Drinking the Laffey Sand

Geoff Schoos has a review of Steve Laffey’s book in this week’s Cranston Herald. From the column:

Being a U.S. senator means being a leader. It means doing things instead of just saying things, it means persuading colleagues when you think they’re wrong, and sometimes it means rocking the boat. –Former Mayor Steve Laffey

This definition of leadership appears in Steve Laffey’s book, Primary Mistake: How the Republican Establishment Lost Everything in 2006 (and Sabotaged My Senatorial Campaign). In so many ways, this book is quintessential Laffey — blunt, boisterous, egocentric and, for the most part, superficial.

When I read this book, it quickly became evident that Laffey confuses bluster with leadership. Like his tenure as mayor, it seems he can only build himself up by tearing down others. Too often, Laffey seems to live in a one-dimensional world of absolutes. In his world of absolutes, Laffey is always right and those who have other opinions are subject to his scorn and derision. As demonstrated over his four years as mayor and reiterated in his book, Laffey’s style is closer to demagoguery than it is to any definition of leadership. [full text]

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17 responses

  1. Jesse from Cranston

    I give Mr. Schoos big compliments for adding his voice to the growing chorus of those who have not been blinded by Laffey’s PR stunts and bullying posture.

    (And didn’t I see an Ed Achorn op-ed in the ProJo just a week or so ago, desperately trying to plug the book a month after its release? I wonder if Mr. Schoos did, too.)

    “Leadership” was never on Laffey’s mind, except as a blatantly superficial talking point.

    And when it comes to the crossing guards, I guess it’s just been forgotten that he made his OWN patronage choice for a crossing guard position before hiring his campaign contributor to privatize the job — even claiming that she was the wife of a National Guard member sent to Iraq and thus needing medical care (back when the war was popular). Funny how he didn’t bring that up during his campaign. Or how it was the same company he gave a no-bid market test for illegal speed trap cameras.

    So, as Mr. Schoos points out, Laffey’s book is more notable for what it leaves out than what it includes — much like the logic of his ill-fated supporters: you have to forget more than you remember to vote for him.

    Thanks for your work, Geoff. I look forward to watching Laffey make a fool of himself again before being hammered in the Republican primary in 2010.

  2. Geoff,
    I have never seen “The American President,” but that quote is very interesting.

  3. Aside from being card carrying members of the Laffey haters club, what have Misters Shoos and Jesse’s contributions to reform been? While Shoos and Jesse continue to cheer on the forces that nearly destroyed Cranston, and who are working at destroying the whole state, more and more Rhode Islanders realize Laffey, his accomplishments and guts, despite a few warts, is the last hope before this State becomes only palitable and inhabitable by union hacks and drunken bums.

  4. Jesse, don’t forget the 11 day Permit for a complex cement plant on a FEMA floodplain.

    Laffey also couldn’t, wouldn’t and didn’t address those Highway Department needs like a truck that would clean City drains so residents homes didn’t continue to flood. He wouldn’t do a thing and his jackle bud’s actually were excellent at burying residents cries for help on any water claims at the Risk Management Committee (what a joke).

    Don’t forget marring the Nanny! Those pathetic commercials pimping his poor Altzhimer parents and his comments about his brother and sister. Laffey has created the voodoo doll of him some drag around. He deceptively left this City in far more debt that he can acknowledge…for in his mind he’s a legend. Mr. Schoos and Jesse, please continue that which many of us know and have felt first hand.

  5. Ms. Arena is part of the crackpot crowd who purchase property near industrial parks or in flood zones, fall asleep, pay no heed to the city’s warnings to buy sump pumps and then make all kinds of noise as if its everyone in Cranston’s problem.

    I carefully chose my neighborhood. Its not perfect, but I know I won’t be flooded out. I welcome the economic development that the Cullion expansion represents.

    Ms. Arena’s crowd are the hords of zombies who filled a few rows of the Park View middleschool to whine about the cement plant at a special City Council meeting that was supposed to be about Mayor Napolitano’s new budget. The city’s finances affect every single resident. After they received lip service from the City Council and before the subject turned to the Budget, a 5 1/4 percent tax increase and the lack of public financial disclosure by the Napolitano Administration, Ms Arena’s lemmings marched out of the place because their selfish self-interests were no longer the subject.

