Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 07-23-2020

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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14 OPINION JULY 23-29, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER EDITION Like a relative who comes to visit and never goes home, IGT (now joined by Twin River) is about to press the General Assembly for a renewed 20-year contract for gaming services. As you will recall, Gov. Gina Raimondo made a secret billion dollar deal without bid. One of her cronies who was IGT's former chairman served with her when she headed the Democratic National Committee and he poured campaign contributions into her coffers. It seems that a sweetheart deal is poised for approval by the legislature despite numerous red flags. Take, for example, the IGT promised "guaran- tee" of 1,100 jobs, a target missed at least five times during the existing contract. The language of the legisla- tion is so broad that IGT can fulfill its "commitment" by counting employees of outsourcing or temporary employees retained by an employment agency. Usually, the latter are con- sidered independent con- tractors and no funds are put into the state treasury for future unemployment or disability. In trying to miti- gate the smoke and mirrors of this provision, the CEO of IGT noted that the defini- tion was in the last contract. In other words, the com- pany hoodwinked the solons once before so it should be allowed to fudge the com- mitment again. The House of Representatives hired a consultant to examine the proposed deal. He found that that the past IGT con- tract resulted in a loss of $2.5 billion in lost opportu- nity in top line over the last 10 years, $520 million in general fund contributions, $130 million in retailer commissions and $1.7 bil- lion in prizes. As ludicrous as it sounds, the General Assembly is poised to repeat the mistake despite all its hand-wringing about the shortage of revenue pre- cipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Alan Hassenfeld, former chairman and CEO of Hasbro, has argued input must be gathered from experts in gaming technol- ogy who can project the future of gaming. He notes that the longevity of any contract must be carefully examined given the rapidity of technology changes. "G" technology was unheard of years ago and the rapidity of technology could render gaming machines obsolete. Indeed, when Twin River was fighting with IGT for the contract it noted that Rhode Island casinos had the lowest returns on IGT slots, pegging the shortfall as $52,000 per machine less than the competition. With regional competition return- ing higher returns, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that patrons won't be ponying up to have their pockets picked in Rhode Island. Ironically, on the same day that The Providence Journal ran the story about the reappearance of the IGT/Twin River deal, the newspaper ran the story as to how the $3 million "guar- antee" of revenue to the town of Tiverton for allow- ing the Twin River expan- sion isn't really a guarantee at all so the town will be shortchanged. The past performances on the promises and the future of gaming given the chang- ing technology and times scream caution. No 20-year contract should be awarded. Other gaming states have fewer terms. States also have a guaranteed minimum of revenue. Finally, the gaming service still has not gone out to bid. The General Assembly has plenty of time to put gaming services out to bid. That is the only aspect of any con- tract which should be passed in this session. Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general. Another hoodwink on Smith Hill reappears If we are to survive the stress and uncertainty of this year's school reopenings, we are going to have to learn how to lead from a place of grace and empathy. None of this is easy. There are not any good, let alone, perfect options. The conditions on the ground are changing daily and the personal circumstanc- es of each family – whether teacher or student – are dif- ferent. And so is their tolerance for risk. Gov. Raimondo is obviously free to say that the goal is to get all students back in their school buildings on Aug. 31, but she can't force parents to send them. Unless school districts want to risk a mass exodus of families, a robust distance learning program will need to be on the menu of options. Some parents, especially those zoned to the most decrepit and poorly main- tained buildings, do not have confidence in their schools' ability to keep their children safe: they understandably say, "if I didn't feel like they were safe in school before the pandemic, why would I feel differently now?" That statement resonates most with parents and teach- ers assigned to schools that have never been clean, well- maintained or even structural- ly sound. But for parents who have never feared for their children's safety in school or are unaccustomed to deplor- able conditions, it's hard to relate. There are parents, some of whom are also teachers, who are frightened by the thought of their children contracting the virus; others, for whatever reason, are less worried about that. Neither person is right or wrong. They just see an extremely complex, emotional and unprecedented challenge differently. Children across America suffer from myriad health conditions that can make any virus, let alone COVID-19, scary and dangerous. Perfectly healthy teachers have parents in their 90s who live in their homes. As one Central Falls teacher shared with me, "I touch my 90-year-old father's food every day." Another husband and wife worry that her breast cancer treatments leave her too vulnerable for her children to be bringing germs home from school that could lead to her contracting the virus. None of these fears are unreasonable or irrational. It is wrong and even cruel to imply that they are. And it is equally wrong to imply that the parent or teach- er who wants to go back to school somehow wants to "kill children." The statement is so ridiculous and inflammatory, it barely warrants a response. Distance learning was a mas- sive challenge for a huge swath of kids and families and there is plenty of evidence that getting back to school must be an urgent priority. Each potential option has benefits and trade-offs and the calibration of those will vary greatly among parents, admin- istrators and school staff for lots of different reasons. For better or worse, we live at a time when anyone can find a link to an article or website that supports their preferred side of the argu- ment. People on all sides wield internet links like weapons, often to demean their opponents instead of to persuade or solve problems. It's sad to see that happen- ing between neighbors and friends during a time that is already so hard. The state has promised that parents will be able to see the reopening plans and options on July 31. After considering the options – assuming there will be options – parents will and should do whatever they believe best serves and pro- tects their children and their family. That may mean want- ing to ensure that their child doesn't suffer from the social isolation they felt in the spring or it may mean minimizing exposure to COVID-19 by keeping them home. Let's respect their decision. Sanzi is a former educator and school committee member who writes about education at Project Forever Free, Good School Hunting and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. No easy choices except to be kind Poli-Ticks ARLENE VIOLET By ERIKA SANZI SANZI Founded in 1956 by The Burgess Family Volume LXV, Number 21 July 23, 2020 @ 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. James Quinn, Deputy Publisher Jack Birolini, Director of Sales Ethan Shorey, Managing Editor Barbara Phinney, Controller

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