Acknowledging those who served, setting the agenda
This is the time for inaugurations.
President Obama’s comes up Jan. 21 and, from the forecasts, it’s expected to be a diet version of the spectacle four years ago, but still of gargantuan proportions, with 600,000 to 800,000 at the ceremony and more than 40,000 people expected to attend one of two balls.
Warwick didn’t have a single ball and, if it wasn’t for a party at the Warwick Museum of Art hosted by the mayor, there wouldn’t have been any post-ceremony celebration.
Of course, City Hall isn’t in the league of the White House. The mayor doesn’t carry the clout and, as Mayor Scott Avedisian knows all too well, Warwick taxpayers don’t have the loot to spare. Deficits are not an option for city government.
But that doesn’t diminish last Tuesday night. The City Council Chambers were packed with many familiar faces, including those of mayors – Republicans and Democrats – of Rhode Island cities and towns. Governor Lincoln Chafee, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Jim Langevin, judges and state legislators came. A number of those could be expected, but there were also former mayors and council members, along with those few diehards, like Mike Zarum and Rob Cote, who make a point of following what happens at council meetings.
Newly elected Council President Donna Travis made it clear she means business and won’t be bullied by her critics.
Mayor Avedisian did a good job of hitting the highlights of his nearly 13 years in the office and addressed head-on the question, “Aren’t you tiring of this job, and what more is there for you to do?”
If the job is wearing thin, Avedisian didn’t let it show. He promised if faced with increasing taxes, the increase would be less than the state mandated cap. He talked about using federal funds targeted for adult education (but not being used because the schools no longer offer the program) going to provide reduced or free tuition at CCRI for eligible Warwick residents. On his “to do list” is development in the Warwick Station District and plans for Rocky Point when the state buys the remaining 83 acres.
Avedisian’s 20-minute speech was not that of an official who aims to take off his spurs and lean back in his rocker to watch life play out. We like that he also shifted the spotlight to those who have served and are leaving office, like the City Council’s Bruce Place, Ward 2; John DelGiudice, Ward 5; and Raymond Gallucci, Ward 8. On the School Committee, Christopher Friel and Patrick Maloney are not returning. Retiring from the District 23 House seat was Robert Flaherty.
Collectively, they have provided Warwick with more than 50 years of service. That is a remarkable contribution, and not one to be made light of in an age when fewer and fewer people have the time to give back to the community. They certainly deserve our thanks before they ride off into the sunset.
As for the newcomers – Tom Chadronet, Edgar Ladouceur and Joseph Gallucci on the council; Jennifer Ahearn and Karen Bachus on the School Committee; and K. Joseph Shekarchi in the House of Representatives – and the returning officials, the mayor issued a call to arms:
“We have much work to do. Let’s get to work.”