Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 11-27-2019

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 NOVEMBER 27-DECEMBER 4, 2019 | SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER EDITION Kudos to Katherine Gregg of the Providence Journal for her recent column about the top 100 highest public pen- sions in the state. With the highest pension a whopping $209,000 its recipient would have had to accumulate about $5 million to spin off such largess were she in the private sector. All 100 ben- eficiaries of the state largess collected six-figure pensions and had their health care paid at least until Medicare kicked in, if not actually for life. Many made it into the multi-millionaires' club in collecting the pension. Nothing except the acquiescence of the public really comes as a surprise. In its heyday the General Assembly legislators con- veyed pensions to one another with abandon. One was able to collect pen- sion credits for his years in grammar school for passing out milk at recess. Another received credit for not serv- ing in the military because he was rejected for his flat feet. Legislators routinely took care of family mem- bers. Former Speaker of the House, Matthew Smith, got 10 years of credit for his sister who stayed home from her teaching job to raise her children. I could give you many more examples but you get the point. Lest the reader think that those shenanigans were only done during the bygone days, just last year several legislators filed a bill to award "stipends" to over 30,000 retirees in order to get around past pension reform that required the state pension fund to reach 80 percent funding leveld before annual cost-of-living increases (COLAs) kicked in again. At the time the state employees fund had dipped to 52.9 percent and the teachers' pension to 54.9 percent despite the infusion of an additional $2 billion by taxpayers. Other efforts have been ongoing to elude the "reform." Then-Rep. John Carnevale, a tax-free disabili- ty pensioner himself, tried to exempt police and firefight- ers from the COLA suspen- sion and do away with their waiting to age 55 to collect a pension. Another Pawtucket legislator wanted capitol police and DEM police to retire after 20 years as well. Another Coventry legisla- tor who was a public union retiree wanted to lift out a large swath of his brethren from any constraints. Additionally, municipal governments are creaking at the knees with burgeon- ing pension and health care obligations. Simply put some Rhode Island pensioners are living far beyond the taxpayers' ability to pay. The debate really isn't about what do public employees deserve; it's about how much more can the citizens cough up? Even now the time to vest for a pension is eight years, down from 10. That means that the high-paying, six figure administrative jobs passed out by the governor will entitle her administra- tion to get whopping pen- sions after eight years of service in her two terms. This is also true for those in state offices who stay with a re-elected incumbent during their tenure. In case the reader thinks we are going backwards, you would be right. Ken Block is doing a forensic audit that will blow the lid off all this largess, but… In the past the public has become aware of the pension folly and simply shrugged. Christmas con- tinues every month for the high-rollers, and I'm not talking about the public employees whose pensions are well-deserved for their hard work at minimal pay. The only reality check will be when the day of reckon- ing arrives. Everybody will be in the soup. Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general. Christmas comes once a month Don't look now, Cumberland anti-social media boo-birds, but those dreaded roundabouts that everyone was making fun of a year ago ... well, they work! I know it's a bit early to raise the "mission accom- plished" banner, but it's clear to many drivers that, when used properly, the traffic is moving much more smoothly at the Diamond Hill Road (Route 114, Exit 22) and I-295 exit, especial- ly during the afternoon rush hour. Soon, the state DOT will be mopping up and suspending work for winter, but will be back next spring to finish the job. And in the meantime, we'll have to see how snow plowing works out if we have a big storm. Still, all in all, for all of our bellyaching, it seems things will be getting better. Until, that is, they remove the entire bridge over 295 and mess it all up again. But you know, it's Thanksgiving, and maybe we ought to give thanks for safe roads, bridges that aren't falling down – and yes, clean water in new pipes under our roads – no matter the inconvenience and source of funding. Well done! Here's a toast to North Providence Police Chief David Tikoian, who retired from the State Police and began a two-and-one- half year stint as North Providence chief to "right the ship," in his words. It's been a busy few years as he announces his retire- ment. Tikoian leaves as the department wins its profes- sional accreditation. The public noticed the building of a grand new police sta- tion, but much was happen- ing for the better behind the scenes, too. Tikoian will be replaced by Deputy Chief Arthur Martins on Jan. 1. My best wishes go out to both men, and the department. Savings? The Scituate School Committee might want to do a bit more research before privatizing custodial services for the schools. They might also check in with Cumberland, whose careful stewardship of money in the busing of chil- dren has led to bus driver unionization. Durham School Services, the town's school bus vendor, has had trouble finding drivers, and kids don't get to school on time. Parents and educa- tors are complaining. Now, higher wages and costs will follow. The towns are going in opposite directions. In Scituate, Joshua Homerston, president of the custodians union, notes that most of the custodial staff of 20 have been in town for years, and he claims the pay – between $14 and $20 per hour – is the lowest in the state. I'm no expert, and I know nothing about the produc- tivity of the Scituate staff or their workload, but it's hard for me to imagine you'll get dependable employees to work for less, considering any private owner plans to make a profit, too. "We don't cost that much," says Hammerston. "We're a drop of water in the (school funding) bucket," he said. It's hard to argue with that. Tom's time It seems we can brush off the happy talk of New England Patriots quarter- back Tom Brady playing forever. By any reading of his official stats, he's at the end of his career, and admirers like me pray he doesn't hang around until he's embarrassing and hard to watch. Maybe he can limp to another Super Bowl, maybe not. Thank God for the defense. But the Patriots have to get serious in look- ing for their next quarter- back. The party's almost over. Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze In a roundabout way, I'd say traffic's better From the Publisher TOM WARD Poli-Ticks ARLENE VIOLET Founded in 1956 by The Burgess Family Volume LXIV, Number 39 November 27, 2019 valleybreeze.com @ Observer THE VALLEY BREEZE & ABOUT US The Valley Breeze Newspapers are a locally operated group of free weekly newspapers 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 tward@valleybreeze.com James Quinn, Deputy Publisher jquinn@valleybreeze.com Jack Birolini, Director of Sales jack@valleybreeze.com Ethan Shorey, Managing Editor ethan@valleybreeze.com Barbara Phinney, Controller accounting@valleybreeze.com

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