Legislative Antidotes to RhodeMapRI


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.


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

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


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

Statement by Center on RhodeMap RI Adoption

OFFICIAL STATEMENT: December 11, 2014 (2:30 PM)

Council Moves Controversial Plan Forward Despite Overwhelming Public Opposition

Unanimous Vote Indicates RhodeMap RI was pre-Ordained Insider Deal

Providence, RI – “Today we saw the danger of un-elected bureaucrats, accountable to no one, becoming involved in major public policy decisions,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, following the state Planning Council’s unanimous vote to adopt the controversial RhodeMap RI plan. “It’s like the public was not even there; not one of the concerns expressed was even acknowledged, let alone addressed by the council. This plan was obviously an insider deal, pre-ordained to be adopted.”

About 100 people attended the Center’s press conference and rally prior to the planning council meeting, while a standing-room-only crowd of over 200 people were in attendance at the meeting. Another 50 people or so were turned away from the meeting because of fire-code capacity restrictions.

As evidence of the insider game, the Center today discovered that GrowSmart RI, the local urban redevelopment advocacy group that served as the primary architect of the RhodeMap RI plan, has been funded in large part over recent years by both the state of Rhode Island and the RI Foundation, each of which has been strongly supportive of the so-called economic development plan.

“It’s ironic that while diversity and inclusion has been the clarion call of RhodeMap RI supporters, it is disturbing to see the lack of thought-diversity among both the consortium and planning council members that created and advanced this plan; with virtually no representation from the private sector, from the center-right, from taxpayers, or from true economic development experts – and was almost exclusively comprised of government insiders and left-wing special interest advocates,” continued Stenhouse. “This is not healthy. The more we learn about this plan, the more it reeks of 38-Studios style cronyism.”

The primary argument expressed by most of those who spoke in opposition to the plan today was that the General Assembly, the duly elected representatives of the people, should be the body that should advance any economic development plan, not un-elected appointed insiders, beholden to a government-centric agenda.



December 11, 2014 (6:00 AM)
Press Conference & Major Protest Rally Planned Prior to RhodeMap RI Vote This Morning
Statement from Westchester County Executive. Dozens of legislators, governmental entities, advocacy orgs, and taxpayer groups to be represented.

Providence, RI – Following the adoption last evening of the seventh municipality to recommend that the RhodeMap RI process be halted, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity will hold a press conference and protest rally at 8:30 AM this morning, immediately preceding the scheduled state Planning Council vote to adopt the controversial RI plan into the state’s official Guide Plan.

The Center is working alongside the recently formed citizens group, PRARI, to organize the rally, which will include individuals and organizations that oppose the plan. The group will then proceed into the planning council meeting, where public comments are scheduled to be heard from attendees.

It is the position of the Center that adoption of RhodeMap RI will lead to intrusive interference from the federal government. “Washington bureaucrats, who you will never see or meet, want the power to determine who will live where and how each neighborhood will look, said Rob Astorino, Commissioner of Westchester County, NY, who has been battling HUD mandates for years. “What’s at stake is the fundamental right of our cities, towns, and villages to plan and zone for themselves. HUD thinks it can trample on Westchester because it has the misguided notion that zoning and discrimination are the same thing. They are not.” According to Astorino, HUD has categorized Westchester as a “grand experiment”, which the Center does not want to see in Rhode Island.

The rally is expected to attract well-over 100 people – from state and local lawmakers, city and town councils, as well as various taxpayer groups, advocacy organizations, and other concerned Rhode Island residents – who are seeking to stop the RhodeMap RI plan.

