2015 Report Card FAILS to Provide Equal Opportunity for Rhode Islanders

The Center’s 4th annual REPORT CARD demonstrates how RI’s political class continues to cater to special insiders, while depriving other Rhode Islanders of the opportunity for upward mobility, educational opportunity, and personal prosperity.

[button url=”http://rifreedom.org/RIReportCard/” target=”_self” size=”medium” style=”royalblue” ] 2015 Report Card [/button]

Stop the HPV Vaccine Mandate & Preserve Parental Rights

REGULATORY DESPOTISM? To view our press conference videos, photos, media links, and for more info …

Go to our HPV home page

Statement: SCOTUS Decision, Massive Rate Hike Should Doom HealthSource RI

STATEMENT
June 26, 2015
FY2016 Should be Last Year of Continued Taxpayer and Ratepayer Subsidies for Failed Boondoggle
Exchange Can be More Efficiently Operated by the Federal Government

Providence, RI — Based on yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and with statewide health insurance premiums once again set to sky-rocket, the nonpartisan Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity suggests that FY2016 should be the last year that Rhode Island taxpayers and ratepayers should be burdened with subsidizing HealthSource RI.

The Supreme Court ruling, which preserved federal insurance subsidies across the nation, effectively removed one of the major arguments of proponents seeking to keep the state exchange funded by Rhode Islanders. Further, based on today’s Providence Journal story that insurance rates could rise by as much as 18% next year, HealthSource RI has obviously failed in its promise to control rate increases.

“There is no longer any legitimate reason for Rhode Islanders to continue to pay for this self-created boondoggle,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “It’s time to renew the discussion about sending our exchange to the federal government, where efficiencies of scale can allow it to be operated at a significantly lower cost than we can run it on our own in Rhode Island. And now we can do so without any fear of anyone losing their subsidy.”

Rhode Island is one of just 15 states that fully-funds and operates its own insurance exchange. As the Center has documented over recent years, the Ocean State does not have a large enough tax base or insurance base to justify the related high costs.

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 | info@rifreedom.org

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

2015 RhodeMap RI Related Legislation

RhodeMap RI targets individual property rights

A number of recommendations made by the Center earlier this year in its Legislative Antidotes to RhodeMap RI post, are encapsulated in many of the bills below, which have already been introduced in the 2015 RI General Assembly session. Thank you to PRARI (the Property Rights Alliance of RI) for compiling this legislative list and descriptions.

Recently Introduced Legislation, RhodeMap RI Opt Out Provisions

1. H6040 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H6040.pdf

Prohibits affordable housing program requirements, that exceed those set forth in the general laws of the state, from being included in the statewide planning program. Sponsors: Price, Roberts, Chippendale, Costa and Nardolillo

2. H6041 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H6041.pdf

Allows cities and towns to opt out of provisions in the state guide plan that relate to affordable housing and the related land use provisions, by providing timely written notice of that decision to the chief of the RI Division of Planning.   Sponsors: Roberts, Price, Chippendale, Filippi and Nardolillo

3. H6042 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H6042.pdf

Allows cities and towns to opt out of provisions in the state guide plan that relate to affordable housing and the related land use provisions –by providing timely written notice of that decision to the chief of the RI Division of Planning. Sponsors: Costa, Lancia, Giarrusso, Reilly and Corvese

4. H6043 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H6043.pdf

Repeals the provisions and references to compliance with the state guide plan relative to local comprehensive planning for land use. Sponsors: Nardolillo, Chippendale, Price and Roberts

Other Bills

1. H5643 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H5643.pdf 

Eliminates the state mandate requiring cities and towns to include an affordable housing program in the local comprehensive plan and actually prohibits its inclusion in the local comprehensive plan.  (section 45-22.2-6, “RI Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Act”) Sponsors: Price, Reilly, Roberts, Costa, and Filippi

2. S653 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0653.pdf (Companion to H 5643)

Eliminates the state mandate requiring cities and towns to include an affordable housing program in the local comprehensive plan and actually prohibits its inclusion in the local comprehensive plan.  (section 45-22.2-6, “RI Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Act”) Sponsors: BIPARTISAN – Cote, Raptakis, ONeill, Gee and Kettle

