Now that the dust has settled on the 2018 election, it is time to evaluate where Warwick is at in terms of its elected representatives and how that bodes for the coming months and years.
Though not exactly a shock, every partisan elected position in Warwick went to a Democrat. Surely, this is partially due to the overall lack of Republican and independent candidates challenging incumbents, but it is also indicative of a new beginning following the departure of Scott Avedisian – who for so long represented a lone stalwart of Republicanism amidst an ocean of blue.
If this election showed anything, it is that Avedisian’s grip on Warwick has officially ended, as evidenced by Sue Stenhouse’s 20 percent defeat, which happened despite Avedisian helping her behind the scenes and in a few select appearances on the campaign trail.
In terms of Avedisian’s old office, Joe Solomon can now comfortably switch off from campaign mode and begin to tackle mayoral duties without the overt undertones of cautiously vague responses to inquiries or outright silence regarding issues he’d rather not discuss that has become unfortunately normal during his six months in charge thus far.
Winning the mayoral seat for real – and by a strong margin – should embolden Solomon in a positive way. Now that he has been selected as the man for the job, he should be excited to work with all parties in Warwick, whether it’s the media, old adversaries or even people who didn’t vote for him, in order to create the “even better” city that we do believe he hopes to create.
Solomon will have the full support of a completely Democratic city council, as Rick Corley beat his independent challenger Patrick Maloney by 15 percent. Solomon only lost one ally in Ward 8 long-timer Joseph Gallucci, who chose to not seek re-election. His replacement Anthony Sinapi, however, has leaned on Gallucci for guidance already and doesn’t seem likely to rock a boat that is clearly headed in whatever direction Solomon sees fit.
Up at the State House, the Warwick duo of Michael McCaffrey and K. Joseph Shekarchi – who represent the majority leaders of the state Senate and House of Representatives respectively – will begin their second year in these roles and hopefully will continue to be active legislators, as they have shown to be in previous years. Issues regarding recreational marijuana, gun reform, reproductive rights and collective bargaining will be potential issues to look out for once again in the upcoming session.
McCaffrey and Shekarchi’s Democratic colleagues, Erin Lynch Prata, Evan Shanley, Joseph McNamara, Daniel Bennett and Camille Vella-Wilkinson all secured their seats against challengers as well, so continued cohesion will hopefully lead to positive progress within the state legislature moving forward.
The biggest variable in the city following the election is certainly the newly configured school committee.
The current iteration of the five-person committee consists of three members who have demonstrated a history of being methodical and thoughtful, yet sympathetic and consistently cooperative with the school administration – sometimes, you could make the argument, to a fault – one member who almost universally goes against the administration and sides with the Warwick Teachers’ Union and one member who has demonstrated consistent neutrality.
The new iteration will now consist of four members who have shown a tendency to rail against the school administration – particularly against Superintendent Philip Thornton – and side with teachers on essentially every issue that comes before the committee. One new member is directly related to a ranking member of the union, and another maintains a close friendship with a current school committee member. One has no formal training in any field related to managing finances or a budget.
To say this situation sets up some possible conflicts of interest or potential for an increased amount of tension between the administration and the public is to put things lightly. While we do believe the newly elected school committee members have good intentions in their hearts and want to see Warwick schools succeed, we implore them of the importance to make decisions based solely on facts, not on preconceptions or assumptions.
We have already seen one instance this week regarding an assumption that caused a widespread misunderstanding and further harm to the relationship between the school administration and the public in regards to the “wasted” materials thrown in a dumpster outside Randall Holden.
According to the city charter, the school administration followed the entire protocol correctly prior to throwing away excess materials. This didn’t stop individuals from plastering photos on Facebook in a clear attempt to shame and smear the administration, without so much as sending an email to anyone from the school department asking for clarification beforehand. This cannot be standard operating procedure with a body that must remain neutral and react based on facts.
As always, as an organization that operates with the mission to share stories of achievement and chronicle issues of importance, we are always hoping for the best outcomes to become reality. May the end to this tumultuous election season be the beginning of a new, prosperous era for Warwick.