Friday, January 18, 2008

Newporter Cicilline's Response to Election Loss

Shortly after the early Dec. Newport election, Projo's Edward Achorn opined on election results take. In it he continued the old, familiar blah-blah liberal, democratic control, special interests; you know the vocab by this point. He also took a swipe at Bud Cicciline, but was quite narrow in in his choice of facts. But that's how the story goes, isn't it? Repeat it often enough until people think it's actually true. Here was my response.

Bud it turns out also wrote a response which Projo in its wisdom never printed (is this the same as "fair & balanced"). So here it is dated Jan. 2:

Dear Editor:

I want to respond to Mr. Achorn’s Dec. 25 column and say that it is generally understood that those people who run for elective office should not whine about unfavorable results. In that spirit, I congratulated Steve Coaty in his win over me in the December 18 race for State Representative in Newport. Clearly the voters responded to his message. Conversely, my message was either rejected or misunderstood.

I realize that I have no choice but to accept the outcome and especially the rejection of my message. But, I do believe that there is the possibility that my message was not clearly understood. Of course, that’s my responsibility and my failing. Here’s what I said about the State Budget deficit:

1. It’s not just a spending problem; it’s also a revenue problem—a position that my opponent eventually conceded at one of our forums.

2. Each department of State Government should be required to develop strategic plans so that we would know how to measure results and corresponding funding levels. This translates into a level of confidence that people can & should have in state government.

3. We should have multi-year budgets so that the State could go on a financial diet.

4. We should lower the rate of the sales tax, but expand the base. I frequently said that if a person could afford to pay $400 for a pair of shoes, he or she could afford to pay some tax.

5. I was opposed to the flat tax, and continuing to reduce the excise tax on automobiles. I also questioned the give-away taxes to such corporations as Disney to make movies. I previously had fought against the repeal of the capital gains tax.

6. We should continue strong support of our school systems. Certainly we can improve, but we should not underfund education because we would be choking to death an essential element in the progress of our state and in any economic development plan.

7. We need to continue to support community-based services because they not only provide needy citizens with a better quality of life but also save the state billions of dollars. Consider this: we have essentially closed our state psychiatric hospital. In the 60's there were about 3000 people in that facility. Over the past 10 to 15 years, there has been 100 to 150. Where are these patients now? In the community, where they are provided high quality care at a fraction of the $150,000 per year that it would cost to hospitalize each one of them. The same can be said for persons with developmental disabilities who were once residents of the Ladd School.

Because I believe that the solution to our State Budget deficit is derived from a multi-faceted approach, I stayed away from simplistic statements. So “Cut spending” is woefully inadequate in my mind. Sure, it’s a start, but it doesn’t bring us to the finish line.

In the post-mortem that I did on my campaign, one of the considerations was that I may have been tattooed as an incumbent because of my prior experience as a legislator. After all, I did say that "I could hit the ground running." I suppose, too, that it’s easy enough to blame all the Democrats in the General Assembly. Even so, some of my positions are at odds with the Democratic leadership.

I think there are a number of issues at play that need to be addressed: the need for a sound and consistent tax policy; the need for strategic plans for each department in state government; the need for multi-year budgets; the need for a fair and equitable education funding formula; the need for developing new revenue streams (we did establish a department of state government for this express purpose), and, most importantly, the need for job development. Of course, all of these things are interrelated and it will take a lot of determination and cooperation before we can succeed.

We all know that there’s a lot at stake, so I think that we are not well served by bombastic, demonizing, or polarizing statements. Rather, we need to find that common ground that will move the state in the right direction. I hope for the best.

Sincerely, J. Clement Cicilline, M.S., Newport

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