It turns out there’s at least one more job Central Falls receiver Bob “Lord of the Pink Slip” Flanders would like to eliminate from the financially struggling city: mayor. As if temporarily eliminating democracy from Central Falls wasn’t enough, now he wants to permanently eliminate democratically elected mayors and replace the position with an appointed city manager.
Flanders told the ProJo he would like to create a local charter review commission to look into the merits of switching from a mayoral form of government, in which the highest position in government is elected, to a city manager form, in which the highest position is appointed.
The article says “state and local officials are exploring the possibility,” but the only local official cited is Albert Romanowicz, who was appointed by Flanders to run the local jail. All the other local officials in the article – such as the mayor, not surprisingly – are against it.
Forget, for a moment, that mayors are less expensive than managers – in Rhode Island, the average municipal manager makes $101,480 a year and the average mayor makes $84,800 (meanwhile, average receiver makes in excess of $360,000 a year).
The really troubling issue here is that Darth Flanders is again going too far in his role as receiver.
Flanders has already over-stepped his bounds when he tried to institute an overnight parking ban in Central Falls. Sure, this would have made money, but that’s because he would have made it a violation to park where residents park in Central Falls, on the road. Few, if any, in Central Falls have three car garages, like Flanders does at his house in East Greenwich. While he pushed the idea through over the objection of the residents, Gov. Chafee had him rescind the idea the next day.
Similarly, the governor should tell Flanders to back off on his vision of permanently restructuring of the government by eliminating elected officials.
Central Falls does not suffer from too many elected officials, it suffers from poverty. There isn’t a high enough tax base to pay for the services that are needed. To that end, the receiver is well within the parameters of his responsibilities to shrink the size of government – though a better solution would be to work on expanding the tax base.
Either way, someone charged with financial oversight shouldn’t take action toward eliminating elected positions. It’s just unseemly, and it smacks of punishing the people of Central Falls for being too poor to pay for their services.
According to the Projo, “Flanders and his staff insist that the mayoral form of government invites patronage and cronyism.” But I’m not sure the same can’t be said of an appointed manager. At least mayors can be voted out of office. In fact, the very underlying principle of a democracy is that elected officials are held accountable by the people.
Evidently, Flanders doesn’t think this is working so well in Central Falls. “Let’s put it this way,” he told the Projo. The mayoral form of government “hasn’t served the populace very well to date.’’
If this is the case, Flanders could use the power of his position to create a community dialogue about these issues, or start a training academy for young local leaders. Both of these ideas would better eliminate cronyism from government than simply trading a mayor for a manager, as well as have many other positive effects on the city.
But it seems as if Flanders is so hyper-focused on being the Lord of the Pink Slip that he forgot he actually has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something much bigger and more meaningful than just eliminate positions and divvy out haircuts.