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Friday, May 27, 2016

VIDEO: Filippi turns Charlestown Memorial Day Parade into a self-serving political sideshow

Charlestown Citizens Alliance backs their boy’s play
By Will Collette


This is what Memorial Day is supposed to be about. View this video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL695-8gVzE

State Representative Blake “Flip” Filippi (District 36) is a master at turning concocted controversy into self-aggrandizing media opportunities. He’s so good at it that he has actually given classes to other political candidates, probably those as shallow and self-serving as himself, on his techniques.

We’ll go into some examples of that later, but let’s look at Flip’s latest stunt which is to claim that he has been “blacklisted” from speaking at the Charlestown Memorial Day Parade. This has put him directly at odds with the Parade Committee’s long-time chair, Jim Mageau.

Filippi is being aided in his fight by none other than Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) leader Tom Gentz, boss of the Charlestown Town Council, who demanded that Filippi be given a speaking slot on the agenda.

Boss Gentz also has demanded that the independent, non-profit Charlestown Memorial Day Parade Committee oust Mageau for not giving Flip what he wants.

I rarely ever agree with Jim Mageau on anything – as even a cursory glance through Progressive Charlestown articles on Mageau will show (154 articles: CLICK HERE) – but on this matter, Mageau is right. And Flip and Boss Gentz are totally out of line.

Let’s start with a consistent principle Mageau has applied to the Charlestown Memorial Day Parade. Mageau does not allow this annual ceremony honoring America’s veterans to be sullied by partisan politics.

Tom Gentz, for all his feigned “shock” at this controversy, knows this all too well, because Gentz has not been allowed to use the Parade as a political platform either.

In the Channel 10 news coverage of this flap, Flip attempts to portray Mageau’s decision as a “pay-to-play deal,” that Mageau expected Filippi to come up with a legislative grant for the Parade and, because Flip doesn’t believe in legislative grants on principle, Mageau “black-listed: Filippi.

As the CCA Party describes it in their official web blog “State Representative Punished for not Providing Legislative Grant to Charlestown Memorial Day Parade and that Speakers are evidently required to pay before they approach the podium.

Complete, total bovine excrement.


I have no doubt that Mageau asked Filippi to secure a legislative grant for the Parade – the Parade received regular annual legislative grants through Flip’s predecessor Rep. Donna Walsh – no one, whether they gave money or not, has a right to give a campaign speech at the Parade.

I also believe Filippi promised Mageau that he would get the grant. Why? Because Filippi has a record of telling people whatever they want to hear.

Filippi claims he would not have promised a legislative grant because he opposes them on principle and thinks they are illegal.

Yet as we’ve documented time and again, Flip is consistently inconsistent in his statements and promises. His main criteria is his own self-interest, not principle or the common good. Ask the saltwater fishermen who were almost screwed by Filippi last year.

As for Filippi’s sanctimonious claim that legislative grants are wrong in principle, he had no problem getting a legislative grant for the Washington County Regional Planning Commission.

Guess who sits on the Commission’s Board and serves as its Treasurer. Why it’s none other than Boss Tom Gentz.

Both the Westerly Sun and the Providence Journal are now reporting some accomodation has been reached to allow Filippi to march in the Parade and to be "acknowledged" by other speakers if they so choose. We'll see what actually happens on Sunday when the Parade takes place.

This whole episode exposes the Filippi Media Method of creating a trivial controversy that grabs him a news cycle or two. For him, messing with the Charlestown Memorial Day Parade is a "Mission Accomplished" moment, having gotten the attention he craves above all else.

It also exposes the CCA Party smear tactics.

Let's look first at Filippi's flips and media stunts.

Like his fellow right-wing Republicans (e.g. Reps. Pat Morgan and Doreen Costa), Filippi loves to take broad-brush positions to exploit gullible and lazy media. “Legislative grants” are the flavor of the month.

Like Filippi, his colleagues have been caught out as the crass hypocrites they are. Rep. Pat Morgan, for example, not only took all she could get, but wanted more. See her letter to former Speaker Gordon Fox (right).

Doreen Costa not only took legislative grants, but also serves on the boards of two groups that received them. But wait, there’s more….she also failed to list her membership on those boards on her ethics disclosure reports, as required by law.

Don’t get me wrong – I think there’s nothing inherently wrong with legislative grants. These are typically grants of anywhere from a few hundred to around $5,000. Those small grants can make a very big difference to local non-profits and the people they serve.

When Donna Walsh represented the 36th District, she diligently pursued these grants to support such local non-profits as RI-CAN, the Historical Society, WARM Center, the senior citizens center, the animal shelter, local libraries, Matunuck School, and yes, the Parade, plus many more.

These legislative grants are an entirely different category than the six-figure “community services grants” that just got former Narragansett state Rep. Donald Lally into trouble.

