My take on the news
EXETER RECALL ELECTION: Normally, one would say that if a town’s citizens don’t like something the town council does, they should vote against the councilors in the next election and make sure they don’t get another term. That’s under normal circumstances. In Exeter, the situation that led up to this Saturday’s recall election was anything but “normal.”
First, in 2011, the Exeter town council took an action that was vocally opposed by its citizens. It passed a resolution that asked the General Assembly to eliminate Exeter from the law that gives authority for issuance of gun-carry permits to local authorities. The General Assembly denied the request. Defying its own citizens and in the face of an already rejected request to the General Assembly, the town council voted to once again send a resolution to the General Assembly asking it to eliminate Exeter from issuing gun-carry permits.
This was far from normal. When an elected body does something in defiance of the numerous citizens who oppose it and the effort is defeated or rejected by state officials, that should end it. Not in Exeter’s case. The town council, in essence, said, “We don’t care about what our citizens want, we are going to press this issue until we get our way.”
Most important in this case was the issue the town council was trying to push through. It wasn’t a small thing like changing the frequency of garbage collection – it was an act that would have denied citizens a basic right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution! It would have denied Exeter citizens unfettered access to the Second Amendment right to bear arms, even after passing a criminal background check.
Because the Exeter Town Council refused to listen to its citizens, not once but twice, and insisted on passing harmful resolutions, and because the council attempted to deny Exeter citizens a key Constitutional right, the four council members should be recalled.
BARRINGTON PARENTS BATTLE COMMON CORE: The new Common Core educational standards for American public schools may be wonderful. And they may not be. The standards that the U.S. Department of Education has been pushing on states have been accepted by 45 states, but lately there has been substantial pushback in many states. Some Barrington parents, whose children enjoy the best school system in Rhode Island, are objecting vehemently to the new standards that Governor Chafee’s appointees have accepted on behalf of all Rhode Islanders.
Many parents and educators think the Common Core standards are not good for students since they rely too heavily on testing instead of teaching and the standards shift English teaching from an emphasis on history’s great novels and poetry to informational texts. Proponents say teaching will be more narrow but will concentrate deeply on fewer things so students will have greater understanding of important concepts, and that learning from informational texts instead of from great literature and poetry better prepares students for the global economy.
The second objection is that such a sea change in how teaching and learning is conducted, a change that will have a far-reaching impact on generations of students, should not be decided by one branch of government – the executive branch in the form of the governor and his education appointees. Instead, opponents say, such a major change should be decided by the people through their elected representatives on local school boards and in the General Assembly.
Common Core proponents say the standards will make U.S. students more competitive with foreign students on standardized tests. Opponents fiercely debate that assumption. But even if it is so, and even if we don’t care that the federal government is trying to usurp state and local authority, do we really want our children to graduate high school knowing nothing about the works of Shakespeare, the poetry of Walt Whitman or the oratory of Cicero?
CRANSTON SCHOOL SECRETARIES’ CONTRACT: Council 24, AFSCME, the union representing Cranston school secretaries, seems to have failed in its fiduciary responsibility to properly represent its union members who toil in the school system. The union “negotiated” a contract that froze the secretaries’ pay, forced unpaid furlough days, gave up longevity pay, reduced sick time accumulation and added deductions for health insurance. These “negotiations” seem to have been one-way discussions.
Secretaries should have been making health insurance contributions long ago, and their sick time benefits were ludicrous. Beyond concessions in those areas, it seems the secretaries were treated somewhat unfairly considering the tremendous support they give to the district compared to their fairly paltry compensation. Few residents outside the school department’s staff understand that school secretaries are the force that ensures the daily functioning of the central office and the schools. Administrators make and enforce policies and oversee the big picture, but it is the secretaries who ensure the daily success of such diverse functions as payroll, hiring, benefits management, attendance, grade reporting, student safety and security, and a plethora of other essential functions.
In the corporate world, such functions are performed by far better paid administrators or technicians. Were the school department’s staff a military organization, the administrators would be the officers and the secretaries the noncommissioned officers (NCOs) – the sergeants. And anyone who ever served in the Army knows that NCOs are the backbone of the Army. Officers (administrators) plan strategy from the big-picture perspective while NCOs (secretaries) are the tacticians who “make it happen.”
Cranston school secretaries have little cause to complain about the contract, however, since it was their union – Council 94 – that agreed to it. It seems the powerful statewide union isn’t very tough when it comes to representing low-paid school secretaries.
A RARE AGREEMENT WITH BOB KERR: Seldom do conservatives or moderates agree with the usually one-sided, extremely narrow, leftist sentiments espoused by Providence Journal columnist Bob Kerr. Last Wednesday, however, reasonable readers found themselves in agreement with his message – that radio talk station WPRO should rid itself of its morning host, John DePetro.
Reasonable listeners want to hear intelligent discourse that is relevant to their lives, not the ugly, juvenile rantings of a talk jockey who uses invective and denigration in place of reasoned analysis. DePetro recently ventured even further into the realm of mud-wallowing when he called union protesters at a Gina Raimondo fundraiser “parasites,” “cockroaches,” “union hags” and “whores.”
Conservatives and moderates who enjoy portions of WPRO’s programming cringe at DePetro’s ridiculously intolerant and demeaning outbursts and have long ago tuned to other stations during DePetro’s show. More important, they don’t want him to be perceived as their vocal representative. WPRO would do well to rid itself of John DePetro entirely and replace him in the key morning slot with the intelligent, logical and reasonable voice of its early afternoon host, Dan Yorke.
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION BUYING RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS: President Obama’s Pentagon appointees have decided to purchase 63 Mi-17 military helicopters from Russia to equip Afghanistan’s military as it prepares to take total control after U.S. troops depart in 2014. American helicopter manufacturers are livid and both Republicans and Democrats are questioning the move – especially the secrecy surrounding the purchase. Pentagon officials say that Russian helicopters are more durable and that Afghan pilots already have experience flying them. Yet, a 2010 study done in an attempt to justify the purchase – the results of which were hidden from the American public – said the American-built Chinook helicopter is “the most cost-effective single platform type fleet for the Afghan Air Force over a twenty year period.” It should be very disturbing to the American people that the Obama administration so blatantly overlooked American helicopter manufacturers while trying to hide it from the American people. Sometimes a hidden truth is just as harmful as an outright lie. But, as we’re beginning to see, such moves are nothing new for Obama.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, writing in the Wall Street Journal last week, had this to say about the interim agreement between world powers and Iran over its nuclear weapons program: “...the interim agreement leaves Iran, hopefully only temporarily, in the position of a nuclear threshold power – a country that can achieve a military nuclear capability within months of its choosing to do so.” The follow-on agreement, if ever reached, must reverse much of what is in the interim agreement. As anyone who has ever sat at a bargaining table knows, however, once something has been put on the table it is extremely hard to take it back.