Letter: Reporting manager's workouts is waste of time

Posted 5/6/20

To the editor:

With the entire planet changed utterly in a few weeks’ time you have focused wasted attention on the workout habits of the Town Manager with a snide editorial comment and …

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Letter: Reporting manager's workouts is waste of time

Posted

To the editor:

With the entire planet changed utterly in a few weeks’ time you have focused wasted attention on the workout habits of the Town Manager with a snide editorial comment and article. Jim Cunha’s schedule is not as important as any number of things you could report on during a global pandemic, but since you’ve raised the subject I can tell you what I know of it.

As you reported, Jim’s day starts around 4:45 a.m. From his suddenly scandalous workout until late in the evening he works to address a constantly changing crisis as it unfolds because our hometown faces unpredictable threats from every quarter. Jim does so after he, and every other Town employee reporting for work, has a temperature check.

Health and safety issues obviously predominate and Jim worries whether our first responders have access to the protective equipment they need, whether they will have ready access to COVID-19 testing to ensure their own health and whether they will be given access to the private health information they need to know whether the next resident they rescue is infected with a virus that could threaten their health (and the health of the rest of the Town’s first responders and their families).

On top of that responsibility, Jim’s leadership role in the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns gives him an important seat at the table as municipalities work in concert to address the non-health issues related to the pandemic and resulting shutdown. Will we, and the other towns that still rely on residents to vote directly on budgets, have a way to approve a budget that allows the Town to pay the bonds the voters decided to issue in prior years? Will we have revenue sufficient to sustain the workforce that we rely upon every day? Can the legislature or governor legally authorize a mechanism for adoption of a budget that doesn’t involve gathering hundreds of residents in a single room?

After participating in conference calls and briefings for municipal leaders across the state, Jim provides a detailed daily email briefing for the Town Council that includes details of all of the work that your public servants have done in this crisis. How many people have called the COVID-19 hotline for help? How many of them could we successfully help, or match with volunteers to help? How many emergency grants will we be able to award to small businesses from CDBG funds that we have received?

On top of that Jim does his regular job of dealing with non-pandemic related issues and keeps the Town Council apprised of his work at every turn (including on weekend and holidays). Have we been awarded grants for improvement of our recreational facilities? Will yard waste collection resume? Has Tap-In been able to adapt to their temporary space at the Presbyterian Church while the Peck Center is renovated? What is the next step in the bike path bridge replacement project? Did we remember to hoist the Armenian flag for Genocide Remembrance Day?

When all of that is done, Jim can look forward to logging onto a Zoom meeting of whatever volunteer body needs him there on a given night. Perhaps the Town Council, perhaps the Committee on Appropriations, or perhaps some other body.   

How childish it is for you to say that Jim reports for work after exercising in “his own private gym.” If you want to write a worthwhile article or editorial (it is ever more difficult to tell the difference) about what Jim does with his day, go to the southwest corner of Town Hall and look through the bay window at 9:00 p.m. Monday night. You’ll see that you’re fighting out of your weight class.

Finally, and most importantly, when you ask Jim about what he does, you will almost always get the same response. He’ll tell you that it’s not him. It’s Jean, and Merrie, and Kathy, and Mary-Ann, and Debra, and Phil, and the Chiefs, and the rest of the team at every level and in every department.

As to your suggestion that in this time of crisis: (1) the solution to overwhelming layoffs is to layoff the public employees doing this work, and (2) the solution to a potential loss of state aid is to purposely cut even more revenue, I’m sorry that you are offended by the Town Council’s disagreement.  With solutions like that it is no wonder that your for-profit newspaper is soliciting donations. Local news is critically important, so my donation accompanies this letter. Please use it to answer questions that are more significant than when and where the Town Manager works out. Perhaps you could ask how much he can bench?

Steve Boyajian

Barrington

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