Monthly Archives: January, 2008

Cranston Schools 8-16 Million in the Hole

The quote from Superintendent Scherza just kind of says it all: “It is really not a good time to be a child living in Cranston and going to the Cranston schools.” The Cranston schools are projecting between an $8 and $16 million dollar deficit, and that’s on top of the $3.8 million they still need for this year. They will only be $8 million dollars in the hole if the Mayor raises taxes by the full 5% and gives every dime of it to the schools.

It also doesn’t appear to be a very good time to be a teacher in Cranston, although those who get to keep their jobs will probably continue to do okay. But I wouldn’t count on any 4.5% raises in this contract go-around.

From the Projo:

[...] They did not propose specific cuts last night. But in recent interviews, School Committee members have emphasized that nearly everything is on the table.

Layoffs are a possibility; the committee could cut some or all of the school system’s athletic program; and the district might even require more students to walk to school, to cut transportation costs. [full text]

It will be sad to see some of the great programming cut from the Cranston schools.

Coventry Legislator Ejected

And I thought we got a little hot under the collar here in Cranston. We got nothin’ on Coventry. Last night, Rep. Nicholas Gorham had to be escorted out by the police. From the Projo:

COVENTRY — A meeting last night of the Town Council, the School Committee and the community’s legislative delegation, to discuss the town’s prospects for state aid, degenerated into a shouting match between the council president and Rep. Nicholas Gorham, who ultimately was escorted from Town Hall by two local police officers.

When the session began, the topic shifted to the $19.8-million bond-issue package that local voters rejected soundly in a referendum last Wednesday.

That package — which was on the ballot as an all-or-nothing proposition — included $9 million for the schools, including major structural repairs and upgrades to comply with the toughened state fire code. Without those code improvements, four schools might have to remain closed this September.

Council Vice President Bruce Thompson asked the legislators — who included, besides Gorham, Representatives Raymond Sullivan and Victor Moffitt and Sen. Leonidas Raptakis — whether the General Assembly might approve another special referendum, this one proposing only $10 million for the schools.

At that point, Gorham demanded to know why the bond package had been presented as an all-or-nothing proposition in the first place. Constituents, he said, had told him they did not want to see such a big borrowing package.

Countered acting Town Manager Paul K. Sprague, “Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t we hear from you before?�

Council President Justin Pomfret then declared: “Thank you Mr. Gorham, you just lost us $5 million.� (He was alluding to a state guarantee of 50 percent reimbursement for improvements to the schools.) [full text]

I hear they’re thinking of applying for state aid in Coventry to install ejector seats at city hall. That way it can all happen much faster.

Seriously, though, politics is tough business. Lots of money is at stake, not to mention the welfare of the community. For the sake of my friends who live in Coventry, I hope things get worked out for the betterment of all.

Council Endorses Cullion Settlement

The Cranston City Council passed a non-binding resolution in support of the proposed $1.9 million settlement. David Scharfenberg of the Projo reported on the meeting here:

CRANSTON — The City Council approved a resolution last night backing the proposed $1.9-million buyout of the controversial, half-built Cullion Concrete Corp. batching plant in the Eden Park neighborhood.

The 6-3 vote, though nonbinding, provided critical political support for a deal that appeared tenuous in recent weeks.

“I’m happy that they’re moving forward to resolve this matter,� said Mayor Michael T. Napolitano, who urged the council to back the resolution in a series of emotional appeals last night.

Napolitano, a Democrat, announced his tentative settlement last month, winning plaudits from neighbors who worried about the potential for traffic, noise and pollution should the plant be completed. [full text]

Like a lot of people, I’m glad to see this moving toward completion. I still think whatever careful checking can be done to make sure the appraisal is accurate and the land is clean, and the stipulations of the clean-up are as thorough as possible. According to Suzanne in the previous thread on the concrete plant, Councilperson Terry Livingston did a good job of outlining “the scope of what needs to be met before this can be resolved.”

Margaret Truman Dies at 83

Sad news: Margaret Truman, the only child of former President Harry Truman, has died.

In reading through her the story on MSNBC about her life, I was struck by this quote:

“I’ve had three or four different careers,� she told an interviewer in 1989. “I consider being a wife and mother a career. I have great respect for women — both those who go out and do their thing and those who stay at home. I think those who stay at home have a lot more courage than those who go out and get a job.�

Margaret Truman was the kind of person who could say something like that and really mean it. I also respect mothers who stay at home, and fathers, too, and it is always a struggle for me between the pull to be a parent and the pull to have a career. Luckily, I have been able to work part-time while my children are young.

I always liked the story about how President Truman freaked out when some critics were less than positive about Margaret’s singing debut. It made the Trumans so human and familiar.

