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Travis Rowley: Profiles in Cowardice – Senator Jim Sheehan

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Rhode Islanders who are under the impression that it’s impossible to discover a worse legislator than Senator John Tassoni (D) – who believes that the law doesn’t apply to himself or his family – might want to familiarize themselves with Senator James Sheehan (D), who made an appearance on last week’s episode of A Lively Experiment.

Joining Sen. Sheehan on the weekly talk-show was Rep. Jon Brien (D), Sen. Dawson Hodgson (R), and House Minority Leader Brian Newberry (R).

Regarding the recently passed $8.1 billion state budget – annual legislation that largely defines Rhode Island’s direction – Newberry (R) criticized it as a “status quo budget.” “We didn’t really do anything to really move the state’s economy forward,” the leading Republican explained. “We raised...taxes here and there, which are going to hurt specific constituencies. We didn’t make any serious cuts in spending.”

While private citizens are forced to adjust to economic realities, Democrats designed a governing plan that is “a 6 percent increase in state spending,” Sen. Dawson Hodgson (R) reminded everyone.

“It was a major missed opportunity to do some good,” Newberry said as he explained why every Republican voted against the FY 2013 Budget. “This Democratic budget punted.”

When it was Sheehan’s turn to speak, he opened his remarks with his first disingenuous statement of the day: “First, it’s regrettable we raised any taxes.”

Liberals always find implementing tax hikes “regrettable.” But, somehow, they always manage to do it anyway.

To “regret” something is to wish it never occurred. But just moments after expressing his sorrow, Sheehan made it abundantly clear that, if given the opportunity, he would vote to raise your taxes again: “I think the budget overall was a reasonable one.”

This is the language of deceit and cowardice that one must cut through in order to discover where Democrats truly stand.

Democrats: We’re Not As Bad As Chafee

Just how does Sen. Sheehan come to consider the FY 2013 Budget “reasonable”?

“We rejected a number of taxes,” Sheehan proudly proclaimed, referring to the fact that Governor Chafee had proposed even more tax increases than the Democrats ultimately enacted.

Governor Chafee’s budget proposals have apparently become the measuring stick by which Democrats now judge their own reckless designs. Last year’s tax-hiking state budget also served to replace another disaster offered up by Governor Chafee. Afterward, Rep. Helio Melo (D) went on to celebrate the Democrats’ alternative strategy as a more “balanced approach” that would place “Rhode Island on a good footing.”

Do any Rhode Islanders out there feel like they were on a “good footing” last year?

While defending the “status quo budget” Sheehan admitted, “There are some structural issues that we need to address.” He added, “Going forward I think we need to be a little more long-term, long-plan sighted in terms of embracing the problems that we confront.”

But when it was asked by moderator Dyana Koelsch why nothing was accomplished during this legislative session, Sheehan bumbled, “The problem…is that you can’t really do this in a session that lasts, starts in a finance committee and then just goes to June…It’s a short-term process.”

Credit Koelsch with asking the appropriate follow-up question: “But that’s the way [the legislative process] works. So does that mean we’re never going to [solve the structural issues]?”

But Sheehan only decided to evade the question and enhance the confusion he was causing: “The problems are longer term than that, and they’re much bigger than can actually be done maybe in one term.”

Fortunately, Rep. Jon Brien – a rare conservative Democrat – was there to tell the truth, particularly in terms of relief measures for cities and towns: “There was no political will to get it done.”

Senator Hodgson was even more straight-forward. Addressing Sen. Sheehan directly, he said, “Jim, this is a question of leadership.”

Exactly. And Sen. Sheehan is not a leader. He’s a talentless, disingenuous Democrat – who just happened to be sitting on a panel with three legislators who are highly familiar with all the illusory language and tactics union-Democrats consistently employ in order to maintain the political status quo.

Courage vs. Cowards

Meanwhile, Rhode Islanders are suffering from high taxes, a dismal business climate, and an increasing amount of strain on their local budgets.

Rep. Brien went on to state that a municipal relief package “would have helped us, and would have saved a lot of the pain that Woonsocket is going through right now.” And when Rep. Newberry seconded Brien’s frustration over the fact that Democrats left these vital measures out of the state budget, Koelsch turned to him and asked point-blank, “We have two Democrats here. So who are you talking about? What Democrats are you referring to?”

“Anybody that supported the budget,” blasted Newberry.

Senator Sheehan would ultimately be asked, “Who lacked the will in the Senate to get this moving forward?”

Feeling the heat at this point, Sheehan suddenly vowed to get serious about municipal pension reform. “We need to do, we will be doing more. It didn’t get done this session. I certainly look forward to doing something on that front.”

