The big thing in campaign circles seems to be how many doors have you knocked on. But it’s about a lot more; it’s what people are saying. That’s what counts. And what are they saying? Well, conventional wisdom suggests that because East Greenwich is affluent, her citizens are largely unflustered by the economic worries of so many others. Not so. Even the wealthiest of residents, maybe the top ten-percent, are concerned for the health of their businesses and the prognosis for Rhode Island. Besides them, there is a substantial percentage who are extremely frustrated by how bad things have gotten, but they personally are doing “okay.” There is also an inevitable few who are so well cocooned that nothing perturbs them. And then there are those who are just hanging on, doing whatever it takes to live up to the East Greenwich image, even so – in the words of one woman – “It’s killing them.” And there are more in this predicament than I had imagined.
Perhaps this is why so many people have thrown their hats into the ring for the District 30 seat. It’s encouraging to see so much interest: Three Republicans, two Independents (last I knew) and one Democrat. As many as six people, all with unique perspectives on how to help our struggling State. That’s healthy engagement, and it’s exactly what’s needed if we’re to find our way out of the morass which ensnares Rhode Island.
On the other hand, there are many seats going uncontested in the General Assembly. Uncontested! How can so many Rhode Islanders be so complacent? It boggles the mind, and it has gotten this way because our two-party system is utterly broken. Like a punch line to a bad joke, Rhode Island is what happens when there has been a prolonged and grotesque imbalance of power. We get leadership following practices and procedures that are not merely entrenched, they are metastasized – like holding important bills to the last minute and then rushing them through in a late night cram session; suppressing debate on issues that might conflict with their interests; coddling an evolved system of crony rewards; and so on and so forth.
So how can East Greenwich make a difference? We can start by sending someone determined to relentlessly press the General Assembly to cut spending. Of course, the irony is that no matter who we send, he will be hamstrung from the moment he walks into the well of the House: If we send an Independent, he will be all alone; if we send a Republican, he will be one of a token handful; and if we send a Democrat who dares challenge the leadership on Smith Hill, he will have his hands figuratively lopped off. No matter who we send, that person’s effectiveness will hinge completely on his ability to persuade – not to brow-beat, not to fume, but to relentlessly persuade, trying tack upon tack upon tack seeking ways to break through the blockade.
But even that’s not enough. If East Greenwich wants to make a difference in the downward course of our State, we must lead by example. Which brings me back to the beginning of my train of thought. While we can be proud of our Town’s ability to attract so many accomplished people to live here, we must also be careful not to push long term residents – many of whom built the foundations upon which we now stand – out the back door. In the last 15 years, I do not believe our town taxes have ever gone down – not in real dollars collected. What sort of message do you think it would send the State if we cinched up our own belt a few notches?
Dean Fachon, Candidate District 30 House Representative