3. H5644 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H5644.pdf

Eliminates the state mandate requiring cities and towns to include an affordable housing program in the local comprehensive plan and provides an opt-out provision for this. It also provides an opt out provision from the state guide plan relating to affordable housing programs.  (section 45-22.2-6, RI Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Act”) Sponsors: Roberts, Price, Filippi, Nardolillo, and Costa

4. S654 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0654.pdf (Companion to H 5644) 

Eliminates the state mandate requiring cities and towns to include an affordable housing program in the local comprehensive plan and actually prohibits its inclusion in the local comprehensive plan.  (section 45-22.2-6, “RI Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Act”) Sponsors: Cote, Raptakis, ONeill, Gee, Kettle

5. H5713 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H5713.pdf

Requires General Assembly approval of the state guide plan and any amendments to the state guide plan. (section 42-11-10 “Department of Administration”) Sponsors:  Filippi, Costa, Price, Giarrusso, and Morgan

6. S26 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0026.pdf

Exempts Coventry, E. Greenwich and W. Greenwich from all the terms and provisions of 42-64.17-1 entitled “Long Term Economic Development Vision and Policy”. Sponsors: BIPARTISAN – Raptakis, Kettle, Morgan, Cote and ONeill. Heard March 10, held for further study.

Bills to Address New Definition of Low and Moderate Income Housing

1. S172 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0172.pdf

Allows mobile homes to be included in affordable housing stock in Coventry. (Section 42-128-8.1) Sponsors: BIPARTISAN – Raptakis, Kettle and Fogarty

2. H5714 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H5714.pdf

Changes what is included in the calculation of affordable housing stock.  (Section 42-55-21.1 “RI Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation”) Sponsors: BIPARTISAN – Filippi, Hearn, Marcello, Price, and Ackerman

3. S498 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0498.pdf

Allows mobile and manufactured homes to be counted as low and moderate income housing for purposes of compliance with Comprehensive land use plans. (Section 45-53-3 “Low and Moderate Income Housing”) Sponsors: BIPARTISAN – Fogarty, Ottiano, Kettle, and DiPalma

Bills to Address Eminent Domain

1. H5774 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H5774.pdf

Public use is defined as it relates to eminent domain. (Chapter 37-6 “Acquisition of Land”) Sponsors: BIPARTISAN – Costa, Trillo, Newberry, Giarrusso, and Shekarchi

2. S622 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0622.pdf (Companion to H 5774)

Requires that condemning land cannot include taking for private entity for purpose of economic development. (Chapter 37-6 “Acquisition of Land”) Sponsors: Cote, Lombardo, Archambault, Lombardi, McCaffrey

Bills to Increase the Maximum Property Tax on Qualifying Low Income Property

1. H5328 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H5328.pdf

Increases the maximum tax rate on qualifying low income property from 8% to 12% of previous years gross rent. (Section 44-5-13.11 “Levy and Assessment of Local Taxes”) Sponsors: Phillips, Morin, Casey, Bennett, Almeida

2. S32  http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0032.pdf

Increases the maximum tax rate on qualifying low income property from 8% to 10% of prospective gross rent.  (Section 44-5-13.11 “Levy and Assessment of Local Taxes”) Sponsors: Picard, Cote and Goodwin

3. S33 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0033.pdf

Increases the maximum tax rate on qualifying low income property from 8% to 10% of previous years gross rent. (Section 44-5-13.11 “Levy and Assessment of Local Taxes”) Sponsors: Picard and Goodwin

4. S562 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0562.pdf

Allows an increase in the maximum tax rate on qualifying low income property from 8% to 10%  if  LMIH stock represents 12% or more. (section 44-5-13.11 “Levy and Assessment of Local Taxes”) Sponsor: Picard

5. S112 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0112.pdf

Allows an increase in the maximum tax rate on qualifying low income property from 8% to 15% when budget commission or court appointed individual involved with city/town. Sponsor: Picard

