Monday, February 28, 2005

Why can't Republicans win in Providence?

'Cause they are idiots, Donald!' While some of you might believe this, I find it troubling and strange that the Grand Old Party (GOP) currently holds nary a one City Council spot among the fifteen city wards. The current council is made up of fourteen Democrats and one Green Party member. As late as the September 2004 Primary, there were only 5,045 registered Republicans in the city. To put that number in perspective, there were 101,131 registered voters city-wide. That means, the total people registered Republican is about 5 percent. The Democrats on the other hand sport 57,892 card carrying members. The next largest voter affiliation category is actually the unaffiliated totaling 37,776. Consequently, based on numbers alone its no wonder there are no city councilmen or state legislators that carry the elephant pin. The Providence Dems have done an effective job marginalizing Republicans whereas Republicans have done a pitiful job in promoting themselves and carrying a clear message that attracts voters. I asked some random people (read: my boys) what they thought about Republicans. Answers I received were "Budget cutters, out for big business, doesn't care about the little guy, cost me my job" and on and on. Republicans have done little to change that perception as evidenced by many of the proposed cuts by President Bush and our own Governor Carcieri. In this state, the tactically savvy Democratic party has seized on easy opportunities to spout their propaganda-never admitting to their own capitulation to and creation of problems within government. For instance, if educational funding does not get overhauled this year, who's going to get the bulk of the blame? The General Assembly which is stocked with Dems who have lived at the state house for decades or the Republican Governor who has served approximately two years and a month? Answer: the Governor. And what's more puzzling is the fact that Providence residents continue to vote Democrat as if the Dems were these cool cats with superpowers and compassion despite Democratic leaders whose actions or inaction has failed to address real needs in our community. For too long minorities in this region have supported the Democratic party without so much as a glance at the Republicans. I'm not saying that everyone should jump the Democratic bandwagon and join the Republicans. I'm not even saying that the Democratic vision is all that bad. Instead, I desire to see a city that has strong political parties and smart residents so that our government will become truly representative, for the people, and by the people. Strong Political Parties Where there is more competition the product is ALWAYS better. If the Dems had to face challenges besides themselves for city government seats it is not only likely, but would definitely result in more accountable legislators, better overall representation, and inclusionary politics whereby the diversity of our community would be reflected by our legislative body. With strong Democrat, Green, Libertarian, and yes, Republican parties in the state-we'd be presented with the best choices our state has to offer and move to an atmosphere where 'city-first' is the breastplate each legislator wears. Without strong parties the Dems are likely to maintain control of the process, the money, and our future. And when power is left to the hands of the few, inequality is the result. Our community is too diverse to allow this to happen. Smart Residents The only way a corrupt system continues is by the lethargy and apathy of the populace. During the Citizen Education Campaign this past year, I asked a young man why he didn't vote. He said, "they're all crooks." I don't proscribe to his viewpoint and more to the point, I don't condone it. You have some very dedicated people in Providence politics. People who are working for real change and are really changing how politics work. Yet, these 'satellites' are overshadowed by others who are not getting the job done. And from the comments of this young man and others I have spoken with, residents don't see any change coming. I believe that if residents began to scrutinize the people they voted for and began to hold them accountable for their decisions, we'd see real progress. Consider that at a meeting where 100+ jobs were being cut in the school system ONLY 150 people showed up, 50 from ACORN. Not that I have a problem with ACORN, but ACORN's vision needs to trickle down to the average resident. When that happens, and I believe it can and is, perpetual voting based on name, party affiliation, or the like will be a thing of the past. So Republicans, if you wish to start winning races put forth some competitive candidates and start informing residents of your policy agenda. And in the marketplace of ideas, we'll see if they resonate or fall on deaf ears.

Providence Resident Survey

In a few hours the ETC Institute of Kansas, which conducted a Providence Resident Survey, will anounce its findings. Hundreds of residents responded to the survey and questions centered around parks, public safety, highway and sanitation services, and arts and recreational programming. The results will be used to relatively determine how satisfied residents are with the aforemention services and programs. Conspicuously missing from this survey is education which would have provided for some interesting coffee talk. Once the results are posted, I'll give a little analysis...

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Mixed Message

The Providence School Board could have sent a message to Don Carcieri and the General Assembly by refusing the proposed job cuts submitted by outgoing Superintendent Melody Johnson. Think, they could have said 'No! These positions are too important to be cut. We're going to have to figure something out, but you're not cutting our children's already limited future.' They could have, but they didn't. Not exactly. At a special meeting on the School Board decided NOT to send pink slips to 21 nurse-teachers and 10 social workers. However, the board voted in favor of sending pink slips to 20 guidance counselors and 47 social workers. This doesn't mean that the people receiving the pink slips will be dismissed. Instead, their jobs will remain in jeopardy for the foreseable future. I can understand the School Board's decision in handing out these potential terminiations. The Governor has not earmarked enough monies for Providence and they must leave themselves an out in case the governor doesn't change his budget. The School Board balked at taking such a leap into the darkness. Can we blame them? The School Board would have faced serious challenges if come next school year it is unable to pay for its programs and from where would the help come? I wonder how lenient the Providence Teachers Union would be then? *note sarcasm* In essence, the School Board was stuck between a rock and a hard place. They chose to leave themselves with options and not address the situation head on. Not yet anyway. And I can't blame them...there's plenty of that to go around.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Upward Bound faces elimination

