Valley Breeze

The North Providence Breeze 04-03-2019

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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10 OPINION APRIL 3-9, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH PROVIDENCE EDITION A recent article about the anniversary of the closing of the Ladd Center, which at one time had housed developmentally disabled adults, resurrected some humble feelings. It was my privilege to represent residents through their par- ents and the then-named Rhode Island Association of Retarded Citizens (RIARC) to close the facility. The path was fraught with obstacles. To refresh memories, Ladd Center was an inhumane warehouse. Its residents had teeth pulled without Novocaine, while stitches sewed up damaged skin without any pain medication or anesthesia. Parents were kept out of their living areas since they met their loved ones in a comfortable com- munity room. Back in the wards residents curled up in a fetal position with sheets thrown over them. Some patients were so drugged that they would fall to the ground and stay there or walk around in a stupor. When the residents urinated or defecated on themselves they stayed soiled until they were marched into a same sex group shower and washed off with a hose before bedtime. RIARC and a group of parents initiated a law- suit in 1978 by hiring a Boston lawyer because they felt that an in-state lawyer would kowtow to the politicians and admin- istrators. After a year plus and after the lawsuit went nowhere, the then-Executive Director of RIARC, Jim Healy, approached the newly formed nonprofit advocacy agency, Rhode Island Protection and Advocacy System (RIPAS) and its Executive Director, Margaret Tormey, to take over the lawsuit. At Peg's urging, the RIPAS Board, led by George Nazareth of Cumberland, allowed me to take over the lawsuit. RIPAS had a lot to lose because its $50,000 operating grant came from the state and the women on the board who had handicapped children or adults overcame their fear of retaliation in voting "yes." I quickly got the state's attention by filing motions in federal court demanding the state to produce the resi- dents' medical records and "care plans" mandated by law. I knew they had noth- ing near compliance with legal requirements. When they ignored the motion to produce the documents, I filed a motion to adjudge Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy, R.I. Dept. of Human Services, Tom Romeo, and Ladd Center Administrator George Gunther, for con- tempt of court. Predictably, RIPAS fund- ing was then threatened. The hearing room was jammed with parents who showed up to protest and the money was continued. A seminal meeting was thereafter held. The state players hemmed and hawed about having no funds. Looking at Garrahy. who had marshaled considerable political capital wearing his lumberjack shirt on TV during the Blizzard of '78, I said, "Despite your folksy image you are anything but, with your allowing these conditions at Ladd Center; I promise you that I will have Sisters of Mercy at every public gathering you attend carrying picket signs until you do the right thing, so just do it now." While I'd like to think that it was my great legal skills that produced the Consent Decree that led to the clos- ing of Ladd and the estab- lishment of group homes with community programs, I know in my heart it was the specter of Sister Mary Henry et al, the guts of Margaret Tormey, and the women whose husbands had abandoned them when they gave birth to a handicapped child who risked everything. I salute them. Violet is an attorney and served as the state attorney general from 1985-'87. Mr. Nazareth died in February of last year. Courageous women closed Ladd Center Rhode Island has an infra- structure and toll gantry reconstruction mess now in progress, but most of us (with the exception of truckers) understand that we have rot- ting roads and bridges, and our state has some catching up to do. For the next several years, we'll likely be a bit understanding of the inconve- nience. For me, though, it's the long-term I care about. Will we get the maintenance right, so that in the years after most of the bridges are repaired or replaced, we actually clean and paint them so that they last 70 years instead of 30? Or are the cynics right – that we let our bridges rot to keep the money spigot open for con- nected road and bridge build- ers and union labor? Last week, my blood boiled with the announcement that the Albion bridges, two short spans that cross the Blackstone River and Canal, would be closed again for rehabilitation work. It seemed like not so long ago I was at the ribbon-cutting there. The state claims it was 1996. My anger comes in having observed, for 22 years, the decorative steel "guardrails" and sidewalk railings that not once received a cleaning or new coat of paint. Road salt, rain, repeat. That was the plan. Over time I noticed the growing rust, and made some phone calls to legislators and others asking for a little wire brush work and a new coat of paint to make the bridges last. Nobody ever came. Ever. The guardrails are now "see- through" in places and rusty everywhere, never having had a speck of maintenance. What is wrong with us? Why do we so thoroughly suck at this? Now, the "coat of paint" that requires com- pletely new railings will cost us $1.2 million and months of inconvenience. When you get angry and ask "Why can't our kids have this or that is schools?" or "Why don't we have money to fix potholes?" or "Why can't I have my pension COLA back?," think of this bridge. As a group, we in this state put up with terrible maintenance. Why are we so inept? • Also in Cumberland, we'll have a frantic summer build- ing roundabouts on Route 114 (Diamond Hill Road) at I-295. When they're done, we'll have a more safe traf- fic pattern (or so we hope) for one year. Then, in a new development, the state will tear down the bridge between the roundabouts, after having learned recently that it's worse than expected and has to be replaced. Honestly, you just can't make this stuff up. • It seems the new Scituate Police Station, now under construction, is a bit ... unusu- al. As Town Council liaison to the Building Committee David D'Agostino put it: "We have a large ranch house, not a professional, municipal police facility. Thankfully, we now have a chance to correct the mistakes and missteps of the recent past," D'Agostino said. He was speaking of – but didn't name – John Mahoney, former Town Council presi- dent who named himself con- struction manager for the sta- tion before being tossed from office with the three other "independent men" last fall. That said, in defense of "the men," they did champion the new station in the first place, getting police out of their wreck of a station. Yes, it will cost more now. Everyone saw this coming. Still, the police and townspeople deserve better, and a new station is on the way. It will just take longer. • Last week, Democrats accused Attorney General William Barr and Republicans of being cowards for not immediately releasing the Mueller Report. These are the same Democrats who won't allow Fox News or its reporters (as in Bret Baier, and not Sean Hannity) anywhere near Democratic primary debates next year. So seldom will be heard a discouraging word at these single-minded snooze- fests. And the GOP are cow- ards? That said, a cautionary note to Republicans: Be very afraid of "Mayor Pete" Buttigieg, the 37-year-old Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He seems decent, without all the baggage of their current "island of misfit toys." He's catching fire fast, and I'm not surprised. Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze. A $1.2 million paint job From the Publisher TOM WARD Poli-Ticks ARLENE VIOLET Founded in 1956 by The Burgess Family Volume XXI, Number 36 April 3, 2019 @ Breeze THE NORTH PROVIDENCE 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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