Saturday, April 9, 2011

Government shutting down?

We've recently been hearing the threat of a shut down if the "democrats" and "republicans" cannot come to some resolution to move forward with regard to the budget. Clearly, American citizens can no longer afford to pay the debt which has been created and will surely be passed on to the upcoming generation. (that would be us) We don't want it. So many of us have to deal with not only the future debt that has been created by the present and past generations, but we have our own debt. If we seek to obtain a post-secondary education, we are faced with the reality that by doing so, we will face a huge debt that we will have to carry for nearly half of our life and then some. To move forward into a lifestyle of the so-called "American Dream starting a new family, buying a home, and enjoying any of it, we are also faced with the reality that we may not be able to afford it. Here in Rhode Island, the Smallest State in the Union whose motto is "HOPE" we are facing much the same scenario. Contrary to what the State perceives as its leadership in higher education, Rhode Island does not appear to encourage innovative individuals or creative thinkers from the Rhode Island population. Rather, it accomodates the elite from beyond the State's boundaries in the name of economics. Let's talk about economics. It seems to be expected that the masses will simply accept the low wages that are offered by the huge corporations that control the State. There are few "jobs" so to speak which will pay the general "work force" a salary that meets the cost of living standards here in the State of Rhode Island. Indeed, the five largest employers of the State of Rhode Island, are the State of Rhode Island, Lifespan, Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. U.S. Government, and Care New England, all government or non-profit corporation industries. It still is unclear to the writer what the median employee salaries are of the above five largest employers in the State. The median income in Rhode Island is 22k. Who are their employers? Nonetheless, there is a great deal of disparity between the potential income vs. the heavy debt which we will almost surely incur when we enter the dream of obtaining our American dream. It is ironic that Rhode Island is listed by the Economic Development Corporation as a "leading center of higher education" but the Director has presented that Rhode Islanders generally do not possess "post-secondary skills" when they enter the workforce. It does not appear that the R.I. Economic Development Corporation understands the fact that higher education remains unaffordable to Rhode Islanders as is reflected in the economic statistics unless they create heavy indebtedness which could be viewed as financially irresponsible. Big Bills - No jobs! We further have to look forward to the debt that is ever rising as a result of the pension system here in Rhode Island coupled with the large corporations that receive major tax breaks or don't pay taxes at all because they have obtained a non-profit status. Many of the large corporations, including non-profit corporations(religious, educational) in the State of Rhode Island weigh heavily on our public services but are tax exempt from contributing to the heavy cost. The primary weight then appears to be carried on the shoulders of the small business community and labor force who are in a position to fall into the financial tax bracket, although they are few compared to the larger picture as is reflected in the statistics. Too often the elite R.I. State employees are not Rhode Islanders but have been recruited from beyond the State line. These individuals are being paid five to ten times the amount of the median income of a Rhode Islander. Did I mention - plus benefits? How could this be? Some solutions of hope Governor? We are young, intelligent Rhode Islanders who look forward to entering a world which we can reach our American Dream. We want a voice in the matter. Here we are making our way. We want to be financially responsible and the opportunity to have a fresh start without being shackled with chains of debt that others have created. With these issues looming over our head, it seems hopeless - but we are hopeful. Some suggestions. Don't create more taxes on services or consumer items. It'll only burden us more. The very individuals you hope will stay - won't. It's unconscienable and unconstitutional. Lower the sales tax rate on the existing items. It will give us relief and we won't be compelled to drive "over the line" to Massachusetts (primarily) and Connecticut to do our shopping. We'll shop at home, save gas, be happier. Let Massachusetts, Connecticut and the large corporations figure a way to make themselves attractive enough to make Rhode Islanders want to go shopping and grant Rhode Islanders relief to have the money to do so if they choose. Stop the abuse which has existed for far too long. The State House employees behave more like entitled monarchs than they do public servants. Mandate that salaries be substantially dropped to the median income of a Rhode Islander. Remember - you all chose to become public servants. Honor your positions. We want to reestablish trust and faith in you. Speaking of faith and trust in government officials like you. Remember the great temporary sales tax increase in the early 1990's (when most of us were small children) where "Governor" Sundlun told the public that the tax would be raised 1% for one year for one (1) year to deal with the credit union crisis? So .... faith and trust ? Put an actual operating budget together based on NEED, not on false entitlements or desires for the few greedy, inconsiderate individuals who have for far too long made us carry the weight. Equally, those who wish to remain on the public "welfare" system, put them to work so that there is dignity and appreciation for what they do. Make it a solid "work fair" system. When you establish an operating budget that Rhode Islanders NEED as you are Constitutionally bound to do, don't completely disregard the individuals who have for far too long been dependent on the system and believe that they are entitled. Funnel them into the workfair system and allocate salaries which are consistent with the median income of Rhode Islanders $22,000.00 and nothing more. Make them accountable for their work and make them pay for their health care insurance or go without - just as we do. Speaking of insurance companies, banks, education facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and religious entities, who have either received monsterous relief or don't pay tax at all contrary to the small businesses, make them participate in paying for services that they rely on, but Rhode Islanders pay for. Don't issue costly Executive Orders like our previous governor did to raid property owned by Native Americans for the sake of collecting a 7% sales tax and subjecting small business restaurants to pay a higher tax just because - while turning the eyes the other way when "churches" sell fish and chips TAX FREE during lent and/or on Friday nights in the name of a "fundraiser." Don't issue executive Orders that arrest and imprison immigrants for months/years in the name of economics. Keep it simple. Get the budget down, grant us relief that we deserve. Oh yes, and to those who were granted enormous pensions because they felt they were entitled, conduct an investigation, indict them. However, rather than imprison them, demand that they pay restitution - pay back their pensions! Ask the Court to make them perform community service working with the real impoverished individuals and live the life of a small business person who continues to carry the heavy load. Just some simple suggestions. We "hope" that you will listen. After all, our founder believed that "Hope is Divine!"