    Ms Arena you show your true colors. You don’t know the Laffey family and you certainly don’t know Mayor Laffey personally. A hateful, self-interested person such as yourself could never be so fortunate.

  6. Noted Skeptic: any post that starts by calling someone a “crackpot” is simply thuggery. Do you have a relevant point to make? Then make it.

    My kid would face a consequence for behaving like you have. Grow up and act like an adult.

    It’s exactly this sort of behavior–childish abuse and name-calling–that soured a lot of people on the FORMER mayor. If he’d been able to pursue his agenda without resorting to spite and vitriol, he may have gained the respect of a wider group of people, which would have helped his senate campaign. Instead, he went for the cheap, easy headlines and turned a lot of people (myself included) off.

    In fact, I’ve often–jokingly–suggested that the FORMER mayor and failed senatorial candidate was actually a Democrat, acting like an ‘agent provocateur’ to discredit the Republicans for many years. I mean, he often seems almost a caricature of the Rush Limbaugh Republican.

    Finally, how exactly do you know whom the FORMER mayor knows, and doesn’t know?

  7. klaus, just compare my comments with those of Ms. Arena and you tell me who’s being mean and who has a point/no point.

    I made my point about Ms. Arena’s pet issues – they are self-serving and are only important to a small number of people.

    If you examine the Laffey haters, case-by-case, you’ll find that what “soured” them is that the former mayor’s focus has always been on what he could do to help the greatest number of people. Its too bad when people “sour” because maybe they expected a job for themselves or a friend. They sour because they think their flooded basement should be everyone in Cranston’s problem. Its too bad that they “sour” because someone dared say no to powerful special interests and stood up for the taxpayers. It really pisses some people off when they’ve been able to sneak lucrative language and deals into contracts for years and someone comes along and exposes the truth about them and their organizations. I guess you’re soured and I guess it sucks for you because you’re part of that. I, for one, am glad Laffey “soured” these people. That Ms. Arena, Lou Rainone and Paul Valletta, Jackie White and Traficante, Randy Jackvony and others hate Laffey so much, is the slam-dunk evidence to his effectiveness as a reformer. The certified purveyors of the status quo and greedy special interests have a lot to fear in Laffey. For the rest of us; it is a really, REALLY good thing.

  8. Noted Skeptic, If it were just the list of people given who are turned off by Laffey, he might have a chance. Unfortunately for him, there are a few more people than those listed who are turned off by him. It’s true, some people are absolutely disgusted by him, but that’s not the real problem. It’s the large swaths of more progressive voters who are not going to let a mean-spirited neoconservative represent Rhode Island. I look forward to seeing Laffey go up against Elizabeth Roberts for Governor in 2010. He will look like exactly what he is up against her.

  9. Noted Skeptio: You have a very narrow point of view. You assume that I’m in with the people you name, or that I wish to be. Neither is true. That you immediately jump to that conclusion indicates a view of the world that is simplified to the point of being distorted.

    I voted for Mr Laffey the first time he ran. At the time, I hadn’t lived in Cranston very long, but I was aware of the fiscal straits the city was in. Among other things, I understood that the city needed additional revenue. Since Mr Laffey had an MBA, I hoped that would help with ideas for economic development.

    Unfortunately, once in office, Mr Laffey’s actions soured me. He went after the crossing guards in an incredibly ham-handed manner. Essentially, he breached a contract on the grounds that he didn’t like it; the court agreed with the crossing guards and reinstated them. Mr Laffey got a big headline, the city got nothing.

    Then there was the video of the street sweepers sleeping on the job. Inexcusable. They should have been fired. However, rather than approach this in a circumspect, grown-up manner, Mr Laffey took the video to one of the networks. Because of these rash actions, I believe that these men are still on the payroll. However, once again, Mr Laffey got the headline, the city got nothing.

