Guest MINDSETTER™ Tom Kenney: Little Courage from Providence City Council

Monday, April 30, 2012


I, and all of my peers in the Providence Fire Department to whom I’ve spoken to regarding the issue, are exceedingly disappointed in the lack of courage displayed by the City Council regarding the voting on the proposed changes to "our" pension system.

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Despite systemic changes which have already been made and possible negotiations to come to more agreements on compromises, the mayor has chosen to take the cowardly way out by embracing all of the proposals on "saving" the system. Unfortunately for us, they all come at our expense.

And this is despite the fact that the system is failing because of cowardly decisions by the last 3 mayors regarding funding the system and borrowing from the system. These decisions, not decisions by the employees/retirees, are to blame for the current unfunded liability.

The members of Local 799 and Providence FOP (at least the ones I’ve talked to) do not understand the Council's actions. We, down to a man/woman, stand behind our words and our agreements. We show courage every single day and revile people who show a lack of character. Not one member of the council voted to oppose “any” of the proposals. It is my firm opinion that they are all following the popular mantra of "strip those Cadillac benefits away from those union members." None of them, apparently, have enough courage to step up and say, "wait, his isn't fair to the men and women who have paid into the system for 25-plus years. Let's implement some of these proposals but table some of the others."

It's hard for me, personally, to fathom the type of character it takes to publicly praise a fallen officer and hail him as a hero while attending his funeral just a day or two after you've voted to take away many of the fairly negotiated benefits he and his brother and sisters in public safety personnel depend upon.

Mayor Taveras is playing a dangerous game based on advice from a retired judge who 20 years ago gave the city permission to defer their required annual contributions to the system. Now he is the one giving municipalities advice on how to get out of the mess he contributed in creating by claiming bankruptcy. This seems like the ultimate RI power-brokers insiders game to me.

I don't understand such back-stabbing. We adhere to a code of honor and integrity. I wish I could say the same about our elected officials.

Tom Kenney is a Captain with the Providence Fire Department.


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