ATHEISTS DON'T AGREE WITH REMOVAL OF WAR MEMORIAL: Atheists do not oppose religious crosses, stars or crescents. What they oppose is placing them in locations where the government requires them to be – such as the tax collector's office, the DMV, or in public schools where attendance is mandatory. The Freedom From Religion group that has demanded the memorial at a public park in Woonsocket be removed, claiming it constitutes government promotion of a religion, is totally off base. Any comparison to the prayer banner at a Cranston high school, which the group rightfully opposed, is disingenuous at best. The prayer banner was in a public building the government required students to occupy. The Woonsocket memorial to four of the city's Christian soldiers who were killed defending our country differs greatly from the prayer banner. The government does not mandate that people enter the memorial area. The memorial is topped with a cross; requiring its removal would mean we must remove the crosses from soldiers' graves at all veterans' cemeteries – after all, such cemeteries are on government-owned lands. In this case, the Freedom From Religion group does a distinct disservice to all atheists!
COLLEGE TUITION WAIVERS: The cost to taxpayers for state college tuition waivers has more than doubled in the past five years, fueled largely by the number of college employees whose children attend tuition-free. The chairman of the Board of Governors for Higher Education justifies free tuition for employees' children because these employees supposedly are paid less than their equally qualified peers who work outside of education. That's the same justification public employee unions gave for years to justify free medical insurance, extra time off, and lofty pensions with compounding COLAs. We now know their wages are, in most cases, comparable to the private sector's. Surely, the press or a good government watchdog group will compare college employees' salaries to the private sector and other public service counterparts to determine whether this tuition perk is really justified.
BROWN AND LIFESPAN INCREASED PAYMENTS: So, Brown University and LifeSpan have agreed to increase their payments in lieu of taxes to the city of Providence. It's strange how reluctant deep pockets can suddenly produce when threatened with even higher payments should the General Assembly pass legislation requiring non-profit institutions to pay property taxes on their vast holdings. The legislation should move forward regardless of these two institutions' self-serving actions. It remains supremely unfair for homeowners and businesses to have to shoulder such a large tax burden when Brown continues to sock money into its multi-billion dollar endowment and hospitals continue to compensate their CEOs at levels equal to or greater than CEOs of similarly sized private corporations.
HIGHER EDUCATION AUTHORITY MERGER: The Board of Governors for Higher Education wants to allow the RI Higher Education Assistance Authority (RIHEAA) to merge with the Office of Higher Education. Its justification is that the merger would allow the Office of Higher Ed to have additional staff. This doesn't make sense. RIHEAA is an almost defunct organization whose responsibilities virtually went away with federal reorganization of the student loan program. The proposed merger would simply shift the staff from an unnecessary organization to another organization that is already staffed. Thank goodness House Finance Chairman Helio Melo caught this and demanded more justification before authorizing money for the merger. He told education leaders that he would like to see less staff rather than more. Wow! Maybe someone at the State House really is thinking of the taxpayers.
PROVIDENCE PENSION REFORM: How does it happen? Two members of the Providence City Council study pension reform for months, read numerous studies and reports on the pension system's financial instability, hear an untold number of city officials explain the problems and the solutions, and hear input from their constituents over the same multi-month period, and, after all this, finally vote in favor of pension reform. It was unanimous; the entire 12-member City Council voted for the reform. But wait! Two days later, the two council members, John Igliozzi and Terrence Hassett, decide they were wrong. They shouldn't have been so hasty in their votes. They had not been aware of the vote's ramifications. Come on, guys! Admit it. You couldn't stand the union heat. If that's not the case and you really didn't understand what you were voting for after months of study, then your constituents should show you the door in November simply because of your ineptitude.
BAD NEWS FOR THE WORLD'S ECONOMY: The French and Greek people have spoken. They refuse to put up with the necessary austerity measures that will prevent the European Union from economic collapse and have elected new governments that will likely back away from promises already made to the rest of the eurozone. Look out, America! This could be the beginning of the economic end for Europe – and possibly more of the world. Our economy may shortly head back toward the abyss.