On a Wednesday morning at 10:30 am, I had the opportunity to attend an open meeting with a friend about Retirement with the Board of the Employees’ Retirement System. The event was held on the third floor of the Providence City Hall located 25 Dorrance Street Providence, RI 02903. The number of people attended including visitors like us were 16 in total. The group was comprised of mostly white middle-aged men and women. I was surprised to see the meeting was held in a smaller conference room than I expected and that no member was particularly dressed up for the gathering. The City of Providence (http://www.providenceri.gov/) has a service of open meetings portal which allows anyone who is interested in hearing in person can view the schedule throughout the week. The meeting started with the Council John J. Igliozzi pounding the gavel and requesting Madame Clark to take roll call. Constant “present” and “absent” went over the room, and at the end, the council man asked us to stand up and introduce ourselves. The meeting represents the retirement portion of the city and what matters to the employee. Since the purpose of the meeting was to go over the summaries and outcomes of particular situations regarding retirement issues, it was a shorter than usual meetings as John J. Igliozzi the Councilman said (it was thirty minutes long, much shorter than I have expected). Some of the topics that went over were a closed session of Accidental Disability by Lisa Scott, Purchase of service, Loans Against Member Retirement Contributions, and Service Retirements. Attending a meeting that discusses the matter of people with retirement issue made me question the effect of democracy in the United States.
Constant “aye” and “nay” across the room among the committees was an absurd experience to watch as a visitor. Visitors were greeted with warm sincerity and wished us to come back for another meeting. The result of the case was summarized with numbers of agreement, disagreement, and datas. The recorded audio of the meeting and the written version on the agenda can be found on the official site of the City of Providence (http://providenceri.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=11562&AgendaID=6967&FileFormat=pdf&Format=Agenda&MediaFileFormat=MP3).
On June 21, 2018, Lisa Scott requested an Accidental Disability waiver form after eighteen months have passed since the date of the accident. An accidental disability pension is a benefit available to all members who are physically or mentally incapable of performing their job due to an accident that occurred at work. Injuries that are the result of negligence or misconduct on the part of the member or are due to age or length of service may disqualify a member from receiving an accidental disability pension. Members must apply for a disability pension prior to terminating employment. Before the accidental disability is officially registered, members who have ended employment are not eligible for a disability pension. On the agenda it states, “notwithstanding the language of Section 17-192(f) of the Code of Ordinances which provides that the application to accomplish such [accidental disability] retirement must be filed within eighteen (18) months of the date of the accident, the Retirement Board of the City of Providence may consider and act upon the accidental disability retirement application of Lisa Scott, even though more than eighteen (18) months have passed since the date of the accident which is the averred proximate cause of the above-named applicant for a disability retirement allowance.” It provides an example of the issue of the effect of democratic institutions I have been reading in my American Government class.
The process of requesting a waiver, going over the the participant’s situation, and making decisions based on the votes of the committees demonstrate a healthy relationship of the citizens and the authority. The legitimacy of a democratic regime rests on the belief in the right of those legally elevated to authority to issue certain types of commands, to expect obedience, and to enforce them, if necessary, by the use of force. In the study “The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes”, Juan J. Linza asserts that “in a democracy, citizens are free to disagree with the law, but not to disobey it, for in a government of laws, and not of men, no one, however prominent or powerful, and no mob, however unruly or boisterous, is entitled to defy them” (34). Democratic legitimacy requires adherence to the rules of the game by both a majority of the voting citizens and those in positions of authority, as well as trust on the part of the citizenry in the government’s commitment to uphold them. Although the result of the Lisa Scott case may not be a pleasant news to her, the process of finding possible exceptions or situations that do not apply to the rules of accidental disability represents an appropriate democratic attitude of the country.
In the meeting, the invoices of retirement budgets were mentioned. I came to a realization that the Democrats believe that a dignified retirement is central to the American Dream and are committed in making easier for Americans to save for retirement on their own. In addition, Democrats want all Americans to participate in retirement accounts at work and support a system where employees have pension portability, so workers don’t lose their pension if they change jobs.
Because there is an established system of organization, the separate departments dealing with particular issues that people have problems or questions help in having a smooth procedure. The direction of some of the benefits derived from the democratic ideals such as retirement pension would be altered under a leader with authoritarian authority. As people with authoritarian power increases their public presence by pressing media to favor on their benefits, I do question the future of American democracy.