Friday, November 2, 2012

No Good Choices in the Election for Cranston School Committee

A friend of mine from Cranston asked me for some info on how the school committee voted regarding the Cranston Prayer Banner. Given the money wasted on fighting to preserve an unconstitutional prayer banner on the wall of the Cranston High School West auditorium, my friend wanted to make sure that he did not cast any votes for school committee members who might have voted to keep it. I did some research.

For a short time, they were members of the most (in)famous School Committee in the country, but to their lasting shame, only one member of the Cranston School Committee mentioned anything like being opposed to the Prayer Banner on the wall of the Cranston West auditorium on First Amendment or Separation of Church and State grounds. And Steven Bloom, the one member who did sort of, kind of approach the topic from that point of view did so with the caveat that he was not personally offended by the banner. Every single member of the Cranston School Committee played the issue politically, as did the Mayor of Cranston and Peter Palumbo, a state representative. There were no profiles in courage on display here.

The vote on the Cranston Prayer Banner came up twice before the Cranston School Committee. The first time was to decide on whether or not to use taxpayer money to defend the Prayer Banner against a potential lawsuit brought by the ACLU to have it removed. The second time the school committee voted was to decide on whether or not to appeal the judge's decision that the Prayer Banner was in fact, unconstitutional. Having lost their case, the City of Cranston was on the hook for a potential $173,000 settlement. Appealing could conceivably double or triple that figure. This from a city that had recently canceled sports, art and music programs for the kids in their charge.

The School Committee was made up of the following seven members:

Frank Lombardi (City-wide)

Steven Bloom (Ward 1)

Stephanie Culhane (Ward 2)

Paula McFarland (Ward 3)

Janice Ruggieri (Ward 4)

Michael Traficante (Ward 5)

Andrea Iannazzi (Ward 6)

In the vote to decide on whether or not to spend tax dollars in a defense of a Christian prayer on public school walls, the School Committee voted 4-3 in favor of fighting.

Those who made the wise choice not to throw away over $100,000 on this effort were Steven Bloom, Stephanie Culhane and Janice Ruggieri.

After losing the court case the School Committee had to then decide on whether or not to appeal the decision. This time the decision was 5-2 AGAINST appealing. Both Andrea Iannazzi and Paula McFarland changed their positions, having apparently decided that they had wasted enough money defending religious privilege.

This leaves Michael Traficante and Frank Lombardi as the only two members of the School Committee willing to double down on this losing bet. In fact, Frank Lombardi said almost exactly that in defending his second vote, declaring that if the city won on appeal, they would be out no money. He was willing to go all the way on the sucker's bet: Double or nothing.

Lombardi is not running for re-election on the school board. He has left that behind in his bid for State Senate. Lombardi's opponent is Republican Sean Gately, but don't be fooled, there's almost no difference politically between the two candidates. Both would be disastrous State Senators.

A lot of the info for the following comes from here.
Sadly, Traficante is running UNOPPOSED for the City wide seat Lombardi used to hold.

Running in Ward 4, to replace Traficante, is Trent M. Colford Sr., also running UNOPPOSED.
McFarland is also running UNOPPOSED for her seat in Ward 3.

You know, democracy only works when people are presented with a choice. Here's a recent piece on the three unopposed school board candidates.

The other four candidates all have actual opponents.

Ianozzi is running against Jay A. Rosenfield in Ward 6. Rosenfield would be an improvement.

Bloom is running against Jeffrey K. Gale in Ward 1. Personally I like Bloom, and he was the only school committee member to vote against the prayer banner for the right reason. Keeping Bloom would be a good idea.

Culhane in Ward 2 is running against Elana M. Carello-Rabiner. Definitely give Carello-Rabiner the vote over Culhane.

Finally, in Ward 5 we have Ruggieri running against Joseph Frank Agresti. Agresti is a big supporter of Mayor Fung. Both candidates are poor choices.

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