Polisena: voters need to press legislators for answers

Aug 6, 2012

Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena tends to get somewhat less attention than some of his counterparts from other cities. But Polisena was candid and quotable during a visit to Rhode Island Public Radio’s Political Roundtable last week. Here are some of the highlights:

– Polisena predicts more crises in municipal finance without the kind of “tools” championed by Governor Chafee. He traces the problem to Chafee’s predecessor:

“You can’t find Governor Carcieri with a search warrant. He was the one who initiated [cuts in aid to cities and towns]. He cut my community $8.5 million dollars.”

When I noted the General Assembly passed the budgets cutting aid to cities and towns, Polisena, a former state senator, said:

“No doubt, and they’re at blame also. And people have to realize, as [legislators are] walking door to door this year, people need to ask them, ‘did you vote to put the car tax back on my community? Did you vote to cut Johnston, or Cranston, or Providence?’ … They need to ask these questions. People need to be a little bit more articulate — the voters — and ask the hard questions.”

– Polisena says the local aid cuts could be justified if the General Assembly provided cities and towns with the tools to cut costs.

–  He said the cuts should have been gradually phased in rather than being made abruptly.

”You know, if Central Falls got their $5 million every year, maybe they wouldn’t be in this situation. East Providence used to get $9.7 million; they’re only getting $700,000. They’re in trouble. All you’ve got to do is look at the numbers.”

Polisena noted the voting power of Johnston in statewide races:

“I can tell you that Secretary of State Ralph Mollis will tell you if it wasn’t for Johnston, he wouldn’t be the secretary of state, and Senator Whitehouse will tell you the same, so Johnston’s a very critical point.”