BAD BILLS

Bills to Allow State Intrusion on Municipal Property Taxation

1. H5518 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H5518.pdf

Mandates that municipalities do not charge impact fees to developers for 36 months or until 1,500 permits statewide. (section 45-22.4 “RI Development Impact Fee Act”) Sponsors:  Shekarchi, Edwards, Solomon, Ucci, and McKiernan

2. H5545 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H5545.pdf

Mandates that municipalities do not charge impact fees to developers for 36 months and mandates the reduction of municipal permit fees. (section 45-22.4 “RI Development Impact Fee Act” and section 23-27.3 “State Building Code”) Sponsor:  Jacquard

3. H5550 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H5550.pdf

Mandates that permit fees and special fees for new construction will be determined by the state building code commission, not the local municipality.  (Chapter 23-27.3 “State Building Code”) Sponsors: BIPARTISAN – Shekarchi, McKiernan, Trillo, Lima, and Edwards

Bills to Divert Funds To Densely Populated Cities

1. H5552 http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H5552.pdf

Creates an Urban Infrastructure Commission (to include 4 members of a 2,000 per square mile municipality) along with an Urban Renaissance Fund and provide that the state plays a central role in developing and supporting a targeted urban infrastructure program. (Title 42 – “State Affairs and Government”) Sponsors: McKiernan, Shekarchi, Lombardi, Carnevale, and Almeida

COMMENTARY: State Property Tax Proposal Right out of RHODEMAP RI Playbook

By Mike Stenhouse

We warned you about RhodeMap RI.

While Gov. Gina Raimondo’s proposed new statewide property tax has already inspired arguments among various constituent groups, there are much larger, more fundamental issues to be concerned about.

Disguised as a wealth tax, the “Taylor Swift tax” is really an assault on private property rights and an infringement on municipal sovereignty, all part of a national agenda. Sound familiar? This tax idea is right out of the RhodeMap RI playbook, and it was probably designed by a nationally prominent sustainable-living, urban-planning advocate.

The month before the governor introduced this controversial new tax, a Feb. 18 WPRI-12 report confirmed that the Raimondo administration was bringing Brookings Institution scholar Bruce Katz to Rhode Island for private meetings and hinted that the state should find a role for him. Also, in 2013, Ms. Raimondo, in conjunction with the Rhode Island Foundation, brought Mr. Katz, a prominent national expert on urban economic development, to the Ocean State. Mr. Katz also has a relationship with Grow Smart RI, the primary architect for RhodeMap RI.

Like RhodeMap RI, the proposed state property tax targets wealthy property owners.

As our center informed the public during last fall’s RhodeMap RI debate, the underlying philosophy of the sustainable living and urban planning movement is that suburban sprawl, manifested largely through development of private single-family homes, is an unsustainable and inequitable ailment in our world.

In their view, such prime real estate would be more beneficial to society by being turned into “common,” “open space” or “high density” use. The goal of these central planners is to make it incrementally less attractive to own private property by making it more expensive (via tax policy) and by limiting development rights (through regulatory policy).

Since this would be politically unpopular at the local level, the strategy of the central planners is to supersede the authority and ordinances of local town governments by creating new regional authorities and statewide laws, such as the governor’s.

This strategy is clearly represented in the language of the governor’s proposed tax scheme, which describes property ownership as a “privilege.” It then takes the extraordinary step of taxing those properties, much like a “sin” tax.

Home and property ownership is not a privilege, nor is it a sin; it is a cornerstone of the American Dream, of our free-enterprise system, and the foundation of our constitutional rights. By demoting private property ownership to a mere privilege, sustainable living radicals can justify eventually restricting or removing that privilege.

Further, with the state exerting control over property taxes, local governments would find themselves with diminished sovereignty to manage real-estate issues. Cities and towns will have less authority to ensure that they remain attractive to in- or out-of-state homeowners and landlords, which are vital to their local economies.

