I'd like to respond to Mr. Richard Corrente's recent letter-to-the-editor submission to the Warwick Beacon titled: "Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Interruption."
The First Amendment protects free speech, which unfortunately includes lies, dishonesty and political pandering.
I find Mr. Corrente's letter -to -the- editor to be quite perplexing considering Mr. Corrente was present and thoroughly informed on the facts last year when Mr. Robert Cushman presented his Warwick city pension and healthcare financial data to the Warwick City Council.
Mr. Corrente stated that Mr. Cushman was "given 25 minutes to present his analysis and opinion of the city budget...the firefighters union was there that night, in large number, and they tell me, they were supposed to speak in rebuttal after Mr. Cushman was finished."
This is false.
I personally spoke to Mr. William Lloyd inside the Warwick City Council chambers a few weeks prior to Mr. Robert Cushman giving his presentation to the Warwick City Council. Mr. Lloyd personally shared his frustrations with me and complained that he was very frustrated and dissatisfied regarding his inability to address the city council because it is not allowed per the Warwick firefighters union policy.
As Mr. Corrente is fully aware, (as he was present the night last December when Mr. Cushman gave his presentation), Mr. William Lloyd, president of the Warwick firefighters union, was also there, along with many Warwick firefighters, for one reason and one reason only: to complain about not be able to address the city council, and to bully, verbally harass and trample all over Mr. Cushman's First Amendment rights. Let me also remind the public, that as all of the hovering over, heckling, whistling and shouting at Mr. Cushman was all unfolding, the Warwick City Council and the City Council President , Donna Travis, looked on and did absolutely nothing to stop it. In fact, in my opinion based on my own personal front row observations, Ms. Travis reveled in it.
The City Council voted in a resolution which stipulated that Mr. Robert Cushman would have 45 minutes to give his presentation with an additional 15 minutes for a city council question and answer session. There was a delay in Mr. Cushman starting his presentation because, coincidentally, out of all nights, the city council chambers presentation screen just so happened to malfunction. In addition. Council President Travis took it upon herself to have the president of the Warwick Municipal Employees union, Mr. Scott Small give a slandering Robert Cushman introduction just prior to Mr. Cushman starting his presentation, along with allowing Mr. William Lloyd to do the very same thing.
It's quite hypocritical that the city council solicitor, as well as the Warwick City Council Finance Committee, will dictate when they find it appropriate for the public to speak according to their interpretation of the public speaking rules, but yet they had no problem allowing Scott Small and William Lloyd speak when technically, and according to the city public speaking "rule of law", they were not supposed to, the night Mr. Cushman gave his presentation.
Mr. Corrente also stated in his letter-to-the-editor that "other cities don't allow public comment at city council meetings. Warwick is the only one."
This is also immensely false.
I won't even waste my time citing other community examples of citizens' rights to speak at city council meetings because this claim is just that absurd. I am actually shocked that a candidate running to be mayor of the city of Warwick is this disconnected with the public speaking rights of citizens here in Warwick, and in other communities.
At the recent November 16 Warwick City Council meeting, a few, very justifiably concerned citizens of Warwick were upset, because they were not allowed to address particular scheduled, docketed resolutions on the Nov 16th city council calendar. It should not be the citizen's inconvenient problem to have to leave and come back to the next city council meeting, any time a docketed resolution is postponed to a future city council meeting, at the whimsical decision of a city councilperson.
RULE 20 clearly states:
"Any citizen of the City of Warwick may request to be heard on any docketed resolution or ordinance prior to passage by the City Council. Upon receipt of such request, the Council President shall refer the requesting citizen to the committee to which the proposed resolution or ordinance has been referred and the citizen shall be granted an opportunity to appear before the committee at its scheduled committee meeting, to present his or her views relative to the proposed resolution or ordinance.
The committee may recommend to the Council President, as soon as possible after its committee meeting, that the citizen be given an opportunity to appear and speak before the entire City Council when, in its judgment and by majority vote, such presentation by the requesting citizen is warranted to aid the City Council in its deliberations.
The recommendation of the committee shall be transmitted to the City Council. Upon favorable majority vote of the City Council, the citizen shall be permitted to appear at a regular or special session, at a time, place, and duration to be determined by the Council President, to present his or her views on the docketed resolution or ordinance."
Nowhere in Rule 20 can it be interpreted that any time a docketed resolution is postponed to another city council meeting, that a citizen who is present to speak to that particular scheduled, docketed, postponed resolution, still cannot speak to it without any full consideration by the entire city council.
What is "unfair" to any audience who has read Mr. Corrente's recent letter-to-the-editor in the Warwick Beacon, is that they even read it at all. Warwick has enough problems with its political leadership, and the actions of Mr. Corrente with this ridiculous letter, prove that Warwick would be absolutely no better off with someone like him in office.
Also, knowing Mr. Corrente would so easily throw a friend under the bus in order to win political acceptance by indivuduals who could actually care less about his candidacy is quite disturbing to witness.
You did get something right though Mr. Corrente, we do learn a lot at the Warwick City Council meetings. It is our money, it is our time, it is our First Amendment RIGHT to speak and address our elected leadership at every single City Council meeting all across the state of RI, and it's also our right to call out the hypocrites, whether they already be in office, or are trying to make their way there.