    There is a pattern of behavior. Rather than attempt to negotiate, Mr Laffey consistently poisoned the atmosphere beforehand by calling his adversaries “pigs” and “dupes,” which made serious negotiation all-but impossible. I somehow doubt that this is a negotiating technique taught at Harvard Business School.

    In short, the whole tenor of Mr Laffey’s admin was to grab the splashy headline with little or no heed to the effect his actions actually had. Results didn’t seem to matter as long as he got his moment in the limelight. It seemed like Mr Laffey’s primary concern was his political future, and that what happened to the people who live in this city was much further down on the list.

    He did some good things. But he does not belong in politics and especially not in Rhode Island.

    So you see, it is possible to have soured on the former mayor without being connected to the status quo. I am not a teacher, firefighter, policeman, state or municipal worker, or union member, and neither is my spouse, my siblings, my in-laws, or any other relative of mine.

    Nor do I know any of the individuals you mentioned. So I am emphatically not “part of that” as you would dearly like to believe.

    I realize that this situation must be mind boggling to someone who believes the world is black-and-white, but try to get your head around that.

  10. jane, good luck with that…

    klaus, call it a narrow point of view, but the way I see it, there are those who fight to keep things the way they are, there are those who talk a good fight and then get drawn into the status quo. But once in a while someone comes along who can actually change things for the better. Whenever that happens, a whole lot of people get noisy and angry because their scams are exposed and their gig is threatened. Sometimes, after strong leader, a weary public paradoxically turns 180 degrees and only after trial and error does the electorate come to appreciate what they once had. Just look at where the Democrats have taken Cranston in a less than a year.

    I didn’t think you were one of the people I mentioned, but I did (I guess mistakenly) assume you hated him for the same reasons. Thanks for elaborating for me on your reasons for disliking him. They are exacly the reasons I think he’s great! He’s a fighter, he fears nothing and no one, and he gets the truth out for all who need to hear it.

  11. Thank you for announcing your candidacy for Mayor of Cranston, Mr. Laffey. Retaking your position may be an improvement over the current office-holder, but Allan Fung would be better than both of you put together.

    Would you like to announce your candidacy for Governor in 2010 while you’re at it?

  12. PS. Sorry I can’t stay up and wait for your exciting reply but some of us have to go to work tomorrow.

  13. this is a word to “noted skeptic” who probably sits on his proverbial butt on the city council nodding yes when told to do so, and voting affirmatively when his boss tells him to. I came to that city council meeting in a wheelchair, but the handicap entrances were closed, and bolted shut, so i came up the front stairs on my behind, and when i had the chance, i thanked the noted skeptic, and went on to explain my point of view. i do not have land bordering the proposed plant. i am an environmental scientist who graduated from Brown University. Before i spoke to the crowd, i confered with the current chairman of the Geology Dept at Brown on the issue at hand, and he supported my actions fully. If the plant goes up in Eden Park, or in western Cranston or nearby Providence or even Warwick, the pollution and carcinogenics let loose into the air would pollute the air for many years to follow, AND that very air transports the same pollutants north, south, east, and west for many miles. Most notably, it probably would effect the drinking water of the state in the Scituate Reservoir. I stand up against big companies overriding the little people, whereever and whenever i can. Yes, i live in Cranston, but I have been heard all over the state wherever needed. Obviously, you don’t stand up for anyone but yourself, and prefer to have your pocket padded with a little green. It wasnt until after i spoke that the mayor finally switched positions. whether his change was lip service is to be seen.

  14. Noted Skeptic.

    “… they are self-serving and are only important to a small number of people.” I moved here a few years ago. I do not live in a flood plane, I live on top of a hill ~ one of the highest points in Cranston. No one revealed the water issues on Park Forrest (of which there have been a total of approx. 15 families whom flooded over and over). Fact, the City had not been cleaning the Drains. As a concerned citizen and one who reaches out to others with NOTHING to gain but the need to educate and hope that collectively we can get the current system changed. After going to many City Council meeting, I found “we” were not alone. Neither were we alone in that no Laffey Administrator would help, in fact the Risk Management Committee was a novice at giving one liner denied claim letters. So I decided on changing the system. I had legislation passed that demanded the City perform basic preventative maintainance and clean the all drains. Mayor Laffey denied the Highway Department of much needed money to purchase a Vacco truck and other equipment in order to do a better job (maybe that’s why some were busy sleeping on the job! Not that I agree, but please do take some responsiblity for Mr. Laffey’s inability to handle some situations.

