UPDATE: I ran into Allan Fung, close-running contender for Mayor of Cranston, at Tuesday night’s meeting. I had asked him, “Would you have done this to the schools, given them a zero dollar increase?” Fung responded, “Absolutely not.” In an email I received today, Fung elaborated.
“I would have provided some funding to the schools. I thought it was outrageous that the Mayor did not fund one red cent to the schools, especially when he is calling for a 5 1/4% tax increase. Even when we were in junk bond status, we provided as much funding as we could to the schools. The city is in much better shape, a positive outlook with one rating agency, and not in junk bond status.”
Fung also provided more detail about the new, more expensive car lease for Mayor Napolitano’s vehicle. He stated that Napolitano’s line item for his car lease is for $5,500 a year for a Mercury Montenegro. Laffey’s lease was for a Mercury Mountaineer and was for either $3,300 or $3,500.
Fung also said in reviewing Napolitano’s budget: “I’m finding his budget numbers just don’t add up.” Among other issues, he expressed concern that Napolitano’s budget may be severely underfunding the police and fire pensions.
ORIGINAL POST: I went to the meeting of the Cranston City Council on Tuesday, where parents were asked to show up and offer their support for funding the schools, which our Mayor, Michael Napolitano, has chosen not to do. The school department promised to give a 30 minute presentation, starting at 7 pm, which was still going on when I left at about 8:20. But before that, there was a short presentation by Mayor Napolitano. From the Projo:
Napolitano was the first to face the crowd and let it be known that there will be no argument from him if the council figures out a way to allocate more money to the School Department. â€œI did not want to level-fund the schools,â€? he said. â€œThis is one of the most difficult things Iâ€™ve had to do.â€?
â€œThis is not a mayor who stands before you who does not want to fund the schools,â€? Napolitano said. â€œI just donâ€™t have the money.â€? [full text]
This act has marked you, Mayor Napolitano. In my mind, it has marked you as someone who deliberately does unreasonable things in order to provoke a reaction. You can protest until the cows come home about how much you care about education, but it just doesn’t ring true when your budget does not allocate one single dollar in increases for the actual acts of educating children in our city. You have effectively alienated your core constituency. As a high-ranking member of the Democratic party commented when I described your budget at a fundraiser last Thursday, “That’s not a good way to start.”
Even Steve Laffey does not wear this mark. For all his bluff and bluster, Mayor Laffey funded the schools, and now it looks like he funded them well — above 5% every year. Last year, he gave them 7%. The fact that you can fund increases for the city-side budget, including an increase in the cost of the Mayor’s car (50% more than Laffey’s car cost), calls into question the quality of your leadership.
I’m going to speak for some of the little people now, the “cast of a thousand” sitting in the audience, waiting for a chance to express our disappointment and distress over this lack of support for the schools. It is an insult to me as a parent and taxpayer that you could not find a way to allocate any money at all for the schools. The only possible explanation that I can come up with for why you are doing this is that you are trying to start a fight. Mayor Napolitano, you promised to bring a less contentious approach to the role of leader of our city. You are falling down on the job. Advocating for better funding on the state level is necessary, but you also have to show that you are willing to ante up and value all aspects of our city, especially our schools.
Perhaps this is some master plan on the state level to starve schools of funding until they stop giving raises and benefits to teachers and administrators that exceed the pay of many private sector jobs in the state. Be that as it may, the way to address this issue is in negotiating the contract with the teachers when it comes up again in 2008, not in engaging the school department and the city in more expensive litigation.
Since I saw many people leaving early on Tuesday night, and I heard from a friend that it wasn’t until after 9:15 that people other than elected officials and school administrators got to speak, I would like to offer Kmareka as a place where people can register their views about the issue of funding our schools in Cranston. Please step up to the virtual microphone, feel free to use a pseudonym, and share your opinion about what needs to happen to sustain quality education in Cranston.