But Sheehan doesn’t “look forward” to taking on such issues. That was just another lie. Within the same breath that he expressed his giddiness to do “something on that front,” Sheehan added, “If it’s required.”

If it’s required? Was Sheehan not listening to Rep. Brien, his Democratic colleague? Has he not looked out his window in the past ten years? As Rep. Newberry stated, “You don’t need a study to say we have to relieve [cities and towns] from some unfunded mandates. We’ve been pushing that for years…You don’t need to study that. Just do it!”

Fortunately, Sheehan’s muttering began to reveal his closeted philosophies and allegiances: “Providence showed us the Mayor and all the stakeholders there that they can actually solve the problem themselves [without municipal relief]…It’s easy to vilify the unions…But the fact of the matter is they can’t share all the blame themselves.”

And there it was. The unions. You may have heard of them. These are the people that local progressive pundits believe have lost their influence over the General Assembly. Apparently, however, they had something to do with blocking the relief packages that Rhode Island’s cities and towns are clamoring for.

Perhaps it’s noteworthy to mention at this point that Sen. Sheehan is a unionized public school teacher, and that his personal finances hinge on these crucial pieces of legislative reform.

On last week’s episode of A Lively Experiment, Sen. Sheehan was surrounded by three sharp and responsible legislators – who were able to easily expose him for what he truly is. Unfortunately, the situation is reversed when they reconvene at the State House, where establishment-serving politicians largely outnumber reform-minded statesmen.

What are Rhode Islanders to do in the face of such corruption, and when squaring off with an entrenched ruling class that begins to dig its heels in?

“Give us 26 Republicans in the House…and we’ll have a lot of power,” Rep. Newberry explained. “And then they’ll have to deal with us.”

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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great article.

sheehan masquarades as a taxpayer advocate and votes with the unions every time.

last year he attended a tax payer function and laffey was there and called him out.

been there ten years and doesnt even know the issues...who votes for this guy???

Comment #1 by jon paycheck on 2012 06 30

I just watched the entire episode of A Lively Exp (28minutes). Sheehan's performance was just as bad as Travis describes. Watch it yourself to see the difference between a union HACK and people who actually want to improve the state.

Comment #2 by Bryan Sullivan on 2012 06 30

another great article by Travis Rowley - like it or not it's the truth. If only the entire state of Rhode Island read GoLocalProv... unfortunately it's just a small number of us political junkies.

Comment #3 by don almonte on 2012 06 30

sheehan is a phony . about time he was voted out of office .
i watched the li also . was elated to see that self absorbed moalkey was not a panelist.
minus sheehans ramblings , the other panelists were honest and straightforward .
nice article travis .

Comment #4 by vinny coia on 2012 06 30

Rabid Rowley strikes again with a reckless spin attack on a good state senator on the hill. I just finished watching the show and this is nothing more than a great piece of fiction written by a young man with an agenda.

I live in Narr taxpayer and Senator Sheehan, the "union guy", voted against his own pension multiple times, fights for everify, voted for property tax limits, voted against budgets in the past, is prolife, and just recently championed Access to Open Records law! Sounds like a flaming liberal! Yeah, Right!

The more I read from Mr. Rowley, the less I take him seriously.

Comment #5 by Jason Demers on 2012 06 30

Jason, you are soooooooooo right!
Rowley rants and raves and says nothing constructive. And this is a future Republican leader??? OMG…Somebody better train him how to write without emotionalism and insults and how to conduct himself as a professional when he is on Lively Experiment.
I saw the show. I found the typical Democrat vs Republican rhetoric. I saw no one insulting each other or calling each other names. Only Ranting Rowley is name calling and insulting in his ranting.. Rowley calls Sen Sheehan disingenuous when he quotes the senator saying,“It’s regrettable we raised any taxes.” Travis. Look up what the new Republican buzz word these days really means-

