Monday, January 25, 2016

Sometimes a loss turns into a win

Whether it’s sports or civic life, sometimes the best result can come from a loss. While the Patriots AFC championship loss is still too fresh to process, the Red Sox went from worst to first in 2013 and gave fans an unexpected thrill in a year where expectations were low. We learned earlier this month that GE selected Boston for its new corporate headquarters, but GE’s spokesperson gave Rhode Island high praise for our pitch and our offerings so we will be considered for future GE sites and jobs. We didn’t win, but losing out to Boston (instead of Atlanta) — and being in contention when we’ve never been competitive before — makes the loss much easier to take and offers time to improve our pitch.

A near-loss has recently allowed for a time of reflection in the East Bay. After the 4th of July Committee voted to shorten the parade route and the news initially broke, my heart was broken for the families whose traditions and celebrations were in jeopardy. I was also feeling badly for the dedicated volunteers who were taking the heat for making what they clearly believed to be the best decision for all involved. While the change in plans was reconsidered and a victory was notched for the parade preservationists, the more important result is that we were able to have a community-wide conversation about what the parade means to each of us.

It’s important to note that the vast majority of us enjoy the festivities without contributing much. The parade — and all the events and concerts that accompany the 4th — couldn’t and wouldn’t happen without the incredibly hard work of the 4th of July Committee. The amount of time they put into making the celebration happen is almost unimaginable to most of us and they do it without recognition or pay. I will admit that I never thought about the tremendous amount of pressure they bear to meet expectations about the number and quantity of bands that march. One thing I have heard over and over: we love the fancy marching bands from far away, but if they can’t make it, that’s okay too. If the “Battle of the Bands” has to be in Cranston, let’s have a showcase of local high school bands in its place. Instead of paying one of the “big time” bands to come from the Midwest, maybe we can fund a trip to the parade for a fantastic high school band that would be honored to participate in our fantastic tradition.

The parade is about family, friends, traditions and yes, Bristol. If the committee believes that the parade needs to be shortened, maybe it’s not the route that gets cut, but some of the content. One thought: no offense to Providence, but I have never understood why it is so well represented in the Bristol parade. The mayor’s SUV can be seen in downtown Providence any day and I wonder if it is special enough for a spot in the Bristol parade. I hope that what started out as painful discussion can turn into something we all can have a productive and cooperative voice in every year.

Monday, January 11, 2016

2016: Vote Early and Often

The arrival of 2016 brought the same anticipation and excitement as New Year’s Eve does every year (I was asleep by 10) even though it’s the year I’ve been talking about since 2012, a presidential election year. For political junkies, this year could be particularly exciting one with the possibility of an upset on the Democratic side and the chance for a brokered convention on the Republican side. As it stands today, the number of candidates that seem to have a shot at the Oval means that it’s too early to discount almost anyone (except Martin O’Malley — he had one voter show up for a campaign event in Iowa and the guy left undecided — it’s time to pack it in Governor O’Malley.) The epicenter of activity is just a few hours away in New Hampshire where the first-in-the-nation primaries will take place on February 9st.

We’ve already had our first political stunner of 2016 here in Rhode Island last week when Republican John Pagliarini won a State Senate seat that seemed headed for Democratic control. Even though there are no statewide elections this year, it could be an interesting year to be an active voter. Although Rhode Island typically plays no role in presidential politics with our four electoral votes and reliably Democratic voters, 2016 could be the year that Little Rhody figures big — at least on the Republican side. Rhode Island’s presidential preference primary falls on April 26th, about mid-way through the process, and at a time when still-viable candidates will be looking to scoop up whatever delegates they can. This is particularly significant because there are fewer “winner take all” states, so closely contested primaries could award delegates to two, three or more candidates, making it likely that a candidate cannot clinch the nomination before May. A brokered convention (one where no candidate has a majority before voting begins) would be a nail-biter and must-see-TV since we haven’t seen a brokered convention in modern times

While there will be several opportunities to cast a ballot in 2016 with local primaries on September 13th and the general election on November 8th, plan to cast your first ballot of 2016 on April 26th. For Rhode Islanders, the presidential primary may be the only chance to have a sense that your vote for president counts, so make a plan to show up. Regardless of your politics, your vote might actually matter, so don’t sleep through the big moment.