Monday, April 4, 2011


All should be very concerned about the new tax proposals set forth by our new Governor, Lincoln Chafee. However, the burden alone should not be his. The general population for far too long has been complacent and there has been no accountability of the our government officials. Rather than behave like public servants, many have behaved as if they are entitled and show little respect for the honor of being elected to public service.

Fingers are pointing in various directions, mostly at one another, and have successfully pitted citizens against citizens. Wall St. vs. public unions, public unions vs. private unions, taxpayers vs. public unions, non-Wall St. taxpayers vs. Wall St. taxpayers vs. public unions vs. private unions, non-profit profiteers vs. public unions and taxpayers, corporate america vs. corporate government, and the list goes on and on. Who are the losers? I would venture to say without any hesitation, all of us. However, the biggest losers will be the kids who will be greeted with the heavy burdens of our irresponsibility and the leftover devastation from our "civil" war. So, when we are all ready to berate Mr. Chafee for at least making an effort to do what it is he is Constitutionally bound to do, we should first look at ourselves in the mirror. We are all just as responsible.

What he has thus far been greeted with is the continued lack of necessary sacrifice on the part of everyone. It is legitimate for citizen taxpayers to be angry for having to carry the load of the long spent abuses. At the end of the day though, we have to ask the questions, and become part of the solution.

Recently, the Providence Journal reported that there were seventy-five individuals who are collecting more than $100,000.00 annually as a pension, nearly five times the amount of the median income of $22,000.00 of R.I.. Many, not all of those individuals, appear to believe that they are entitled to collect such pensions. The question must be asked, why? Some of them have continued in public service with minimal to no pay, but that is not the majority. With our cost of living here in Rhode Island, $100,000.00 is not a ton of money. One must pause however, when, the majority of the population must work four to five jobs to make as much.

So, lets bring some hope through civic action and demand accountability. In order to become part of the solution, and not the continued problem, it is high time we take a hard look at what's going on rather than rant and rave on radio talk shows, throw sludge, and further indebt our State into a serious depression.

Here are a few thoughts and questions to begin with and some possible solutions:

Providence was founded on the principles of freedom and responsibility. Providence is a divine name and represents to so many a haven of relief. Lets take a look.

What is the tax burden on the City of Providence? Is it the janitors, schools, fire department, police department, hospitals? Are these "services" essential to the city of Providence? Are there too many employees to deal with what is actually necessary? What do the Citizens "need" rather than what they want?

Let's ask then, how many businesses exist in the City of Providence? Do they create services or weigh on them? Do these businesses contribute to the cost of services?

How many of these business are tax exempt? How does this impact the need of services vs. the cost?

What are the salaries of Brown University, Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, Johnson and Wales, who employ Rhode Islanders? How much do they weigh on the services that the City of Providence must fund?

