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Michael Salzillo: We need new leadership at the State House – Vote for David Morales and Sam Bell



Rhode Island can be considered to be a progressive or liberal state and there are many reasons to assume that. For one, we were a state known for electing New Deal Democrats and progressives who tenaciously supported the labor movement, but also promoted forward thinking ideas on energy and environmental conservation and protection, some of which was promoted even by Republicans like Claudine Schneider, the late United States Senator John Chafee and his son Lincoln Chafee. We had some of the most liberal and progressive United States Senators of those times, including that of Frank Pastore and Claiborne Pell, who made the Pell Grants, his namesake, possible. But in today’s Rhode Island government, that stops once you move on from the federal government congressional delegation.

We have a governor who is very willing to cater to corporate interests and align herself with conservative think tanks and big businesses in crafting her economic agenda for Rhode Island, which leaves most communities behind. Our General Assembly is even more abysmal for what real Democrats should value. Our Speaker and Senate President are endorsed and funded by the National Rifle Association and Right to Life, that oppose any gun safety measures or a woman’s right to choose. They lead many fellow conservative Democrats not to oppose just these issues, but also to do what Tea Party Republicans would want to do for our country: implement budget cuts into Medicare, Medicaid, public education, and affordable housing, while neglecting our infrastructure, our roads, bridges, schools, and even high-speed broadband. Maintain dependence on fossil fuels and independence from a clean environment and stronger economy that creates even faster jobs than what coal, oil, and gas could do during its best years during the Obama presidency. Weaken our labor unions, and leave behind Rhode Island workers earning starvation wages just to keep a roof under their heads. All while the Democratic machine as part of their agenda, aided and abetted by state leadership, bails out the well-connected and the most powerful influences that only accumulate greater capital and wealth, while working communities fall behind, and the poorer get poorer.

I look at my communities for how we can change the system. Rhode Island House District 7 is represented by one of these conservative Democrats supported by the NRA, Right to Life, and the Chamber of Commerce, Daniel McKiernan. But he also is one of Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s top lieutenants and followers for a very good reason. He ousted his predecessor, Representative Maria Cimini, a progressive Democrat who opposed Mattiello’s agenda to cut essential services, administer useless standardized NECAP requirements and refuse to raise wages for all Rhode Island workers, while bailing out his acquaintances and friends, and contributing to ongoing racial and income inequality. McKiernan leads the climate council in the General Assembly, a boon to Speaker Mattiello’s agenda, who thinks Rhode Island cannot do anything on climate change, which further elaborates on how and why Representative McKiernan would do very little sponsoring, amending, and passing legislation on the exacerbated climate crisis that threatens our low-lying towns and impoverished communities when he leads the council best meant to address these issues. McKiernan is a proven follower of Mattiello’s agenda; to subsidize big business, establish unlimited extravagance to wealthy billionaires and fossil fuel companies, and funnel political contributions from national groups like the NRA and the Chamber of Commerce, while leaving communities just like Mt Pleasant, Elmhurst, and the Valley behind to scrimmage for whatever resources are still around. Friends, I call this neglected leadership.