A March 17 Providence Journal article described even more of the rationale, via familiar “sustainable” terms such as “fair share,” property “deterioration” and “stock of … real estate.” Urban planning advocates such as Bruce Katz believe it is not fair that some have the “privilege” of living in exclusive neighborhoods. Property deterioration, or blight, is a common rationale for governments to justify eminent domain seizures to increase the stock of available real estate for open space or high density developments.

Given the timing of Bruce Katz’ visit and the familiar language, there is little doubt in my mind that this ill-founded state property tax concept was originally devised by Mr. Katz. If he were to assume a role in the Raimondo administration, Rhode Island would become the model test-tube state for the sustainable development movement. Last year saw RhodeMap RI’s adoption; with Bruce Katz on board, RhodeMap RI will be on a fast-track for its implementation.

It’s one thing if this tax plan was merely about the Taylor Swifts in Rhode Island. If so, the discussion would be about whether or not it drives real-estate investors to other states and whether your home might be taxed next.

It’s a completely different and alarming matter if this tax is the first-step in a highly coordinated federal-state scheme to diminish municipal sovereignty and encroach on the property rights of Rhode Islanders — a scheme like RhodeMap RI.

Mike Stenhouse is CEO for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a nonprofit free-market think tank.

CENTER’s STATEMENT on GOVERNOR’s 2016 BUDGET PLAN

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2015

2016 Proposed Budget Does Not Address Major Problems

No Game Changing Economic Ideas
Does Not Address Long Term Structural Deficits
Continued Special-Interest Spending

Providence, RI — Governor Gina Raimondo’s proposed FY-2016 budget plan provides no game-changing ideas to boost Rhode Island’s stagnant jobs market and overall economy and does little to improve the state’s poor-rated business climate or to address long-term structural budget deficits.

By shifting money from certain side funds to the general fund and by borrowing money from the future via risky re-financing schemes, the Center rates the plan as a temporary band-aid approach, instead of major steps towards a long-term solution.

“Despite years of Rhode Island experiencing negative results, this budget continues and expands the state’s practice of assuming that government knows best, and that a few insiders in back rooms can solve our problems better than the rest of us can,” said Justin Katz, research director for the Center. “From tens of millions of dollars in phantom ‘trust us’ savings to millions more poured into slush funds for centralized economic development to a scary new ‘statewide property tax,’ several back-flips backwards overwhelm the few positive policy steps forward.”

The plan’s government-centric approach toward economic development that favors specific industries is merely an extension of the same, failed public policy approach that is responsible for putting Rhode Island into its current economic rut. The Center, instead, recommends broad based tax and spending reductions as the primary means to boost the economy.

Other than vague goals to reduce Medicaid and state personnel costs, multi-hundred million dollar deficits are still projected in future out years.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS. The Center soon plans to publish a policy brief that will povide a more detailed analysis of the budget plan, but today also makes the following observations:

  • The plan gives government more power in attempting to orchestrate economic development, and is a further departure from proven free-market principles
  • The plan continues the practice of new special interest spending programs at the expense of the average Rhode Islander
  • The new state property tax fee is a slippery slope that could lead to this tax being applied to lower valued properties in the future
  • The increased hospital fee and health insurance premium fees will likely result in more costs being passed down to consumers and will likely also lead to health insurance premium hikes
  • The vendor/supplier corporate tax credit idea is a handout to special interest big corporations
  • New pre-K, full-day K, and construction spending ideas are handouts to special interest unions
  • The new rental taxes will be a drag on our state’s vital tourism industry, especially harming smaller entrepreneurs
  • The higher cigarette tax will likely lead to even greater “black market” activity, with the state is unlikely to meet the increased $7+million revenue expectations
  • The increased town tipping fees to RI Resource Recovery could lead to increased property taxes in those towns

Governor’s Minimum Wage Policy Based on Untruths; Union Connection?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2015

Minimum Wage Hike Does Not Mostly Benefit Low Income Families 

Most RI minimum wage workers were white, middle-class. Only 14% were sole family income earners.

