As we reported last week, five high school students — four from Westerly High School and one from Wheeler High in North Stonington — are taking advantage of a 200-hour maritime sheet metal course at the Westerly Education Center that can give them a head start into the workforce after graduation. The training is being done in association with Electric Boat, which is stepping up its hiring in advance of accelerated submarine production at its Quonset Point and Groton facilities. General Dynamics EB is a major component of the regional economy, and its jobs offer solid pay and security for young people who are interested in the skilled trades. In an ideal world, the company would simply foot the bill itself to train students who make a work commitment. EB is relying instead on cooperation from many state and local educational institutions, and has found especially willing partners in this area. The Westerly High School Alumni Scholarship Fund, North Stonington Education Foundation and Westerly Educational Endowment paid for scholarships for the students — contributions that made it possible for the education center to host the course.
The efforts of these groups should be applauded, even as many people continue to question why Rhode Island and Connecticut taxpayers should be subsidizing General Dynamics. At the end of the first quarter, the total potential contract value of its backlog components was $87.6 billion. Yes, the company could probably shell out more of its own money for workforce development without denting its quarterly dividend (93 cents per share, declared last week), but the govenors and legislative leaders of Connecticut and Rhode Island have to engage in realpolitik. EB Human Resources Manager Brian Howard, who attended Westerly High School, put it well: “We have over two decades of backlog work right now. Really, the sky’s the limit with trades.”
Just going by the headlines, it was a banner week for Westerly Town Council member Mario Celico. First was the disclosure that a structure attached to a former restaurant he operated had been built without a permit, lacked a zoning variance, and had become inftested with vermin while serving as a drug hangout after the restaurant closed. Then, in a move that will assure continued tension among his colleagues, he filed a lawsuit in Superior Court seeking to overturn the Town Council’s decision to replace him as council president. Finally, the Board of Canvassers declined to accept his challenge to local government watchdog Robert Lombardo’s voting registration. The circumstances behind the first story may have been unintentional on Celico’s part, but the next two were provocative. He seems to enjoy a good fight. We’re not so sure about the other people in the ring.
Disrespectul. Unseemly. Inaccurate. Illogical. Those are some of the milder adjectives that come to mind in the wake of assertions by several Republicans last week that Connecticut’s governor and his policies on criminal justice were responsible for the slaughter of the Lindquist family in Griswold during a prolonged home invasion. The killings of Kenneth and Janet Lindquist, former residents of Westerly, and their 21-year-old son Matthew, were an outrage. The killers will be held accountable. But it’s one thing to share in the revulsion of these slayings and another thing altogether to try and capitalize on tragedy in a partisan fashion, as state Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, and Rep. Kevin Skulczyk, R-Griswold, did at a press conference last week, just days after the first gruesome details of the Dec. 20 crime became available. To say that “the victims would still be alive” had the alleged killer not been out of prison on Dec. 20 is a tautology: The statement is true and cannot be contradicted, yet it ignores the proximate fact that the accused killer, and his alleged accomplice, had been led to Griswold by one of the Lindquists’ sons, who was one of the victims. The assertion that new policies on the handling of nonviolent offenders had a bearing on this case cannot withstand scrutiny, either. Reinstating the death penalty is part of the Connecticut GOP’s game plan, an objective that is best served by dehumanizing anyone who might be subjected to it. Thus we have Skulczyk’s comment that the son “invited these animals down from Hartford” in a drug scheme. This is the language of hate and demagoguery. We hope that the performance of these lawmakers is not a preview of the upcoming election campaign.