Holidays should bring out the best in people
Thank heavens I was fortified by the superb performance of "Miracle on 34th Street, the Musical," being performed through December 29 at the Ocean State Theatre. It was, indeed, a miracle, in Warwick! The cast was in top vocal form, and the set design and costumes were first-rate. I left the theatre full of Christmas joy and pretty inoculated against any political mishaps which might arise thereafter and spoil the season.
Political mischief did subsequently arrive but did not steal the spirit of the holidays. Take, for example, the Smithfield Town Council donating $2000 of taxpayer money to a relative of the town clerk. Certainly, there was a tragic death in the family but the money isn’t the Town Council's to parcel out. The taxpayer, Jeffrey Swallow, who called into question the payout, is no Scrooge. He is 100 percent correct that the council had no authority to make such a contribution, had no policy governing gifts and lacked controls to ensure that the money would be used appropriately. Certainly, there are other people in Smithfield who could use a similar donation to get them through rough times. Furthermore, the council could contribute to this family with their own assets.
This incident transported me back to the days when the Rhode Island Supreme Court had a “slush fund” supported with taxpayer money, which the former Chief Justice used to send flowers, candy, contributions, wedding gifts etc. to recipients at his own whim. He may have looked like a big sport but actually he was being quite cheap by not using his six-figure salary to make such gifts. Legislators also act like big shots pandering to special interest groups by contributing taxpayers’ money to organizations. In effect, Joe Taxpayer is helping them get re-elected while the public official is squeezing his own nickel until the buffalo bellows.
Then there was the investigative story reported by Parker Gavigan of the NBC I-Team. The I-Team watched the town’s maintenance foreman, Bob Martin, for two months working on his own apartment buildings on town time in Tiverton and Fall River. Records obtained by NBC10 showed that Martin was on the clock. A little guy, Larry Faulkner, apparently was forced to assist Martin on these rental properties. He was told to button his lips or he’d be ruined in town. Mr. Faulkner brought his situation to town administrator, Jim Goncalo, who suspended, then fired him. The town is now the object of a whistleblower suit. The Tiverton Town Council better remedy this situation in order to avoid the “Bah Humbug” award for the year.
Maybe these two town councils ought to attend a performance of "Miracle on 34th Street" — using their own money, of course. They are both out of line and could learn a thing or two from Kris Kringle. The musical might transport them from being a “Doris Walker,” the Macy executive who doesn’t believe in Santa, into the right kind of Santa Claus.
Nothing bespeaks a self-centered mentality than the two incidences above and the missteps of those in charge. One can only hope that some straight thinking can salvage the out-of-line behavior of these respective councils. Smithfield’s council should repay $2000 into the coffers from their own money and Mr. Faulkner should get a Citizen of the Year Award from Tiverton.