2017-04-06 / Opinion


Florez Declares Candidacy

To the Editor:

Recently I declared my candidacy for the District 13 Senate seat. I am looking forward to sharing with you my vision for the future of Newport, Jamestown, and the state of Rhode Island. For the next several months I will be sharing with you in a series of posts and videos, specific initiatives and policy positions.

I'd like to begin with what I believe to be one of the most crucial challenges we currently face: the health of our economy. While our unemployment rate has fallen to 4.5 percent (the first time since 2005 that it has fallen below the national average), it still appears to have significant structural issues.

The housing bubble and the collapse of manufacturing had a devastating impact on our state's economy. But here we are today, and now we must look towards the future. The following are several economic initiatives that I plan to explore and ultimately fight tirelessly for if elected as your next State Senator.

The Brookings Institute did a comprehensive study and provided us with some insights and recommendations as to how to jump-start our economy. In short, innovation, innovation, innovation!

The Innovation Hub is a private-public partnership that will help drive biotech, green infrastructure, resilience, and other future-oriented industries that will have longterm sustainability. As I mentioned earlier, the collapse of the state's legacy industry still has an impact on our economy. We need to rebuild new "legacy" industries that will be sustainable and competitive over the long term. This is why this project has not only the ability to transform our local economy but projects like this can create change for our state wide economy as well. As a member of the council, I have helped shape the policy around this initiative and I will continue to do so in the senate.

Commercialization of Research– We need to improve the commercialization of research being conducted at Brown University, the Naval Undersea War Center, and other research institutions. While a substantial amount of funds are being dedicated towards research, this knowledge isn't being converted commercially towards start-ups as compared to top universities in Massachusetts. We need to explore ways to help improve the commercialization of the research being conducted in these institutions.

Solopreneurs–Let's create a statewide program that will help support, embrace and cultivate individual contractors/business owners. These are individuals that are in business for themselves and have no employees. They are web developers, designers, architects and carpenters, to name a few. It's estimated that 40 percent of our workforce falls into this category. By 2020, that figure will shoot up to 50 percent We need to build a statewide grassroots community made up of these independent freelancers. In Santa Cruz, they've created such a platform, one that provides services, networking events, collaborative shared live/work spaces, and support groups. Today, Santa Cruz has one of the fastest-growing job markets in the nation.

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) and Vocational Educations–If we're going to create new legacy industries comprised of Information Technology related industries, we need to have a well-educated workforce. In an interview Neil Degrassi Tyson said, "Anything that's going to grow in our economy will derive from innovations in STEM fields." College is not for everyone; that's why we need to invest in vocational programs for students that are seeking to learn a new trade.

John Florez

Is Newport a Company Town?

To the Editor:

With its ongoing justification of the proposed visitor center and service of food and beverages, the Preservation Society’s management has obscured what they are really doing to Newport, ruining the integrity of our best-known historic landmark, The Breakers. This is degrading all of our residential neighborhoods for the sake of profit. Residents should take a walk through the property, which is being prepped for construction, and visualize the 3,700-square-foot modern building with service patios that will be plunked down right next to the original gatehouse, destroying paths and landscape designed in the 1890s. The organization that was founded to preserve and protect Newport has reversed its mission in order to compete with local businesses for the tourist and event dollar. For what? To pay large corporate salaries to its senior management. To pay for lawyers, advertising, and self-promotion. To run shops jammed with merchandise for tourists. To fill our narrow streets with buses and cars to the point that one can’t get around in the summer.

The Society has an annual budget of over $20 million and is subsidized by taxpayers at the local, state and federal level – it has the economic power to throw its weight around, as even a cursory study of the visitor center process will demonstrate.

Take a deep breath, Newport, and let the Preservation Society know we are not their “company town.” Tell them to relocate a suitable ticket and restroom facility for visitors outside the grounds of The Breakers and to restore the landscape. Remind them they are here to serve and preserve Newport. It is not too late; the trustees can still act to do the right thing.

Mary Joan Hoene

Show Nationwide Support for Our Military Children in April

To the Editor:

As part of our ongoing commitment to the well-being and health of the children in our community, The Middletown Prevention Coalition joins the Department of Defense and communities nation wide in celebrating April as the "Month Of The Military Child." This observance began in 1986 as a recognition of the sacrifices and the courage of children whose families serve our country.

There are more than 5,000 children from all branches of the military living in Rhode Island with 63 percent of them residing on Aquidneck Island. This group of children, although ever changing, makes up an important part of our school community, and we should support and embrace them.

The Middletown Prevention Coalition is hosting assemblies at Gaudet Middle School for grades 4-8 to kick off the month. The assemblies are intended to raise awareness and bring some attention to the "Month of The Military Child. "

The assemblies will feature a presentation by senior chief Herbert Kresge, USN, International Programs Department at the Naval War College, and his daughter, Sierra, a senior at Middletown High School. Transitions, mobility, and separation can be a risk factor for military students. Our father and daughter speakers will address the academic, social, and emotional challenges they face as a military family. They will be exploring these factors as a means to enhance connections and understanding between our "local" kids and their military peers. I applaud their courage and thank them for offering their personal stories.

This is a great opportunity for us as parents to talk about empathy and understanding. I encourage you to take time to speak with your children about this assembly. Ask your kids what they learned from the presentation. Ask them if they have made new friends this year among the military kids new to our schools. Are they supporting their new classmates by being supportive and welcoming them into our community?

It can be easy to overlook the sacrifices that military families make. Being away from loved ones, relocating and re-settling in new communities, making new friends and establishing a foothold for themselves and their families. These may be your neighbors or your child's classmates. This month is a reminder to all of us of the stories of our military friends and neighbors.

Jake Cathers
Vice Chairman, The Middletown
Prevention Coalition

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