Beware the true panhandlers
Some folks think that the panhandlers on corner streets are a threat to society. They see these mostly-displaced veterans, mentally ill folks, alcohol-dependent people and, yes, sometimes con artists, as public enemies and think that regulations are needed to stop them from securing contributions from passersby. The street guys are a convenient target but the real panhandlers are warmly embraced. Here’s an example.
Panhandler in Chief, Larry Lucchino, met with newly selected Senate President Dominic Ruggerio, shortly after his elevation to the post. Mr. Lucchino wore a suit and a swagger that one gets by being a near-billionaire. Along with Red Sox owner, John Henry and partner, Tom Werner, he owns the Red Sox franchise which alone was worth an estimated $2.3 billion in 2016, according to Forbes. Mr. Lucchino was visiting the senate president to get more than a few coins. He is seeking millions of dollars in subsidies from such rich folks like you and the residents of cash-strapped Pawtucket.
His opportunism was warmly embraced by Mr. Ruggierio who, as a paid union leader in his private employment, wants construction jobs. Were the proposal to build a pyramid in downtown Providence, it would also be fine for the senate leader, since his loyalty is to his labor constituents rather than the public. He equates labor interests with the public interest.
The Providence Journal story also revealed that Pawsox officials state that they have been working with that other bastion of transparency, i.e. the Rhode Island Commerce Commission. Mr. Ruggierio also noted that the Pawsox owners are negotiating specifics with representatives of Governor Gina Raimondo’s administration, who, if true, will curb Mr. Lucchino’s rapaciousness.
So, while everybody’s attention is diverted toward those dastardly homeless people, the state will accommodate with taxpayer dollars directly through subsidies and/or bond money an enterprise which runs for about 5 months a year and 72 home games. The jobs are primarily minimum wage ones which churn out folks who later will mostly need unemployment compensation until the start of the next season. Studies show that millennials have little interest in baseball and attendance even by older folks at McCoy Stadium has dropped significantly.
Yet, the state will probably proceed with the “if we build it they shall come" mentality. Statistics will be flouted that hotel rooms will burgeon as will restaurant traffic, notwithstanding the fact that Mc Coy never produced such a side effect. Unlike the dog and pony show where some state officials went to Durham, North Carolina where its minor league team had its parent baseball company spearhead economic development by its own investment, Mr. Lucchino has eschewed any such development.
So, the next time you pass a panhandler on the street you might want to withhold your scowl and direct it, instead, to the big shot panhandlers looking for your handout. They are easy to spot. They are the ones in the suits visiting the senate leadership on Smith Hill.
Corporate panhandlers are embraced and accommodated through secret meetings and special sessions of the General Assembly. President Ruggierio made it clear that he would be willing to call a special session to pass legislation to benefit the billionaires while you are grilling hamburgers. Just who, then, are the real panhandlers?
Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.