Financial Rescue for Rhode Island

It looks like Connecticut is trying to get ahead of us, but there’s still an opportunity to cash in on the passing of Proposition 8 in California.

It’s a setback for fairness, yes. And I’m sorry about California, but it’s an ill wind blows nobody good. In other words, we have to make the best of it.

Rhode Island with its beautiful coastline, excess of hotels, and growing tourism industry is right in position to become a wedding destination. The Governor should sign an executive order right now, before it snows.

Not only will marriage equality bring in out of state couples to spend money here, it will put pressure on Rhode Islanders to make it legal. Lots of tux rental dollars generated. And gay people are well-represented in fashion and entertainment. That means there could be a fad for being married in the smallest state. We could be like Vegas, only more Catholic and chillier and darker and more pessimistic. At least we have Waterfire.

We’re already doing the organized gambling thing, and every time some casino owner comes around we go for it. Gambling has documented social costs. Gay marriage is alleged to be a threat to straight marriage but where is the evidence? Who do you know who picked up the ‘Weddings and Celebrations’ section of the New York Times and turned to their loving spouse and said, “That’s it, I want a divorce! Two guys named Brad just got married.�

No, we marriage veterans know that there are reasons far more immediate to call a lawyer. On a bad day, one might say, “Let ‘em marry–that’ll show ‘em.�

But divorce lawyers are people too, and they need to work for a living. Inevitably there will be a market for gay divorce services. We might as well make the best of that, too.

Please consider this, Governor Carcieri. You’re not afraid to be bold when cutting children’s health insurance. Write that executive order today. Don’t let Massachusetts and Connecticut get all the tourists this summer.

Wii Can Cure Anxiety and Depression, Too?

(cross-posted from my private practice site at kierstenmarek.com)

Now that we’ve gotten that pesky election out of the way, we can talk about really important things like Self Help Video Games!

Seriously, though, there is interesting news for therapists and gamers out there — a whole new fleet of video games are being developed to help people combat problems such as smoking and being overweight, with video games for depression, anxiety, and anger management not far off, I’m sure. Are therapists about to be replaced by Nintendo? Maybe for some people, but more than likely this transition will mean that for a select group of people, therapists will have a new tool to use to help people help themselves.

Read the full article at sfgate.com.

West Warwick has a Plan to Fix School Finance

Often one of the signs of a marriage in big trouble is when one of the parties starts spending money they don’t have. It signals a major breach in the trust that is the foundation for the relationship — that one person is knowingly doing something that may bring financial harm to the couple or group.

It could be argued that we have suffered a similar kind of breakdown here in Cranston with our schools and our city not being able to maintain a strong enough relationship to keep away financial harm. We are not alone. Other cities in the state, including West Warwick, have suffered a similar fate.

But now, in West Warwick, there are signs of hope:

[…] In recent years, the chasm between the town and schools widened, as council members resented the schools’ increased spending, and the School Committee replied that it had no choice because of costly mandates and shrinking state aid. The two groups barely spoke, except around budget season.

In exchange for paying the schools’ outstanding bills, the town was able to build in a communication structure. The deal, brokered days before the suit was set to go to trial in Superior Court last month, requires the Town Council and School Committee to send liaisons — the town manager and superintendent, respectively — to a meeting once a quarter with the other body. The groups also agreed to meet together “as many times as necessary� to talk about financial and other matters.

With better communication, “this could have been settled back six months ago,� said outgoing School Committee Chairman Daniel T. Burns Jr. “It wasn’t. And now we’ve paid a lot of lawyers on both sides.�

Town Solicitor Timothy A. Williamson said Thursday that he plans to provide the exact cost to the town next week, including the costs of experts, transcripts and an $85,000 program audit. He did say the defense cost the town “less than Cranston,� which spent more than $207,000 to defend against a Caruolo lawsuit earlier this year.

Apparently we’re the big spenders on Caruolo actions here in Cranston. Other municipalities make themselves feel better by comparing their Caruolo spending to ours.

[…] THE AGREEMENT also calls for the School Department to seek to renegotiate its current contract with the West Warwick Teachers Alliance. Unofficial conversations between members of the School Committee and union officials have already begun, said Burns. As for official talks, the teachers’ union hasn’t gotten a formal request, said its president, Donald E. Vanasse. But he said, “I stand by the proposition that it never hurts to talk, or at least meet.â€?

The agreement also calls for the town and schools to develop a joint plan to consolidate departments — such as finance, human resources and building maintenance — by the end of the month. The schools are also required to meet with a labor lawyer who will inspect their current labor contracts and advise them.

