Joanne’s Journal: Does star power influence your vote?

Yesterday, two singer superstars campaigned for Hillary Clinton on opposite sides of the country. Katy Perry wearing a T-shirt saying “Nasty Woman” stomped in Las Vegas telling young voters to get out and vote for Clinton.

Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus campaigned in George Mason University knocking on doors to promote Hillary Clinton.

First and foremost, I must say this is not about me supporting any candidate or being against any candidate.  I write to express disgust in our country’s election priorities.  Why is it that politicians think we are so dumb that we have to be told who to vote for?  I personally do not care who the stars in Hollywood or the music industry supports.   They set no example for me or my loved ones.  They have never walked in my shoes or lived my life to earn the right to tell me or anyone else how to vote.

But there is a deeper concern here.  Our young people are being courted by star power who really have set no example to our young people publicly.  With all the morality lectures being delivered in this election, it is hypocritical for any candidate to flaunt  these stars to win the young vote, especially when the stars flaunted haven’t been role models for our youth.

This is a shout out to the people who are appalled at the behavior  and words of candidates in their past.  You can’t have it both ways folks.  You can’t say you support women and are appalled by their degration with words or actions, and then have stars who have been known to be controversial and downright outrageous in their behavior. Is this the message we want to get out to our young?

Are we saying that it’s okay for the stars to set any example they want, but we the common folk have to watch what we say because we will be held accountable for it in the future?

If you want to set up standards for behavior as a candidate, that’s fine, but be consistent or your platform fails and becomes a farce.


Joanne’s Journal : Is the two party system dead?

img_2801I just don’t get it. You run in a Primary election either as a Democrat or Republican.  You file your Declaration of candidacy papers during three days in June. Yes, there is a deadline on the this. But you make sure you are there on time filing your intention to run for office in Little Rhody!

You pick up your nomination papers on the first week of July at the Secretary of State’s office so you can qualify to get on the election ballot. You need 50 registered voters in your district to sign your nomination papers if you are running for State Representative and 100 registered voters to sign if you are running for State Senate.

So you are out in the dead heat of summer going door to door to get signatures.  You need to make sure your voters are registered voters in your district so the signatures will not be disqualified.

This is not as easy as it sounds and is a great deal of work. But you are excited to be running, so you are out there going door to door campaigning to get signatures.  As a candidate, you have a certain time period to qualify as a candidate.  If you do not get the certified required amount of signatures, you are disqualified from the ballot. So if you only get 49 signatures that were legitimate instead of the required 50 for State Representative, you are all done.  And this goes for Senator too, where you need 100 registered voter signatures.

If you meet the deadline with the required signatures you are certified to be a candidate in either the Primary election or the General Election.

Alas, you made it on the election ballot and you are thinking how happy you are you made it.  You are relieved and ready to run for the office you hope to win.  You work very hard all summer by walking your district door to door, attending rallies, fundraisers, neighborhood functions, candidate debates, coffee hours, neighborhood forums and so many activities that come with being the candidate.

Finally the big day comes and you are ready! It’s Primary day and you and your volunteers are excited, tired, anxious and full of hope. You feel you are ready to change the world.  You are fully prepared to work all day Primary Election Day. You and your workers are ready, willing and able to work at the polls and have your own system ready on getting the vote out.  So much goes into a campaign. So much time hard work and money and in one day it is over.  You anxiously await the results on Primary night with your volunteers and family.

The results come in but you are in a tight race leading by only a few votes. Your heart is pounding but you take a deep breath and think  ” Okay, bring it on!”.  After many recounts and challenges, you are  the certified winner of the Primary election.

Hooray! You did it! You won your primary, and will proceed on to the general election with or without an opponent in November.

The scenario I described above is  a day in the life of a candidate.  All the blood, sweat and tears you shed will never prepare you for what it feels like.  The joy, the excitement, the anxiety and the perplexity of it all cannot be described.

Alas, you are the winner of your Primary election! But are you?  Are you prepared for the possibility of your opponent or opponents waging write in campaigns because they loss in the election process.

