March 30, 2022

The Changing of the Guard - Local Politics and Your Tax Dollars – with Steve Laffey – [Ep. 115]

The Changing of the Guard - Local Politics and Your Tax Dollars – with Steve Laffey – [Ep. 115]

Have you ever wondered if your engagement in local politics can make a positive impact? Linda’s guest, Steve Laffey, shares his remarkable story and provides a behind-the-scenes look at corruption in government and the importance of recruiting...

Have you ever wondered if your engagement in local politics can make a positive impact? Linda’s guest, Steve Laffey, shares his remarkable story and provides a behind-the-scenes look at corruption in government and the importance of recruiting honest, responsible, servant leaders to be involved in politics. Steve’s story will shock you and will likely inspire you to call your local government leaders to find out how they are spending your tax dollars! Does your community need a changing of the guard? Listen today and be empowered to bring about positive change.

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Linda J. Hansen: Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Prosperity 101 Breakroom Economics Podcast. My name is Linda J. Hansen, your host, and the author of Prosperity 101, Job Security Through Business Prosperity, The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck. And the creator of the Breakroom Economics online course. The book, the course and the entire podcast library can be found on

I seek to connect boardroom to breakroom and policy to paycheck by empowering and encouraging and employers to educate employees about the public policy issues that affect their jobs. My goal is to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. I believe this will lead to greater employee loyalty, engagement and retention and to an increased awareness of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society. Listen each week to hear from exciting guests and be sure to visit

Thank you for tuning in today. In my last episode entitled Local Involvement Equals National Impact, I discuss the importance of local level citizen involvement with my guest, Dan Schultz, founder of the Precinct Strategy Project. Helping people understand how to have an impact on the policies that affect their daily lives is a passion of mine for I believe that we the people need to embrace our constitutional role as the ones in charge of our government. Our founders understood the truth of the phrase, all politics is local. The wisdom in our founding documents provides pathways for individuals to have a voice in local, state, and national government policy decisions. There are many examples of patriotic citizens who volunteer in their local communities or who step up to run for elected office.

In this episode, you will hear a remarkable story that exemplifies the importance of citizen engagement in the overall political process and the impact one person can have if they decide to step up to make a positive difference. My guest today is Steve Laffey. Steve's story is inspirational and provides a behind the scenes look at corruption in government and the importance of recruiting honest, responsible, servant leaders to be involved in politics. You will want to keep listening because his story will shock you and will likely have you calling your local government leaders to find out how they are spending your tax dollars. Welcome Steve. Thank you for joining us today, and I know the listeners will want to find out what is so remarkable about your story.

Steve Laffey: Well, it didn't seem remarkable at the time. But yes, I think it's a very unusual story regarding what happened to me around 2001 to 2006. And if you want me just to go in, 2001-

Linda J. Hansen: Sure. I'd like you to share a little bit about your background, where you grew up and what you did in your professional life and what led you to run for elected office, which I want you to tell that whole story, because listeners you won't want to miss this.

Steve Laffey: I'm just a kid from Cranston, Rhode Island, which is the second largest city, basically an 80,000 person city in a dying industrial state. Very liberal place that used to be the place to have business back around the revolution and on, with Samuel Slater and around the turn of the century in 1900 was the wealthiest state and became one of the poorest states because of its bad policies and massive corruption throughout the whole state government.

But fast forward to me. My dad was a tool maker, no one had gone to college, it wasn't a great upbringing. When I left at 18 to go to Bowdoin College and I was a good student and captain the basketball team, all these kind of things. I really remembered my high school principal, who I loved, Joe Ventetuolo, a very well known Cranston figure said, "See, the biggest problem in Rhode Island is that you're leaving and you're never coming back. And that's what happens to people like you."

I went off to Harvard Business School as the youngest member of my class at the age of 22, but only because someone said you couldn't get into Harvard Business School directly out of college and right then I decided I would. And for whatever reason I did. And not that they really should have, because I never took an accounting course, I never took a business course. I'd never had a job other than scraping pans at a bakery and cleaned the bathrooms at UPS. I mean, that's what I did for business. So I went there, I was successful. And anyway, I went to Wall Street, PaineWebber, a trader, yelling, screaming, thrown phones around. Loved it by the way, but I wanted to run an investment banking firm before I was 40. And a person at PaineWebber introduced me to Allen Morgan who had $100 million revenue, publicly traded investment banking firm in Memphis.

