The business of governance in East Providence begins almost immediately at the turn of New Year, bringing with it a host of challenges and unresolved issues. There are many matters of importance facing those charged with directing the city. It remains to be determined, however, if we, as residents, politicians and administrators, have the will to bring about the desired results.
On the city side, the most pressing point is the on-going contract negotiations between the Budget Commission and the four main bargaining units — the police, fire, teachers and steelworkers unions. After some positive feedback early, it appears as though talks between the sides have stalled, which is never a good thing. For those who want the state out of East Providence, these negotiations are the final hurdle for the commission to clear in its attempt to formulate a five-year spending plan and finish up its business in the city.
On the school side, the commission is also charged with finding a new permanent superintendent over the next month. It is a well-known secret the East Providence School Department has been slightly better than dysfunctional over the last several months, about to stretch into years. Teachers and administrators are leaving in droves. The system has been devoid of a strong leader, a guiding hand for too long. The new superintendent must set a new path and rebuild relationships as well as dealing with a crumbling infrastructure and possible school closures over the next year-plus.
In general, residents and administrators in East Providence must decide soon the direction the city will take. We have to decide if we want a city with facilities in disrepair with low taxes and with even lower self esteem or do we want a city that mends its buildings, puts a value on its property and is prosperous in both body and spirit. We should know in which direction we’re headed very early on in 2013.