Representatives from dozens of state and local groups as well as multiple elected officials are also expected to attend. Among the notable individuals and organizations in opposition to RhodeMap RI, are:

Eight Towns passed resolutions calling for a halt to the process:
Town of Scituate:
Town of Portsmouth
Town of Foster
Town of Tiverton
Town of East Greenwich
Town of W. Greenwich
Town of Hopkinton
Town of Exeter

State & Municipal Legislators:
Mayor Allan Fung
Sen. Lou Raptakis
Sen. Nick Kettle
Sen. Mark Cote
Rep. Mike Chippendale
Rep. Doreen Costa
Rep Patricia Morgan
Rep. Anthony Giarrusso
Sen-elect Mark Gee
Sen-elect Elaine Morgan
Rep-elect Dan Reilly
Rep. elect Sherry Roberts
Rep- elect Bob Nardolillo
Rep-elect Justin Price
Rep-elect Robert Lancia

Formal/State ORGS:
RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity
RI Farm Bureau
RI Tea Party
RI Taxpayers Association
Libertarian Party of RI
Federated RI Sportsmen Club
Manville Sportsman’s Rod & Gun Club
Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights
Alliance for Safe Communities
Citizen/Local GROUPS:
CITIZENS Against RhodeMap RI
Bristol Taxpayers Association
East Bay Patriots
NK Republican Committee
Ayn Rand Admirers of RI
Portsmouth Concerned Citizens
North Kingstown Taxpayers Association
Northwest RI Tea Party
Former US Representative Candidates Rhue Reis and Mark Zaccaria

For more information, the Center’s home-page for RhodeMap RI is: www.RIFreedom.org/PropertyRights.


WHEN: Thursday, December 11, 2014, Press Conf & Rally at 8:30 AM; public meeting at 9:00 AM
WHERE:William E Powers Building, Dep’t of Administration, Capitol Hill, Providence
WHO: Mike Stenhouse, Representative Mike Chippendale

About PRARI: The Property Rights Alliance of RI is a citizens group dedicated to informing the public about the dangers of RhodeMap RI.

RhodeMap RI Brings Eminent Domain 1-Step Closer

The controversial RhodeMap RI plan, in combination with a 2008 law that seemed pre-sage its creation, would appear to allow for almost unlimited government abuse of the worst kind … the power of governments to seize land from private citizens!

[button url=”http://rifreedom.org/2014/12/rhodemap-ri-opens-door-for-eminent-domain/” target=”_blank” size=”medium”] Read the policy brief here[/button]


RhodeMap RI Opens Door for Eminent Domain

With language that appears to have been custom-written for RhodeMap RI, a 2008 law, when combined with the controversial RhodeMap RI plan, may actually throw open the door for aggressive eminent domain property seizures by the government in order to construct “growth centers” as the plan envisions, according to a policy brief by the Center.

In 2008, in response to the momentous  Kelo v. City of New London decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed local governments to seize property from one private person and give it to another, Rhode Island’s legislature passed a law – the RI Home and Business Protection Act of 2008 that ostensibly would limit similar potential abuse in the Ocean State. However, the law specifically allows for eminent domain exceptions when there is a local economic development plan in place.

Read the full policy brief here …

The 2008 act considers that a “government entity” can utilize eminent domain powers if there is a larger plan in place for the area … a plan like a RhodeMap RI growth center plan. The law also specifies other exceptions when eminent domain powers may be used.

It has been theorized by the Center that beginning around 2005, a coordinated legislative, land-use, transportation, and housing strategy has systematically been put in place in the Ocean State, culminating with RhodeMap RI, a so-called economic development scheme.

Given the entities involved in developing the RhodeMap RI plan, there are four potential government entities that could exploit this eminent domain exception to infringe on the property rights of land owners and seize their land:

  • The federal government in Washington, DC, which conceived the RhodeMap RI core principles and funded the plan, with HUD providing funding for the growth centers
  • The state of Rhode Island which will adopt the plan
  • The regional Urban Redevelopment Authority, to be created by RhodeMap RI, unelected bureaucrats who would implement the plan
  • Local municipalities that would aid in planning the growth centers and would raise property taxes to help fund them

Shocking Youtube video – how eminent domain destroyed an entire Illinois neighborhood … seizing private property in order to build new multi-purpose structures.

Will RhodeMap RI Lead to Demolished Neighborhoods in RI?

The San Francisco Bay area regional authority, similar to the “Urban Redevelopment Authority” that the controversial RhodeMap RI plan would create, plans to demolish 169,000 single-family homes, despite the outrage and objections of residents.