On good Friday of 1992, I met him at the Pierre Hotel and 15 minutes into it, as I showed him on my computer all my conversations, he looked at me and said, "I thought this was just another BS meeting but why don't you come be my partner?" And so I did. And so nine years later, I was the President, Chief Operating Officer. I started and ran with him, I ran though the venture capital operations. I was still running the trading desk and I was the head of investment banking at a $500 million revenue firm with five full-time jobs. So this was like 24/7, but I also loved it, I loved Allen Morgan, and I was the guy who got the firm sold, it was my idea. We sold it, I handled the transaction and then through a confluence of events I left and I went to Stowe, Vermont because I was going to start a hedge fund and make another pile of money, only a really big pile of money.

Because that was my forte, and still is by the way. Sector analysis, small cap stock. Anyway, that's what I do even now, but for myself. But while I was there and I just had this vision that God wanted me to go to Cranston, Rhode Island, and I did not want to go. I did not want to go back to Cranston, Rhode Island. I had a terrible upbringing. But the people of Cranston basically raised... But the people of Cranston, my public schools, Joe Ventetuolo, all these things, president student council. I told my wife, I think God wants us in Cranston. And we had a month and a half left at a lease in Stowe, Vermont on a beautiful home looking right at the mountains.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, it's interesting you mentioned the people raised you because a small town is like a large family. And anyone who has lived in a small town understands exactly what we're talking about when we say that. But if you've only lived in the city, you may not ever experience that. But a lot of times a small town is so much like a large family. People care for one another, they bicker with one another. It's great.

Steve Laffey: I lived in a town of 80,000 people but we all felt like... I always said I was from Edgewood. In other words, New England in many ways is broken up even within cities, even within suburbs into a localized place. So I never said I was from Cranston. There's a little part of Cranston called Edgewood and that's where I'm from. I'm actually still would say that to people who knew where I grew up.

Linda J. Hansen: From the area, right. And it just goes to remind us again, all politics is local.

Steve Laffey: Yeah. And when my house burned down, my family was split up and I lived for two months at the [Garyrscarbs 00:07:42], a month at the Bennett's. And my best friend, Peter Bennett across the street, the famous hockey family was across the street. I basically lived in their home. We got in a car, we drove, from Stowe, Vermont to Cranston and just went there and bought a home. 9/11 happens, is 2001. And then there was just an article that Cranston was missing $10 million. The City of Cranston, Rhode Island, $150 million budget kind of thing. And they really, truly weren't missing it by the way. But all of a sudden I went over to city hall, I wandered in looking for an audit. By now, I actually understand audits and balance... I'm a Harvard Business School grad. I effectively helped run an investment banking firm. And they look at me and they go, "Well, we haven't done one in three years. Well, here's one from 1998."

And I'm like, "What do you mean? That's against the law. You have to do your audit every year. This is a real city." Well, the computers have been slow. I walked out, picked up a phone called my wife who went back to Memphis, we hadn't sold our home. I said, "I know why I'm here, the city's absolutely broke, it's going to take down the whole state. I'm going to have to run for Mayor and we're going to have to fix the city that I grew up in. That's why I'm here." It was obvious as clear as a day. So that's how it started.

And so little did I know... I knew that it was going to go broke, that's my forte. Cranston didn't know it was going broke. I grabbed old tax letters, by the way, from the mayor, the existing mayor that said things like, "Oh, we didn't raise taxes. We increased spending by 7%." Right? So you read these letters and you say "30,000 houses got this letter." And you're reading it going, obviously they're broke. The man overs spent by $25 million, and here's what really happened before I even ran. There was a meeting about putting... The city had $18 million in assets in a city pension plan and $245 million of liabilities. A 3% funding ratio. When you're below 60% funding you're broke in pension plan. This was three.

So they had a whole idea about doing a pension obligation bond, which was all the rage from the late '90s when the peak of the markets, when people do stupid things like in New Jersey. And they were going to put their pension problem into a pension obligation bond. But they were going to add to $25 million of deficits that were illegal, that they should never had, that they didn't do the audits about, and they were going to put it into the pension obligation bond, which was illegal.

This is by the way, January 2002. So I go to this meeting, nobody knows who I am, except for one city council woman, Mrs. O'Hara, who's son and I went to first grade together. I haven't seen her since I was a little kid, right? So she's there and the meeting's sort of crowded and there are TV cameras. We're now only having one media market, because it's a small state. This camera's there because something's wrong. And then it becomes public speaking, and out of the blue, I wander up to the camera and my background is to... And I berate everybody.

