians in leadership positions who allow problems to get to the point where they become a crisis, then offer some solutions when they have no choice or it‘s politically expedient, rather than electing people with no experience. Why would you want to elect someone with no experience rather than someone with a record of harming or destroying our state? Maybe this is McKay’s version of the “let’s turn to those who caused the mess to solve it.” Or maybe it’s “since Rhode Island politics is so corrupt, let’s just elect corrupt people to get things done.” We’ve seen where that has gotten us.

McKay says Fox has done the best he could, offering a school funding formula and pension reform, along with the civil union compromise. My response to McKay, Raimondo or Taveras, or anyone else touting Fox's accomplishments is this: Gordon Fox or anyone with his experience and leadership positions taking credit for offering any solutions after allowing problems to get to their crises points is akin to Al Capone taking credit for cleaning up the streets by removing all the dead bodies.

Who, more than Fox, deserves credit for our state’s major problems that have grown under his watch. Our pension system got to the point of nearly bankrupting our communities and state thanks to Gordon Fox and others doing nothing about it until it was too late. He had no choice but to vote for pension reform. Even with the reform, our pension system (in many cases excessive pensions) under Fox and many of his legislative compatriots is still taking too much money away from doing what’s needed: lowering taxes, building a stronger business climate and image for our state, increasing jobs, improving education, and addressing our other longstanding problems. All taxpayers are paying for and suffering from this form of, and plenty of other forms of corruption, including 38 Studios and a corrupt legislative process.

38 Studios is not so much the problem, but a symptom of longstanding problems that allowed it to occur, including management issues on the state government level, and Fox's corrupt legislative process that allowed it to be passed at the last minute under a cloak of secrecy, where no one could question it, something that also occurs with many other bills. Every legislator that allows such a process to exist and does nothing to at least try to prevent it, or votes for leaders who allow it, is just as culpable and should be held accountable for it this election season.

When trying to explain 38 Studios, Fox comes across like some sort of con man who is trying to make 38 Studios look like it was just some well-intentioned decision that went awry. He basically acts like he’s an innocent dupe in all this - “don’t call me the most powerful politician in the state.” He was a major player in this deal and used his corrupt legislative process to cover it up and pass it.

Every time you turn around in this state, there is some elected official making money off the system, raising the question of whose interests are they really serving. Too often, they bend or break any ethical rule or law that gets in their way, and fight to maintain a corrupt system that allows their activities to occur and go unnoticed. While some are caught and punished, too many are not. As we have seen with the recent disclosure of his law practice making money off the Providence Economic Development Corporation, previous highest ever fine paid to the Ethics Commission for work and conflict of interest with GTECH, and involvement of close associates of Fox with 38 Studios, Fox has become the poster boy for this insidious activity.

Despite what he and his supporters say, Gordon Fox isn’t someone who just made some bad decisions, looked the other way when questionable things occurred, or failed to do enough to solve long-festering problems. Unlike most others, Gordon Fox was in a leadership position to act and at least try to reform the legislature and resolve many of the problems facing our state and failed to do so. Instead he chose to betray the people he was elected by, and continue running a corrupt political system where we have 2 classes - the politically connected who make out like bandits, and those not connected, who suffer from lack of services, support, and opportunities to build better lives for themselves and families. Fox, as much as anyone, deserves blame for 38 Studios and many of the bad things going on in Rhode Island, and should be held accountable for the bad things he has done, in addition to the things he hasn’t done.

As for gay marriage and voter ID, no matter which side of the issue you are on, once again we have a politician backtracking on his own position or record due to one reason - political expediency, the same reason he supported pension and other reforms.

The state of Rhode Island is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to most things important - business climate, education, fighting corruption, jobs, taxes, infrastructure, and the financial well being of our cities and towns. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We’ll see how intelligent and discerning the people of District 4 really are.


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