CONSULTANT AND AUDITOR FEVER: It seems our state and local governments are incapable of effectively reviewing their operations to ensure taxpayers are getting the most "bang for the buck." Instead, it seems government organizations' gut reaction to potential problems is to hire a consultant or an outside auditor instead of taking on the arduous tasks of self-analysis and imposition of corrective actions.
The taxpayer subsidized Wyatt Detention Facility has contracted with gubernatorial candidate Ernest Almonte to conduct a $135,000 forensic audit; Providence is hiring a prescription drug audit company to audit its retiree prescription plan; and Governor Chafee has hired a New York consultant to review the state's personnel management system at the cost of $195,000.
While it is good at times to get outside eyes to look at problems and, hopefully, give unbiased recommendations, it seems our public employees are no longer capable of effectively managing the organizations the taxpayers put them in charge of without outside assistance. This phenomenon is rampant in government agencies because they have no bottom line profit incentive and many employees seem to think they have an unending supply of taxpayer dollars to hire consultants to make their jobs easier. Is the real reason to divert from themselves the responsibility for making tough decisions?
A FREE PEOPLE CAN’T BE UNPREPARED: Republican congressional candidate Brendan Doherty has jumped on the anti-Second Amendment bandwagon and is pushing for more restrictions on gun ownership among law-abiding Americans. He especially wants military-type assault weapons banned since he thinks the founding fathers could not possibly have imagined the public owning such weapons. No, the founding fathers did not imagine assault weapons, but they made sure they gave Americans at the time the right to own the exact same weapons used by the government (the military) of that era.
The primary reason for the founding fathers’ insistence on inclusion of the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights was not so that citizens could keep arms to protect themselves from each other or from wild animals, it was to ensure citizens had the means to resist a future tyrannical government should the need arise. The only way to ensure such protection was to give citizens the right to bear arms similar to those used by the government. Could today’s citizens resist an oppressive, dictatorial government using flintlock rifles against the government’s modern assault rifles? Of course not!
The very respected Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in 2003: “The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed – where the government refuses to stand for re-election and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.”
IS IT TIME TO ELIMINATE SCHOOL COMMITTEES? Providence is now going through the contortions of deciding whether to change its charter to adopt an elected school board or to keep an appointed board. Perhaps the bigger question all Rhode Islanders should be asking is whether we should have school committees, period. Why should one aspect of municipal government, the administration of schools, fall outside the auspices of the elected municipal leaders – the city/town councils? One of the larger, perhaps the largest, problems facing our failing K-12 education system in Rhode Island is the dichotomy between public school funding and public school spending. The city/town councils are in control of funding with little or no input from school committees, while the school committees are in charge of spending with little or no input from city/town councils. With no "skin in the game," city/town leaders have no ownership in the success or failure of their schools. Conversely, with no real controls on their spending, school committees have no incentive to conserve taxpayers' dollars. Municipal leaders and the taxpayers have vested interests in the operations of their police, fire and public works departments – both successful outcomes and controlled spending. Why shouldn't school departments fall under the same municipal scrutiny? Without school committees, municipal leaders would no longer be able to distance themselves from school failures; they would finally have enough skin in the game to properly fund and oversee school success!
WHEN IS A CHICKEN FILET JUST A PIECE OF CHICKEN?
There was a time when "liberals" truly reflected the ideas of liberty and supported such libertarian concepts as freedom of speech. That has all changed. It is now the conservatives who advocate for free speech while liberals try to drown out any voice that isn't in accord with their beliefs. This writer is firmly in favor of gay marriage but is even more strongly in favor of allowing differing voices to speak freely about their beliefs. Liberals from Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago to Mayor Thomas Menino in Boston to a plethora of liberal groups are excoriating the Chick-fil-A fast food chain for publicly proclaiming its opposition to gay marriage. Northern liberals are hoping to deny the company from doing business in some cities simply because of the company's philosophy. This planned denial of due process and the widespread liberal shouting that is clearly intended to stifle free speech is extremely disturbing to all Americans who value the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. These rights-trampling hypocrites are only stoking fires among the religious right who will surely convert their anger into anti-gay votes to the detriment of the very community the speech suppressors are trying to defend. They should realize that sometimes a chicken filet is just a piece of chicken.
RUNNING ON EMPTY?
Went to a Jackson Browne concert last weekend. It was a great show. From “Naked Ride Home” to “The Pretender” to “Doctor My Eyes,” Browne was as good as he was in the ’70s and ’80s. Noticed the average age of attendees was probably mid-50s, pushing 60. “Running on Empty” was one of the last songs. Apropos, perhaps?