Synonyms for disingenuous: dishonestly, untruthfully, deceitfully, hypocritically, misleadingly.
Raising taxes is regrettable. That statement is not dishonest, hypocritical, untruthful or misleading. It is the truth. No one wants taxes increased. Not a Republican..not a Democrat…not an Independent and not even a dog catcher, Travis boy!
However, Republicans did have the opportunity to vote for tax equity …that those who make over $250,000 pay more taxes and yet Rowley’s political party, the party of the wealthy wanted no part of it.
You know what is not equal, Travis…the fact that those who are the poorest- who make 18,000 pay 12% taxes while those in the highest 1% pay 5%. Middle class pays 35% and those making millions like Mitt Romney pay 14%.
How come Rowley didn't comment when his idol, Newberry, said it was a “status quo budget” that they could have made a difference if they supported the tax equity bills of Cimini and Miller.
Someone better inform the clueless Rowley or better yet, the “disingenuous” Travis that Brian Newberry is not as pure and wonderful as he thinks.
Newberry preyed on the weakness of Rep Watson’s personal problem to pull a coup and take away Watson’s title for himself. Newberry the sneak pulled this overthrow with even his own members calling him despicable. What a power play that was, so when you talk about someone being “disingenuous” you should be referring to your “own Republican wannabe” Brian Newberry. He is full of arrogance. One, who is professional, doesn’t speak about fellow colleagues as Newberry did in reference to Watson when he said "In the House we tend to give ovations to potted plants." And you don’t call that disingenuous? Maybe Rowley’s arrogance is derived from wanting to be just like Newberry!
How dare he cast stones when he has never been in the shoes of a legislator? His column is nothing more than an emotional outburst toward one man, Tenacious Travis is trying to blame him for what Gordon Fox should be blamed for. It is Speaker Gordon Fox who controls what goes on, what bills gets passed what doesn’t get passed and it is he you should deliver your disgusting diatribes to.

Comment #6 by dis gusted on 2012 07 01

This article is pure garbage. Sheehan is an all around great guy. I had him as a history teacher and he was one of the most enlightening, encouraging, and thought-provoking teachers I ever had. He's one of the first who explained the importance of the political process and staying informed. He is also a thoughtful Senator who has put through some great legislation.

It is easy for the Republicans to rant and rave about the budget and why they voted no. There votes mean nothing. It is easy to talk trash when you don't have to govern. None of these Republicans have done anything useful. They present poorly proposals and just kick and scream.

Not for nothing Travis, you do nothing but blabber too! Why don't you run, why don't you try and govern? You love talking about the "inside game" but we know why you hate it so much. Your dad Jim Rowley played politics at the state police and got burned. That's why you have it out for unions and "insiders". Your dad was being groomed for colonel and when overstepped your family named was tarnished. Now your dad is working "investigations" for Job Lot and your mad about it. You're dad was the epitome of an insider. If he became colonel you would be singing the praises of Speaker Fox and the rest of the gang.

Comment #7 by John T on 2012 07 01

Look on the bright side, the Beavers dad did get a free pension which he enjoys to this day.

Comment #8 by tom brady on 2012 07 01

Just watched Lively Exp show....Everyone click on the link! Sheehan comes across EXACTLY as Rowley described. Stuttering. Insecure. Untrustworthy. At a time when we need legislators who are willing to get things done!

Clearly Sheehan has his union supporters down here trying to defend him. But just go to the source...Watch the video!

Sheehan, as Rowley described, is an absolute TOOL.

Comment #9 by Drew M on 2012 07 01

dis gusted: Rowley's logic blows yours away...

To “regret” something is to wish it never occurred. But just moments after expressing his sorrow, Sheehan made it abundantly clear that, if given the opportunity, he would vote to raise your taxes again: “I think the budget overall was a reasonable one.”

Classic double-speak from a DISINGENUOUS legislator. Someone who's not a LEADER. And who, Yes, perhaps doesn't WANT to raise taxes, but is going to anyway. Why? Because he's a union supporting Democrat. And that's all they know to do when times are tight.

Comment #10 by Drew M on 2012 07 01

“Rep. Brien went on to state that a municipal relief package “would have helped us, and would have saved a lot of the pain that Woonsocket is going through right now.” And when Rep. Newberry seconded Brien’s frustration over the fact that Democrats left these vital measures out of the state budget, Koelsch turned to him and asked point-blank, “We have two Democrats here. So who are you talking about? What Democrats are you referring to?”
“Anybody that supported the budget,” blasted Newberry.”

Hmmmm…perhaps Travis didn’t get the memo that Brien also voted FOR the budget and should be lumped in with the same “Democrats” with whom Newberry is sooooo frustrated.

I also find it ironic that later in his diatribe, Travis writes that Sen. Sheehan “was surrounded by three sharp and responsible legislators”…now how is it exactly, Travis, that given that Brien and Sheehan BOTH voted FOR the same budget, that one is “responsible” and one isn’t?

As Brien often states during his radio stints “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

Comment #11 by Megan Baker on 2012 07 01

Rowley is a TOOL..a Republican rant and raver TOOL who does what the Republicans tell him to do I saw the video and saw the Republican Newberry with his Rep buddy ganging up on Sheehan as if Sheehan can tell the Dem leadership what to do...yea..okay...one man against the world of politics in RI dominated by Gordon Fox and Mattiello in the House. (If you believe that, maybe you ought to run yourself instead of criticizing others.)