Providence, RI — Governor Gina Raimondo’s press conference today to promote a hike in the state’s minimum wage will create a negative drag on her own goal to increase jobs in Rhode Island. Further, most of the higher wages will likely go to white, middle-income workers, while potentially harming many of the very families the Governor’s plan seeks to assist.

This according to the nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which re-published findings from prior research reports.

The strong union support of the plan, with today’s press conference to be conducted at a union hall, raises significant additional questions. According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, it is common that many union contracts peg their base-line wages to the minimum wage.

“It is disappointing that one of the first major acts of our new Governor is to perpetuate policies that are harmful to our state’s job market and that bend to special interest demands,”said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “The great irony here is that this policy will mostly benefit middle-class whites and union workers, as opposed to low-income minority families. The image put forth – that most minimum wage workers are minority family breadwinners – is simply not true.”
FAST FACTS. According to research by the Center, based on 2012 data, of minimum wage earners in Rhode Island:
  • Over 80% were white
  • $61,299 was the average family income
  • Over 71% were part-time workers less than 35 hrs/wk; 30% less than 20 hrs/wk
  • Only 6% were married, as sole earner
  • Only 8% were single parents
  • Almost 60% lived with their parents or some other primary breadwinner
  • About 60% were 25 years old or younger; over 40% 21 or younger
ADVERSE JOBS IMPACT. The Center’s 2013 report also found, that based on the minimum wage and jobs market at that time, a hike to the same $10.10 per hour level now being promoted by the Governor, would:
  • Destroy almost 3500 jobs, including breadwinners from low-income families
  • Be a continuing assault of the state’s economy
  • Be especially harmful to low-income workers who need upward mobility in a robust jobs market
Read the entire 2013 report here, Read other minimum wage studies by the Center.

 

Legislative Antidotes to RhodeMapRI

PROPERTY RIGHTS and MUNICIPAL SOVEREIGNTY ACT of 2015

The concepts of private property ownership and associated rights are considered core components of America’s free-enterprise system. It is also widely held that local government is the best government, as opposed to a one-size-fits all centralized planning approach. Preservation of each of these principles is vital to maintaining a thriving democracy in Rhode Island.

In recent weeks in the Rhode Island General Assembly there have been a number of bi-partisan legislative introductions and announcements in response to the passage of the controversial RhodeMapRI plan into the state’s official Guide Plan. While these legislative maneuvers would seek to free localities from being required to comply with provisions of RhodeMap RI, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity recommends additional legislative fixes should also be considered to minimize the grave risks that RhodeMap RI poses to property owners and the sovereignty of local governments.

As an antidote to some of those risks, the Property Rights and Municipal Sovereignty Act of 2015 should include:

Financial Transparency: Require the RI Division of Planning and its RhodeMapRI consortium, to provide a complete, up to date listing of all revenue and expense transactions on its web site, by listing full details of every transaction, by date, by source, and by vendor, for all activities related to the development or implementation of the RhodeMap RI plan. As of January 2015, only partial financial records have been released. Such practices would bring the Division of Planning into keeping with the transparency practices in other executive-branch departments.

Protection from Eminent Domain: The RI Home and Business Protection Act of 2008 [RIGL 42-64.12] ostensibly was passed into law to limit potential eminent domain abuse in the Ocean State following the landmark Kelo v. City of New London U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Instead, the law appears to actually open the door for aggressive eminent domain utilization by city planners when there is a local economic development in place, such as the “growth centers” envisioned by the RhodeMap RI plan.

This Act should be amended as follows:

  • Rephrase the section discussing “plans” [42-64.12-7A] to eliminate any RhodeMap RI inspired growth center or other plan, and any state-inspired plan, not created and developed exclusively by the duly elected local officials of that town or created with the explicit intention that it would fulfill the plan requirement for eminent domain seizures.
  • Bar any and all potential eminent domain action that would transfer property from one private party to any other another private party. Eminent domain should be limited in practice, and should only be considered for public use, never to enrich any private party at the expense of another private party, even it could be argued that greater tax receipts could be garnered from the receiving private party.
  • Bar any “transfer of development rights” transactions that are not 100% voluntary between the two parties, or that may have resulted from any form of government coercion, regulation, or mandate, or as a result from any plan not exclusively developed by the municipality.