[button url=”http://rifreedom.org/?p=13267″ target=”_blank” size=”medium”] Read the full post here [/button]

The SF Bay Area Example: RhodeMap RI could lead to Demolished Local Neighborhoods

SF Bay Area Region: Existing neighborhoods, including 169,000 homes, to be demolished

Supporters of the controversial RhodeMap RI plan claim that there’s nothing in the plan to give local residents and elected officials any concern about a potential loss of their property rights or an erosion of the sovereignty of their locally elected governments.

However, based on research by the Center’s consultant on this issue, John Anthony, the case of the San Francisco Bay area provides the most stark and startling example of how blind dedication to, or forced compliance with a national “sustainable development” agenda, enforced by a regional authority run by unelected ideologues, actually did supersede the will of the local people and their duly elected officials.

Plan Bay Area is a regional development plan operating in conjunction with California state law.[i]  The “Association of Bay Area Governments” (ABAG)[ii] is the regional governing group that manages planning for a 9-county area. The enormity of the planners’ objectives have drowned out local voices.

With the goal of deconstructing existing suburbs in favor of erecting new, hi-density “growth centers”, ABAG is advancing a program that displaces over 1000 middle and low-income residents out of their homes in favor of building low-income housing.”[iii]  So outraged are community members that traditionally conservative and liberal groups are now working together to attempt to stop the planners.  They see this as government abridging the rights of all citizens.[iv]

HomeDemolitionYet, Bay Area residents are having little effect. According to research by the Cato Institute, the regional board continues to push through its plan to demolish 169,000 single-family homes on the questionable claim that by 2040 most residents will prefer multi-family dwellings.[v]

The RhodeMap RI plan, if adopted on December 11, 2014 into the state’s official guide plan, will establish the state of Rhode Island as a similar region to Plan Bay Area, and recommends establishment of an “Urban Redevelopment Authority”, similar to ABAG, with similar powers,as stated in the RhodeMap RI plan itself, to “assume permitting and development control”[vi] over local communities. 

In Rhode Island, “growth center” plans have already been developed for multiple communities. Will existing neighborhoods in the Ocean State be similarly demolished? Will local residents and officials even have a say?

John Anthony is the president of Corporate Measures, a consulting firm specializing in assisting businesses in gaining profitable growth while retaining a productive and enthusiastic workforce. Mr. Anthony founded corporate Measures in 1989.  Recently, he has devoted his time to assisting communities and businesses to understand and navigate the complexities of Sustainable Development planning.

[i] Plan Bay Area and California SB375: http://www.conservationleague.org/advocacy/40-successes/advocacy/309-sb375.html

[ii] ABAG:  http://www.abag.ca.gov/overview/ABAG_Roster.pdf

[iii] Bay area Priority Development Areas: http://www.sfbg.com/2013/05/28/planning-displacement

[iv] http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2013-06-28/article/41209?headline=Plan-Bay-Area-A-Shocking-Theft-Of-Our-Democracy–By-Vivian-Warkentin

[v] Plan Bay Area: http://ti.org/pdfs/ROTonPBA2.pdf

[vi] RhodeMapRI draft plan, p 119; http://rhodemapri.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Economic-Dev-Plan-Full-Draft-for-Public-Hearing-Review.pdf

RhodeMap RI Statements from Mayor Allan Fung and state Senator, Marc Cote

November 19, 2014: Cranston Mayor Allan Fung submits letter to RI Division of Planning recommending RhodeMap RI plan not be adopted

(See the Mayor’s official letter here)


“I share some of the same concerns … expressed by the RI Public Expenditure Council … Thus, I would ask that the … committee not approve this (plan) … “

“What business would consider locating here (RI) if there are further social equity mandates that would be imposed …?”

December 1, 2014: Senator Marc Cote issued the following statement to the Center about the RhodeMap RI draft plan:

(See the official statement on the Senator’s letterhead, here)

“I have seen first-hand the impact that HUD and state affordable housing mandates have had on creating an imbalance in Woonsocket’s tax base by adding an extra real estate tax burden on non-subsidized commercial and residential property owners in our community,” said Senator Mark Cote, Democrat state Senator, D-24.

