TOM WARD - There was once a day we were all as one

TOM WARD - There was once a day we were all as one

I don’t know about you, but after all the messiness and political polarization of the last month, I’m going to take one small step back to a simpler time, a time when, for one day, the entire world came together and gazed heavenward in amazement at what was happening. On that late Sunday afternoon and evening, July 20, 1969, while our political enemies might not have shared our joy, the people of those nations – and every nation across the world – all stopped for a few hours to watch the scientific triumph of our time as this odd-shaped contraption lowered two men to the surface of the moon for the first time. A few hours later, we were in awe as their shadowy figures walked (and bounced) on the surface in the powdery, low-gravity world. For a few hours, the chaotic 1960s – the assassinations, the riots, the widening drug use – were set aside. Everybody was looking at the moon in a new way, thinking “there are two guys up there right now!”

The moment, of course, didn’t last long. They never do. But it did happen, and this weekend we can go back and relive the more personal side of “First Man” Neil Armstrong, the brave pilot who landed that contraption and first set foot on the lunar surface with Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, who is still around today.

I’m going to look past filmmakers politicizing the film and removing the iconic scene of astronauts planting the American flag on the moon. (Apparently, they came for “the world,” and yes, the plaque on Apollo 11 read “We came in peace for all mankind”). Still, it will be good to go back in time, even if only for a few hours, and recall the real “day the earth stood still.”

What a waste!

The North Providence School Committee last week learned the scope of the waste of money that came from the first-week-of-school mold problem that developed at Ricci Middle School. The clean-up cost for the school was $341,000, a number Interim Supt. Robert O’Brien called “staggering.” And I’ll call “stupid.” Once again, taxpayers have to suffer under the lash of politicians who defend “prevailing wage,” that giveaway to big labor in the state as a thank you for campaign donations. O’Brien cited costs of $50 to $75 per man hour for the work, some which had to be done on overtime so kids could get back to school. (And please don’t tell me “it’s insured,” as if some insurance fairy drops non-tax dollars into the pockets of laborers. It’s all tax money!)

For those in other communities watching dumbstruck, the solution going forward will be to leave rooms open after they are cleaned and put some of those box fans around the school to move the air. Genius! Can we all do that next summer and not ask taxpayers to bear this crazy expense anymore?

School repairs

I was asked to sit in a conference of political leaders in Cumberland last week gearing up for the coming vote on a bond issue question for improvements to Cumberland schools. They are asking taxpayers to spend 29 million local dollars and leverage them to a total of $83 million in spending when paired with state aid. The spending level is based on the hoped-for passage of Question 1 on this year’s ballot Nov. 6 that asks state taxpayers to fund $250 million for school improvements. Frankly, I expect easy passage of that.

This is the same state money Smithfield hopes to tap into with its school bond question, too.

It’s hard to imagine today, but once upon a time (I don’t recall the precise year), during the administration of Gov. Lincoln Almond (1995-2003), there was a state surplus of nearly a billion dollars. I suggested to the governor that perhaps the state should create a pool of money for a “Marshall Plan” for schools, a fund to jump start repairs and improvements to aging facilities. Needless to say, it never happened. To legislators, a sum of cash that tasty was like a fresh kill on the savanna to a bunch of hyenas, and it was spent elsewhere. Schools kept rotting. Now, 20 years later, we have to borrow the money to fix them. Too bad.

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze newspapers

Comments

Isn't a shame that after all that money is borrowed ,spent, repairs done that the schools will deteriorate over the course of years because moneys that should be used for their upkeep will be used elsewhere . Their must be a line item for upkeep and maintenance that cannot be touched . Hold I was dreaming .

Chief. You may be happy to know that RI is requiring a commitment to maintain, as part of the deal.

Also, it's funny. Some people complain that schools spend too much on maintaining facilities. Can't win.