Filippi is nearing the end of his second year in the General Assembly. If you look at his actual record, he has achieved virtually nothing even though he manages to get himself many news cycle’s worth of attention to his half-baked schemes[1].

Such as Rhode Island seceding from the rest of the United States to join the Canadian Maritime Provinces in the use of Atlantic Standard Time because Flip thinks Daylight Savings Time is bad. He timed his little blitz for the end of February in this Leap Year, exploiting media interest in feature stories. Notice once February 29 passed and the media went away, we haven;t heard another peep from Flip.

Or his argument that the Rhode Island Constitution needs to be amended to add a right to not be subject to automobile tolls. As much as we all hate tolls, it cheapens the state Constitution to stick an anti-toll amendment into it. Better that Rhode Islanders should have a Constitutional right to safe and effective travel.

Or giving Rhode Islanders the right to go to court against the state anytime they think the state is not spending money properly, a measure guaranteed to permanently gridlock the courts as every wingnut in the state files suits against the state.

One of Flip’s clients is the radical militia group, the Oathkeepers, that claims its members have the right to interpret the Constitution and laws as they see fit and to resist, by force if necessary, any law they consider unjust. Flip’s Constitutional amendment proposal is just slightly less radical.

Luckily for the citizens of Rhode Island, none of Filippi’s legislation actually gets passed. Two years in the General Assembly and he’s batting .000. See notes, below, for the specifics.

The battle over who gets to speak at the Charlestown Memorial Day Parade pits three odd-fellows – Filippi, Jim Mageau and Boss Gentz – against each other. All three have had credibility problems well documented in Progressive Charlestown.

Ultimately, you readers, as well as Charlestown voters will have to decide who is telling the truth.
But there are certain facts that have weight. 

The first is that the Charlestown Memorial Day Parade is a steadfastly non-political event of, by and for veterans.

Second, the Parade Committee is not a public agency, but rather a private, non-profit corporation. Thus Filippi’s and Boss Gentz’s claim that Filippi has the "right" to speak is flat-out false.

Third, Boss Gentz has no authority under the Charlestown Home Rule Charter to direct the Parade Committee to dismiss Mageau. While Boss Gentz has meddled in other non-profit’s affairs, this is his most outrageous effort yet.

Fourth, Filippi is lying when he says he doesn’t seek or get legislative grants, evidenced by the grant he secured for the Washington County Regional Planning Commission for which Boss Gentz is Treasurer.

Filippi has shown a casual relationship with the truth from Day #1 of his political career, whether it’s about where he lives or his multiple flip-flops on his legislation to abolish the state saltwater fishing license (a measure bitterly OPPOSED by the actual fishermen). 

Filippi claimed his bizarre crusade over the fishing licenses was driven by the right of beach access enshrined in the state Constitution, something he and his brother have actively tried to impede a public access point to the beach next to their Block Island hotel.

Then there was his promise to save the neighbors of the Copar Quarry in his first week in office. Never happened. Copar closed due to fights among the managers and that it was never a viable business to begin with. The only Copar-related legislation enacted were the companion bills sponsored by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy and Sen. Dennis Algiere. But the CCA Party gave Flip all the credit for passing bills he had no role in passing.

Then there was Filippi's pledge to reduce the state income tax for retirees. That was actually accomplished by Rep. Bob Craven). 

There’s his joining the anti-vaxxer wingnuts promoting the falsehoods that impede vaccinations for children against preventable cancer and so much more.

Filippi has been aided and abetted by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance who added their own lies by crediting Filippi for enacting legislation he had no role in. They know he needs all the help he can get to retain his seat next election cycle, since he has effectively accomplished nothing this term.

Filippi and the CCA Party are clearly kicking off their 2016 campaigns. And they are using the Charlestown Memorial Day Parade as the political football. Shame on them.


NOTES ON FILIPPI'S LEGISLATIVE RECORD



[1] According to the official Legislative Tracker, Filippi was the prime sponsor of 29 pieces of legislation in 2015. 

Of those, four passed. One was a resolution of condolences, another allowed a non-clergy person to perform a marriage ceremony. Another was a local bill for Block Island (none of the local bills Flip introduced on behalf of Charlestown passed) and other restored the revoked license of a local business. 

None of his substantive bills passed. Flip also co-sponsored 53 other bills for his right-wing friends. Virtually none of those bills passed either.

As the 2016 General Assembly nears its end, Filippi has been the prime sponsor of 32  pieces of legislation and co-sponsor of another 44. 

None of these have passed except for three bills allowing a non-clergy person to perform marriages and two expressing condolences. 

None of the bills Filippi introduced on behalf of Charlestown or Block Island have passed. 

None of his proposals for Constitutional amendments have passed. 

None of his changes to government practices have passed. 

But many of these bills worked nicely to give Flip a chance to get headlines in the Westerly Sun or mention in the ProJo or time on the radio talk shows. I guess that’s all that really counts – the appearance of activity without actual accomplishment.