    I do agree that as a businessman he had good vision and wasn’t selling out the residents to the Union. But his approach coming to the table is uncivil and I lost respect for his style, something you are entitled to get lost in Mr. Skeptic. But, if you have been going to the new City Administration Council meetings and many of us have found out that some of Mr. Harvard Laffey’s business decisions cost us ~ because he mismanaged the money and now we have to pay more to fix it.

    Another fact, Napolitano go into office and in June made sure my street was one of the first cleaned out. Guess what ~ 5 areas of blocked pipes with roots (they didn’t grow overnight) but if the former Mayor gave just these 15 folks some attention ~ we may not have had to install a sump pump (something we never had) or pay outrageous electric bills for them to work so we can protect our property because the City wouldn’t help. Well, I am grateful to Napolitano for the attention and so are my neighbors.

    Perhaps since you are so chummy with Mr. Laffey and “think just like him”, you can shed light on how he thinks a concrete Batching plant that will bear NO SCRUBBERS and be at the confluence of the Pocasset & Pawtuxet Rivers in a dense residential neighborhood could be good for Revenue. The taxes will be approximately $5,000 ~ humnn, I pay approximately the same on my house. They have their own workers so there are no jobs for residents and they bring their own raw Crystalline Silica. Just in case ya’ll weren’t watching, many environmental groups and the American Lung Association came out in April and spoke out in Strong Opposition of this plant. Mr. Laffey, Mr. Anderson (Building Inspector) and the City Attorney all had knowledge of the wink wink 11 day Permit given to a complex batching plant.

    Okay Mr. Skeptic, let’s be entertained by your creative answer. Because Laffey has been unable to answer that one. Maybe you or him could give written explaination to the Projo reporter David Scharfenberg (dscharfe@projo.com) and set our “crackpotâ€? facts straight.

  15. Jesse from Cranston

    klaus, Citizen Jane, Suzanne:

    We have a troll in our midst, and I would caution against feeding him (her?) more. It’s clear that we’re on the same page here, Cranston-wise, and that this hate-spewer is just copycatting the Laffey “strategy” of “infiltrating” opposing blogs which, as we know, worked SO well last year ;-)

    Let’s just let the creature starve, shall we?

  16. Coleminers Daughter

    “I had legislation passed that demanded the City perform basic preventative maintainance and clean the all drains”.

    Suzanne,

    Wake up and smell the coffee. If you did your homework, you would have know that there was legislation on the book before you even saw a puddle near your house. Tell the truth, you know it wasn’t Napolitano who got the ball rolling on your street and got the highway department to unplug the drains don’t you?

  17. Yes, we know the legislation has been there. Here’s a metaphor for Coal: there already are enough laws that punish Illegal Aliens etc., but it hasn’t been enforced. Here’s the strategy maneuver ~ Congress and other legislators on a local front have continued to pass more legislation which is not necessary, but, we are drawing attention to public, hence bringing attention to the “issue”. This is a typical strategy that some will resort to (through tiring efforts) and it’s truly unfortunate that Mr. Laffey was incapable of dedicating the attention to this issue.

    Another fact, Mr. Laffey ran for Chafee’s seat and he basically started his campaign well before he left office (yes, typical of other legislators – which doesn’t make him particularly moral in some of his oversight of his Mayorial position). Finally, when he aspired to have the Senate seat he dedicated the long awaited money to the Highway Dept. Remember he didn’t have many buddies in that Dept. because he liked rubbing their nose in the splash video…and some enjoyed sharing their knowledge.

    Well, that’s it for sparring. Maybe the next round I’ll ask my 5 year old to partake in the projections…as we know in the end there are consequences for our behaviors.

    Good luck with the campaign….now starve!

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