Today commemorates the 243rd birthday of the United States of America, and we hope that all who are reading this find themselves in good company and in good spirits. It truly is a time of year where the daylight seems to shine a little brighter and the food tastes a little better – not to mention the spectacle of fireworks that will illuminate night skies across our state and beyond.
Our country’s history is a richly complex one rife with conflict, controversy and drastic shifts in culture. Any objective analysis of our nation would reveal that we have evolved a great deal since the Declaration of Independence was penned, but we should be able to admit that we still have many hurdles to overcome, whether they be in the form of inequalities of opportunity, economic disparity or the continuing divide that has begun to forge wedges of resentment within our people.
What truly makes us American, in this publication’s view, is ingrained in the country’s very name – our unity. We must never forget that, when working together, we can accomplish whatever goals we set for ourselves. Unity has taken us to the moon, it has brought us scientific developments that have cured ailments like polio and it has brought about peace among peoples that had, at one time, been seen as lesser people.
From the perspective of our small corner of America here in Warwick, we feel it absolutely essential to point out and recognize all of the unity within our community. When problems arise, such as the damage sustained by St. Kevin School last December, the community finds solutions – moving them to Randall Holden school and giving them time to get their own building back into shape.
Our community is full of helpers. It’s full of people like Chloe Pena, who is featured in a story on today’s front. She is uniting with others diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes to lobby Congress for more support in fighting the disease. It is full of people like those who helped Diavion Fonseca, a child who went from a state of neglect to a state of flourishing – all because people who were once strangers united together to lend a hand, selflessly, to help someone else.
Warwick is home to mentors, camp counselors, passionate historians, nurses, nonprofit advocates, volunteers of all different ages and backgrounds – who all share a common desire to make life better for others and improve their community in some way. We wish that these types of people were more interested in garnering attention for their actions, because we’d love to feature them more often. But humility is often another trait for helpers.
Knowing how important cooperation and mutual understanding – again, unity – is to a healthy society is why we are so saddened by the apparent lack of unity between political forces in Warwick.
While we certainly believe in the equally American pillar of allowing for disagreement and debate among opposing entities, what is happening between the city and the school department at the moment is not, in our view, a matter of simple misunderstanding or disagreement. There is a far more troubling sense of animosity that has only increased with each passing week, ultimately culminating in the most recent spat this past Monday where the two sides traded press releases jabbing at one another over icy mediation talks that are needed to address the current budget crisis being experienced in the schools.
The schools are set to announce publicly on July 16 that they will be reporting a deficit in the range of $4 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The city expects them to fill that hole with money from a pension fund that, in the opinion of a tax attorney, would result in a best-case scenario of financial penalties and, in the worst-case scenario, would require a full reimbursement (with interest) and could risk the tax-exempt status of one of the most well-funded pension programs in the state.
The city has indicated through emails via their attorney that this is essentially not their problem, holding fast to an opinion that the schools agreed to this plan during earlier mediation – an assessment the schools have denied. No matter what was actually said in that mediation session, the city must be honest and admit that even if the schools can plug a deficit with a one-time stopgap from a pension, this does nothing to address long-term fiscal problems associated with what created the deficit.
We implore the city to also consider re-evaluating its strategy of using the cutting of school sports and after school programs as an attempt to obfuscate the true issue at hand – which is a deficit to the tune of $7.7 million. Sports and after school programming make up only a portion of that, and creating a situation in which coming to the table for mediation means only discussing means to restore these lone programs, in light of many others that affect the education of Warwick’s students, is not helpful.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect about this whole situation is that we are certain the list of people we mentioned earlier in this piece – the helpers – include our public servants. It is hard to imagine anyone chooses a life of local politics for any reason besides wanting to make their community better. We fail to see how these cold negotiating tactics with the people in charge of running our schools does any good for anybody. There simply must be a more honest attempt to come to a common ground.
In the spirit of America’s birthday, we hope for a sincere attempt to unite and find real solutions to our community’s financial problems.