Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 10-15-2020

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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26 OPINION OCTOBER 15-21, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION Readers know that a trial involving an incident dur- ing Speaker Nick Mattiello's re-election campaign was rolled out in Superior Court earlier this month. The specific charge focused on Jeffrey Britt, a then-top opera- tive in the campaign, who was charged with money- laundering (and another charge) through a one-time Republican rival's campaign to pay for a flyer wherein she endorsed the speaker rather than her fellow Republican. The judge will ultimately review the transcripts and render an opinion in four to six weeks. But the verdict is already in which confirms that politicians, particularly powerful ones, have "investi- gators" pussy-footing around any real search for the truth. What is the key evidence of this proposition? The Board of Elections investigation as testified to by the board's campaign finance director, Richard Thornton. Mr. Thornton testified that then-Republican Chairman Brandon Bell asked the board to investigate how the cam- paign of Republican Shawna Lawton could send out a $2,150 flyer when she had reported less than $44 in her war chest. Thornton acknowl- edged that witnesses dodged subpoenas or were not responsive. The board never pushed for copies of her campaign bank account. The board never further examined the blanket denial statement that the speaker did not knowingly or willfully arrange for the Lawton mailer made in a written statement by his lawyer, Michael DiChiro, who later became a Traffic Tribunal magistrate, a plum political appointment. Notwithstanding the fact that Ms. Lawton finally owned up to the fact that she received post-election "donations" from the spouse of another campaign worker for Mattiello, the Board of Elections never questioned the speaker. It never ques- tioned his chief of staff. Unlike other cases, no sworn statements were taken from either man. The "investiga- tion" ended with a whimper. The Thornton testimony reminded me of the wimpy so-called investigation into 38 Studios. It is now known that the bastion of rectitude, the Rhode Island State Police, never adequately questioned the legislators who supported the deal. I wrote a column back then that legislators were not put under oath when they were asked about any infor- mation, kick-backs, etc. Most were not even questioned in person but rather by phone. One legislator told me she was asked during a phone call if she knew anything about the background of 38 Studios' legislation "which could be helpful" albeit never defined. She answered "no" and the call was terminated after less than two minutes, much of which was an exchange of pleasantries. I further wrote that then-Attorney General Peter Kilmartin was fighting the release of the grand jury investigation because it would embarrass his office and the "staties." It was a mock inves- tigation, case closed. As I write this the defense has not put on its case. By the time you read this, you will know if Messrs. Mattiello, Skenyon, and another Mattiello operative, lawyer Matt Jerzyk ,were called to the stand. Whether they answer any questions, plead the Fifth, or do more dance steps around the issue than Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, one thing is certain: There remain two systems of justice, one for the folks who read a column like this; the other for those in power who control the purse strings. The latter is really on trial and the only verdict is "guilty." Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general. Not much changes in investigations of politicians Poli-Ticks ARLENE VIOLET By ERIKA SANZI Our schools just opened in person for the first time last Friday and if I could bottle my 6th-grader's excitement about going back, I would. He had his bag all packed and his Celtics mask laid out the night before – this was, after all, his first time going to school since March. A couple of nights before the big day, he laid between his dad and me on our bed to watch his "school orientation" on Zoom, during which the administrators explained what to expect and shared photos of how things would look – signage on bathroom stalls, taped off areas around teachers' desks, spacing of cafeteria tables and new drop-off and pick-up procedures. My husband and I repeat- edly said during the pre- sentation, "wow, this took a lot of work." The precau- tions and safety protocols were many – anyone who thinks reopening is easy or "no big deal" clearly does not understand what goes into getting schools up and running during a pandemic. It was reassur- ing but also an important reminder that it's easy to overlook the behind-the- scenes work that goes into serving our children. While the battle over the wisdom of reopening schools (or not reopening) continues across the nation and here in Little Rhody, there is good reason to believe that schools are not "super spreaders" of COVID-19. Emily Oster, a professor at Brown University, recently wrote an article in The Atlantic that sheds scientifically- based light on the fraught subject. She concludes that fears from the summer appear to have been over- blown. Despite a few viral pho- tos of crowded high school hallways, the evidence is pointing in one direction and, so far, K-12 schools are not the COVID-19 petri dishes that people feared. Oster rightly cites "fear and bad press" as principal drivers in keeping schools closed from Chicago to Houston to Los Angeles. The very same people who wear T-shirts and hold signs that say "believe science" suddenly put their fingers in their ears so they could ignore the science and instead shut the school doors to millions of students. As Oster mentions in her piece, New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo went so far as to say "that busi- nesses were not 'mass spreaders' as opposed to schools, and subsequently announced that he would close schools in hot-spot areas." He is either woe- fully misinformed about the evidence or simply being dishonest. It is certainly possible that trend lines could change as the cold weather brings with it greater risk for transmission and com- munity spread. And if that's the case, it will show up in Professor's Oster's work because she plans to continue collecting data and helping us to under- stand what it means for our children's schools. I think she gets it exactly right when she says, "we do not want to be cava- lier or put people at risk. But by not opening, we are putting people at risk, too." There is nothing cavalier about how my children's schools have handled re- opening. On the contrary, tremendous care has been taken to protect students and staff. And while only going to school two days a week is hardly ideal, it's a lot better than nothing. Sanzi is a former educa- tor and school committee member who writes about education at Project Forever Free, Good School Hunting and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Good on R.I. for following the science SANZI Volume XXII, Number 8 October 15, 2020 valleybreeze.com @ Breeze THE VALLEY 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 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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