Kmareka’s Blog Gratitude List — January 29, 2008

In imitation of Nomi Hurwitz, I would like to offer more gratitude to the world, and in an effort to do this, I would like to write an extended “thank you” to someone every week. There are many gifted, generous, and generally under-appreciated people in the world, and I am on a mission to honor them. This list will be compiled on Tuesdays and will thank someone who has contributed to the blog in some way. Think of it as a running acknowledgment page in the cyber-book of who we are and what we are becoming.

And now, without further ado, the envelope please. This week’s hands-down winner is:

Alex Moore, writer, activist, and web administrator for Rhode Island’s Future. Alex came to my house on Saturday and spent over 5 hours helping me. He upgraded my WordPress, reviewed my problems, and made changes to improve the security of Kmareka. We also had the chance to talk with each other about running a political blog and all the triumphs and challenges involved in cyber-activism and real-world activism. I not only got a better-running blog, but I also got acquainted with a true compadre. At a time when I was feeling burned by the security breach to the site, and also exhausted by some problems in my social work life (more on this later), meeting and spending time with Alex truly felt like shelter from the storm.

Thank you, Alex!

Laffey Gave Giuliani $9,200

A reader has tuned me in to an interesting device at The New York Times that helps you find out who gave money to which presidential candidate. You just enter a zip code and pick a candidate. So far, I have learned that Steve Laffey (and his wife) gave Giuliani a total of $9,200. I have also learned that Mark Cullion of Cullion Concrete gave Hillary Clinton $1,000. The page to do this is available here.

Feel free to do your own searches and enter your findings in the comments here at Kmareka.

Lettin’ Our Freak Flags Fly

So happy to see that the voice of freedom is up again, because the thought police are messing with me.

For over two years I have been standing out on South Main St. holding a ragged cardboard sign with the latest from the New York Times ‘Names of the Dead’ count every Saturday. I got hooked on the NYT after 9/11, because they ran a tribute to every person who died in the World Trade Towers. I sat in the White Electric coffee shop, reading and mourning, as each day’s paper reported what we had lost. So for everyone who wonders whether we peace freaks remember 9/11, the answer is ‘yes’. The same as I remember the assassination of JFK. It’s one of those violations that makes the world a worse place and since that day, many have died.

But what inspired me to put together a cardboard sign and hold it up on the street was this episode in the Bush adm., as the war gained momentum–

Asked how many American troops have died in Iraq, the Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian estimated Thursday the total was about 500 — more than 200 soldiers short.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was asked about the toll at a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee. “It’s approximately 500, of which — I can get the exact numbers — approximately 350 are combat deaths,” he responded

“He misspoke,” spokesman Charley Cooper said later. “That’s all.”

That, of course, was early in the war, in 2004.

Today, the toll is close to 4,000. And Paul Wolfowitz, after making an ethics mess at the World Bank, is back in power—

WASHINGTON – Paul Wolfowitz, the former World Bank president and former deputy secretary of defense who was instrumental in the US decision to invade Iraq in 2003, has been named chairman of a panel that advises the State Department on arms-control issues.

Wolfowitz was among the senior US officials who warned of Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction capabilities, a key justification for invading Iraq and toppling the late dictator Saddam Hussein.

“Disarming Iraq of its chemical and biological weapons and dismantling its nuclear weapons program is a crucial part of winning the war on terror,” Wolfowitz told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in January 2003, two months before the US-led invasion of Iraq.

A United Nations report in September 2004 found that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction at the time of the invasion.

A US-appointed fact-finding commission reached the same conclusion in March 2005.

Joseph Cirincione, a senior fellow and director for nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based policy research group, criticized Wolfowitz’s appointment.

“The advice given by Paul Wolfowitz over the past six years ranks among the worst provided by any defense official in history,” Cirincione said. “I have no idea why anyone would want more.”

My fellow Americans, I don’t want any more of this. We had better turn this around by the vote in November, if we don’t want our nation to fall to vandals, thieves and arsonists. I hear endlessly in the news that the economy is the first concern of Americans, and all our people in Iraq and Afghanistan are way on the back burner. I don’t believe that, because that is not what I hear from the people, old and young, I talk to every day. As our troops come home, they find our nation poorer and more cynical. I don’t have much faith in leaders, but when the people lead, the leaders will eventually follow.

More information is available on this issue at The Washington Post.

Cranston News on Concrete and Education

Jesse from Cranston writes with some news, predictions, and opinions on the Cranston scene:

Just wanted to remind you that the city council will be taking up Emilio’s resolution on the $1.9 m proposed payment to Cullion. I’m sure many people will want to attend this meeting.

Here’s a news flash for you: The school committee has issued a letter to the City Council requesting $3.8 million in additional funding, and formally threatening a Caruolo action if the city does not comply. People will probably hear about this for the first time Monday night, as the ProJo generally does not print local news on Mondays — so now you have a scoop.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the school board’s letter is talked about on Monday. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Council tries to discuss 1.) the $1.9 million figure and how it was reached; 2.) the supposed $4 million cost of further litigation; and 3.) the potential for officially declaring the permit invalid and going to Superior Court for summary judgment. This would leave Cullion with no permit, worthless land, and no settlement.

