Governor Gina Raimondo has started her four years in office by calling for a new era in Rhode Island politics. She asked Rhode Islanders to put the politics of the past away and to all pitch in to help the state move forward. Her speech noted that Rhode Island faces tough days ahead and that it was not going to be easy. She called for new leadership and tough decisions to help the economy recover. In some sense it was a battle cry for change. Raimondo was letting her constituents know that she is dedicated to Rhode Island’s recovery.
The question is do Rhode Islanders buy it? Rhode Islanders are noticeably disenfranchised with government. In fact, the majority of the state does not even turn out to vote anymore. We have all heard politicians speak, but we haven’t seen very much accomplished. It is up to Raimondo to take the bull by the horns and hit the ground running. If Raimondo can make some dramatic change early on, the way she did with pension reform, she may be able to catch to attention of the average Rhode Islander.
Meanwhile, Raimondo and all the state officers are getting 8 percent raises. Sounds pretty good, right? Get a raise before you even start the job. How often does that happen in the private sector? The raise is allowed by state law every 4 years. Being Governor is more than a full time job, it consumes your life and as a result, it is no shock the salary is in the six figures along with every other state officer. The problem is it doesn’t look good to the general public where many people are unemployed or under employed. Some people have been at their jobs more than four years and have never seen a raise and have no plans on getting one anytime soon due to the struggling economy. It’s tough to ask people to understand the challenges of the state and share in on the sacrifice when it appears that the states leaders aren’t sacrificing anything…So far, no state officer has decided to forgo that raise.
School's out -- for the winter
Providence Schools cancelled because it was cold. Remember when your parents said, “I used to walk five miles to school in the snow,”? Well, those days are done. Today, we have snow days because it is cold. The problem is administrators are concerned that students might get hypothermia and that is a potential liability. Many people were frustrated by the decision. Some people saying it is a parent’s responsibility to make sure their child is dressed appropriately and to get them to school safely. Others complaining that we have become a “nanny state.” Has society become overly cautious? “Back in my day… we went to school even in the snow,” (I’ll save that one for my possible future grandchildren)
Providence's Rapper Laureate
Providence’s New Mayor Jorge Elorza was sworn in this week as well. He took the oath of office and delivered his speech on the ground of uniting Providence. He called it “One Providence.” The Providence Inauguration was different from the typical pomp and circumstance because it included a local rapper. Good way to appeal to the urban youth. There was nothing particularly notable about Elorza’s speech but it is clear that he hopes to unite the city and decrease some of the recent violence. Now it’s time to get to work and see what Elorza can bring to the table.
At least it wasn't a selfie
There is a lot of criticism regarding the portrait of Governor Chafee -- and even more criticism because Chafee said he will not attend its unveiling. Some people say the portrait is unusual for a governor’s portrait and other say it is perfect. The artist did an excellent job capturing the essence of Gov. Chafee’s time in office as he is depicted alone with a dark background looking into the distance. He has a concerned and worried look on his face. Chafee took the helm of Rhode Island in one of its most difficult times and Chafee too took a lot of public criticism. The portrait does capture a certain emotion and it does sum up Chafee’s administration pretty well. The artist was told to do something different and she did a good job doing just that.
Chafee is refusing to show up to its unveiling under the guise that he does not want to distract from Raimondo’s new administration. The typical Chafee cop out. More than likely he just does not want to face the criticism surrounding the painting. His “selfless” reason for not attending does not hurt or help anyone except for the artist. It does a disservice to the artist who spent months working on the portrait.
But it's still Cranston
The City of Cranston wins this week as a new audit reveals a $26.3 million budget surplus. Mayor Fung hopes that the surplus will help the city improve it’s A2 credit rating (which is already relatively strong) to help lower the city’s interest rate when it borrows money. A couple factors that weighed into the surplus were the city’s tax collection office, and the city and school operating budget, which ended with a $2 million surplus. This is a big score for City Treasurer David Capuano, (a former professional hockey player) who oversees the city’s tax collection department. Also, kudos to the mayor and his other department heads for the budget surplus. It must be a vindicating feeling for Mayor Fung who faced criticism from his opponent in the Republican Primary for allegedly “mismanaging” the city.
That’s all for this week.. As the new administrations take off we will check back in next week and check the pulse on politics.