Even the good Lord could not accomplish that two thousand years ago...(he died on the Cross, remember? ) You have Newberry a disgrace to his party, pulling the rug form Watson at his lowest point...no class- pathetic- this could have been done above board, but like usual Republican behavior, it was notand instead done unprofessionally...trying to blame the Senator who was there on the show not to be on the attack but to explain his version of things is what Lively Experiment is about. Not everyone sees things the same way. This is why there is lively discussion. To attack and insult like Rowley does because he wants to be like his arrogant idol is not my idea of who I want in the Gen Assembly now or in the future. Trivial Travis has a lot of learning to do. Rowley is certainly not sharp nor responsible in his rantings, that's for sure.

Comment #12 by dis gusted on 2012 07 01

Profile of an Extremist: Travis Rowley

Travis, my father warned me about people like you. I think most would agree that extremists of any nature are incorrigible and even dangerous. Talk about an obvious political hit by one of Rhode Island’s newest political hitt men Travis Rowley. Rowley takes the cake for making unfounded assumptions of what Senator Sheehan is thinking or what he might do in the future. I feel Travis has truly missed his calling. He would have made a great fortune teller. Anyway, Travis I am sure that you benefited from your dad’s very lucrative state salary and pension over the years. By the way, wasn’t he a union member for decades? People who live in glass houses should not hurl stones!

Comment #13 by Stan Lee on 2012 07 01

You guys don't get it. Sheehan was on LE trying to defend the indefensible. It doesn't matter if he can't control the leadership. At least Brien was honest about what goes on up there. There was no "political will"...Or, as Rowley says..."COWARDICE"....Sheehan came across like a party hack, and as someone who stands with the bankrupting unions...

Change the subject and divert attention away from Sheehan all you want. I'm sure Newberry and Brien aren't perfect. But this article was about Sheehan, and how he's emblematic of why RI can't reform itself. Cowardly Democrats, loyal to the unions, playing political games so they can get re-elected...That's who Sheehan proved to be.

Comment #14 by Drew M on 2012 07 01

Drew, I agree with you. These Sheehan defenders will try to get the attention off of Sheehan (because Rowley just destroyed him).

"dis gusted" and "Stan Lee" ---- If Sheehan can't take the heat, then he shouldn't run for office or go on political shows. Stop babying him. Call it a "political hit" all you want...That's exactly what it is. So what? Sheehan deserved to be "hit"...."Political hit" is just a euphemism for "a counter argument"...>Get over it.

Comment #15 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 07 01

haha! "A counter argument"....Liberals' kryptonite.


Pretty sure Rowley is the one who should take credit for making this a more "lively" discussion.

Comment #16 by Drew M on 2012 07 01

Drew M
It is certainly easy for Travis Rowley to hurl stones from behind the guise of “journalism.”
However, can he walk the walk, or is he all talk? I believe he is the latter. Mr. Rowley should run for political office. Perhaps then we could truly see what he is made of…until then, these unfounded political attacks are acts of pure cowardice.

Comment #17 by Stan Lee on 2012 07 01

Sorry, Stan Lee, but what you are saying is that anyone who is not an elected representative should just keep their mouth shut. That's completely ridiculous.

Re-think it.

Comment #18 by Drew M on 2012 07 01

Drew, they'll say whatever they can to get their critics to shut up. They're liberals.

I remember the Left constantly using the same logic during the anti-war debates. If you were FOR THE WAR, they would try to discredit you by reminding everyone that you weren't in the military. As if determining right and wrong depends on who someone is ---military or non-military; politician or non-politician.

Liberals are pathetic.

Comment #19 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 07 01

Since when is op-ed writing an illegitimate part of the political process?

Answer: As soon as liberals disagree with the op-ed.

Comment #20 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 07 01

That's true, JS. I would argue that it takes guts to voice your opinion. Right? That's why people hate political correctness. It is an attempt by some to try to keep others from expressing certain points of view.

I'll hand it to Sheehan's defenders. They did succeed in getting us to take the focus off of Sheehan!

Comment #21 by Drew M on 2012 07 01

"Extremist...rant and rave...TOOL...pure garbage..." Is that the best that comes to this site to defend the Democrats running our state? It's pathetic, and makes the Democrats look ignorant and crude.

Let's leap to the bottom line: RI's budget is about $8 billion to serve 1 million people. That's $8,000 for every human being in the state. Family of 4, $32,000 per year. Send it in.

