Bob Flanders seemed to take a perverse pleasure in threatening other people’s livelihoods. But yesterday he was the one who got beheaded rather than getting a haircut when Providence Mayor Angel Taveras severed the city’s relationship with the Central Falls receiver-turned-municipal bankruptcy zealot.
Taveras fired Flanders yesterday because the retired Supreme Court justice, who was acting as an legal adviser to the Capital City in its quest to avoid going belly up, said he thought bankruptcy was inevitable.
“Judge Flanders’s recent comments concerning Providence’s fiscal crisis are unacceptable,” said Taveras in a statement. “Because of the harm his comments have done, effective today the City of Providence has severed its relationship with Judge Flanders.”
Somewhere between being named the receiver for Central Falls and being fired as a bankruptcy adviser to Providence, Flanders had become both obsessed and enamored with the idea of municipal restructuring. He penned pieces extolling bankruptcy’s benefits, and seemed to tell anyone who would listen what a boon Chapter 11 could be.
He even traveled to a bondholders conference in Philadelphia and, in trumpeting the virtues of coerced contract negotiations, according to the Huffington Post, said, “We could blow up any contract we liked.”
Turns out, however, that Providence didn’t mind blowing up his contract either.
Flanders had become an outspoken and often obnoxious force in the realm of municipal restructuring. He turned even ardent supports against him when he gave a poorly-received performance at the annual Follies, cracking wise about his job of stripping working class people of their agreed upon retirement plans. Dressed as an executioner, Flanders likened himself to Darth Vader and called himself the “lord of the pink slip.”
Prior to that, Gov. Chafee had to revoke Flanders decision to outlaw street parking in Central Falls after it became painfully evident that the decision was little more than a way to charge Central Falls residents for having cars (most homes in CF don’t have driveways, so parking on the road is the only option). He’s being sued by the ACLU for not properly adhering to the state’s rules for democracy in his role as Central Falls receiver.
While Flanders has done good work in getting Central Falls’ budget back in line, he proved disastrous at the public relations aspect of his role. He came across as arrogant and uncaring. He belittled the people he was supposed to be helping. He made Rhode Island seem like a state that didn’t care about its struggling communities, only their bottom lines.
Gov. Chafee would be wise to show the same kind of leadership that Taveras did and rebuke Flanders for giving municipal bankruptcy a bad name. But he shouldn’t be removed as Central Falls receiver; Chafee should simply slash Flanders exorbitant contract that pays him more than $360,000 a year.
Surely, Flanders would be amenable to taking less money to be the “lord of the pink slip” in Central Falls because, as we all know, a haircut is better than a beheading.