Even the Crossing Guards Get It
The ProJo’s Edward Achorn takes notice of the ongoing Warwick Crossing Guard debate and thinks he detects a sea change:
[H]ere’s some good news for Rhode Island: A slumbering giant, the great silent majority, may be awakening at long last to the crisis this state is facing.
Last week, the Warwick City Council voted unanimously — 9 to 0 — to reject a contract Mayor Scott Avedisian negotiated that would give lifetime family health-insurance benefits to retired one-hour-a-day school crossing guards.
When was the last time you heard of a municipal board in Rhode Island, a state where public-employee unions have virtually dictated public policy, rejecting a negotiated contract — and unanimously, at that?
The vote was a stinging rebuke of the generally well-liked and well-respected Republican mayor. It happened for one reason: Citizens are finally paying attention, and speaking out about what they perceive to be outrageously generous benefits for special interests on the backs of taxpayers.
By midweek, the city had notified Michael Molloy, president of NESCTC Security Agency, which runs the crossing-guards program in Cranston, that Warwick will be seeking bids for privatizing the program.
“This has been an awakening of the public, and a political renaissance in this city,” said Mr. Molloy. He was struck, during recent public meetings, by how passionately citizens felt about the issue.
“The mood has changed,” said Robert Cushman, a City Council member who has relentlessly raised questions about costly benefits for crossing guards.
“Most politicians will always listen to the people who make the loudest noise. If the largest group starts making the most noise instead of the small groups, things are going to change,” he said.
Along with a story about the Council’s decision in this past Friday’s Warwick Beacon, was a picture of 84 year old crossing guard Bill Thomas, with the following caption:
Bill Thomas, 84, who says he became a crossing guard 10 years ago to stay active, crosses a student near Greene School Wednesday morning. Thomas believes dropping health coverage for crossing guards would reduce costs and address taxpayer concerns. But, he says, eliminating the guards would be a mistake.
I think we can all agree with Mr. Thomas that dropping health care (and retirement pay) for these part-time employees makes fiscal sense. And no one is saying we should drop the crossing guards, per se, just that we don’t need to compensate them so extravagantly (if at all).