In a post yesterday about Bob Flanders poking fun of his role as the “lord of the pink slip” in Central Falls (check out the video of Flanders singing if you haven’t yet), I mentioned that it wasn’t in good taste for Flanders to make jokes about a situation that has dire consequences to already-struggling Rhode Islanders. Evidently, Sen. Elizabeth Crowley, a Democrat who represents the people of CF that Flanders gave a haircut to, agreed and wrote an op/ed about it. She even used the nickname I coined for the receiver: “Darth Flanders.”
Here’s Senator Crowley’s piece:
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’ 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.