Lisa Blais: RI Needs to Rise Above Sexy, Gossipy + Juicy Politics
Thursday, January 09, 2014
The State Properties Committee (who knew about this committee or paid attention to it?) is the committee that garnered public attention as a result of having approved a no-bid contract, behind closed doors, to move a Probation and Parole Office to the heart of downtown Providence. It remains unclear if that move would have resulted in 3 times the cost for taxpayers, as has been reported, or an inconsequential increase as Richard Licht, the Director of Administration for Governor Chafee has inferred. And, they have admitted to failing to post those meeting minutes. Either way, it took public pushback for this administration to move off of its original position to go forward with the move. No surprise there. We have seen the Chafee administration make bold statements that they would move forward with their closely held decisions on a variety of matters and then back peddle when faced with public disdain or as a result of failure of transparency.
During the question and answer period following Block’s press conference, a member of the media queried Block looking for the scandal – my word. What were the dirty or back room deals? How has this hurt the taxpayers?
I am not being critical of those questions. They reveal a lot about our political culture. Was Block’s press conference sexy? Did it drop a bomb, so to speak, on any one individual thereby gaining riveting attention even from the family dog?
It seems that we thrive on waiting, with baited breath, the next big hit of outrage or “gotcha” moment in matters of politics and governance. Well, yes, you may say…after all, this is RI!
But the meat of the matter that appeared to drive Block to hold that press conference boiled down to exactly what should capture people’s attention. It isn’t sexy but it cut to the heart of the matter. He demanded government accountability to the people it serves. Friendly reminder, that’s us.
Do we have what it takes to recognize what good government looks like? Do we have what it takes to demand it regardless of our political affiliations? Or, are we content with measuring the value of a message by looking at it narrowly as measured by poll results?
It is high time that we collectively rise above the juicy, sexy, gossipy garbage all too prevalent in too many places, whether it’s to be found in the offices and hallways of the State House, media lunch rooms, local political committee meetings and union offices. Ah, and on social media sites.
If we are serious about (groan) “moving the needle” in RI then we must embrace, no, demand, that we have leaders in place who know that the public’s voice on committees and commissions must not be relegated to the backseat. We must demand good government practices and be passionate about it!
Lisa Blais is a board member of OSTPA, a taxpayer advocacy organization in Rhode Island.
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