Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 03-14-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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12 OPINION MARCH 14-20, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION It is a rare occasion when I praise the Rhode Island speaker of the House and Senate president. Praise is due, however, for their recent actions. Here are the reasons why: • House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello – He was criticized last week for allowing a committee vote on legislation related to abor- tion access. Ultimately, it was up to entire House of Representatives to approve or disapprove the bill (they approved it). His critics were wrong to excoriate him. For years the House of Representatives was anything but, having been the "Rule By One," i.e., only what the speaker wanted would emerge out of committee. Voters send people to the legislature to represent their interests. They don't expect or want what one person alone decides can be voted on or not. The fact is that the nature of abortion-related legislation is controversial, which precisely is the reason why debate should ensue. Partisans should not pick and choose what issues they want one person to act on as gatekeeper just because it is "their" issue. Democracy should prevail and the pro- cess shouldn't be stop-gapped by one person. Further, it is important for the public to know where their legislators stand on important policy. • Senate President Dominick Ruggerio – He introduced legislation that would bring transparency to all pensions with at least 200 members that are not covered by the Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). His initiative would require these pension plans to submit to the same public scrutiny, including public reporting of all its lia- bilities and assets. Ruggerio's legislation is crucial, particu- larly after what happened to the participants in the St. Joseph Health Services pen- sion plan. Some 30 months ago those members learned that their pension administra- tors went to court seeking to cut their paltry pensions by 40 percent (it's still pending) because the Catholic bishop, inter alia, stopped putting in the necessary funds for sus- taining the plan. (Note: This writer and Robert Senville represent the elderly pen- sioners ages 75-99 of age in pending litigation). Had the Ruggerio legislation been in existence in 2014 and for- ward, the pensioners would have been able to learn of and monitor the deficit and seek remedies before catas- trophe hit. Workers in similar "private/exempt pensions should have access to accu- rate information in order to avoid the heartache visited upon the St. Joseph pension participants. Ruggerio also submitted legislation that would bring greater transparency to the hospital conversion process. The bill would extend the monitoring of hospital con- versions from three to five years, increase monetary fines for violations from $1 million to $2 million, and simplify judicial review of decisions related to hospi- tal conversion. This added protection supplements the law introduced last year by Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey, which required interviews by the Attorney General and the Department of Health, two cogs in the conversion prog- ress, to conduct interviews under oath with a stenogra- pher recording the represen- tations made by those seek- ing conversion. In that way deception and misdirection can be sidelined. Kudos then to the two lead- ers for these steps. Hopefully, Mattiello will continue in the path of allowing committees to report out legislation (or not) based on the votes of its members who have vet- ted the merits via testimony at their respective hearings. Similarly Ruggerio has shown he has his ear to the ground when it comes to vindicating the rights of all workers. Violet is an attorney and for- mer state attorney general. Mattiello, Ruggerio earn praise I may be changing my mind on this Daylight Savings Time business. It seems too soon now. In my case, I get up early, as do many schoolchildren. We are now pushed back into semi-darkness – if only for a few weeks – as we head to the school or office. Do I really need the "after- work sunlight" in March? I think not. I love having it in summer for yard work, but what's the point now? I'm probably in the minority on this, but it's my opinion. I'm ready to go back to how things used to be. In 2006 and prior, the change took place on the first Sunday in April, or two to three weeks later than now. (The fall change only moved one week. I have no quarrel with that). Are they kidding? It was very disheartening to read a story from Cumberland last week. It seems some par- ents in town – parents who may have plenty of money – simply don't feel like paying for their child's school lunches. In fact, they are bragging about it on social media, saying in essence, "let the other people in town pay for my kid's lunch." The "other people in town" are out $50,000 so far. Thankfully, School Committee member Mark Fiorillo, head of the School Committee's policies and pro- cedures subcommittee, has seen enough. As we reported last week, "Some of the biggest offend- ers, said Fiorillo at the Feb. 28 meeting, are in the most afflu- ent sections of town. These par- ents are posting on Facebook stating that they're not paying their lunch bill balance 'just because they don't feel like paying for meals.'" To be clear, this is not about helping students truly in need. This is about those who may more easily afford a school lunch. In past years, schools offered simpler, lesser lunches to those who fell behind in pay- ments. That was considered "lunch shaming," though, and School Committee members (and many in the community, including me) didn't want to embarrass children at lunch- time. So schools took their foot off the gas, and gave more time for parents to pay. As they say, "no good deed goes unpunished." Now, local taxpayers are on the hook not only for schools and teach- ers, but for lunchtime. And, according to Fiorello, parents on Facebook are claiming an entitlement they don't deserve, and in effect, mocking their neighbors who do the right thing. I can only imagine the "shame" that must follow a boy or girl who brings in a brown bag lunch. To have a mother make, by her own loving hands and at a much lower cost, a healthy lunch for her that an embarrassment now? In the old days, people who stole lunch money were "bul- lies." Today, they brag about it on social media. Call them out, and you are branded "judg- mental." I admit, I'm lost here. Late starts The School Committee in Cumberland is also moving quickly now to make a later start time at the high school. Officials now point to the evi- dence that claims students will get more sleep and perform better. Time will tell. My concern? I was sur- prised last week by the School Department's claims for the cost of all the extra buses that will be needed. They said taxpayers would have to pony up an additional $260,000 to make this work. Those numbers simply don't square with what this news- paper was told in the past. The projected cost reported in 2015 was $550,000, and even more last year. Yes, things may have changed, but I doubt by that much. This week, Ethan Shorey reports the new esti- mate is $481,000. Considering how fluid this number is, I sug- gest taxpayers watch it like a hawk in the next year or two. The bad news in Rhode Island? If it works, or even if it doesn't and school officials end the "later opening" experiment (which is highly unlikely), tax- payers will always have to pay the higher bill. Once a town commits money to schools, the "maintenance of effort" in state law forces the town to always pay the same or more in the future. There are no protections for taxpayers; only schools. Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze. Neighbors don't want to buy your kid's lunch From the Publisher TOM WARD Poli-Ticks ARLENE VIOLET Volume XX, Number 29 March 14, 2019 @ Breeze THE VALLEY ABOUT US The Valley Breeze Newspapers are a locally owned and operated group of free weekly newspa- pers serving the people of Cumberland, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Woonsocket, Smithfield, Scituate, Foster, Glocester, North Providence, Pawtucket, R.I., and Blackstone, Mass. Each Thursday, 58,500+ copies are distributed to retailers, banks, offices, and restaurants and other busy spots. Circulation is audited by the Circulation Verification Council of St. Louis, Mo. and has earned its "Gold Standard Award." OUR MISSION It is the Mission of The Valley Breeze to facilitate a positive sense of community among the res- idents of Northern Rhode Island by providing a forum for the free exchange of ideas, and to provide information of local events and neighbors. It is our further Mission to provide the highest quality advertising at the lowest possible cost to retailers, professionals, tradespersons, and other service providers in order to enhance the economic well-being of our community. Thomas V. Ward, Publisher James Quinn, Deputy Publisher Ethan Shorey, Managing Editor Barbara Phinney, Controller

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