I voted against the Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello at the Democratic Caucus last night. That makes me a member of the so-called gang of 21. I received such accolades and am deeply honored for all the support. This vote was not easy; I’ve known Speaker Mattiello for a long time. I understood that he had the votes to remain Speaker, but wanted to send a message that I could not support him at this point
First I want to acknowledge I consider Mattiello a friend. Just because I disagree with some decisions he made does not mean I wish him any ill will. I also do not consider myself “ultra-progressive,”. But I do consider myself someone who is a voice for the minority community, one voice among many others that hope to make our state a little better.
Mattiello does have an impressive track record. He has delivered for our state and has a difficult job. But even with all that, I felt it was necessary to vote against him this time. Mattiello has always shown me a great deal of loyalty and I have shown it back.
However, I felt disappointed during his most recent tenure as Speaker. I want to make clear there are different reasons for voting against Mattiello. My reason is just one among many. My peers that voted against Mattiello deserve to be heard loud and clear even if my house colleagues disagree with them. That is what makes our Democracy so great: the ability to respectfully disagree.
I was included in a press release expressing and supporting greater transparency and fairness along with my house peers. I do support those ideas, but that wasn’t my primary motivation.
Instead, I was disappointed in some of his decisions as Speaker related to diversity. Mattiello promised to enhance diversity throughout our great state, but the vital programs I supported were cast aside for other priorities. We always talk about economic development, yet that economic development doesn’t seem to make it to the most impoverished places in Rhode Island.
The General Assembly needs to place greater emphasis on diversity and provide our minority community with more economic opportunities. It needs to create more state programs that ensure minorities have a fighting chance in a world that seems to be stacked against them. This is something that I am passionate about and something I think we should all strive to achieve.
My vote was not directed at the Speaker, but I don’t believe his priorities align with the constituents of our fine Providence community and minorities across our state. One day I hope to vote for Mattiello once again, but unfortunately, today is not that day.
Mr. Joe Almeida is the Rhode Island State Representative for the 12th District representing South Side and Washington Park in Providence.