RIDOT Director Peter Alviti again embarrasses his agency and the state, and Transport Providence is asking Governor Raimondo to take firm and unequivocal action to address the issue.
Attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole, Governor Gina Raimondo's administration has been attempting post-2016 election to present its policies as more friendly to progressives. The governor, who won office with just 40% of the vote in 2014, faces significant disillusionment for her role in pushing natural gas expansion and an expensive an environmentally-unsound highway-rebuild along the 6/10 Connector corridor when a boulevard option had shown broad community and expert support.
The governor is going to have to work a bit harder, and perhaps consider some personnel changes.
Amidst growing concern over the tone of political discourse this election season, tweets by RIDOT Director Peter Alviti commenting on the sexual function of the President of the United States and First Lady have surfaced. The comments made during the 2012 debates question the erectile function of President Barack Obama.
These tweets about the President and First Lady’s sex life, which appear on the same account Alviti uses to announce RIDOT accomplishments, are a window into the RIDOT director's mind. They are blatantly inappropriate and break all the normal rules not just for public comments of a political appointee, but also those expected of someone who oversees many male and female employees at RIDOT. If what was said in these tweets was said at a meeting, the state would face a serious sexual harassment suit. As it stands, any employee at RIDOT could easily point to these tweets as evidence of a hostile working environment, one which the governor has apparently taken little interest in preventing during her hiring process.
Adding insult to injury in this case is the vocal role that Governor Raimondo took in publicly shaming her chief-of-staff, Brett Smiley for much milder comments about Donald Trump. While many Rhode Islanders fear the overtly racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic tone that the president-elect has taken, the governor has shown more interest in reining in officials who challenge that conduct than those officials whose behavior seems closer to it.
Not all of Alviti's tweets are so overtly inappropriate, but others in the account should cause consternation for Rhode Islanders, who broadly support strong action on climate change.
Unlike the Viagra tweets, I think that Alviti was well within accepted norms to state his opinion on environmental issues. But for many community members who already feel slighted by Alviti’s handling of the 6/10 Connector project, these tweets offer evidence of an anti-environmental trend at RIDOT that the governor has coddled.
Perhaps the most ironic tweet of this series, to me, was the one highlighting ‘private job creation’ as the central way to grow the economy. Alviti has made his career by overseeing one of the most invasive arms of big government. In October, when Alviti and Raimondo jointly shut down the bipartisan 6/10 Connector boulevard proposal, the governor highlighted her "jobs, jobs, jobs" focus as her "mantra" and a major part of why she favored moving forward quickly on the work. Alviti's agency rejected the advise of many national experts in the field of engineering who proposed that the boulevard was better for commuters and the city. And he did so at greater expense to taxpayers than the boulevard would have cost.
These misogynistic and anti-environment tweets are just the most recent volley in a series of missteps that have shown Alviti is the wrong person to head the DOT. Transport Providence calls on the governor to address this issue immediately. Removing the tweets is not enough (we have them backed up anyway). These tweets reveal a pattern of thought at RIDOT which is dangerous to the future of Rhode Island, and which must be addressed more thoroughly by the governor.