April 22, 2018

Statement regarding Sen. Da Ponte's demotion from Senate Finance Committee


It is with mixed feelings that we hear the news today of Senate President Ruggerio’s decision to remove Senator Dan Da Ponte from the Chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee. Sources on Smith Hill refer to the Senator as in “political Siberia”, it sounds almost cartoonish.

Senator Da Ponte has never been a favorite of those seeking responsible government. His role in the state’s largest and well known financial boondoggle, 38 Studios, is enough to make any good government advocate pale. Politifact noted the role that Da Ponte played in the key legislation that brought the company to Rhode Island “Only House Speaker Gordon Fox, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed, Sen. Daniel DaPonte, and Costantino knew about the 38 Studios transaction when the General Assembly approved the bill for the guarantees in 2010, according Marcel A. Valois, the EDC’s former director.” Notes the organization that rates the truthfulness of politician statements. While his colleagues in the House of Representatives felt most of the burn from this deal, Senator Da Ponte has dodged accountability.

Beyond actual state business, Senator Da Ponte was known for pulling the strings of certain political events from his perch on Smith Hill. It was suggested frequently by those in the know that it was he that pressured for a state budget commission to come in to East Providence due to his dislike of city leadership at the time, the effects of which were mixed while at the same time depriving the people of local control and democracy. It was Mr. Da Ponte that pushed for Richard Kirby’s appointment and his subsequent termination. For those who dislike the behind the scenes manipulations, political Siberia will make it harder, though not impossible for Mr. Da Ponte to flex his muscle with local officials.

A staunch supporter of the current system of government, he is speculated to be among those on Smith Hill that ‘lost’ the legislation for four year terms and we have been told that Senator Conley has had to re-introduce the legislation supporting the Mayor-Council form of government, supported by 73% of the voters last election, for a second time because his first filing disappeared.

However, in all this, it is important to note that the ends do not always justify the means. Like Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, Senate President Ruggerio is utilizing dictatorial power and bullying tactics to ensure loyalty in his ranks. Some would even say that Ruggerio’s actions here are even more paranoid and bullying than Mattiello. In Rhode Island you go with leadership or you are in the complete wilderness, no committee assignments, no legislation, nothing. Even our contentious Federal legislature is not so draconian. There is something wrong with a system where dissent is treated like an anathema and anyone who sways slightly from “yes, sir” is persona non grata. We think while it is a happy day for enemies of Dan Da Ponte, in the larger picture, we all as Rhode Islanders lose from a legislature that functions like this.

With all of that said, we would like to congratulate Senator Billy Conley on his promotion to the Finance Committee Chairmanship, let us hope that he can provide some needed budgetary leadership as well as honest and responsible governance going forward.

Rodrigo Pimentel

Townies for Responsible Government


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