Kevin Aherne with Rep. Moira Walsh
This week on Representing, Rhode Island Representative Moira Walsh (D - District 3) pulls no punches. Walsh shared with me her frustrations regarding the egotism behind the state's ongoing budget standoff -- and the unnecessary groveling that goes on at the state house. Walsh also touches on the recent National Governor's Association conference held in Providence last week, and some new allies she has made on Smith Hill.
Check out 5 questions with Rep. Moira Walsh below!
Kevin Aherne: This budget standoff between Mattiello and Ruggerio -- Is this a merited fight? or just "pissing contest" between the Speaker of the House and Senate president? How does this end?
Moira Walsh: My version of a merited fight is one where Rhode Islanders win. I don't think it matters whose side of the argument you fall on, we should all be able to agree that this "debate" is not about the well being of our communities, but rather about the egos involved. How does it end? Hopefully with voters fed up enough to take a stand, but certainly no one in our state's leadership comes out of this smelling like roses.
KA: Based on what you've heard from your constituents this term, what are the top three concerns for people living in District 3?
MW: The issues constituents in my district were concerned most about this session were related to tiered childcare, sick days, and bus passes. I received more phone calls and postcards about these issues by far. Though, my community is also very worried about potential cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.
KA: The National Governor's Association was held in Providence this past weekend, who among the attendees would you most like to corner.... and what would you ask (or tell) them?
MW: I'd love to steal a moment of former Governor Mike Pence's time. I want to believe that he got into public service for the right reasons; it's not an easy job. I truly believe that sometimes good people have really bad ideas.
But also, I need for him to know that his help isn't helpful, and that when you have a "my way or the highway" viewpoint like his, you miss a lot of the scenery. And it's perfectly fine to live your life by faith, but I honestly believe that god does not look down on his creation and say "Christian, Muslim, Jew." Instead he looks down and says, "that woman has humility. That man is unkind. That person cares deeply." I would want for him to remember that it's not enough to want to do the right thing: you have to then do it.
KA: What was the most frustrating thing about your first session as State Rep? Overall, how were your expectations versus reality?
MW: The MOST frustrating part of session by far has been the "go along to get along" mentality. I was elected to keep my constituents happy and safe... not to placate to millionaires or stay on leadership's good side. I was not elected by the speaker of the house, I was elected by the residents of District 3, and my loyalty lies with them. I watched a lot of colleagues make deals with the devil then wonder why he didn't follow through. I hope this experience has shown them, as it has shown me, that being on the right side of history is not a part time gig.
KA: Who are some unlikely allies that you made during your first session?
MW: I must admit that the biggest fringe benefit of this job is getting to know folks I would never normally spend time with. I've developed strong bonds with many of the women up there and there is something deeply satisfying about being able to be counted among these strong, independent (s)heroes. Women like Commander Camile Vella-Wilkinson and Representative Julie Casimiro, who speak with the confidence and conviction that many freshman are afraid to show. I was able to learn from women like the long-serving Representative Edie Ajello, who is consistently fighting for women's rights, and Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassel, both of whom are the kind of women I will tell my daughters stories about; to remind them that while the ceiling is made of glass, we can still smash through.
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