Here’s the potential information that could come to light:

1.) The $1.9 is incorrectly based on an assessment that assumes an industrial use — which the land is not zoned for. Assessing the land based on open space would lower that figure substantially, and such a move has precedent in a recent state case in North Kingstown. One issue here is, the assessments were discussed in executive session (as allowed under Open Meeting Law exemptions for litigation), and the city lawyers may object to discussing them publicly.

2.) The $4 million was Judge Weisberger’s estimate. Considering how rarely judges agree, this figure is somewhat suspect, and I feel, quite misleading.

3.) Council President Garabedian previously said at a public meeting last March that he thought the mayor didn’t have the authority to withdraw the permit, based on reviewing only local zoning statutes. But looking strictly at the City Charter and state law, he may be ready to admit that his earlier assessment was wrong and support a new tack by the Council.

And now, a final bit of opinion…

Given the fact that the city has so many judgments hanging over it — the Prov Water deal, the Valley settlement, and the Caruolo suit — it makes little financial sense to fork over nearly $2 million to a company that got an illegal permit in the first place. Going to court based on the Charter and state law would result in a comparably quick decision, since it would go to Superior Court for summary judgment. In cases like that, the sides stipulate to a set of facts (as opposed to arguing over them), and the judge makes a ruling. I’m not sure what the precedent is for appeals of these decisions.

And for those wondering about Kmareka’s technical difficulties, we have finally put to death the mighty spam monster from hell, but it appears that our database may have lost a few functions in the process, which may mean starting a new database. For now, comments are back open.

Plan to Increase 6th Grade Classes at Eden Park Nixed

PTO President for Eden Park Elementary School, Liz Iacobucci, provided the following update on Wednesday regarding the 6th grade move. The school committee has backed off on its plan to send Waterman’s 6th grade to Eden Park. From the email:

Parents,

Yesterday Deb Griefer visited Eden Park to see for herself the conditions of the portable classroom and basement. She was to bring back her findings to the school committee meeting held last night. I was in attendance at that meeting and every single member on the school committee questioned Peter Nero (Assistant Superintendent) if Eden Park in fact did have the proper space to house yet two more classes. I am happy to say that our e-mails did make a difference in this case. The decision was made to keep 6th grade at Waterman and send AM and PM Waterman kindergarten to Garden City.

The reason in which Garden City was not considered to house the 6th grade from Waterman is because Garden City has 3 available classrooms. Two of those classes rooms will be for their own 6th grade classes so they are left with only one additional classroom. Since both AM and PM kindergarten only need one class room, they all agreed that the better move with be to bus the kindergarten children.

I must add that Peter Nero did say that when he went to Eden Park, the basement was used as classrooms and there would be no reason why it couldn’t be used again if needed. He did not agree that they were unsuitable for classroom use. Which leads me to believe that when they propose all day kindergarten, somebody will end up in the basement. (I disagree with him, I believe they are unsuitable for a 6 hour day for children) That will have to be another fight for another time.

For now it looks like this. The library will be moved to the portables and the current library room will be used as one 6th grade class. The reading room will either go back down to the basement, along with guidance, resource, and speech therapy, or move to the other side of the portable, and the current reading room will be used as the second 6th grade class.
Music and Art will be on a cart and rolled into each individual class. The portable will continue to be used for team meetings, choir, strings, instrumental such as flute, clarinet ect.. as well as shared with, library and possibly reading.

I will continue to keep you updated.

Thank you for your e-mails to the school committee. In this case, they really made a difference.

Liz

I am grateful for such a dedicated PTO President. The parents of the kindergarteners and first graders at Waterman are obviously not going to be happy about this.

Stormy Weather on the Stock Exchange

I shouldn’t gloat. It’s like cutting off my nose to spite my face. Because when Wall Street sneezes, working people get pneumonia.

But I remember that film clip from ‘Fahrenheit 9/11′, when President Bush is in a tuxedo talking to his base, ‘the haves, and the have mores’. I wonder if his popularity sinks a bit when the stock market tanks like it did this week. All those valuable families losing dividends.

If you run a small business, like ‘Miss Fannie’s Soul Food’, and the cash flow gets too tight, it’s your problem and you close your doors. If you run a mega business, and the cash flow gets too tight, you remind the Pres that you are his base, and if you go down you’ll take a lot of people down with you. The government changes the rules, prints up some Bush Bills, and the stock market is happy.

It’s not so happy for us when it takes more Bush Bills to pay for the gas and the groceries and the heat and the tuition. But a system built on ever-rising profits from endlessly expanding consumption cannot possibly last. It’s a positive feedback loop, totally unsustainable.

So I laugh when I see the Dow go down, even though I know that it’s me who’s going to get hurt.

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