The president who signed the No Child Left Behind Act, once again, is cutting the goals of that legislation at its knees! His recently proposed budget would eliminate Upward Bound and a slew of other programs that help at-risk, low income youths. In RI, 150 students from grades 9-12 attend the Upward Bound program. 2/3rds of those come from families with income levels 150 percent of the poverty level or below AND where neither parent graduated from college. The other third come from families who meet one of the two criteria. These are students who are traiblazers in their families and communities. Without this program many of these students would be locked out from attending college and universities because of the schools they attend (read: Central, Hope, Mount, among others) and poor academic reputation those schools have. A friend of mine, a Mount Pleasant Graduate, who is a 2004 graduate of URI (graduated with a 3.0 in fact) did poorly on her SAT's. However, she attended the Upward Bound program which helped her gain acceptance to the Talent Development program at URI where she enjoyed a successful college career. Had Upward Bound not been available to her, most certainly the doors that opened to her would have been locked. And that's what this program is all about; opening doors for our children. But, President Bush has apparently lost sight of how special and effective programs like Upward Bound are for the inner city student. And so, he has gone too far. At a time when we are being asked to support a war in Iraq with money and sweat equity, he intros these types of cuts?!?! In the past, I have tried to defend this president's actions. He wasn't lying-he was misinformed. He didn't know that there was torture really going on-just utilization of special post 9/11 tactics. And on and on and on. But, I refuse to come to the president's aid on this one. Simply put, as citizens and parents it is our duty to draw a line in the sand and tell President Bush that we WILL NOT cut off our children's future because you thought it was the right thing to do to invade Iraq. We WILL NOT sit idly by as another generation's hopes are dashed because of your desire to reduce a budget deficit that YOU created. We WILL NOT allow a nearly 40 year program to be quietly cut at your latest whim. Instead, we WILL fight tooth and nail to ensure opportunities come to our cities and to our children. If that means a protracted political war, so be it. Your 'education first' rhetoric has more than worn thin and it's now time to back up the No Child Left Behind laws and stop cutting programs such as Upward Bound. Today, I am saddened by Bush's budget cuts, and hope that when people like us start talking-he'll reconsider his position. So here's what we do to stop this injustice folks... The Director of the Upward Bound Program at Rhode Island College, Miriam Boyajian, has requested that we send letters to our local officials denouncing these cuts. Click on the names below to send your letters via e-mail. Senator Jack Reed Senator Lincoln Chafee Representative Patrick Kennedy Representative James Langevin Governor Donald Carcieri

Friday, February 25, 2005

It's up to you New York....

I love New York right now. First, as I have described earlier, I think Eliot Spitzer is the best emerging Democratic candidate in a long time. He's running for Governor. Second, Spitzer just endorsed Fernando Ferrer for Mayor of New York City. Ferrer is a progressive Democrat who nearly won the run-off in the last Mayor's race and will be the City's first Latino Mayor - he is Puerto Rican. This surprise early endorsement shows Spitzer's backbone. "I'm not shy about articulating my support for a candidate when I think they're the best candidate," Spitzer told the New York Times in Thursday's edition. Spitzer for Governor. Ferrer for Mayor. That would be a change! Finally, a coalition of labor unions, small businesses and real Americans, successfully stopped Walmart's attempt to open their first New York City store. You might remember Walmart as the mammouth company that just closed down their store in Canada that had voted to unionize.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

2004 Election: I need the data!

Today, I'm trekking to the Providence Board of Canvassers where I have been trying to get individual election results for the last three months. We'll see if they have the figures. If they do, then I will be performing some analysis on these in order to determine how effective the Citizen Education Campaign, and initiative of the Cathedral of Life Christian Assembly, was in 2004. For those interested, post any analysis you'd like to see and if it's manageable, I'll try to get to it. But first, the PBC has to have the figures ready!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Over 60? Need a hand? Read here!

Today it snowed. No big deal, right? Right. However, while I was shoveling I noticed my neighbor shoveling. Nothing unusual there except for the fact that she’s around 85. Now I don’t know about the rest you out there, but my mother taught that ‘if you see an 85 year old woman shoveling snow, then you better help her or you’ll have to deal with me’. So, I went over and politely asked if I could shovel for her. She said ok, with an ‘I wonder how much this kid is gonna charge me?’ look on her face. I asked her if she regularly shovels snow because I usually see her driveway shoveled when I return from work when it has snowed in the past. She said, and I quote, “someone shovels but I didn’t have the greenbacks, today.” Didn’t have the greenbacks? Which brings me to my point. We need to help our elderly citizenry. I don’t know the exact figures, but I have seen estimates that RI has the most seniors per capita in the country save Florida. If so, I wonder how many other seniors don’t have the greenbacks necessary to shovel their driveway? It probably takes the average man 30 minutes to shovel a driveway after an average snowfall. I saw how my neighbor was shoveling and she would have been out there no less than 4-5 hours at her pace. Not to mention all the health risk associated with someone of her age doing such physical labor. I am going to make some inquiries and see if there is an organization of folks who dedicate themselves to shoveling for the elderly so that they can get around on these snow days. If there isn’t one as yet, I hope some of you will contact me and see if we can get something started. As a last retort, once I finished shoveling, she tried to pay me. I had a look of indignation and refused. Our elderly have done so much for us…we cannot leave them out in the cold.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Bells Benton

