Monday, May 23, 2011

Lazy Cakes, Lazy Politics

This week the city council will consider a proposal from the Mayor that would ban the sale of Lazy Cakes in Fall River. It's not too often that the leader of a city will take a stand against baked goods but our Mayor is THAT kind of leader.

On the surface assuring "Brownie Excellence" in Fall River seems like a good thing. The brownies contain high levels of melatonin and kid friendly packaging. After doing a bit of reading it seems pretty obvious that the brownie's manufacturer is hinting strongly at marijuana laced brownies and that there have already been a few reported incidents with children. Suddenly this seems like a slam dunk, something we can get behind our Mayor on!

Except...

Well for one the packaging specifically says it's not intended for children. It also says it's 2 servings and suddenly the amount of melatonin doesn't seem quite so absurd. And then I walk into a store here in the city and see one of these puppies on the counter and I'm thinking, maybe I should try this and see what it's all about and find out it's THREE DOLLARS!!!

Three dollars for ONE BROWNIE that can induce sleep? WHAT KID IS INTERESTED IN THAT????

Now don't get me wrong I can see, especially after all the media attention (BTW Will you have probably done more to increase sales of this stupid thing than any man alive. There are rumors that the company is going to rename it Flanagan's Fudge..) I can see some teens maybe wanting to see what this is all about and I KNOW that not all shop keepers are going to "catch" underage sales. However, from what I've read I'm not convinced that eating a whole brownie would do much more to your average teenager make them sleep for 12 hours. But personally I see the average teen with 3 bucks to spend more interested in an energy drink than a relaxation brownie. Now if you average teen is interested in a brownie $3 will buy you a whole box of Little Debbie's, and 7-11 has one kick ass Reese's brownie for 1/2 the price!

Still maybe was worthy of some discussion some consideration but that brings me to the thing that bugs me the most about this. Banning brownies is worthy of a press conference but cutting 3.3 million from the school budget, even POTENTIALLY cutting 3.3 million from the school budget isn't worthy of even a little advanced notice? A press release? SOMETHING?

When a bedtime snack is the priority of your elected leadership you know you've gotten your just deserts

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Flirting with Takeover

Ok... let's play this out. The Fall River School Department gets reviewed by the DESE. The findings are that although we're making progress we still have a long ways to go and there is some concern that we could slide backwards. The head of the DESE makes it a point to say he's disappointed that Fall River hasn't made more progress. Now none of this is old news, or ancient history. This is all recent, really recent.

So, Mayor Flanagan decides that instead of level funding the budget (which I have issues with to begin with) he's going to cut the school budget by 3.3 million.

Let's do a little math problem

Shaky progress+DESE skepticism-3.3 million = State Takeover

For the past several years we have patted ourselves on the back for level funding the school budget despite all the other financial obstacles the city has had to deal with. Great job! We LOVE education! We level funded!! OUR KIDS ARE IMPORTANT!

Except level funding basically making do with the same amount of money, it does not mean maintaining the same services. If you haven't gotten a raise lately you've been "level funding" your household budget. If you bring home $350 a week and the rent has gone up $50 a month and gas is now $4.00 a gallon, and the grocery bill is now consistently $30 a week higher you're STILL level funding your budget but you obviously can't afford the same services as before. THAT is what we've been doing with the school budget. We haven't technically cut the budget but we've given nothing to compensate for rising costs of materials, salaries, insurances, upkeep, and whatever else. The fact that we're making ANY forward progress in the school department says a lot about the work and dedication of our teachers but a 3.3 million dollar cut is going to be devastating.

Notice that the Mayor dropped this little bomb at the last possible minute? How long has he known? Is there really no other place to cut from? Education has to be the number 1 priority. A quality educational system is vitally important to Fall River. A well educated child is more likely to be a success and less likely to be a burden and drain on the system. People MOVE to communities that have quality educational systems. Companies locate to communities that have quality school systems. How much money have we wasted on legal fees? How much money have we spent on our legal department? It was supposed to be mean and lean and instead it's the envy of unemployed lawyers everywhere who insist they would and could do the work for much less.

I understand Fall River is in a really tough financial situation. I am sympathetic but if your solution is to cut 3.3 million from education you haven't worked hard enough on solving the problem, go back to your office and come back later!

Now the silver lining in this is that if the state does takeover they will FORCE the city to fund the school department. They have that power. This is great for education but bad for every other city department. The only person in Fall River who should be happy with Flanagan's incredibly stupid decision is Cathy Ann Viveiros who now had a very important campaign issue to run on. If she can come up with some workable ideas/solutions she will have the support of lots of parents, and lots of educators.