Category Archives: Interviews

Sorry About That — Pass the Grey Poupon

An amazing interview with Rep. Dennis Kucinich by Meg White is at Buzzflash. Kucinich recently introduced articles of impeachment against President Bush for lying us into war. This would have gotten press coverage, except that Angelina Jolie was doing something last week and the press has to prioritize. Luckily, you can go to Buzzflash and read this–

“Where’s our heart here? What is going on that we can’t connect with the suffering of other people?” he asked. “We can’t say, ‘Oh, yeah, we went into a war, they didn’t tell the truth and all these people died. Sorry about that. Pass the Grey Poupon.’ We can’t do that. We cannot become so callous that we don’t care that innocent people are killed. This is what’s driving me.”

Check out the rest of the interview for details of the impeachment, who else signed on, and what the next step will be.

Cable TV Interview at 5:30 on Channel 18

UPDATE: I’m not sure what happened, but the show did not broadcast. Sorry — I’ll let you know when it’s going to be on.

We don’t have cable TV, but luckily I’ll be at work tonight, so if I can convince a bunch of rowdy teenagers to cooperate, we might be able to see this. The show will be broadcast at 5:30 pm on channel 18. It’s a half-hour interview with me conducted by Rebecca Flores-Amado, (scroll down on the linked page to see her bio) in which we discuss what it’s like to start and run a blog and how blogging is part of my larger vision of what it means to be a progressive citizen and a clinical social worker.

Interview with Senator Jack Reed

Issues discussed in the interview include: the Iraq War and Senator Reed’s response to the President’s current plan, Senator Reed’s plan going forward in conjunction with Senator Levin, the Biden-Gelb plan and its feasibility, concerns regarding the long-term effects of war on American military service personnel, including PTSD, and whether our VA’s are funded to handle the issues, health care and the crisis of the uninsured, Senator Reed’s efforts to fund SCHIP for the state of Rhode Island, the medicare prescription drug benefit and Reed’s support of the proposed changes, education funding from the national level and fulfilling the promise to fund special education under IDEA, addressing the national deficit by stopping the President’s tax cuts, funding alternative energy projects in the US. The interview is approximately 22 minutes long.

Supporting the Alternatives for Iraq

Contrary to what the President and other conservatives would have you believe, those who favor a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq do have alternative plans for how to achieve stability. The Iraq Study group provided its recommendations, which include no increase in troops and more efforts at stabilizing the region overall. The full report from the Iraq Study Group is available here. The Center for American Progress also provides a plan for moving forward responsibly in Iraq. Also, Senator Joe Biden has established a plan in conjunction with Leslie Gelb, which calls for creating a sustainable political settlement among the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, including dividing up the region and dividing the oil so that all the sects have access to a certain amount. The US would remain involved in the reconstruction effort but would call on allies in the Mideast to do their part to ensure stability among the sects of Iraqi people. The Biden-Gelb plan is being praised by voices as diverse as Bill O’Reilly, Bill Richardson, and Henry Kissinger.

Today I am meeting with Senator Jack Reed and hope to discuss some of the alternative plans to addressing the Iraq situation. I encourage people to read about these plans and to consider endorsing the Biden plan as a way to let Congress know that Americans are not “surrender monkeys.” We are people who care about our country and about Iraq, and we want to find a way to move forward that will avert further death, trauma, and loss for everyone.

Interview with Mike Traficante

Here is the interview, wherein the following topics were discussed: how education funding has changed since the 1980′s and 90′s, how much of education costs are salary and benefits, the new law which caps education spending, what cuts might be enacted, school closings, merging the comprehensive and college tracks on the high school level, seeking grant funding, contacting state legislators and our federal delegation, merging school districts, merging the city’s school departments with the municipal departments, privatizing of education, merit pay for teachers, medicaid reimbursement for special education.

Upcoming Interview with Mike Traficante

Times are tough for schools. The funding of our schools, and the reducing of quality in education, is something that nearly every school district in the nation is facing. While there is a perennial tension between schools wanting more and local budgets being loathe to give to them, things have gotten significantly tighter in Rhode Island and in other areas of the country. One reason why things are tighter in Rhode Island is that the state legislature passed a bill this past summer mandating that no school district could increase its budget by more than 5.25 percent.

Mike Traficante, our current School Committee Chair, has a long history of involvement with schools and school funding. He started his career as a teacher, coach, and assistant high school principal, and eventually moved on to become Mayor of Cranston, a position which he held for an astonishing 14 years.

On Wednesday morning, I’ll be sitting down with Chairman Traficante to discuss the circumstances of our local education funding crisis. I’m planning to digitally record the interview and use a cool website called Evoca to upload the interview to the internet for public listening.

Interview with Senator Jack Reed

Good news, everyone! Senator Reed’s office contacted me today and they are interested in having me sit down with the Senator for an interview. Here’s where you do your part and help me plan the topics for this interview. Comment away all you several hundred people out there who are coming to this place every week!