The talk about consolidating departments goes back 20 years in Cranston, and probably just as long in other cities and towns. Hopefully this money-saving consolidation will become reality now.

Good Stress

I’m still adjusting. You get used to snarking from the outside and playing defense. I’m happy, I’m starting to feel hope, but it’s not quite real yet. And I’m very tired. On the stress scale, good events can cause stress as you adjust your life to accommodate change.

It feels like the poles of the universe have shifted, or just my assumptions of what is possible.

I’m speechless, so I’d like to post some good words from Mr. Green. Follow the link to the Liberty Elm diner on election night, courtesy of ProJo.com.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

My older daughter had her ninth birthday party today at the Cranston YMCA. It was well-attended and everyone had a great time in the pool. Then, on top of it, they were having a “Family Fall Festival” with a Space Bounce in the Gym, a Pinata at 3:15 and a candy hunt on the playground at 3:30. It was like having a birthday party with all these special unexpected bonuses added on. The kids were positively giddy by the end.

So thanks to the Cranston YMCA! Next year I will make sure to post a notice about the “Family Fall Festival” on Kmareka ahead of time.

Members of the Cranston community are always welcome to send me information about local family-friendly and/or educational events they would like publicized. Hope you are enjoying your weekend.

On Victory, Defeat, and Hope

The world feels so quiet and colorful here in Cranston, RI as the leaves fall and we begin to experience life after Bush, life on the yet-to-be-explored frontier of Obamaland. It felt to me from early on that Obama was inevitable, even before I became a true believer, and while I made phone calls for Obama on Saturday night with friends, calling Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado (all states Obama won) it was easy work — many people answered gladly that they would be supporting Obama. In a way it felt like victory was imminent, and part of me wondered if Obama’s grandmother also felt that imminence and finally relaxed and let go of her mortal self, left the earth in peace with confidence in a job well done.

Here in Cranston we also had another significant victory as Stephanie Culhane became our new school committee representative for Ward 2. It may feel, compared to Obama’s victory, like this is small potatoes, but not so — very few people have the courage to run for such a selfless job, and even fewer have the voice, skills, and ambition to win. Hats off to Stephanie and her campaign team, and as I said to her on Facebook, I hope she can take care of that pesky 8 million dollar deficit problem lickety-split (LOL!).

But while there were many large and significant victories, I also became more intimate with the experience of defeat last night, as Cindy Fogarty lost to Allan Fung 37-63%. Some things never change. Losing still stinks, no matter how old you get or how many times you weather it. It hurts to acknowledge the disappointment, and to begin to grapple with how much of the loss was your own responsibility versus factors that were outside of your control.

But nothing is ever wasted. I took on the job because I wanted the experience, and I kept working at it until the end because I had made the commitment and wanted to see it through. As a result, I learned tremendously about many things — the financial and educational issues Cranston is facing, the process of planning and running a campaign, the process of trying to build a movement. I became more appreciative of the work involved in trying to bring people together for a common goal when there is a recent history of division and warring factions within the group.

I always give people as much hope as possible. It’s part of my job as a clinical social worker. When families come to me feeling hopeless about their child’s behavior, when couples come to me unable to feel hopeful about their marriage, with their emotional “gas tank” running on empty, I look for ways in which we, together, can imagine and build a better future.

I believe in relationships. In taking on the campaign manager role for the Fogarty campaign, I believed that, with the right support and guidance, a strong Democratic challenge could be created. But sometimes I overestimate the power of relationships — a tendency that plays out as both a weakness and a strength for me. It’s the same tendency that got me out there supporting Obama early on — because he engaged my ability to imagine myself and so many other people having a different relationship with our country where we would be heard and known, where we would be “at the table” of decision-making to move the country in a better direction.

Over the next 30 days, I have decided to write daily about the experience of managing the Fogarty for Mayor campaign. It was an important opportunity, a touchstone that connected me with the community and helped me understand the many dynamics at play in Cranston politics. In concert with National Novel Writing Month (though this will be memoir), I am going to take this opportunity to present that experience and try to draw some “life lessons” from it. I will also bring into the story the many people I met and worked with along the way and how they influenced me, and/or how I influenced them, as the campaign unfolded.

Think of it as a local political soap opera with daily installments. Tune in tomorrow for more As the Campaign Turns.

Election Night

We spent election night with our good friend, Mary Grady, from Natural News Network. She is a professional writer, and has a great post about the scene at the Liberty Elm Diner and the Biltmore. You can read it here. What were you doing on Tuesday?