We have a process folks! Is it broken? Are we telling our party winners that they can be challenged again by a losing candidate who had their chance.?  There are reasons the write in procedures were initiated into election laws, but is losing a race one if them?

Our two party system needs to be reviewed.  The election laws need to be defined and possibly changed to prevent tainting the process. Does anyone have the guts to speak out about this?

Why do we have all these election qualifications and deadlines for primaries if the process means nothing?  At some point, one has to ask if this could cost the taxpayers money.  If write in candidates were by some way successful in the general election , does the original primary winner have challenges to file? Legal challenges, recounts and election rulings can all cost the taxpayers money.  And in the end, why did you bother to run as a Democrat or Republican at all?

It makes no sense, none if it.  Some states have election laws that define when write ins are legitimized.  It might be time for our state to take a look at these laws.  The two party system needs a review.



Saving Columbus Day!

Federal Hill on Columbus Day!

Yesterday, the community of Federal Hill in Providence celebrated Columbus Day with fine food, music and good old fashioned family fun.

This tradition is a symbol of the Italian community of our culture and heritage.  The sweet smell of sausage and peppers,ravioli and meatballs reminds us all of Italian Sunday dinners with our loved ones.  We reminisce as we celebrate our Italian heritage. The Federal hill community admirably and proudly hails as “The Little Italy of RI”.

Yet there are some, who would like to end the celebration of Columbus Day because they feel Christopher Columbus was a racist! Let’s face it, we weren’t taught that in school!  We were taught that he discovered America!

While I leave you to your own opinion, I would be remiss if I didn’t state how important Columbus Day is to the Italian American community.  It is a celebration of our history and also a showcase of our family traditions.  We cannot afford to lose this tradition as so many things in our lives have disappeared.

The Italian American community has the right to celebrate the great history of  their ancestors who came to this great country with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  They laid the cobblestones in the squares and paved the streets to preserve their quality of life and prepare the future for all of us.

Let us not forget their contributions to America by destroying their Columbus Day festivities. I continue to salute the merchants and people of Federal Hill who preserve our Italian heritage and customs.

I also stand with them in their efforts to preserve Columbus Day and I am proud also to be Italian American.  By looking at the crowded picture of people attending Federal Hill festivities yesterday, I see I am not alone.  img_2800





Joanne’s Journal (Tolls Anyone? )

Bill Rapleye hand a great show this morning about the truck tolls.  Bill Lynch, former Democratic state chairman was the spokesperson for Governor Gina Raimondo spoke of the implementation of the truck tolls. He states that the tolls would not be passed on to cars and motor vehicles.  With the newest approval from the Federal Government, it is full steam ahead for the truck tolls.  It seems Attorney Bill Lynch is wearing many hats these days, spokesperson for Governor  speaker of the House and Democratic Party!

Also on the program was Chris Matthew representing themTruckers Association. They are vowing a challenge to the tolls.  They are vowing to appeal with a lawsuit to challenge legally.  They claim no other state tolls trucks throughout the state as Rhode Island will .  The first gantry is to go up November 8th? Wow, that’s quick. If unsucessful with repealing the tolls, Rhode Island will be the battleground this year facing boycotts and all sorts of legal action.  Look for loss of delivered supplies including medical, food and industrial parts.  This could be devastating for little Rhody!  They also predict the tolls will not bring enough money into Rhode works mtomrepair bridges and roads.  We certainly have a bridge over troubled waters, folks.

The truckers also vowed involvement in the upcoming November elections stating residents of RI do not want tolls and will  Vote their anger at the voting box!

Time will tell! Weigh in with your thoughts.







It’s Back, the Car Tax Phase out Promise

Its Back, the Car Tax Phase Out Promise
In May 2015 I wrote an opinion piece for Golocalprov about the car tax. I titled it “Time to tell the car tax to hit the road”.

It’s Deja Vu all over again regarding this issue. The infamous unfair car tax tax is the most hated tax in Rhode Island. It’s the political football every election season. You know, the one everyone kicks around every election year but fails to score a touchdown with. Oh it’s discussed by many and promised by many to be eliminated or revised in some way, but like an injured quarterback , it’s put on the bench.

