By MADDALENA CIRIGNOTTA When did Rhode Islanders consent to indefinitely sacrificing our democracy for a monarchy? Have we simply lobbed off an entire branch of government and determined checks and balances unnecessary? Is representation no longer a
When did Rhode Islanders consent to indefinitely sacrificing our democracy for a monarchy? Have we simply lobbed off an entire branch of government and determined checks and balances unnecessary? Is representation no longer a constitutional right? Seven months into the removal of our General Assembly, we must ask ourselves, will the people ever again participate in the laws that govern us?
Once upon a time, Gov. Raimondo shut down Rhode Island only long enough to “flatten the curve,” and keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed with the sick and dying. She repeatedly reassured us that unchecked executive power would be temporary, that our civil liberties would be restored to us once our medical establishments were able to handle the imminent tidal wave of disease and death. In retrospect, we never did overwhelm our hospitals and the projected models of doomsday proved to be wildly inaccurate.
Meanwhile, imposed shutdowns have crippled our economy and augmented one health crisis after another. Homelessness in Rhode Island is five times higher this October than it was in March, yet we have fewer shelters. Does the governor expect the newly homeless to somehow be safer from COVID than they were before her economic shutdown?
Poverty, depression, suicide, drug use and overdoses are skyrocketing in Rhode Island. Children with IEPs and special needs are being systematically denied basic services and families are being left with the fallout. Medically vulnerable individuals with masking contraindications are being completely shut out of society and must suddenly rely on others for basic needs such as groceries. Businesses are closing daily. Are these shutdown victims simply acceptable collateral damage?
Law-abiding, taxpaying citizens have been robbed of our constitutional right to participated in government, leaving us impotent to protect our families against the devastation that our all-powerful, supreme leader has reigned down upon us.
Where is the General Assembly and why are they not demanding to convene? Is there no accountability for Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Ruggiero’s refusal to represent the people? Are these truly our leaders? Somehow teachers, students, waiters, shop owners, bartenders, grocery clerks, truck drivers and essentially everyone else in Rhode Island can return to work, but the General Assembly cannot?
Our elected senators and representatives must stand up to leadership in order to restore a balanced government that includes representation. This is our constitutional right. Seven months have gone by and one million Rhode Islanders are still being ruled by one.
We must ask the General Assembly to be brave, to band together against Gov. Raimondo, Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Ruggiero and to protect our constitutional right to representation. Citizens of Rhode Island tell your elected officials to overturn the State of Emergency and get back to work, representing the people. We all have a voice. If we don’t use it, the new normal may never again include a democracy.
Maddalena Cirignotta, a resident of Wakefield, writes for the Rhode Island Wellness Society.