Massachusetts provides a quick comparison (we don't have to go to Wyoming to get evidence of the irresponsibility of our legislators): their budget is about $32 billion to serve just over 6.5 million people, or about $5,000 each. That makes our's 60% higher!

So are you people complaining about Rowley's work, irrelevantly defaming his father, defending the work of our Democratic legislature? Why? Not too bright, are you?

Comment #22 by Kenneth Amylon on 2012 07 02

It's not about Liberals or Conservatives, Democrats or Republicans; It's about corrupt people who run the State of Rhode Island. The two major political parties verbally assault one another and throw about issues that have nothing to do with the main problem facing this state: corruption! Ant where are the State Police, the Attorney General and the FBI? Who knows, but they are not doing their jobs at ferreting out the massive corruption that is destroying this state. Ever wonder why European biotech companies are flocking to Massachusetts and not Rhode Island? Because they don't want to deal with schemes and pay-offs demanded by RI politicians.

Comment #23 by John Joseph on 2012 07 02

To the laughable comment by "dis gusted" about so-called "tax equity": that whole concept (promoted by a bunch of self-absorbed union hacks) is nothing but a class-warfare campaign against the actual producers.

Since state tax is paid as a percentage of federal tax, it should be a flat tax rate that is based on what you pay to the federal government. You make more, you pay more to the Fed, the state automatically gets more.

This class warfare garbage is exactly why we need a complete flat-tax system in this country with no deductions or exemptions. None of this "progressive" garbage that liberals call for, and none of the loopholes and write-offs that only benefit higher-income folks. Everybody pays the same low rate on everything they make. No deductions for kids, houses, electric cars, solar panels, risky investments, none of that stuff.
The only true "Tax Equity" will be when everyone pays the same rate. You make more, you automatically pay more, you make less, you pay less, but you don't get penalized for being successful.

It's obvious that these "punish the rich" folks have been brainwashed and have no concept of freedom, liberty and personal success & responsibility. They just want everyone else to pay their bills and subsidize their lifestyles for them (with essentially government-sanctioned money stolen via excessive taxation), and that's not even remotely close to the concept of free market capitalism that this country was built on and what makes it great.

Comment #24 by Russ Hryzan on 2012 07 02

Mr. Rowley wants to apparently clean house. Perhaps he need look no further than his own house first. Rumor has it that his father, a former police officer, receives a full pension without having had to pay into the pension plan. Gee, why doesn't RI enact that law for its state workers...everyone gets a free ride on their pension like Mr. Rowley's family? There's the pot calling the kettle black!

Comment #25 by Jack Brophy on 2012 07 02

Jack Brophy, it's not a rumor. Rowley's father was a state trooper. And, like all state workers, has a state pension. What exactly is your point?

Are you trying to say that Rowley argues for all public workers to surrender their pay and pensions??

Nice try trying to put words in Rowley's mouth.

Comment #26 by Drew M on 2012 07 02

Jack Brophy isn't the first person to try to paint Travis as some sort of hypocrite just because his father was a state worker. It's been pointed out numerous times down here that Travis, in fact, argued for pension reform (which would have meant that his father would have had to take a pension CUT!!)...

Brophy, get a brain. You liberals have no idea how to think. Please explain to everyone the point you're trying to make when you mention that his father was a trooper who didn't pay into his pension?

Comment #27 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 07 02

Regarding Mr. Brophy, he is emblematic of the discussions that go on within union circles. Union members can't believe that someone like Rowley is "biting the hand that feeds him"...Because that's how union advocates view organized labor. They view it in terms of "solidarity." The world can be crashing down all around them due to union-favoring policies, and yet nobody is allowed to criticize the UNION.

Rowley has actually referred to them as "labor religionists" before - Because that's exactly what it seems to be. A religion.

Comment #28 by Bryan Sullivan on 2012 07 02

Brophy: "Pot calling the kettle black"?? What the F&*$ are you talking about. Anyone else tired of brainless liberal arguments? And your arrogance that accompanies your idiocy is just too much to handle. YOU ARE A BUFFOON.

All your post seems to be doing is suddenly AGREEING with Tea Party Republicans who have been saying for years that state workers' contracts have never been sustainable. And YES, that includes Travis' father!!

YOU, Brophy, are the only inconsistent person here. Why don't you join the RI Tea Party, and prove me wrong. Clearly you view state worker contracts as unfair and bloated, don't you??

Comment #29 by Drew M on 2012 07 02

And the fact remains that Sheehan and his cohorts RAISED the state
budget -- ultimately causing more tax burden for those actually pay taxes.

That tells me we don't need more Sheehans and people who feed off the system, we need reformers who will implement fiscal sanity.

Comment #30 by Art West on 2012 07 14

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