There is only one solution, and it is to elect new leadership all across Rhode Island. For those in House District 7, that is David Morales, who comes from a humble background living with a single mom, laboring as a farmworker, and entering Brown University with superb academic performance. Regardless of all of his accomplishments, he knows the struggles of people just like him who come from minority or urban backgrounds, who cannot afford to pay for their food, prescription drugs, or their rents. That is why he is running not just on a progressive platform, but a platform that represents real Democratic values. He will oppose Mattiello’s corporate-sided agenda that cuts into public school funding, affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, and social safety nets like Medicaid, WIC, and SNAP benefits (Food Stamps). He will oppose further fossil fuel development that threatens Providence’s most impoverished communities, including African American and Hispanic or Latino communities. But there is more to what he represents and stands for. As a former spokesman for Sunrise Providence, he knows the threat of climate change and the need to pass a Green New Deal, not just for protecting our environment and keeping our planet habitable, but also to create thousands of high-paying renewable sector unionized jobs for working Rhode Islanders left behind in the face of contemporary trends of deindustrialization and globalization, rather than continue the decline of consumption and abundance of fossil fuels. He will fight to fund our public school, enhance mental health assistance and food meals programs in those schools, and make public colleges and universities in Rhode Island tuition-free for all students of all different economic, racial, and geographical backgrounds. He will fight to expand healthcare services through a Medicare-for-All single-payer system that covers everyone’s healthcare without attempting to make a profit through surprise billing, copays, or deductibles, or simply reward healthcare insurance as a benefit that can be taken away during an economic depression. He will fight to support small businesses in Providence and in Rhode Island with fairer progressive tax systems that charge more for the wealthy than the poor, and putting money in the pockets of businesses and households during this pandemic. And among other issues, he will fight to pass real criminal justice and policing reform, as well as promoting gun safety legislation. Morales is a fighter for all communities in Providence, and a needed leader against the Mattiello mob of corrupt politics and corporate welfare.

I know, like many, there is a third candidate, Angel Subervi, who is running for that same seat held by McKiernan. I do not oppose him ideologically or personally. I am sure he is a well-intentioned person who wants to fight for the people and for neighborhoods all across Providence. I could understand that whether you shuffle papers, waste hours in irrelevant meetings, or fix potholes in City Hall, you would want a better job to serve the people than have advice shoved away by an incompetent and inefficient city government and mayoral administration. Subervi, I am sure, has great potential to represent the people, whether that is a non charity or organization to help revitalize Providence, or run for office, like city councilman, mayor, or even governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, secretary of treasury, or attorney general. I am sure he can offer a lot to Providence and Rhode Island. But looking at this specific race, on electability, and the state of his campaign, a vote for Angel Subervi is a vote lost from fellow progressive David Morales and a vote closer to a victory for the unswerving and unwavering Mattiello servant since 2014, Dan McKiernan. We cannot have that happen. We need change now and we need David Morales, a true progressive and real Democrat to be our next state representative for District 7.

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For many in this district, they also have to vote for their next state senator who represents their district. Where I live, like many voters, my state senator is Sam Bell, and my family is proud to cast their votes for him. He is a true progressive fighter for change against the mob mentality of President Dominick Ruggerio (who has a primary himself), who simply leads the charge in the State Senate to do the same things Mattiello does in the State House. Bell’s democratic and progressive values on Medicare-for-All, a Green New Deal, and the fundamentals, like not cutting and privatizing Medicaid, run contrary to that of President Ruggerio’s ideology has earned him ire from the establishment, including Brett Smiley, Nellie Gorbea, and Michael McCaffrey among many, many others. That is why his opponent is bankrolled and very likely handpicked to be Bell’s opponent by the Ruggerio-Mattiello machine that wants to purge the people’s house of literally any person who will stand up to what is just and right, as Representative Maria Cimini and Senator Jeanine Calkin once did. Senator Bell, unlike many incumbents, will fight on what he feels is right, as someone who relies on his healthcare coverage for his and his wife’s pre-existing conditions, who knows the benefits of having food and a roof over their heads, who recognizes injustices and inequalities in our economy and in society and who values our green spaces and natural environment, which is why he opposed the privatization of the Providence Water Supply Board that his opponent supported and promotes a Green New Deal as well. He knows exactly what Providence can do right and do better, and will never cave in to special interests and the well-connected that influences Rhode Island politics today.

It is time we elect new leadership in 2020, with the many progressives running for state house and senate seats, who I wish the best of luck, and continue what progressives before us started even a few years ago.

Michael Salzillo is a lifelong Rhode Islander living in Providence and an upstart, young progressive activist. He has recently volunteered for local RI campaigns, including Matt Brown's gubernatorial campaign, and as a volunteer for Sam Bell and David Morales for the 2020 primary season.

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