I'm pointing figures at the mayor. What do you think is going to happen? You're trying to do a pension obligation bond one, 10 times per capita that New Jersey ever did. New Jersey, the state can tax cigarettes, income, property, they got 10 ways of taxing, you just have a property tax. This is 10 times as much per capital as they tried to do and now they're losing money on it, and they're going to do another one. Two, you haven't done an audit in three years. What happens when you visit Morgan Stanley in New York? What do they say to you? They say where's your audit? You can't do this. Three, putting current deficits into a pension obligation bond will land everybody in jail. So none of this is going to happen. How do I know? I'm Steve Laffey, this is what I do, I fix bad financial problems and all you city council people are liable now personally and you can go to jail.

The whole place, by the way has no idea who this guy is dressed fairly appropriately, out of the blue, 38, 39 year old guy, wanders into the room. All of a sudden the whole place is like, the cameras are following me out of the building. I didn't have anything else to say. And so they're like, what happened? By the way, they never did the pension obligation bond. The mayor could never run for re-election, I destroyed him in one night. He could run for re-election, I say he is going to go to jail.

So all this stuff was exposed by the way, sort of in one night. I'm holding up a three year old audit, this is against the law, blah, blah, blah. There's all tapes of this stuff. So this is February or whatever of 2002, the election's coming up. I know I'm going to run for mayor and the stuff in my book, Primary Mistake that you probably read where the Republican Party of course says, "I can't run for mayor." Right?

And I actually didn't, I thought maybe there had to be a one year residency thing, right? As I'm getting ready to run. Because they had their own corrupt person, they had had a corrupt person, Michael Traficante had been the long standing mayor. He still sort of controlled the city committee. By the way, the mayor before me, this is a guy O'Leary that we're talking about. So just take Cranston, he over spent by $25 million. Was supposed to become the Lieutenant Governor. I made him the man that didn't have a chair to sit down in, right? The music ended at musical chairs like a little kid, he's out, he's never been seen again. Left never spoke to me, whatever. The Mayor before him, Michael Traficante was the longest serving mayor. He got caught with $150,000 of campaign cash, he was trying to buy annuities with it for himself and the man took off with the money. Cash.

He called the police and only avoided jail time because it's a corrupt state. The mayor before him became the governor of Rhode Island, Ed DiPrete, and went to jail on a land flipping deal. Those are the three previous mayors to me of Cranston, Rhode Island, right? So anyway, I just started running and I didn't know how to run, I didn't know how to do any of this stuff, I never run for office. But my strengths are both financial and getting to the bottom of real problems, right? And then also organizing people, getting the right people in the right job. So I knocked on every single door.

And so for people who might be listening, that's my strength. You could look up Steve Laffey, Time Magazine and you'd see me blitzing and Joe Klein who wrote the book Anonymous writing, I've never seen anything like this kind of thing. Well, this guy's literally got an RV, he's got seven people and he is running to each door. Now of course, when you're campaigning, you know which door in general, people don't vote, you just ignore, you got to keep going, when you're running. So we had a campaign that nobody thought I was going to win. They decided that Aaron Garabedian, maybe the wealthiest person in Cranston in a sense, because he owned the Midland Mall and his family. By the way, not a bad guy. They decided he would run. Now he's a guy who'd been elected for 30 some odd years, a Republican, a Democrat, Independent, one of those guys who doesn't care and not a bad guy. Again, not a stupid guy.

And so he decided to run as a Democrat against me. And for people listening, the race sort of hinged on this. We did do a poll and we found a couple of things. One, nobody knew who I was. By the way, people in Rhode Island, they're very political, unlike Colorado, very political place. So you'd be campaigning and someone would say, "Steve, how's the polls?" And so in 500 people we asked in May of 2002, prior to the election, two people knew who I was. Two. One really liked me, one somewhat liked me. So here's what I said to people, the only honest thing I could say, I'd say, "Oh, we have very low negatives."

That's what I would say, right? It was a true statement, we have very low negatives. Nobody knew. But there was another part of the poll that we asked this one question because you have to ask this truthful question. Given, by the way, now the whole city's going bankrupt, the city is borrowing three month money at tax equivalent rates of 15%, the rest of the nation's at two. The bond rating hasn't gone down yet but in May, when it's nine-zero Democratic city council and the Democratic mayor, they vote to balance the budget by no pension obligation by now, by taking the $18 million out of the pension plan, million and a half dollars a month for the next year to zero. There's an article in the Progress Journal Steve Laffey about to announce for mayor, this is like May 15th, 2002.