Why has the State of Rhode Island provided a law which exempts "Estates, persons, and families of the president and professors for the time being of Brown University for not more than ten thousand dollars ($ 10,000) for each officer, the officer's estate, person, and family included, but only to the extent that any person had claimed and utilized the exemption prior to, and for a period ending either on or after December 31, 1996"

One must pause and ask why there was ever such a law at all?

Why are "Buildings for free public schools, buildings for religious worship, and the land upon which they stand and immediately surrounding them, to an extent not exceeding five (5) acres so far as the buildings and land are occupied and used exclusively for religious or educational purposes" tax exempt?

What are the implications? Do the existence of these buildings create services which would otherwise not exist?

Why are many of the religious institutions and otherwise, NOT paying taxes?

Is this R.I. Statute violative of the First, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution?

Why, if the City of Providence is broke, are the Providence taxpayers paying a former State employee $150,000.00 while collecting more than $100,000.00 as an annual pension?

These and other questions must be answered by those who chose to run for public office and were elected.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Historians Worried by Board of Education Decisions

The Texas board of education gave preliminary approval last week to a new curriculum that some historians are criticizing, saying that the changes are historically inaccurate and will cause negative changes nationwide. The new curriculum, among other things, downplays the significance of secularist Thomas Jefferson in our nation's founding, and puts the same emphasis on children learning about Jefferson Davis' inauguration speech as Abraham Lincoln's. Many of its critics' fears sprout from the fact that Texas, with its 4.7 million students, is one of the largest markets for textbooks in the country, and buy so many that the books can go down in price, causing other districts to pick them up inexpensively. "The books that are altered to fit the standards become the bestselling books, and therefore within the next two years they'll end up in other classrooms," says Fritz Fischer, chairman of the National Council for History Education. "It's not a partisan issue, it's a good history issue."

Some other historical issues were discussed by the board, which has on it 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Among those considered were whether or not they should focus more on Ronald Reagan, teach about hip-hop as a part of American culture, and include the Venona papers supposedly describing Communist infiltration of the American government during the McCarthy era. The verdicts were yes on Reagan, no on hip hop, and yes on the Venona papers, and specifically that they should be taught as being true.

There is also a heavy emphasis on purely Christian and capitalistic values, with examples being changing the word "capitalism", which can have negative connotations, to "free enterprise", and placing less weight on the separation of church and state in the Constitution.

Also of note was the fact that Hispanic board member Mary Helen Berlanga walked out of the meeting in protest to what she called "whitewashing": "...We've already been whitewashing all of social studies up to this point, and now we're doing it in sociology?" said Berlanga. "You've got to leave some integrity in this...They can just pretend this is a white America and that Hispanics don't exist." One of the more controversial decisions was to add an amendment deleting a requirement for sociology students to "explain how institutional racism is evident in American society".

Proponents of the changes say they're just trying to bring education back to the center. "We're adding balance," said Dr. Don McLeroy, the leader of the conservative faction. "History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left."
"I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state," said David Bradley, conservative board member who works in real estate. "I have $1,000 dollars for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution."

Many still aren't sold, however. "I'm made uncomfortable by mandates of this kind, for sure." said Prof. Paul S. Boyer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who said he hadn't gone over the entire proposal, but that what he had read could force him to make changes to his text, which would cause him to be uncomfortable endorsing his own book. “They are going overboard, they are not experts, they are not historians.” said Mrs. Berlanga in her comments to reporters after the vote. “They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the entire world.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Providence Children's Film Festival!

Gretchen Ryan O'Connor

The Providence Children's Film Festival kicked off it's inaugural year with great results. The staff were happy with the turnout. "We were thrilled with the overwhelming response with families in Rhode Island that attended, and we areexcited for next year." Says Kate Flanders a staff member for the festival.
And believe me, I am excited for the next year and the new line of fantastic films.
Most tickets to the films were free of charge. As a volunteer I had just as much fun as the hildren. The choice of films fit even the pickest film watchers. They ranged from laugh-out-loud short films, to heavy films about the lives of children in different countries.
Besides the movies, workshops were set up for kids and tens. The festival was a great time to share with your family in the cold February winter. Be sure to catch it next time. For more informaion on the films or the festival visit

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education Meeting

Matthew Kazas

On December 3rd I attended the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education meeting, which was held at the Lincoln High School and started at 4:07pm. The Board members in attendance were Robert G. Flanders, Patrick A. Guida, Colleen A. Callahan, Amy Beretta, Anna Caro-Morales, Angus Davis, Karin Forbes, and Betsy P. Shimberg. Joining them was Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Education, and David V. Abbot, Deputy Commissioner of Education.