A real leader for our youth, Roosevelt Benton, recently passed away. Julia Steiny writes about this great community leader in today's Providence Journal. Read it and think about who was a role model in your life. Then think about if anyone considers you a role model. Then do something about it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Tailspin thy name is Education

Tailspin: The rapid descent of an aircraft in a steep, spiral spin. If the Providence, no make that Rhode Island, school system is an airplane then it is in a full blown tailspin. On Valentine's Day more than 300 people showed up at the Providence school board committee to express 'concern' over Supt. Johnson's proposed cuts of over 100 employees. Cuts have been coming the last few years with no real end in sight. Get your parachutes ready, folks! Where's the problem? Is it the fiscally-sound but social-not-as-conscious Governor? Is it the General Assembly who have chosen to create a panel to look at ways to change the funding structure (convening AFTER this year's legislative session ends), rather than taking the time to deal with the situation in 2004 and putting it off in 2005? The blame rests with both the General Assembly and the Governor. However, the problem goes deeper. It is an understatement to say that the system is horrible. According to many sources, a property tax system is anti-child in functionality if not explicit. Why? Generally, the cost per pupil is higher than the property tax generated from a homeowner thereby almost immediately creating a deficit situation. But housing prices have gone up so shouldn't property tax go up too? Well, yes in theory, but wages haven't gone up in any proximity to housing prices. Town officials have had to stem the cost of property tax because people can't afford higher property tax. Providence Mayor Cicciline's and others effort to drive property tax down via larger homestead exemptions illuminate that the current system is undeniably oxymoronic. If the General Assembly and the Governor can do one thing this year-they MUST restructure how schools are funded. Otherwise, every year Superintendent Johnson will have to propose budget cuts and take the heat from angry parents and teachers. The Governor will be forced to propose legislation that makes state employees pay for healthcare or be forced to make unpopular decisions in order to balance the budget. The tailspin will not end until there is a change and commitment to making a better, newer, and more effective system THIS YEAR. To do otherwise, in my opinion, would show such a lack of concern for our children, that come 2006 any and all who blocked, neglected, or obstructed such reform should be booted from office...and swiftly. In other words, Governor and esteemed members of the Assembly children, parents, and the educational system are calling you out to straighten this situation out or move aside. The time for blame is over. The time for real reform is now.

Monday, February 14, 2005

No love on Valentine's Day

Don't expect a love-fest later today at the Providence School Committee meeting where discussions will center around the cutting of 102 jobs within the School department. For those planning to attend, the meeting will be held at the Public Safety Complex at Dean and Washington streets at 6:30pm. Ringside seats, I mean, public seats will be going fast so get there early!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Partisan Crap-o-la

I'm back. After a couple weeks where RL heated up, I am back. And here's what I have discovered over those two weeks-many people in this state cannot see the forrest through the trees when it comes to partisan politics. Example 1 One day last week, I spoke to someone who's democratically affiliated (read: she voted for John Kerry) and she told me that I was her Republican friend. Taken aback by this, I advised her that although I have Republican leanings, I shouldn't be considered among the rank and file. Example 2 Also last week, I spoke with someone in the Governor's administration. I was speaking to this person on account that I had written a letter to the RI Republican Party. They were interested in what I had to say, and so I set up this meeting. While in conversation this person said, "You're too much of a Democrat." Again, taken more aback by this comment than the first, I told this person that I was, and still am, an independent. I show you these examples because politics in RI, probably moreso than elsewhere, has become so very partisan. If you're on the other side of the aisle, inherently, you're the incarnation of Satan. I'm sorry to say this but Dems in this state have been using that tactic, specifically against minorities, for years. For instance, Rep. Tom Slater and Sen. Jaun Pichardo introduced a bill last year that would allow undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain drivers licences. Many citizens of the South Providence community either were or know someone who is an immigrant and this issue resonates with them. They also support the Democratic party come election time, by overwhelmingly voting Democratic. However, the billed died in the Democratically controlled General Assembly. But yet, listen to Democratic rhetoric and they say they're all for immigrants and helping them on their feet. "But I thought the Republicans were anti-immigrants?" Perhaps, but... Where's the outrage? Where are the glasses that see fault in both parties? Where's the reasoned response? If the two people I spoke with this week exemplify the common Rhode Island-partisan hack, we're in a heap of trouble here guys.