“The state mandate to establish a preferential property tax cap on subsidized properties in Woonsocket caused a revenue shortfall. The Woonsocket legislative delegation submitted a bill in 2013 to the General Assembly seeking relief from this mandate, but supporters of the affordable housing/sustainable development movement successfully lobbied to have the bill vetoed by Governor Chafee,” Cote went on to say.

“The prospect of a state run Urban Redevelopment Authority, granted new powers, as envisioned in the RhodeMap RI draft plan is also concerning, in that it could give expanded government control over individual property owner rights.”

“As recommended in the bi-partisan letter I co-signed with concerned members of the House and Senate to the Division of Planning in November, the RhodeMap RI process must be indefinitely postponed. More public scrutiny, comment and potential revisions are required,” the Senator concluded.

(Also, see Senator Cote’s letter to Grow Smart RI staffer and constituent)



RhodeMap RI: Center Responds to Grow Smart RI Misinformation

Recently, one of the members of the RhodeMap RI consortium, Grow Smart RI (GSRI), issued a statement to counter the heavy public criticism that the RhodeMap RI plan has received in recent weeks from across the state.

It should first be noted, that as RhodeMap RI itself is an outgrowth of a national agenda, that Grow Smart RI is a member of a national organization, Smart Growth America, whose mission is to advance its centralized vision for “smart growth” across the nation.

To break-down and respond to the GSRI statements, the Center has retained a national expert and opponent of sustainable living, John Anthony, who founded the “Sustainable Freedom Lab”, an organization dedicated to informing Americans about how to protect their property and business rights from the pitfalls of smart growth planning and related governmental regulations. Mr. Anthony has studied dozens of sustainable living plans similar to RhodeMap RI from across the nation. 


Response to Grow Smart RI by John Anthony

In their zeal to move forward with their Economic Development plan, Grow Smart RI has attempted to “set the record straight on some of the misinformation that has been presented as fact.”  In doing so, they have created several critical information gaps. The following response seeks to accurately address the concerns of community members.

CRITIQUE #1: The plan would amount to “ceding (Rhode Island’s) sovereignty to federal government agencies.”

GSRI Statement: The plan reflects the thinking of public and private Rhode Island interests. The extent to which it is implemented and what specific strategies will be used will be decided by the Governor, the General Assembly, municipal governments and private businesses and organizations.  Rhode Island did not have the resources to undertake a planning process of this magnitude.  Therefore, the state applied to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities grant program to secure the funding required for the research, writing and coordination of the public outreach effort that went into the preparation of the economic development plan. However, that research, writing and public outreach was managed by the Rhode Island Planning and guided by a Consortium made up of representatives from Rhode Island state agencies and private organizations. 

Furthermore, it is critical to remember that this is a plan.  The fact that it was produced with the assistance of Federal funds in no way enables Federal interests to insert themselves in decisions as to how the various strategies contained in the plan will be implemented.  Those decisions rest with the State Executive and Legislative Branches, with municipal governments and with private businesses and organizations.

What GSRI did not tell you:  While it is fair to say the Governor and the General Assembly can determine specific strategies, they are not free to determine many of the most important outcomes of the Economic Development plan.  When the Rhode Island Division of Planning applied to HUD for a 2011 Sustainable Regional Planning Grant, the State agreed to abide by the contractual obligations contained in the HUD grant notice.  Throughout the HUD notice it makes clear that anyone accepted for the grant must align themselves with the government’s “6 Livability Principles.”  These principles represent a top-down centralized planning concept that has been implemented throughout the U.S. via HUD grants, with varying degrees of success and failure. In many cases the principles have led to homes becoming unaffordable, burdensome regulations and increases in traffic congestion, though their stated goal is the opposite.

Page 63 of the agreement is quite precise as it lists the “Mandatory Outcomes from the Creation of a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development.” Note, these are not choices, but rather they are demands.  Failure to comply with the HUD demands can lead to court action, demands for a return of the grant money or re-direction of the funds.

