First, just show up

That pesky groundhog saw his shadow and we’ll be looking at snow and slush for several more weeks here in New England. I don’t mind though because the real harbinger of spring — the day when pitchers and catchers report — has arrived right on time. Unlike years past when Red Sox fans spent the offseason complaining about how the season ended, we closed 2013 with eyes bright and pride restored.

The first thing the Red Sox need to do to have a successful season is to show up. That’s right, just having everyone report to spring training with no drama is a good start. Remember the days when Manny’s grandmother died (twice) and made him late? Manny could have — and perhaps should have — been fined for his absence. After all, he gets paid to do a job, so shouldn’t he show up? Perhaps we should ask certain Providence City Council members the same question.

I was stunned to see the recent WPRI report about the no-show Providence City councilors. While a few had decent attendance records, some had an appalling number of absences. One of the worst offenders had missed 100 percent of the meetings for a subcommittee he sits on while another had missed 24 percent of the full council meetings. Let’s be clear, these council members run for the position voluntarily and are paid to serve. In return they are expected to attend full council meetings and sit on a few subcommittees. The salary is more than $18,000 a year, plus benefits, which include a full health and dental plan along with a cell phone.

Tara Pinsky, the chair of the mini-but-mighty Providence Republican City Committee had a great idea proposing an attendance policy that would allow for a certain number of absences before docking the member’s pay on a per-meeting-missed rate. While I expect her idea to get as much traction as a 1975 Pacer on icy College Hill, we must admit that the concept of getting penalized for not showing up is a novel one in a city known for no-show nepotism, accounting wizardry, and downright corruption.

For those of us who don’t live there, the problems in Providence are still our concern. The ongoing mismanagement is a weight holding the whole state back. Our taxes fund the problems caused by corruption or just plain lazy leadership. If the fifteen people who are supposed to be the most committed to making the city a better place can’t be bothered to show up for work, we can’t expect anyone else to care either. Every time the mayor’s office changes hands we’re promised aggressive, youthful reform. And every time it’s the same old, same old.

This fall Providence voters will have another chance to make a change in the mayor’s office and in the fifteen council seats. In 2010, ten of the fifteen seats were uncontested. It seems like all of Providence is just waiting for someone to show up.

Cara Cromwell is a public affairs consultant with more than twenty years experience managing issues campaigns for corporations, non-profits, associations, coalitions and candidates on both sides of the aisle. Visit her blog, Straight Up The Middle, at http://straightupthemiddle.blogspot.com/ and follow her on Twitter @cmcromwell.

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