The first thing listed on the agenda was the Commissioner’s report. Gist started her report by commenting on the "Development of the boards support for starting a RI school for the deaf". Referring to development of the school for the deaf, she said: "We are making progress in terms of identifying individuals to serve on the board and are feeling very encouraged at the turnout so far."

After the Commissioner’s report it was time for the second item listed on the agenda, which was "Public Remarks". Most of the public remarks came from teachers, students and parents opposing the six-period day that Superintendent Tom Brady is trying to impose upon all of the city’s high schools.

John Welch, CEO of Innovative Health Care Plans, was the one of the two people to not speak about the six-period schedule change. Instead he said: "My suggestion is for the Regents to co-host with the Rhode Island Association of School Committees a presentation on a program called PAL that saved the Chicago school system $60 million and only cost $250,000. I think with the 150,000 students in Rhode Island this calculates into over a $14 million savings…"

Welch didn’t give any explanation about what PAL was, nor did he pass out any documents with further information.

The one other person to speak about something other then the schedule change was Mary Ryan, who has four children who were all homeschooled. Ryan said: "I received the Strategic Plan Draft about five days ago, and first I would like to ask that you seriously consider giving some more time before finalizing it."

The draft she was referring to was the RIDE Strategic Plan Draft and can be found here: The Draft was released for public comment on Nov 25th and, according to a Providence Journal article written by Jennifer D. Jordan on the 23rd of November, was to be endorsed at the Dec 3rd meeting. Later, Gist mentioned that there had never been a plan to finalize the Draft at this meeting, and that the finalization would most likely happen sometime during January.

Mrs. Ryan went on to say "One of the things I was concerned about is that it’s a constitutional right for parents to direct the education of their children. But throughout this document--other than one piece of it--there is no mention of parental involvement. There are also one or two clauses talking about how the directives would be reaching out to the families and students to tell them what their options were [based upon] proven pathways, and I feel that is encroaching on the authority of the parents."

She also mentioned her concern about how the draft seems to imply the standardization of younger children, ages three to four, to be ready for Pre-K.

After the Public Remarks section was over, a large majority of the people in the room left, leaving only eight or nine-- about four of those being reporters. This means that there was no one from the general populace to comment positively or negatively on any of the items for approval. Some of the items on the list for approval include: The 2010 revised budget and the 2011 budget, The Table of Organization, The Educator code of Responsibility and the Educator Evaluation Standards. All of these items were approved by the board with no comment from the few people left in the room.

The second to last thing listed on the agenda was the Strategic Plan update, which consisted of Gist reiterating some of things that she wants the Draft to change in the school system, giving a small list of word changes on the Draft, and speaking about how she had visited several families that were concerned with the Draft.

The last thing on the agenda was the Race to the Top update. The update was an explanation of how Gist has worked with the Strategic Plan to have it work alongside the Race to the Top. To learn more about the Race to the Top and how it affects Rhode Island, or to become a little more well-versed with Rhode Island's educational system, attend any of the upcoming Board of Regents meetings. A list of future meetings can be found here:


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Proposed Law Would Allow Apologies

Molly Koch

A Rhode Island lawmaker is introducing a bill that would make it easier for medical facilities to apologize for mistakes, without automatically facing legal repercussions.

This is happening in the wake of the Michael Woods’ wrongful death lawsuit filed against Kent Hospital.

James Woods told reporters all he needed following the death of his brother Michael at Kent Hospital was a sincere apology from the center's medical staff. But legal representatives often advise doctors that saying sorry could be seen as an admission of guilt, leading to a lawsuit.

The law is being pushed by Warwick Representative Joe McNamara, because he believes that allowing medical personnel to offer sentiments not only would comfort patients' families, but also that it could save money, by cutting down on expensive legal proceedings.

McNamara's plan would make apologies inadmissible in court. But the measure was previously scrapped last year, because of concerns that apologies would be made strategically to help exclude other damaging evidence. In response to those concerns, McNamara has said that the bill strictly defines what constitutes an apology.

This new law would be the first of its kind in the country. Michigan lawmakers have instituted a similar change of policy that has significantly lowered lawsuits, down from 260 in 2001 to only 83 in 2003.