Throughout the Economic Development Plan Draft there are references to fulfilling “requirements”, “alignment” with the “6 Livability Principles” and the need to dismantle “barriers among and between federal and state programs.” While superficially these terms appear beneficial, they are necessary to bring Rhode Island in closer alignment with federal demands. By virtue of accepting $1.9 million from HUD, the Division of Planning has already ceded much of their planning flexibility and choices.

CRITIQUE #2:  The plan is not an economic development plan.

GSRI Statement: The draft plan was written to comply with a mandate from the General Assembly which directed the economic development corporation and the division of planning to produce a strategic plan that would include:

  1. A unified economic development strategy for the state that integrates business growth with land use and transportation choices;
  2. An analysis of how the state’s infrastructure can best support this unified economic development strategy;
  3. A focus and prioritization that the outcomes of the economic development strategy be equitable for all Rhode Islanders;
  4. Reliance on comprehensive economic data and analysis relating to Rhode Island’s economic competitiveness, business climate, national and regional reputation, and present economic development resources;
  5. Suggestions for improving and expanding the skills, abilities, and resources of state agencies, municipalities, and community partners to speed implementation of the plan’s recommendations; and
  6. The inclusion of detailed implementation plans, including stated goals, specific performance measures and indicators.

The plan, which was written with input from business leaders around the state, outlines six goals for strengthening our economy: provide educational and training opportunities to activate a 21st-century workforce; foster an inclusive economy that targets opportunity to typically underserved populations; support industries and investments that play to Rhode Island’s strengths; create great places by coordinating economic, housing and transportation investments; create a stronger and more resilient Rhode Island; and make Rhode Island a state where companies, workers, and the state as a whole can develop a competitive advantage.

It advocates strengthening the state historic tax credit program; supporting industries and investments that play to Rhode Island’s strengths including the marine, defense, arts and food sectors; better marketing of our tourism brand and assets; regulatory reform / streamlining; and “…setting fair tax policies consistent with those of other states.” The plan also asserts that expanded workforce training and a better education system are important to ensure that Rhode Island’s workforce meets the needs of employers and that the growing minority population in RI is as economically productive and self-sufficient as possible.  This call for social equity has especially inflamed the most vocal critics of the plan, even though it is in the enlightened economic self-interest of all Rhode Islanders.

What GSRI did not tell you: The RhodeMap RI draft plan includes some well-considered ideas for economic development.  As such the plan has drawn on business leaders to identify many of the biggest challenges to business success and attempts to design ways to “streamline regulations”, encourage “entrepreneurship”, and reduce tax burdens, “create an in-state resource” database and more.

However, the plan views economic development as encompassing virtually all social activities from where community members dwell to the number of vehicle miles inhabitants should be expected to travel. The RhodeMap RI plan is but one component of a series of plans. It draws heavily on Land Use 2025 which employs Urban Services Boundaries to enhance the “distinction” between urban and rural areas and growth centers to “coordinate investments in transportation, housing and job creation.  These types of boundaries are notable for artificially inflating home prices to the point of unaffordability.

Rather than streamline those state activities such as infrastructure, taxes and regulations which directly affect businesses, thereby clearing a pathway for creativity and entrepreneurship, the RhodeMap RI plan seeks to be the driver of the economy by developing compact, human-scale networks to effect cultural issues such as “obesity”, “housing choices” and lifestyles.

It is understandable that many community members are concerned when they see that the RhodeMap RI plan goes far beyond the boundaries of economic development and so deeply into social sciences.

CRITIQUE #3: The plan is an “extreme social engineering scheme” that would “block paths to property ownership and infringe on rights of property owners.

GSRI Statement: As noted above, the General Assembly directed that the economic development strategy should “integrate business growth with land use and transportation choices,” and should include “a focus and prioritization that the outcomes of the economic development strategy be equitable for all Rhode Islanders. Responding to those directions, the plan recommends  location of housing and businesses that will promote access to work opportunities. These recommendations do not infringe on the rights of property owners.

