The science of governmental change


No one has so fundamentally captured the rapidity and unstoppable nature of change better in recent memory than Vince Gilligan, award-winning director of the critically-acclaimed AMC drama Breaking Bad, which chronicles a normal man’s transformation from a beat-down chemistry teacher to a ruthless drug kingpin.

“You see, technically, chemistry is the study of matter, but I prefer to see it as the study of change,” Bryan Cranston says in the Pilot episode as Walter White. “Electrons change their energy levels. Molecules change their bonds. Elements combine and change into compounds. But that’s all of life, right? It’s the constant, it’s the cycle. It’s solution, dissolution. Just over and over and over. It is growth, then decay, then transformation. It’s fascinating really. It’s a shame so many of us never take time to consider its implications.”

Although we won’t see quite the same flair of drama manifested through local city government as we see in a brilliant but unappreciated man who learns he has been diagnosed with a fatal disease, we are absolutely in the midst of a historic transformation here in Warwick.

For 18 years, this city has operated under the guidance of one man. A myriad of individuals have made that operation possible – countless faces putting in countless hours of mostly thankless work in order to keep a community together and functional. However all those many personalities have, at the end of their work day, called only one man mayor.

That stability is rare in modern politics, and it creates an exponentially higher rate of uncertainty when it evaporates. Sure, department heads will continue to do the same job they had prior to Mayor Scott Avedisian leaving, but exactly what their responsibilities are and how they will be charged with carrying them out is, for the moment, a subject of unpredictability.

This is not to suggest that incoming acting mayor, current City Council President Joseph Solomon, is incapable of handling the job or will perform the responsibilities of mayor poorly, however it will be undoubtedly and necessarily different from the “normal” that we have come to expect as a constant.

In less than one week, a city budget will begin to be crafted and collective bargaining agreements will need to be negotiated and finalized – nothing new for the city as it shifts into a summer mindset, but new in the sense that someone besides Avedisian will be overseeing it.

As of Tuesday, our city’s government will be put to a new test, as a long-standing member of the City Council (as long as Avedisian has been the mayor) – who has been vocally critical of communication issues causing problems between the city’s administrative and legislative offices – will be the one responsible for establishing and maintaining that communication.

From an outside perspective, change can be the catalyst for new life, the implications of which can be negative, positive or a combination of the two. There is no way to tell at this moment whether or not this change will manifest in a good, bad, or wholly inconsequential outcome. We simply will have to wait and see.

However, one thing is for certain. Change cannot be avoided forever. Like an unstable molecule or an area of high pressure, equilibrium must be achieved for nature to be satisfied. It is a certainty of our universe. The people who will have the power to take this change and mold it into a positive for the people of Warwick – the department heads, staff and members of the various committees which make Warwick run – will have to embrace the change and take it as a lesson in chemistry.


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