TOM WARD - Leave it to beavers
TOM WARD - Leave it to beavers
In Cumberland, the Town Council might be handing over more than a million new dollars to the School Department, but what that might do for taxes seems of little concern to residents. It's beavers we're talking about here! A family of the broad-tailed rodents, it seems, has made a mess of a brook in Diamond Hill Park, and it was about to be evicted. Last week's story reported that the beavers were going to be killed as part of the process. Well, higher taxes be damned (or is it "dammed?) The town lit up like a Christmas tree! Facebook was a-twitter! Now, cooler heads (with a big nudge from the Department of Environmental Management) are prevailing, and a more friendly approach to our new neighbors is in the offing.
One million dollars?
Anyone who reads this column regularly knows I'm happy to champion personal initiative and the private sector. Woonsocket needs both badly. Still, I've got misgivings regarding the story of Smithfield investor Leszek Przybylko, a man who hopes to renovate the Stadium Building at 329 Main St., the rambling four-story office building to the left (north) of the Stadium Theatre. He expects to restore the three street-level retail shops, as well as completely re-hab 21 units upstairs for condominiums. The matter, tabled days ago, will be before the city's Zoning Board again soon.
Should this project be approved, I wish him well. I really do. But I have to wonder. One million dollars? That's what he's told the city he expects to spend on the job. That and "sweat equity."
Look, I'm no builder or contractor, but I've paid for both, and I'll be plain here. I can't imagine $1 million scratching the surface of that job. I've been inside, and the building is built like a brick you-know-what house. Those walls won't be coming down easily, and new building codes are brutal.
My concern? The Stadium Theatre. Call me a worrier, but if reconstruction on that building fades if money runs out, might the subsidized housing jackals swoop in for more federal aid feasting in the city they've already nearly bankrupted? Remember, the Glenark Mill started out with a private developer. The city of Woonsocket should be doing everything in its power to protect the crown jewel that is the Stadium Theatre. It brings money, it brings jobs, and it brings joy. Tread carefully.
Another "real" charter school
It's great news that another real charter school (and by "real" I mean "a school not burdened by suffocating union contracts") will soon be coming to Providence. It will be run by Achievement First, and will be a sister school to Cumberland's successful Blackstone Valley Prep mayoral academy.
The board also approved the Sheila "Skip" Nowell Leadership Academy for girls for the YWCA.
Find your courage, Mr. Speaker
As an indirect segue into my next point, I gratefully recall when House Speaker Gordon Fox stood against the state's powerful union bosses and allowed the first non-union mayoral academy to be formed. It was a triumphant moment for the state, and the school has since rewarded Fox for his courage.
Two years ago, Fox rose to another huge challenge and, with Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, enacted a pension reform bill that is now saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
So it is especially disappointing to see Fox backing off on his possible support for removing the "master lever" from Rhode Island's ballots. Let's not equivocate. The master lever is bad on all counts, and allows the Democratic Party to continue to cheat in elections. It's a relic of the past - the bad old days of machine politics. Only in Rhode Island, Speaker Fox has apparently decided that these embarrassing old days and election theft should continue.
Don't talk to me about economic progress, Mr. Speaker, without killing the master lever. The two go hand in hand. Please step up and do the right thing. I know you have the courage. Show us again!
Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze newspapers