Constitutional Amendment to Preserve and Government Sovereignty: The amendment would bar any state or local funding and invalidate any law that would support the establishment of or the participation in any regional or statewide authority, such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority contemplated in the RhodeMap RI plan, that would have any power to implement law, to supersede local authority, to bring or encourage lawsuits, or to implement any official state or local planning provision, without the requirement to present its recommendations for a public vote to a duly elected body of state or local representatives.

Real Economic Development Planning: Rhode Island could benefit from a well-researched, comprehensive economic development plan that would lead to economic growth, without infringing on individual rights or local government sovereignty.

The 2013 law, enacted by H6069 and S0712 [RIGL 423-64.17-1], should be amended as follows:

  • Set specific economic goals to improve the state’s overall business and economic climate
  • Establish an independent Blue Ribbon Commission, appointed by the governor, composed solely of economic experts and business leaders, that would develop a plan to meet those objectives.
    • Bar the participation of any government employee, special interest group or individual from any organization that receives any public funding from serving on the Commission
    • The plan must be presented to the General Assembly for regular committee hearings, and must be approved by a vote of the entire General Assembly.
    • The Commission should be completely state funded, and must not be pre-required to adhere to any principles of any state or federal agency or any other organization.
    • The Commission must not be permitted to construe its scope so broadly that it is permitted to rewrite the policies of any state agency or locality or any other organization acting within its own range of authority.
    • Eliminate the requirement for the commission to adhere to prior economic development or any other statewide plan; however the Commission may choose to take these plans into consideration, at its sole discretion.

Defund Grow Smart RI: The state should not provide public funding to any advocacy group that advances a special interest agenda that in any way could be viewed as working against the best interests or individual rights of state or local taxpayers, such as Grow Smart RI, which received over $350,000 from Rhode Island taxpayers in the past five years.

Repeal the Benefit Corporation Law of 2013: The state should not specifically classify or reward businesses that adhere to any special interest agenda by creating a two-tiered tax system or by exempting such businesses from traditional stakeholder accountability.

Amend the statewide Affordable Housing Mandate [42-128-8.1(d)(1)]: Specify that the existing 10% affordable housing mandate that is currently required to be included in the comprehensive plans of each city and town must only consider affordable housing at a municipal-wide level, and never at a census block, neighborhood, or any otherwise defined sub-level, and must never include any other kind of demographic quota or threshold requirement.

  • Cities and towns should be barred from accepting federal grant funds, or any funds, that may require municipalities to adhere to affordable housing quota mandates at anything less than a municipal-wide level.
  • Municipal comprehensive plans, at the municipality’s sole discretion, should have self-authority to determine where future affordable housing units should be developed.
  • Cities and towns should be allowed to consider inclusion all forms of affordable housing in their calculations, regardless of their style, location, or funding sources, as solely determined by locally elected officials (ie, mobile homes and trailer parks). Homes that are affordable should be classified as ‘affordable housing’, without additional specifications.

Truth In Numbers: RhodeMap RI Spends $0.00 on Economics

December 23, 2014

Providence, RI — Precisely zero dollars were spent on actual economics by the RI Division of Planning in constructing its so-called economic development plan, RhodeMap RI, based on initial information provided by the state and published today by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

According to partial figures released by the RI Division of Legal Services last week in response to an open records request by the Center, about $723,000 was spent on eight vendors involved with housing, land, social equity and transportation planning, while another $152,000 was spent on two vendors for outreach activities such as civic engagement and marketing. Despite having admitted that they are not economic development experts themselves, the state’s planners did not retain any outside economic expertise as of last summer.

“That not a single penny was spent on economics experts, economic modeling tools, or any other form of economic policy or jobs forecasting is just more evidence of what we’ve been saying all along; that the RI Division of Planning is perpetrating a ruse on Rhode Islanders by attempting to position RhodeMap RI as a credible economic development plan,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Our state is in serious economic trouble and we need serious people to put together a serious economic plan. RhodeMap RI must be taken off the shelf and ripped out of the official State Guide Plan.”

