Wednesday, January 26, 2005

King's Legacy

Newly elected State Senator Harold Metts delivered an extraordinary speech at the Ministers Alliance annual Martin Luther King breakfast at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet. He pointed out several important issues that we need to be building support for in order to re-ignite our "passion for social and economic justice" including voting rights and economic opportunities for ex-offenders, more business and job opportunities for people of color and he criticized the Governor's Supreme Court appointment:

...many from our community are still upset about the governor's comment that I'm not interested in making history..." He missed the opportunity to appoint the highly qualified, Judge O. Rogerie Thompson, as the first African American to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. This gross injustice must be corrected....
It is unclear is what African-American or civil rights organizations will pick up the platform put forward by Sen. Metts. The NAACP and the Urban League have lost their juice. And where exactly is the younger leadership in our community? Where is the leadership of the next generation? What IS clear is that Sen. Metts joins Sen. Pichardo, Sen. Perry and Sen. Levesque in providing the 38 members of the State Senate with fresh perspectives of social and economic justice.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Education is about kids, right?

Governor Carcieri pointed to six things he has accomplished or is working on to improve our schools 1. In the past year new standards have been instituted for reading and math in grades three through eight. 2.I initiated with the Department of Education the establishment of minimum standards of achievement for high school graduation. 3.We passed legislation requiring higher standards for teacher certification and professional expertise. 4.Moving forward, I have called for developing teams of specialists in math and reading to assist the school districts with teacher training. 5.I'm very enthused about beginning a new principal training and mentoring program to provide the future leadership for our schools. 6.The Board of Regents has proposed a longer school day for some districts. This will provide more class time for students and more professional development time for teachers. So to summarize he's working on three standards related issues, three staff development issues, and one administrative issue(longer school days). I have some serious problems with this. From the numerous reading I have done on education reform, I see very little of this: community-to-school relationship building, and in the case of Providence relationship creating. I like this analogy. The governor is basically telling a basketball player: I'm increasing the amount of points you should earn, I'm hiring someone to train your coach to coach you better, and practice is going to be longer. If you don't look at the needs of the basketball player, raising standards, helping his coach, or working him harder are going to amount to very small, if not negligible increase in his performance. And it really is about performance isn't it? The governor said it's about the kids...but what of these issues seems kid-driven? Which of these seem like they were produced with the help of kids? None to me. What's lost in all of this is the fact that education is as much culture related as anything. In communities where excellence is expected, excellence is done. In those same communities, instead of the principal saying "we don't have money to fix the roof" you and I will have a referendum on the ballot asking if we will support a bond-issue to repair the roof at such-and-such highschool. Until we build that type of culture in Providence, the improvements will be minor and most children will continue to get lost in the shuffle. I commend the governor on his initiatives, but the human element is sorely lacking.

Friday, January 14, 2005

New Parking Meters in Providence

Again from the providence journal After a year and a half of preparation by city officials, Mayor David N. Cicilline showed off the new meters yesterday at a City Hall news conference. He called it an "incredibly exciting day" and said the ProvPass could become a new Christmas gift. Christmas gift? I really hope the mayor was being sarcastic when he said that... Anyway, this is a good move by the city. I don't know about you, but not having to carry cash has made life a lot easier for the organizationally challenged people like myself. I mean how many times have you found yourself at a metter with only dimes or nickels? Or worse: cash! Now you can buy the aptly named, Prov Pass to pay for parking. Woo hoo! Not only that the rate for parking is higher too. So instead of fumbling in your pockets for quarters, you can now pull out your shiek ProvPass and pay a little more for the convenience. It's interesting to note what city officials deem as important. I think I am one of those old fashioned types who thinks parking and water, for that matter, should be F-R-E-E. I mean, if you work downtown, you're already pumping money into the city by way of your company's tax dollars. You're probably lunching somewhere in the city and adding more to the city's kitty. Why parking meters? Why those blasted meter maids who never cut you a break? Well at least you can still walk for free. :-)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

RI Civil Rights Roundtable Discussion

The RI Civil Rights Roundtable met this week to discuss 'civil rights' issues they hope will be addressed in the coming year. They will be seeking to enact legislation that Allows immigrants to obtain driver's licenses Does not compel local police to act as federal immigration officers. Because of homeland security, police departments have been pressured by immigration officials to add immigration responsibilities. It opposes a proposal that would allow drug offenders who commit crimes near or in public housing to receive sentences that are twice as long if they committed the crime elsewhere.. The legalization of gay marriage and the mandatory recording of police interrogations are two other issues that coalition members will work to achieve with new laws. One question has been ringing in my head in this neo-civil rights era and that is, just what are civil rights? If you have the time and academic stamina to read the likes of Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, etc. one thing becomes clearly evident: each defines inalienable rights as differently as the colors of a rainbow. I find it curious that proponents of gay marriage consider it a right granted them by the constitution to marry. Curious in that marriage is a religious act which many of these same proponents would ardently fight to keep out of children's books, schools, and city Christmas lightings. Instead, they would have our children taught to believe that a union between a man and another man is perfectly fine-not only fine, it is the right of man to have the ability to marry another man. With the passage of gay marriage legislation would then come common-day examples in textbooks vis a vis its acceptance within the legal system. In other words, if we decide that it is the right of a man to marry another man, then it is therefore their right to be exemplified in textbooks that teach our children. It's much like the argument that if black people are x number of the population, we should see them in x number of shows and so on. Don't think this is reaching either. Consider the first court case where two married gay parents' children ask them why they aren't learning about gay parents in school and only hetero ones. You won't be able to say ACLU fast enough before they've filed the lawsuit. As I get off my soapbox, I just am saddened to see the commingling of what I consider true civil rights with ideologies of the left.