He says, "This is a great plan. If a typhoon comes up near against at bay hangs, left and destroys the city three months from now, this is a wonderful plan. But if that doesn't happen now the bond rating agencies have to take action." And sure enough, they made Cranston the lowest bond rating in the United States of America. They had to S and P... I mean, you can't just take all the money out of the pension plan, right? As a policy to get $18 million. So remember when I do become mayor, there's only $9 million of assets in the pension plan and it's the lowest bond rating in America. And I find these nine city council member to run and so forth. And one Mrs. O'Hara of course being a Democrat from where I grew up, there was someone who wanted to run against her, but I could not support him. He was totally whacked out and I actually supported her and she kind of supported me, which was very helpful.

Because local elections, by the way, in Cranston it could have been a nine, zero Republican city council and a Republican mayor. They could have done the same thing. So I campaign, but we knew one thing from poll. If asked the question, would you rather vote for a career politician? Who's been the city many, many years or a financial expert who went to Harvard Business School. That made a move like this. Three quarters of people said, "I just vote for the hot." Because the advantage of the Providence Journal, which is the major newspaper still of the day. And back when everybody read the highest concentration of any paper in any state was always the Providence Journal.

Again, one media market, no other papers, no Boston Globe, Boston Herald, just the Providence Journal. Well, they put red letters about this big on every Cranston article. They were coming out daily. Cranston financial crisis. I used to joke like Cranston East beats Cranston West in basketball, Cranston financial crisis. Any article about Cranston had these big letters. So everybody's like, they're just staring at it.

When I'm knocking on doors and I'm telling people, and so I do want listeners to know that the message I had and how we actually won, which I'd like to see happen in America one day. My message was simply this. It was the same message to every person I met. Listen, I'm Steve Laffey. I'm a financial expert. I grew up here, I've been away for 20 years. I will fix this problem. And you won't like anything I'm going to do, but I didn't come all the way home to live in Detroit. I will fix it. You will not like it. And people will stare at me and that's the way it's going to be. And it won't be like three years. I'm going to fix this thing in three months and it'll be done. By the way I won, that was the message.

Linda J. Hansen: That was great. I'm sure it turned the establishment there upside down in a sense. But you were direct, you were honest, you were down to earth. And saw a problem and you created a solution that you felt would work and you offered it to the people. And it was simple.

Steve Laffey: The Lion King movie had come out and I put up this giant slide all the time where I handed... I call it the cycle of death. The cycle of death for a city is what? Taxes are way too high, people can't paint their homes, to keep up their loans because they're paying so much in property taxes.

Then all of a sudden people don't, you have the broken window theory of Rudy Giuliani, which is true. All of a sudden there's more crimes. So you need more cops. There's some arson. So you need more expenses as the city declines. This is Detroit story, right? So you raise taxes and now more people who have to move out and people don't take care of their homes and blah, blah, blah, all the way to the cycle of bankruptcy death. So the cycle of life was the Lion King thing. I had the cycle of death and I would put it in front of people. Actually after I was elected in front of the budget hearing I said, "This is the cycle of death. We're going to arrest this right now." Boom. And we did. But to people who were running, my high school economics teacher, Paul [disen 00:20:18], retired to run my campaign.

Linda J. Hansen: So it's great.

Steve Laffey: There were people who knew that this was a crisis who said, "I'm going to help."

Linda J. Hansen: It's so great that these local people came up in support of you. And they saw that you could fix the problem and you won, which was a story in and of itself. But I also would like before we run out of time, I want to make sure that our listeners hear another level of corruption and another way that Cranston was being destroyed. And then maybe they can go back to their local communities and find out if something similar is happening there. Once you got elected mayor, what unusual occurrences started happening?

Steve Laffey: Well, so I'm a budget guy and I have a strength of looking at budgets and situations and getting right to the point, right to the strength. So when you are looking at a budget of $150 million plus state money and this and that, and you see a $38,000 unemployment line in the police budget, that's a $25 million budget. You just generally move on. That's not the biggest line. I don't know what happened, but I got bigger fish to fry, right. I got to find something else. There's a lot of things I could talk about, but that was not one of them. So I become mayor. I win this race. 53, 47. I mean, very close race, very liberal city.