In an earlier email, Peter Dennehy, Deputy Chief Legal Counsel for the state, informed the Center that the Division of Planning spent $1,259,866.88 from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Partnership for Sustainable Communities grant plus another $359,566 in “non-Partnership for Sustainable Communities grant funds” as of September 30, 2014. In a subsequent email, Dennehy also indicated that Kevin Flynn, head of the Division of Planning, did not have records of expenditures broken down by recipient, “particularly since there are multiple vendors and subcontractors.”

Although the $875,000 in spending that was subsequently broken down and provided last week, about $375,000 of the stated spending has not been provided by the Division of Planning. Further, according to the original grant application to HUD, the RI Division of Planning should have received $1.93 million in revenue from HUD. This means that potentially $1 million in cash spending is as yet unaccounted for.

Another $451,000 or so in matching, non-cash staff contributions was also promised from local sources, in the state’s application to the federal government, including eight Rhode Island cities and towns and various other state agencies and local partners, many of which were members of the RhodeMap RI consortium.

The $359,566 figure provided by the state may be part of this non-cash direct grant match. In effect, the agencies and municipalities paid their own staffs to work on RhodeMap activities.

This means that only about one-third of the total contributions to the RhodeMap RI project has been publicly released in a detailed accounting. The Center calls on the state to release a complete accounting of every revenue and expense transaction for the RhodeMap RI project, including a breakdown of staff contributions by any state or municipal employee.

PUBLISHED RHODEMAP RI CASH EXPENSES:

Includes invoices dated prior to July 31, 2014

Sustainable Living Organizations: Land & Housing Area of Expertise TOTAL: $722,914
Bonnie Heudorfer, Harvard, MA Housing & Community Development Planners $89,697.08
Goody Clancy and Associates, Boston, MA Architecture and Urban Planners $55,254.50
Dodson and Flinker Inc., Ashfield, MA Landscape Architects and Planners $83,310.00
Horsley Witten Group, Providence RI Sustainable Environmental Planners $254,166.99
Interaction Institute for Social Change, Boston, MA Social Equity Planners $40,723.93
Mapping and Planning Services, Jamestown, RI Mapping Services Planners $83,446.01
4Ward Planning, Hopewell, NJ Landscape Councilors & Planners $107,522.75
Nelson Nygard, Franklin, MA Sustainable Transportation Planners $8,792.52
Outreach & PR Area of Expertise TOTAL: $151,866
Place Matters, Denver, CO Civic Engagement and Process Planners $125,040.89
Virtual Marketing Associates, Wood River Junction, RI Virtual Marketing $26,825.50
PROJECTED RHODEMAP RI REVENUES & STAFF CONTRIBUTIONS

From 2011 RI Division of Planning application to H.U.D.

HUD Grant Revenues  $1,934,961.00
Non-Cash Staff Contributions Total: $451,694
Housing Commission Coordinator $30,000.00
PROVIDENCE, Dir. Long Range Planning $16,968.00
EAST PROVIDENCE, Plng. Dir & Chief Planner $26,250.00
NORTH KINGSTOWN, Plng. Dir. & Prin. Planner $28,192.00
CRANSTON, Principal Planner $13,186.00
PAWTUCKET, Sr. Planner $5,184.00
BURRILLVILLE, Town Planner $22,500.00
NEWPORT, Planning Dir. $14,550.00
WESTERLY, Town Plnr. & Ass’t Planner $35,418.00
RI DEM, Administrator $30,000.00
RI EDC, Dir. Community Relations $30,000.00
RI DOH, Community Development Specialist $33,000.00
RI HOUSING, Dir. Intergov’t Relations … $56,556.00
GROW SMART RI, Exec. Dir. … $47,736.00
RI LISC, Program Officer $31,734.00
RI LEGAL SERVICES, Community Lawyer $30,420.00

 

Lessons from RhodeMap RI

GO TO HOME PAGE re. RhodeMap RI

This commentary originally appeared in the Providence Journal on December 19, 2014:

Will the recently adopted RhodeMap RI plan collect dust on a shelf, as Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello suggests? Or will it survive in some form to spawn various pieces of legislation, executive orders, departmental regulations and local ordinances? Nobody knows.