What GSRI did not tell you:  For a program intended to help businesses grow, the RhodeMap RI plan spends in inordinate amount of engagement in implementing  “social justice”, designing communities and guiding community members toward smaller homes in mixed-use transit-oriented urban centers.  The plan attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change, using social engineering techniques mandated in the HUD grant that have had nil to adverse effects on communities that have employed them.

In a report I am preparing for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, I will detail specific examples of property rights infringement by similar plans in other parts of the country.

CRITIQUE #4: The plan’s development process did not provide the public and the business community with an opportunity for input. 

GSRI StatementFrom the beginning RhodeMap RI has been characterized by extensive public outreach and many opportunities for public input. Over the last year and a half, public input sessions have been held in every corner of the state.  The public input phase launched with coverage in the Providence Journal, and all sessions were publicized through press releases and social media.  Opportunities for electronic input were also provided. The research and drafting of the economic development plan was guided by a diverse Economic Development Committee with representation from such strongly pro-business and pro growth organizations as the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, the Rhode Island Builders Association, the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association, and the business funded Providence Foundation. In addition, the Rhode Island Foundation and Commerce RI co-hosted a series of workshops during which over 300 business leaders discussed their needs and identified ways to work together with the state to build on Rhode Island’s strengths.  The State Planning Council held public hearings for the draft Economic Development Plan on October 27 and 28 at which 62 individuals testified. In all, more than 1,000 people have contributed their input.

What GSRI did not tell you:It is unfair to suggest that RhodeMap RI did not attempt to engage community members utilizing a broad outreach program that included events, social media and various forms of traditional media.  It is fair and important to realize that, in spite of best efforts, the outreach program has been an epic failure.  Rhode Island includes in excess of 1 million residents. Yet after a year of outreach, even if every session participant was a unique individual, the program fully engaged less than .3 of 1% of the population and barely 1% participated in surveys and other forms of feedback.  To put  it another way, even though 100% of the community members of Rhode Island will be effected by the RhodeMap RI plan, 99% are either unaware of the plan, unengaged or both.

When the state opts to implement planning interventions that can affect the entire community, making-up of large swaths of Rhode Islanders, as challenging as it may be, it is incumbent upon the state to engage a meaningful percentage of citizens in a transparent awareness program.  That program must allow not only for feedback, but the potential recasting or rejection of the entire program.   It is precisely because of the unique character of individuals and communities that planning choices involving lifestyles are best kept at the local level rather than blueprinted by the state in compliance with the demands of the federal government.

CRITIQUE #5: There is no reason not to delay passage of the Plan in order to allow for further discussion.

GSRI Statement: The draft Economic Development Plan has been developed to comply with legislation passed by the General Assembly requiring that such a plan be developed and that it be submitted on or before October 31, 2014.   In 2013, the RI General Assembly passed a law directing that, “(a) The economic development corporation and the division of planning shall develop a written long-term economic development vision and policy for the state of Rhode Island and a strategic plan for implementing this policy. . . (b) On or before October 31, 2014, the economic development corporation and the division of planning shall submit the written long-term economic development vision and policy and implementation plan to the governor, the senate and the house of representatives.”  The Division of Planning’s standard practice is to submit plans to the State Planning Council for approval and to have the Council hold public hearings on proposed plans. In keeping with that practice, public hearings were held and the State Planning Council vote was scheduled so that the Plan would be ready for submission to the governor, the senate and the house or representatives as close to the October 31, 2014 deadline as The RhodeMap RI Consortium signed off on the plan last week and it now goes to the State Planning Council for final adoption on November 20th. 

What GSRI did not tell you: The welfare of Rhode Islanders is too important to be forced into having to accept a poorly understood and expansive economic program merely because of a state deadline. More than likely, if it benefits the majority of citizens, the legislature could be convinced to reschedule the deadline. This would provide the Division of Planning the necessary time to better differentiate the social engineering aspects of the plan from those of pure economic development and study more fully the consequences of implementing the 6 Livability Principles as a solution for improved health, mitigation of climate change, social equity and improved lifestyles.

Further, a group of five bi-partisan state lawmakers pledged in a November 2014 letter to the Division of Planning that they would provide a legislative time extension so that the concerns about RhodeMap RI could be further vetted in public.