I get these phone calls. Hey mayor, my wife helped, Lauren spoke some law signs for you, but she's been trying to be a crossing guard for 10 years and she's been passed over. Could you look into it for me? And I'm literally like, what could this guy be talking about? What does Jimmy ask? What do you mean crossing guard? I mean, my crossing guard, I knew she was still there. I waved to her because she was still crossing people. I never thought anything of this. This is an embarrassing thing to kind of say. So after the fifth call like this, I go for my new mayor's elect office, not in city hall. I go to city hall and say, and they pull out. They have to give me the crossing guard contract. The International Brotherhood Union is in province Rhode Island the nationwide people. It's a very corrupt organization.

I read the contract that I had never seen that no one had talked about for crossing guards, because it shouldn't be a contract for crossing guards. Right. And there generally isn't one and mostly you see 10 year old kids, people at junior high school, teachers come out, small towns have cops that stop their cars to cross kids. Cranston has a crossing guard contract where they make $129 an hour, including free health insurance for the entire family, which is why there's an 83 year old lady still crossing kids. Nobody quits. They just die.

Linda J. Hansen: It's amazing.

Steve Laffey: So I have to figure this out. And so I have to go meet with... The contract exist. It's part of state law. So I'm like, this is unbelievable. So I try to meet with... I'm in [Sabotoni 00:23:14] the people who run and nobody wants to do anything about this thing.

City's totally broke. They make $50 a day in cash. They work a half an hour in the morning, half hour in the afternoon, one hour a day, they have a pension plan. And by the way, this gets back to the original part. Because they made them part of the police. Almost no crossing guards or anything to do with police. If they're paid, they're part of the school committee because schools nationwide, teachers don't collect unemployment in the summertime, even though they may work nine months, we don't let them do that as a country. Basically they won't negotiate with me.

And I know, although I'm not the mayor. I know this one thing, I know this is like when people figure this out in a broke city, that 39 crossing guards that we're spending 129 an hour, when the average person's making 12, right. And free health insurance. When the average person's paying at least 26% for it, I know this is actually a winner, even though they're all women. So they bring in Ronnie Coyer if you look him up, he was banned to have anything to do with anything under the administration of Clinton.

He's like a knee breaker type guy. He's an old mafia type. He just is. Right. I get along with his brother, but Ronnie comes in and I say, can I get you a cup of coffee? Lawyers are here. And he says, mayor let me just set you straight on a couple of things. That's his initial comment. Because he's always been bullying elected officials. Well, I turn around and look at him and I can't say exactly what I said to him, but I said, let me set you blah, blah, blah straight.

And anyway, that meeting was over in like 30 seconds. And then we went public. He left. I mean he left, I wasn't going to put up with any of this nonsense. And that's another thing for elected people. You just don't have. By the way, if you take the attitude that I'm here to help people, you have to put up with anybody's nonsense. I never did. Big developer screaming on the phone to me, blah, blah, blah, blah. Something to do with needing to have a variance or this or that. I'm like, that's the last time you're ever going to do that. Or you never ever going to speak to me.

Linda J. Hansen: You brought up a really good point that you were there to help the people. And leadership matters and what was happening in Cranston before you became mayor was an example of poor leadership and corrupt leadership. And then you came in...

Steve Laffey: Most [crosstalk 00:25:35] example. Reagan had the air traffic controllers, if you called 401 area code, which is Rhode Island today, and you found anybody who lived there as an adult 20 years ago, and you asked about Steve Laffey me. They would say something like, "Oh yeah, he's the guy who fired the crossing guards." Because that issue was like a winning issue that never stopped being a winning issue.

Linda J. Hansen: Right. Well, and this type of thing is probably happening in more communities.

Steve Laffey: It is.

Linda J. Hansen: And we'd like to think all across this nation and there's so many cities, large and small that have poor leadership and people who are stealing from the government money or just misappropriating it, not filing things properly, not handling the business to the government legally. And it takes someone like you to come in and disrupt. And we often see how disruptors are attacked. You mentioned how people attacked you and discouraged you from running. Disruptors are ones who come in to try to clean it up from both sides of the fence, right? You weren't going to take that corruption from either side of the fence and this is what happens when we can go in and be honest servant leaders. We can create a path that really makes a brighter future.