At a press conference today, House Speaker Matiello promised to change the car tax. This caused me to reminisce about the history of the car tax phase out program.

In 1997, I chaired a House Legislative commission to study ways to eliminate the car tax and inventory tax in Rhode Island. This derived out of a bill I introduced in 1996 to lower the car taxes in Rhode Island. As a result of this commission, the General Assembly passed the Fiscal year 1999 State Budget (P.L. 1998, Chapter 31) which included an article beginning the process to eliminate all vehicle property taxes by 2005. The first checks, totaling $5,849,127.94, were mailed to all the state’s municipalities and fire districts as the state’s first advance tax reimbursements n November of 1998. The General Assembly repealed the motor vehicle tax by increasing exemptions, beginning with. $1500 exemption in Fiscal year 2000, and then raising exemptions each year and also by freezing rates at the FY 1998 levels. General state revenues were to be used to reimburse cities and towns for loss revenue, eventually including the then 0.6 cents of the sales tax which was used to pay the DEPCO debt.

This was a good plan to eliminate the most regressive tax in the State. It made no sense that vehicles in the town of New Shoreham were assessed at $9.20 per thousand, while Providence motor vehicles were assessed at $76.78 per thousand dollars.

I was happy to co-sponsor the Motor Vehicle Excise tax elimination phase out program which was introduced by then Finance Chair Antonio Pires in 1998. I was also happy to be appointed the Chairperson of the Permanent oversight commission to oversee the implementation of the program. We were all excited to be getting rid of an unfair tax and being able to help everyone that owns a motor vehicle.

Unfortunately that excitement was short lived. After two years of its implementation, the car tax elimination program was frozen under the Lincoln Almond administration based on the argument
that state revenues could no longer afford the reimbursements to cities and towns and that the reimbursements were hurting other programs. I remember voting “no” on freezing the program because I believed then and still do now that the General Assembly made a commitment to the people of Rhode Island to end the car tax.

In 2005, I filed House Bill H5077 to reinstate the phase out of the motor vehicle excise tax program by 2008. The exemptions people were to be taxed on would be increased yearly causing the amount of taxation on cars to decrease eventually phasing out the car tax. State revenues were to be coming from the Twin River expansion.

In June of 2006, the House of Representatives, passed a bill I submitted to accelerate the dormant car tax phase out plan be exempting the first $6,000 of a car’s value in fiscal year 2007. This was good news, because we were finally back on the field again and ready to have a winning touchdown for the people of Rhode Island.

Again, that good news ended a few years later when the General Assembly passed an article to end the car tax phase out plan submitted by then Governor Donald Carcieri because of tough economic times in 2010. I cringed when this happened because I knew it was the end of a fifteen year process that should have resulted with a complete phase out of the car tax.

To make matters worse, the General Assembly then dropped the exemption of car values for local tax purposes from $6,000 to $500.00 in 2011 leaving taxpayers stunned with car tax bills higher than they had paid in previous years. Since then, the focus has been put on the Rhode Island Vehicle Value Commission and the way it values motor vehicles. The problem for municipalities is that they feel if the vehicle values are lowered, the cities and towns may receive
less revenue from taxes collected and therefore have budget shortages. Per state law, the vehicle value commission uses the clean retail value of the make and year of a vehicle for tax purposes and there is no appeal process for the vehicle owner.

There is no fair way to lower the car taxes in our state because every municipality pays a different amount on their assessed vehicles. The only fair way is to eliminate the car tax completely is with a car tax phase out program. The legislation to eliminate the car tax in 1998 was the only fair way to do this.

This still can be done by reinstating the car tax phase out in this budget program. Yes, the figures might change but the legislation passed and the fundamental law is still there from 1998. Tell your legislator and local elected officials to reinstate the car tax phase out program, not because it’s election year but because it’s a fulfillment of a promise made in 1998 to the people of Rhode Island.

It’s time for all Rhode Islanders to speak up and it’s time for our Rhode Island elected officials to kick this political football into the end zone.