Kevin Aherne with Rep. Moira Walsh
Have you ever wondered what it's like to step out of your private life, trading it in for one that is much more public and exposed to scrutiny?
That's exactly what Moira Walsh did in 2016.
Walsh, a Democrat, is currently serving in the Rhode Island General Assembly as Representative of District 3. But while many freshmen legislators fly far under the radar, Walsh has established herself as voice for her constituents, and while she has ruffled a few feathers along the way, she has dedicated herself to developing better and more abundant opportunities for her constituents, and Rhode Islanders at-large.
See WBOB Senior Editor's Conversation with Walsh below. - this week, the two discuss Rhode Island's current legislative session, the challenges of working across the aisle, feedback from her constituents, the Paris Climate Accord, and more.
Kevin Aherne: You're about six months into your first term, and as the your first legislative session draws to a close... what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment thus far? Conversely, is there anything you wished you could have accomplished, but were unable?
Moira Walsh: One of my goals for this session was to ensure that my community didn't feel ignored. I consider my greatest accomplishment in these first six months to be that most of my neighbors know with some level of certainty that I care about each one of them very deeply. I hope in my remaining time as their representative, I can pass more bills to ease the burden on my community so I'm not just telling them that I hear their concerns, but showing them that I'm working on it.
KA: In working with elected members of the Republican party, what is the most interesting/surprising thing you've learned?
MW: The late Justice Antonin Scalia once said, "I attack ideas not people. Some great people have some very bad ideas." My feeling about my Republican colleagues is that they are still just people. The thing that has surprised me the most was how many things we agreed on. In a state as "blue" as ours is, I find it refreshing that my Republican colleagues are brave enough to be themselves. I'd rather work with a real Republican than a fake Democrat any day of the week, at least, then I would know where they stand.
KA: How much input/feedback have you received from your constituents? Have you had many interesting interactions with members of your district?
MW: I have received an incredible amount of feedback from my constituents and as session has worn on, I've noticed that the names of the constituents are different. These are folks who haven't historically been engaged voters, and now they are reaching out to their legislators. I have to say, it's really inspiring to see as a freshman rep. That is why I always do my best to get back to people promptly, so that they continue to feel comfortable reaching out, knowing that I will take the time to listen.
KA: Governor Gina Raimondo recently signed an executive order that commits Rhode Island to the goals of the Paris climate change accord. Many other states have done the same. In the tumultuous political landscape that is 2017, what more would you like to see done at the state level to counteract some of the arguably harmful policies put forth by the Trump camp and Washington in general?
As a way to mitigate the damage of Trump's policies at the national level, I can think of three primary moves that would put Rhode Island in a better position to handle the peaks and valleys of national policy.
First, we as a party ought to spend more time and resources on independent polling and voter outreach because an engaged public is our greatest asset in crafting, moving and passing meaningful legislation.
Next, we need to work on making Rhode Island's local government as efficient as possible. Our auditor General comes out with a list of recommendations on how to curb over-spending and patch budget holes annually and I believe it's high time we listened to his suggestions.
Third, we need to continue making social justice a cornerstone of our legislative policy by listening to marginalized communities on how to best help them (as opposed to coming in and TELLING them how we're going to fix everything) and beyond listening, we need to act.
KA: If you were forever banished from Rhode Island, what are three things you'd take with you to remind you of home?
To survive outside of Rhode Island, I need a lifetime supply of Warwick creamery's coffee ice cream (shout out to Rep Vella-Wilkinson for introducing me to the most addictive substance known to man), a hard-copy of Deer Tick's Born on a Flag Day (is there any better way to rep my city than to blast Smith Hill at high volumes?), and of course, New England Lemonade with the real lemon chunks!
"Representing" is a new content series with WBOB Senior Editor, Kevin Aherne and Representative Moira Walsh. The column will be featured bi-weekly on 990WBOB.com, and will feature conversations between Aherne and Walsh, and occasionally guest-representatives, to discuss some topics of varying importance affecting Rhode Islanders and beyond.
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