Morgan: Power Grab in Coventry is Same Aggression that Led to Gaspee Burning

Monday, June 12, 2017


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Rhode Island House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan

There is a travesty happening in Coventry that, if allowed to continue, will set a precedent that will be used against you and your community… soon. The battle is over who controls the language of a community’s Charter. Is it the people of the community using democratically conducted discussion and a official voting process or the Speaker of the House and municipal unions using force and demagoguery?

The following is an amazing success story of people in a community who took control of their financial situation and have had so much success that the municipal unions are now working to reverse their impressive progress by stripping them of their right to determine the language that is in their Charter.

This is a chilling attempt at a power grab that threatens the rights of every individual and community in the state. It is also the same type of government aggression that got the Gaspee burned in 1772.

Coventry’s Story:

After 7 long and challenging years during which a new Fire Board was opposed by fierce and threatening resistance from the firefighters union, the Central Coventry Fire District has emerged from a broken and financially irresponsible district to one that is today, on firm ground.  Through the long court battles, two receivers, protests and vandalism, personal attacks and raucous meetings, the goal to return the district's operations to solvency and affordability has been achieved. The people have won!  

Today the enormous debt has been paid, the number of personnel has been reduced from its bloated level to one that makes sense for safety and affordability, two new ambulances and a fire engine have been paid in full and the residents have received a 20% tax cut.  They want to keep the gains they've fought so hard to achieve.  Unfortunately, it appears the firefighters union is simply waiting for this Fire Board to leave so they can return to their old ways. 

At the Annual Budget meeting this past October, 93% of the voters approved Charter changes that had been developed and presented to the residents.  They include a 4% tax cap, a 15% debt limit, and 100 person quorum to prevent packing of a meeting by special interests and other common sense changes that will help keep the District on the right track far into the future.  

As their Representative, I submitted the changes to the House of Representatives in March and the bill has been heard in committee. I have followed up repeatedly. Normally Charter changes are easily passed by the General Assembly because they deal with local issues and are respected.   Central Coventry's Charter Changes have sadly been stalled with contrived objections.  The Fire Board has promptly responded to each inquiry and even agreed to discard one item. 

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And yet, the bill to change the charter and secure a financially responsible future for the District remains stalled and the reasons are obvious. Speaker Mattiello is siding with the unions and against the people.  In doing so, he is attacking the fundamental core of our democratic society.

And if we, as citizens of Rhode Island, let this happen in this small fire district, it will set a precedent for what will happen in your town. 

The Issue is This:

Will one million Rhode Islanders let the Speaker, Senate President Ruggerio and a tiny municipal union overrule the lawful vote of the People of a Fire District, or a city or town?  Or are we going to finally stand up and say enough is enough?

The People of Central Coventry need your help.  By rallying for them, you will be telling the State House leaders that enough is enough. You will be standing up for the belief that you must be respected. You will be standing up for the idea developed by our Founding Fathers that the People's will and their best interests must be acknowledged and pursued by those in power.  

Please call and contact the Speaker (222-2466 and [email protected]) and the Senate President (222-6655 and [email protected]) and demand that the Central Coventry Charter Changes be enacted.  The Good People of our State should be more important than entrenched insiders. 

We may not be able to burn down the Gaspee again but we certainly can and must burn up the phone lines. If we let them get away with this, they will stop at nothing in their attempts to bankrupt our communities and our state for their political gain.


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