And that's just what you did with Cranston. So by the time, your term as mayor was kind of before and after example in your book of the Financial Condition of Cranston before you were mayor and after. What the crossing guards were making before you were mayor and what they were making after. And all of this, the bond rating and things. I'd love for you to share that because it just shows that in a relatively short amount of time, you were able to truly turn around this horrible financial situation for the city, which in turn helped every single citizen. And everybody listening can do that too, by using their skillsets in a way that is serving.

Steve Laffey: Cranston, we won the crossing guards. Again, monetarily that was not the biggest issue, but it set the tone for everything.

Linda J. Hansen: Exactly.

Steve Laffey: You could go look, these things up. We had nation wide stories where I'm on CNN, because we had people sleeping at night. You know those things that go around street sweepers at cities have these yellow trucks. Well, we had three individuals who were supposed to do it at night as part of a crew starting in March. Something was wrong. I mean, for example, by the way, the head of the garage was this union guy eventually replaced. And he's like, ah, mayor, it takes two... Because people were complaining about sand whipping on a windy day. And I said, again, this is not my expertise to know how long it takes to pick up sand, but by any stretch of imagination, doing some math, I knew it should have been done.

So I put a video camera and I had private detectives follow these three people. One guy came in and went to sleep the whole night. Two other people went to Dunking Donuts and drank coffee. And at the end of the night whipped around in that yellow thing, never picked up any sand, whipped around at 45 miles an hour. And the private detective had to sit down with the guy privately said, "Sit down, mayor, because the last part of this story, the video I'm going to show you where they actually go to construction sites and tip over the cones." You're going to go crazy.

I exposed all of this stuff in what I called them the street sleepers. And it was a nationwide story. But see, exposing this, by the way, the greatest thing that ever happened was doing this video camera thing, from that day on when everybody saw this nationwide and people in Rhode Island like, oh my gosh, right? Everybody thought, I think that I videotaped everything. We never had an issue with someone showing up for work. We never had an issue in snow plowing again. That was a whole another corruption. But you fast forward to four years later when I replaced the right people and so forth, Cranston's bond rating went up eight notches in three and a half years. The most in the history of the United States of America never had happened before.

Linda J. Hansen: It's amazing.

Steve Laffey: Back to investment grade, so forth. We built a new police station. Once we get to investment grade, all these things happened, right? I was leaving office in lowering property taxes. That took a while because everything's under contract, the city's, 86% of what people do is under a contract. So you can't change that day. The crossing guards because we fired and got away with and I mean won the case. So a lot of things like that, the pension assets were up 500%. By the way, the pension assets of Cranston, Rhode Island were in cash. No one had invested it ever. If they had simply invested this, the fact, even if they did fund it properly in a 60, 20, 20 back before the fed destroyed everything, situation there would've been not $18 million. There would've been $50 million start. So I hired a professional, we went out to bid and just these are things that are relatively easy to do.

And so when we left, the assets were up over 500%. You won't find anybody on your show who ever can say that. So the first thing I do is put the money back in because the bond rating had to go to investment grade, but as we left or actually no one had paved the road in Cranston, Rhode Island for 15 years, to my knowledge, we were paving roads. I mean, being a normal city says a lot of things I could cite. But when I left office, the city was as I promised people. And I always tell people this one story to sort of sum it up, I'm running for re-election. I'm going to win with the widest margin as a conservative, evangelical Christian, in Rhode Island, right? I'm going to win with 60 somewhat percent of the vote.

The day before the election were three streets from the street I grew up on were on Albert Avenue, Paul, this is [inaudible 00:31:32] my economics high school gave me the book Free to Choose is saying, "Mayor, this lady wants to talk to you." I run up like I always do. It's early, late. It's a couple days before the election. Lady is looking up at me, I'm looking down, she's in a car. She goes, "I hate you." And I say, "What? I've heard that before." She goes, "I'm voting for you tomorrow. I just didn't like it." And I said, "I told you wouldn't like it." She said, "You did tell me." And she drove off.

Linda J. Hansen: Interesting. But that's the thing. I mean, you did what you said you would do. You gave a promise to the voters and you followed through on it. And the thing about it too, is you weren't afraid to step up and use your gifts in a way that you knew you could help your local community, but by doing so you said it became national news too. As I mentioned-

Steve Laffey: Many things became national news in Cranston.

Linda J. Hansen: They became national news and we don't have time to go into it on this particular episode. But for any listeners who want to learn about your Senate race that came after that. Your Senate race was another example of a disruptor, trying to make a positive difference. And I think that people might like to read your book Primary Mistake. How can they get your book?