One idea that David suggested was approaching the interview from a social work perspective and talking about the number of walking wounded returning to the US from Iraq. Another thought of David’s was to ask Senator Reed had any regrets about votes he has made in the past while. Also, David suggested trying to elicit his forward-thinking vision for the Iraq war.

On a more personal note, I am looking forward to congratulating the Senator personally on the birth of his daughter. This is a great occasion in his life.

NPR’s Radio Open Source on The US Senate Race in RI

Tomorrow night on NPR’s Radio Open Source, the topic will be the Rhode Island Senate Race and they’ve asked me to join the conversation! According to one of the program’s producers, they are interviewing Rhode Island bloggers who “can offer a perspective about Rhode Island living that will differ from what those enmeshed in the political landscape might say.” So wish me luck in my 15 minutes of radio fame, and be sure to listen to Radio Open Source Tuesday at 7 pm.

Emilio Navarro, Endorsed Democrat, Ward 2

Emilio Navarro has lived in Cranston since 1997 and is employed by Colony Ford Commercial Truck Sales. He is pictured above with his wife, Yvette, and their children, Casey, Austin, and Marcus.

School Funding

1. The school department, which got a 7% increase in funding from the city this year, is still short $2.6 million for the 2006/2007 budget after receiving its state aid. In January of 2007, they approach the city council and ask for $2.6 million from the city’s surplus in order to cover their costs. As a member of the council, how would you deal with this request?

I would think a request of 2.6 million from the city’s surplus in January 2007 would be way too late. The school department should be level funded come January 2007. But if this were not the case, I feel a plan should be implemented to prevent such a request in the future. The plan would call for the school department, the administration, school committee and city council to collaborate, work together, as opposed to each body working in a vacuum, to see that our children’s schools get level funding or the appropriate money to fund the school budget each and every year. With everyone’s input, the budget should come to the city council ready for approval.

School Closings

2. Although next year’s school budget is funded with another 7% increase from the city, they still do not have enough money to cover their costs and announce that they are going to have to close Daniel D. Waterman Elementary school unless the city comes up with more money for the schools. How would you handle this?

I am never pleased to see and hear about school closings in my neighborhood and I believe no educators like to see it as well. Our school committee officials are the body that decides whether schools are opened or closed. In a case of opting to close Daniel D. Waterman Elementary school, I don’t see that as an option to save the school department money. In fact, it would cost the school department more, because they would have to build a new school to replace it. We will always need a school like Waterman in our area.

Police Contract

3. In March of 2007, the new Mayor announces that he has reached a contract with the police department, long overdue from 2006. This contract includes yearly raises of 3.5%, 4.5% and 4% for each year of the three-year contract. There is a 3% copay for healthcare. There are no provisions for increasing the number of officers or for minority recruitment, although both were recommended in a 2003 audit. Would you approve this contract?

I would not make any decisions based on recommendations made in a 2003 audit that was deemed inconclusive by the Auditor General for the State of Rhode Island. With that said, I am not opposed to yearly raises on any contract but I am not sure if 3.5%, 4.5% and 4.0% is the best way for the city to budget the increases. I would want to look at all the options to best structure the increases. For example, it might be better for the city to have a level increase for the three years, 4% each year in order to make it easier for the city to stay in line with the budget over that three-year period.

Floods

4. 2007 brings more floods, including flooding again on Fordson Ave and some surrounding areas. Would you advocate for the city to help residents in flooded areas? If so, what kind of help?

Absolutely, I would advocate for the city to help residents in flooded areas. I would like to see the city set up an emergency fund in case of disasters, such as hurricanes and floods. The City could tap into this emergency fund to help families with food and shelter. The city should also be prepared to handle families that will be displaced from their homes and have affordable temporary shelter for them. For example, the city should have arrangements at the local hotels for families at a discounted rate.

Federal Funding

5. The New Mayor announces that he has gotten letters from Rep. Langevin and Sen. XXX asking if there are projects that the city would like to seek federal funds to pursue. These include projects for economic development, parks and facilities improvement, safety, education, and social services. What projects, if any, would you suggest for Ward 2, or for the city as a whole?

I would submit for the city to pursue federal funds for projects that would help alleviate the flooding problem we now have in Ward 2. I would want the projects to include finding ways to prevent the flooding that goes on in the Fordson and Davis Ave area. Examples may be building a pump station or spending the money in fixing local drains and keeping drains in those affected areas clear to prevent backup. Also, there are several streets like Aqueduct that are frequented by children because of the recreational facility and by having speed bumps to slow traffic down would help with the safety concerns of most residents.

More information on Emilio Navarro is available at his campaign website.

Mark Lucas, Republican, Ward 2


Mark Lucas has lived in Cranston since 1999 and is a Realtor with Prudential Gammons Realty. He is pictured above with his wife, Meg, and their children, Ryan and Caitlin. Regarding this survey, Mark prefaced his responses by saying, “Decisions cannot be made in a vacuum. Each of these scenarios would be subject to a number of conditions that would need to be considered before deciding on the most viable and appropriate course of action. That being said, I’ll be happy to give you my hypothetical responses.”