But looking back, there are clear lessons to learn from the controversial process of adopting RhodeMap RI:

-RhodeMap RI is not change; it is just another crony deal.

While proponents say the plan represents much needed change, opponents understand it is just more of the government interventionist policies that have wrecked our state’s economy — on steroids.

This plan adopts the same delusion as Rhode Island’s status quo political culture: that engineering politically-correct or sociological outcomes will somehow lead to economic growth — in this instance, by following “smart growth” and “sustainable development” principles.

As for cronyism, Grow Smart RI, a primary architect of RhodeMap RI, is funded by taxpayer dollars as well as by the Rhode Island Foundation, a founding supporter of this big-government scheme. While not illegal, these financial arrangements make RhodeMap RI look like yet another 38 Studios-style insider, public-private deal.

-Planned inclusion is bad economics. Good economics are themselves inclusive.

With no real cost-benefit analysis for its recommendations, and filled with a multitude of planned social outcomes, RhodeMap RI has little credibility as economic development, despite Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s professed belief that “inclusion” produces positive economics.

In truth, RhodeMap RI and its social mandates would increase burdens on the business community, as Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council have also noted. Tying a nice-sounding social-equity ribbon around this same, tired, government-centric package does not change the plan’s fundamental win-lose character, where the engineered benefit for some is provided at the expense of others.

Win-win solutions are what Rhode Island needs — free-market policies such as tax and regulatory cuts that stimulate growth and produce new jobs and expanded opportunities for anyone looking to improve their standard of living. Everyone, including low-income families, would benefit.

-RhodeMap RI was not “of the people.”

The unelected bureaucrats who adopted this plan were not accountable to the people of Rhode Island; they had little at stake. No program should become adopted if not voted on by the duly elected representatives of the people. The recent national and state trend to implement policy outside the legislative process — by executive order, by commission, or by agency regulation — is bad government and is not of the people.

Neither does conducting sparsely-attended, rigged meetings constitute the “will of the people,” especially when it comes to an agenda as expansive as RhodeMap RI. Intense public scrutiny is required, including experts from all sides, as with our 2011 statewide pension debate.

Any plan funded by a federal government agency that mandates adherence to specific core principles of that federal agency cannot legitimately be called plan of the Rhode Island people. Though its proponents have continually “Gruberized” Rhode Islanders, they are not stupid.

-What is the value of taxpayer-funded organizations?

It is outrageous, first, that Commerce RI would cede economic development to urban planners; then would further support such vague, job-killing mumbo-jumbo; and finally would represent it as a serious economic development plan. This agency, called the Economic Development Commission when it brought us 38 Studios, should be defunded and disbanded.

That the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns voted in favor of a plan that would lead to increases in local property taxes and a loss of sovereignty of its own member local governments, even after eight of those member towns passed actions calling for a halt to the RhodeMap RI vote, is equally outrageous.

What can be the public value of these organizations when they continually support intrusive programs that work against the very same taxpayers who fund them?

-Messing with property rights is politically toxic.

For many in Rhode Island, our homes and our land are the earned result of our hard work and often represent the basis of our families’ long-term financial security. Any agenda that so openly threatens property rights, and fails to expressly safeguard against deterioration of property rights and property values, will continue to fuel the passionate level of public opposition that confronted the state Planning Council meeting on Dec 11.

For low-income families that do not yet own real property, the property tax hikes suggested by RhodeMap RI would drive up their rents, while the climate-change provisions in the plan would surely increase energy and transportation costs.

It would be political suicide for any elected official to support a plan that has generated as much opposition from the voters as RhodeMap RI has.

Many lessons. Clear lessons. Will our political class ever learn?

Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center, earned an Economics degree from Harvard University