Steve Laffey: The only way to get Primary Mistake because they've sold all the copies is to go to Amazon and buy a used copy, which by the way, I still do sometimes because I give it away. But people interested in politics still read Primary Mistake. And so if you're interested in politics and thinking about running, I have people who still find me who say I was recommended to read this book as a primer, Republicans mostly, almost always. And find me and I get on the phone with some guy wants to run for governor Washington state a couple of years ago.

And this happens at a, not monthly, but people do email me. They've read the book because they think someone told them, it's a good primer. The other thing by the way that people can still download and we don't have it for sale anymore, but I made a movie called Fixing America. And it's pretty prophetic. What I talk about China. It's a whole another podcast, but it's actually happened. I'm very sad about it. And that's how I ended up meeting Herman Cain myself and all this kind of stuff who I loved dearly. Who even though he wasn't even running by the time I still wrote in Herman Cain. And only wished he had become president of the United States because he truly was my author ego as far as how we thought about things. We became friends and just it's too bad he's passed on.

Linda J. Hansen: And for our listeners, that's how I got to know you originally was when I was deputy chief of staff for Herman Cain's presidential campaign. And we did some events with you and things and I just remember your story. And as I've been trying to help people understand how important local involvement is. I thought your story was just one of the best examples, but it not only shows the importance of getting involved at the local level, but it shows the importance of voters paying attention to who is involved at the local level because what did you do? You went on to run for Senate. It was not a successful bid for Senate. You lost that election. However, I always tell people, pay attention to the local candidates, ask them where they are on these issues.

And I had a conversation with somebody running for a county position a couple weeks ago. And I said, "So where do you stand on this issue, that issue, this issue?" And he goes, "Oh, well that doesn't really affect us." I said, "Oh really?" And I went out and I just told him point by point, by point how these issues that are more national news actually affect his county. And so his opinion on these plus he might then run for state assembly, or state Senate. What are his views? So having-

Steve Laffey: Given my background, my friends from Harvard Business School and Bowdoin College and Morgan Keegan, always thought it was a little nutty. I didn't say it to me this way that I would run for mayor and not for governor instead of Congress. And I would just tell people, one I had felt a strong calling go to Cranston. Two, if I'm never able to do in a big way, help other people. Even though there have been several clowns who have been mayor since my term in Cranston, they haven't been able to destroy the city again. It was left in such pristine situation, as far as-

Linda J. Hansen: Finance.

Steve Laffey: What I do well. Yes they have confronted the pension properly, but it's still not broke. Right? I mean, all these kind of things, they just didn't do it. People then began to forget. And one of the things that happened to me in my third year being mayor and I realized this, is that people began to think, oh, Laffey takes care of that. And I kept saying no. You people with 11.... I mean, you have to imagine, think of a city where 1200 people show up for debate in a place that only seats 800 people. The first budget hearing is 1200 people again, they can't even let them in.

Linda J. Hansen: It's amazing.

Steve Laffey: So, you can't get 1200 people for a national debate in Boulder Colorado. First you can't get people to go. We had people and they were activists, and people helped me. You can make a difference. I loved it by the way. And 80,000 people. I mean, I said this last and humbly again, we fixed it. We did.

Linda J. Hansen: You di. But-

Steve Laffey: It was the people that did it.

Linda J. Hansen: It's the people that did it.

Steve Laffey: To figure it out.

Linda J. Hansen: That's the thing. And before we close, I just want to emphasize that again, I started with the fact that it's the citizens who are in charge of our government. We the people are the ones who are supposed to be running this government of the people by the people and for the people. And for too long, we have just complacently taken our freedom for granted. And that's why we're in the mess we're in. And so I encourage everybody listening to step up as a voter, to pay attention to the issues at all levels, but also to really dig a little bit deeper beyond the mainstream media, to find out truth about facts, but then get to know your elected officials as well. Show up to the meetings, find out who they are, ask them questions.

And if you feel led, you feel you have gifts that can help your local state or national level government to have better policies. Step up to lead. Politics is not for the faint of heart as Steve's story even shows, but you can make a positive difference by deciding to get in the arena. And you'll never be sorry. And I just want to address one another thing you said Steve was that if you never make a bigger impact, well, I would say you have made a big impact. You have made a national impact. Because one, your story was told all over the country. And I think probably all over the world, really, especially with internet and things. But your Senate race highlighted a lot of issues that needed to be addressed. And I think brought out more understanding of how both sides of the political fence don't always play a fair, and it's not always for the people.

