October 20, 2014
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Chafee shouldn’t delay action on unemployment tax
My take on the news

WARWICK COUNCILMAN’S POOR JUDGMENT: It looks like Warwick Councilman Charles J. Donovan has been able to avoid the felony weapons charge that was originally applied along with his arrest for drunk driving after he was observed speeding and swerving down Jefferson Boulevard at one o’clock in the morning. Dropping of the weapons charge was justified, even though Donovan’s position and connections likely eased the process for him. The newly-bought weapon was still packaged and never fired; no ammunition was present. A non-politician similarly charged would likely have also been cleared, albeit after going through lengthy court hassles and paying hefty legal fees.

What the councilman should have been charged with is poor judgment. What kind of mental lapse does it take to go out drinking with a gun in your car? How foolish is it to have several drinks and then go speeding down a relatively busy street at one o’clock in the morning, especially in your own city where you know the police are vigilant against speeding and drunk drivers and when you know you have a gun in your car? Perhaps the councilor’s daytime job explains his obtuse thinking. He works as a policy analyst for the state House of Representatives, itself a hotbed of stupidity and arrogance. Did some of it rub off on him?

If Donovan chooses to run for reelection, it may well be his constituents who charge him with poor judgment when they go to the polls next year.

CHAFEE SHOULD ACT ON UNEMPLOYMENT TAX: Two bills that would have addressed the ridiculous unemployment tax situation were introduced in the General Assembly last session. One would have fixed the problem while the watered down one would have at least directed the Department of Labor and Training to study it. Neither passed.

The issue revolves around our unemployment tax, the highest in the nation, that is paid by employers to maintain a trust fund to pay employees who are laid off. Construction companies, whose work is seasonal, pay far less into the fund than do businesses that are not seasonal. Their employees receive about $88 million in unemployment checks during their annual, tax-free “vacation” lay-off period, while their companies pay only about $50 million in taxes. The difference is made up by those companies who employ their workers year-round and lay off workers only when absolutely necessary - not annually for a vacation-like period. This system is not only unfair to the employers who seldom use the system, but it is one of the reasons our state is so non-competitive in its quest to attract new businesses.

Since the weak-willed General Assembly has buckled to the arm twisting of construction company lobbyists and their political donations, it’s time for Governor Chafee to act on his own and order the Department of Labor and Training to analyze in detail this problem and present findings that will embarrass the General Assembly into passing a fix during the next session. Come on, Linc! Show some backbone here!

BIG DIFFERENCE IN HANDLING WILDLIFE:  Are we less sympathetic to wildlife here in Rhode Island than our neighbors in Massachusetts? Two recent news events suggest such. Rhode Island DEM officers killed a male mute swan in Warwick recently after it simply acted to protect its young. Massachusetts officials, on the other hand, just found an injured shark cruising along one of its beaches. They took a hook out of the injured shark and dragged it into deeper water so it could limp away and survive.

What gives here? One state kills a graceful animal whose species add beauty to our environment and present no danger to humans, while our neighboring state takes great pains to save a scary creature whose species actually kill humans on occasion.

Our DEM seems to know a lot about management of flora and fauna as it has demonstrated with its addling program for swan eggs, but it certainly has a lot to learn about how humans will react when they see the seemingly wanton and totally unnecessary killing of a beautiful creature by those appointed to protect them. We are thoroughly disappointed with our DEM and our justifiable outrage shows it.

WARWICK SCHOOLS CONSOLIDATION AND ALAP:  While a bit more study is needed to make sure surviving schools will have sufficient non-classroom space - such as libraries, gyms, music rehearsal rooms and science laboratories - it seems to be a no-brainer that Warwick should close two junior high schools. Two high schools can accommodate all high school students, while the third high school can service students displaced from the two closed junior highs. The move will save the costs of two principals, two assistant principals, and multiple librarians and custodians, while also eliminating the need to put $18 million into infrastructure improvements at the two closed schools. It just makes sense!

What doesn’t make so much sense is the elimination of the Accelerated Learning Activities Program. This program for gifted and talented students represents a tiny piece of the school department’s budget yet produces a tremendous return on investment in advanced learning for those high-functioning students who need more educational stimulus than can be offered in the average classroom. We go to great lengths to provide additional resources for children with learning disabilities while paying short shrift to those exceptional students who will one day be our doctors, scientists, and engineers. It just doesn’t make sense.

LOCAL GRAFFITI RESPONSE: With graffiti becoming a major problem in Rhode Island, as evidenced by the recent defacing of a beautiful highway mural, communities in our state could learn a lesson from the village of Conimicut in Warwick. Faced with a widespread and growing graffiti problem last year, village residents decided to take action. Coordinating with community police officer Nelson Carreiro, the Conimicut Village Association mobilized an anti-graffiti task force that identified all graffiti throughout the village and then sent out teams with scrub brushes and paint to remove the graffiti. Local business that had been victims cooperated with the village association while Officer Carreiro enlisted the Warwick Police Explorer Post for additional assistance. In one weekend Conimicut was cleared of all graffiti. Since then, the village association and community police have been vigilant in early spotting and immediate removal of graffiti.

In communities that act aggressively to remove graffiti, miscreant graffiti “artists” and gang “taggers” tend to cease or decrease their efforts as they realize their handiwork won’t remain visible long enough for its intended effect.

HEALTHCARE UPDATE: A new study by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation has determined that health care insurance premiums overall will increase under Obamacare but that 48 percent of Americans who have historically purchased their own health insurance will end up paying less because of Obamacare tax credit subsidies. However, 52 percent of those who purchase their own health insurance will pay more under Obamacare. And, of course, those employers who continue to provide health insurance for their employees will have to pay the higher premiums. Some employers will switch employees to part-time status to avoid health care insurance or will opt to drop health care insurance altogether for their employees and pay the cheaper penalty instead. Universal health care is a wonderful idea. However, the expensive, convoluted Obamacare program doesn’t seem to be the answer.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: As reported by Edward Fitzpatrick in the Providence Journal, Brown University visiting fellow Timothy H. Edgar, who once served as President Obama’s director of privacy and civil liberties, spoke about Obama’s intent to appoint another board to review NSA practices when such a board, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, already exists. Edgar said, “My initial reaction is that we don’t need another board.  I don’t understand why he’s proposing another mechanism, and I am suspicious that he is trying to do an end-run around the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, which is independent and bipartisan.” When one of Obama’s own former appointees suspects the president of such mendacity, there is likely something very smelly happening in the oval office.


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