Representatives, not Royalty

Glenn Chelo

Why does it take six times longer to tell a white man he’s violating the rules than it does to tell a black woman?

Lisa Ranglin

“I am quite disappointed that my state rep is not here,” said Lisa Ranglin, president of the Rhode Island Black Business Association (RIBBA), testifying before the House Labor Committee last Thursday evening. “I will let him know I am very disappointed…”

“Excuse me,” interrupted Representative Stephen Casey (Democrat, District 50, Woonsocket). “He’s in another committee right now. So that’s an unfair statement to make at this time.”

“Well…” said Ranglin.

Casey interrupted again. “I would advise you to refrain from that.”

“As a resident of District 7…” continued Ranglin.

“I understand, I understand,” said Casey, interrupting a third time.

Ranglin would not be deterred. “As a resident of District 7, I do have the right to state that I am very disappointed that my state rep is not in this room. I have reached out to my state rep on several occasions and have not gotten any information back. Very disappointed.”

It took eight seconds for Casey to respond to Ranglin’s mention of her state representative, Daniel McKiernan (Democrat, District 7, Providence).

Later, in the same meeting, Glenn Chelo, owner of the Chelo’s Hometown Bar & Grille restaurant chain and other restaurants, began to talk about Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence).

It took 48 seconds for Casey to interrupt Chelo. And he did so apologetically.

“Am I going someplace I shouldn’t go right?” asked Chelo.

“I stopped someone else from making commentary about another representative,” said Casey. “Try to stick to the merits of the bill. We understand your passion, and we’re with you.”

Beyond the obvious racial bias at work, there’s another consideration here:

Why do the chairs of House Labor believe that our elected state officials should be immune to criticism when the public presents testimony on important legislation? Ranglin and Chelo, on opposite sides of the bill to raise the minimum wage to $15, both should have their right to testify on their bills as they see fit respected.

My thought: Our elected officials are not royalty, and our right to free speech should not be infringed.


See also:

Punching in and taking off: Fake quorums at State House committee meetings

Fair Pay Act and $15 minimum wage critically important, say advocates


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About Steve Ahlquist 453 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com

2 Comments

  1. My favorite story like this is when i went to testify on the give away to the Pawsox and Istarted to remind the committee about how many times the general assembly has cost the people money with their big time deals for the rich and the committee chair went ballistic because I talked about the record of the legislature. They did not like that at all.

  2. I’m equally as troubled by the remark, “We understand your passion, and we’re with you.” Really? So at a “hearing” during which Rhode Islanders provide testimony to inform legislators of facts necessary for them to reach an informed opinion, one of the legislators has already made up their mind. So it’s all just theater. As long as the whole thing is nothing more theater, shouldn’t legislators at least act like they’re impartial?

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