By doing the right thing and stepping up with bold leadership. And following that call that you had in your heart, you made a huge difference. And now your story lives on. People can go to and see the trailers or the movie. You can see he's got a great thing on there about what is a trillion. And just before we close, I just want to share this with listeners. You have a little ticker on there. It says 1 million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is 31 years. A trillion seconds is 31,688,000 years. So listeners take a look at our federal debt right now. And is it even possible for us to fix this? How can we take care of this and help our children and grandchildren to grow up in freedom and economic prosper, where they can realize their American dream and maybe they can go in and clean up a city like you did, or maybe they can run for president who knows. But unless we fix this, our country will never be healthy and strong the way we hope.

Steve Laffey: There's going to be a crisis in the next two years that we haven't seen before you. Because we have crossed the chasm.

Linda J. Hansen: We've reached the point of no return. There's a point of no return.

Steve Laffey: We just not going back without a crisis.

Linda J. Hansen: Right?

Steve Laffey: Like a [Frankston 00:40:27] crisis on a national scale. And somebody has to get up and say, you're not going to like any of this.

Linda J. Hansen: Right

Steve Laffey: For our children, we got to fix it.

Linda J. Hansen: Right. For the listeners, they can get your book Primary Mistake. They can buy it used on Amazon. Is it available by Kindle or anything electronically?

Steve Laffey: No, not anymore.

Linda J. Hansen: Okay.

Steve Laffey: It's an older book.

Linda J. Hansen: It's an older book

Steve Laffey: But you can still get-

Linda J. Hansen: To the library. Maybe check out your local library.

Steve Laffey: It's in many libraries. Actually quite frankly, a lot of library have it. If you just either go to Amazon and type in Steve Laffey or type in Fixing America movie. Or if you type, because people can still download that movie for a couple of bucks. People still do by the way. It's just crazy.

Linda J. Hansen: Yeah. It's a great movie. And if you're interested in that at, you can go there and you can see trailers is great conversations with everyday citizens. People that you know are just the everyday citizens. And I love the way you point out that, it's the everyday citizens who know how to fix America. Herman Cain, you mentioned Herman Cain. He always said, "When you want to fix a problem, go to the person closest to the problem, to find the solution." And when you want to fix a problem, that's hurting American families, American individuals. You need to go to those individuals. You need to go to where they live, where they work.

For my closing thought, employers you have an opportunity to educate your employees about all of these issues. So wherever your business is located, you have a tax base, you have utilities, you have everything that you need to look and see, how is your city or your county, how are they running that government? And you have an opportunity to educate your employees on the basic economics of running a government, which is also basic economics of running a business. And so you can help them understand how important their vote is to their own prosperity and the prosperity of their company, which in turn turns out to be their job. So, we help connect the dots. So just one closing statement. What would you tell employers who would like to educate their employees?

Steve Laffey: Well, employees in this country are not all woke individuals running Starbucks. There's many people who... but they got to step up. Otherwise, people have to step up and counteract what's happening at these large companies and you have to be a right wing conservative person. You have to point out the truth and let your employees know that, listen, this is how it's going to affect you. If you don't vote this, if you don't do this. Never be called by this people who say, you can't do this. I couldn't run for mayor of Cranston. It's a whole thing in my book. It's almost humorous. And I try to write it as humorous. But it really happened. And so you, the individual can look at your strengths and say, where am I needed? How can I help?

Linda J. Hansen: Exactly.

Steve Laffey: And go do it.

Linda J. Hansen: And go do it. Well with that. So again, I thank you, Steve. You've given so much of your time here today and I thank you. I know the listeners will be inspired. I hope they aren't terrified as you get involved after hearing, especially the crossing guard story. But I know that you have made an incredible difference and you continue to do so. I appreciate what you've offered to the listeners today. So thank you for putting your hat in the ring, getting in the arena to make a difference and setting an example for many, many people. So thank you.

Steve Laffey: And hopefully I'm not done yet, so we'll talk soon. But anyway, anything I can do to help you Linda. Great lady. And I appreciate your time.

Linda J. Hansen: Well thank you.

Steve Laffey: God bless.

Linda J. Hansen: Thank you again for listening to the Prosperity 101 podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, share, and leave a great review. Don't forget to visit to access the entire podcast library, to order my newest book, Job Security Through Business Prosperity. The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck. Or to enroll you or your employees in the Breakroom Economics online course.

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