|Residents at the Central Falls City
Council meeting I attended Friday evening raised a pretty good
question: where was Robert Flanders, the state-appointed receiver.
While about 40 members of the public sought to have their questions
addressed, the receiver and his chief of staff, Gayle Corrigan, were
nowhere to be found.
So what did receiver Flanders deem so important that it kept him from
meeting with the public on Friday evening? He was busy at another
function, dressing up as an executioner, comparing himself to Darth
Vader, and poking fun at both the city and its residents, who have been
seriously harmed through the actions he has overseen.
Former Judge Flanders was the “Mystery Guest” at the
Providence Newspaper Guild’s annual “Follies,” an
irreverent take on all things Rhode Island, especially politics. The
Mystery Guest is a well-known figure who typically engages in harmless
self-deprecating humor to close out the evening. The problem this year
is that the situation that makes receiver Flanders so well known is no
laughing matter, and his jokes were anything but harmless.
First and foremost, Judge Flanders should have been at the City Council
meeting, not at a social gathering poking fun of the very people he was
snubbing. The people of Central Falls appeared before a powerless
Council because they were seeking answers on Friday evening, and their
mood was summed up nicely with the resounding applause they gave to a
Council member who questioned where the receiver was.
Judge Flanders, meanwhile, was singing to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine”:
“Imagine there’s no mayors. It’s easy for true
believers. No City Council below them. Above us only receivers. Imagine
all the pensioners living with haircuts and co-pays.”
It certainly isn’t hard for us in Central Falls to imagine a
world in such a dictatorship. We were robbed of our democratic
representation when the city entered receivership. The state-appointed
receiver collects his salary, a bill we in Central Falls will
ultimately pay, but he is accountable to no one here in the city.
Indeed there is no local elected official who wields any power, all of
which is vested in a receiver who thinks so little of us that he goes
off and makes fun of the pensioners whose livelihoods were devastated.
Judge Flanders, of all people, should be cognizant of the pain being
borne by the people of Central Falls as we undergo receivership. It was
he who presided over the slashing of what were already, for the most
part, very meager pensions. Did he not notice the devastation written
in the strained faces of elderly women and in the tears of retired men
as they witnessed the security they had worked a lifetime to achieve
taken from them? It is positively disgusting that Judge Flanders, who
should know better than anyone how painful this situation is, would dub
himself “Lord of the Pink Slip” and make light of people
losing their representative democracy, losing their jobs, and losing
their retirement benefits.
We the people of Central Falls will not tolerate being the butt of
anyone’s jokes. Our city is a vibrant, tight-knit community, not
a laughing stock. We deserve better than to be ignored and made fun of
by the person appointed by the state to provide sound fiscal management.
Rep. James McLaughlin and Rep. Agostinho Silva – my colleagues in
the Central Falls delegation to the State House – and I will be
meeting with the Governor to discuss our concerns with the way in which
the city is being run, and the lack of accountability to the people of
Central Falls. We will stand strong to see that the people of Central
Falls get their city back. In the meantime, it would be nice to see
Judge Flanders acknowledge that he exercised some pretty lousy judgment
on Friday night.
(Elizabeth Crowley is the Democratic State Senator from District 16, Central Falls, Cumberland, Pawtucket)