School Funding

1. The school department, which got a 7% increase in funding from the city this year, is still short $2.6 million for the 2006/2007 budget after receiving its state aid. In January of 2007, they approach the city council and ask for $2.6 million from the city’s surplus in order to cover their costs. As a member of the council, how would you deal with this request?

A performance audit of the Cranston Public Schools has identified over $1.68 Million of cost savings that could be realized by making changes in how the school system is managed. These cost savings would not impact the children in any way.

The Cranston Public Schools should implement every cost-saving measure before seeking help in paying their bills. The city surplus exists in case of catastrophic events and serves as a health indicator for the bond rating agencies. It is not a safety net for poor management decisions.

I would caution anyone who wishes to raid the city surplus to remember that it is precisely this type of action that nearly bankrupted Cranston only five years ago.

School Closings

2. Although next year’s school budget is funded with another 7% increase from the city, they still do not have enough money to cover their costs and announce that they are going to have to close Daniel D. Waterman Elementary school unless the city comes up with more money for the schools. How would you handle this?

As a parent of a Horton Elementary student and one of several who led the fight against closing the school, I have a personal stake in this issue.

The neighborhood school system is a big part of what makes Cranston such a great city. Closing a school should be the option of last resort, not a quick budget fix.

The operating budget for Waterman is approximately $1 Million. There are a number of cost-saving measures that could be implemented (referring to the performance audit) to free up more than enough money to keep Waterman open (and Horton, too.) I would expect that the School Department, working in conjunction with the School Committee, explore all other cost-saving options before attempting to close yet another high-performing elementary school.

The school funding and budgeting process here in Cranston appears to be broken. If elected, I will introduce a resolution calling for changes in the way the school system is funded. Either 1.) the Cranston School Committee must be subject to the control of the City’s taxing authority (the City Council) or 2.) the Cranston School Committee must have its own taxing authority.

Our children must not be used as bargaining chips in the school budgeting process.

Police Contract

3. In March of 2007, the new Mayor announces that he has reached a contract with the police department, long overdue from 2006. This contract includes yearly raises of 3.5%, 4.5% and 4% for each year of the three-year contract. There is a 3% copay for healthcare. There are no provisions for increasing the number of officers or for minority recruitment, although both were recommended in a 2003 audit. Would you approve this contract?

Hypothetically, no.

Recently, the Mayor asked for recommendations from the City Council as the contract season began – a sort of “wish list.� Only 2 of the 9 Councilors responded (Allan Fung and Jeff Barone.)

Regardless of which side of the aisle the Mayor’s administration sits, I would ensure that my “wish list� as well as my rationale are provided well before contract negotiations are under way.

As a graduate of the Cranston Citizen’s Police Academy, I know that the Police are underpaid, understaffed, and in need of minority recruitment. As a Cranston resident, I know we are overtaxed at the local, state and federal level. As an elected official, it would be my job to provide a balanced solution; advocate for improvements where needed as well as provide a return on investment (ROI) analysis to ensure that the taxpayer is getting the most from their tax dollar.

Floods

4. 2007 brings more floods, including flooding again on Fordson Ave and some surrounding areas. Would you advocate for the city to help residents in flooded areas? If so, what kind of help?

All Cranston residents in areas prone to flooding should own Flood Insurance to protect themselves from loss (floodsmart.gov is a great source of information and has a web-based tool to determine if your property is in a high-risk area.)

The City should do everything within its power to ensure that its infrastructure (storm drains, etc.) is performing at peak efficiency. The City should also ensure that waterways are clear of debris that would contribute to flooding.

Additionally, I support the creation of a revolving fund that provides rapid, zero-interest loans to residents to cover immediate needs in the event of flooding (acting as a type of “gap insurance� between what one would recoup from insurance and one’s deductibles, incidental expenses, etc.)

Federal Funding

5. The New Mayor announces that he has gotten letters from Rep. Langevin and Sen. XXX asking if there are projects that the city would like to seek federal funds to pursue. These include projects for economic development, parks and facilities improvement, safety, education, and social services. What projects, if any, would you suggest for Ward 2, or for the city as a whole?

It’s important to understand that federal funds are not “free money� – we provide that money via those taxes that are imposed on us. We need to balance what we want with what we can afford and explore all funding sources, including private citizens and industry, local and national foundations, and volunteer organizations.

That being said, in Ward 2 we need to:

Revive the Rolfe Street business district (Cranston’s “Main Street.�)

Build or upgrade children’s parks in each neighborhood – Forest Hills, Auburn, Auburn/Friendly, South Auburn, and Eden Park.

Create a more comprehensive and effective program for neighborhood traffic management. (Applicable to all of Cranston.)

Ensure that businesses do not unnecessarily encroach upon residential neighborhoods.

Preserve our neighborhood school model. (Applicable to all of Cranston.)

Ensure that those who may benefit from social service programs have access to those programs. This could be done through satellite offices staffed by volunteers. (Applicable to all of Cranston.)

Create and foster the continued development of community organizations to spearhead neighborhood revitalization/growth. (Applicable to all of Cranston.)

More information on Mark Lucas is available at his campaign website, electlucas.com.

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