RHODEMAP-RI DEM FORUM TONIGHT: ‘Make Believe’ Economics Behind State’s Farmland Acquisition Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 7, 2016
State Farmland-Grab Program Lacks Economic Basis

Could lead to reduced farmland values across the state

Providence, RI — The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity will officially object the RI DEM proposed rules – that will allow the government’s environmental agency to acquire private farmland and resell it at a loss to others who will obey the state’s agenda – when its CEO speaks tonight at a public comment forum at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography.

With multiple concerns about property rights and local governmental sovereignty being infringed upon by this state program that was designed to advance a federal agenda, the Center’s comments, to be delivered by Mike Stenhouse, will focus on the economic non-sustainability of the proposed program, at the 5:30pm DEM meeting.

With government increasingly influencing and controlling the means of production through myriad tax-credit, loan, and direct subsidy schemes in a multitude of industries, this DEM farmland acquisition scheme, which will actually acquire and resell private property, is not based on any legitimate economic analysis – or any economic consideration at all – that the Center is aware of. Despite the fact that the state’s own Commerce Corporate demanded a ‘RhodeMapRI’ mandate be inserted into the DEM plan, no economic justification was provided.

“If the state of Rhode Island is truly concerned about preserving farmland and agricultural farming, it should develop policies that will make it easier and more profitable for every farmer by reducing excessive taxation and regulatory mandates,” suggested Stenhouse. “There are free-market alternatives that should be considered, as opposed to this obvious lurch towards centralized-planning and further government intervention in the private sector.”

Stenhouse, who earned an Economics degree from Harvard University, will make a number of economic observations as objections to a plan that he will say is based on ‘make believe economics’ and that could lead to adverse consequences for the state’s farmers and taxpayers.

The Center will release a more complete version of its economic analysis tomorrow, following the meeting.

Written Testimony submitted by CEO Stenhouse to Senate Committee on Finance and House Committee on Finance

Center Receives Farm Bureau Award For Anti-RhodeMap RI Work

Center Feted for Raising Awareness about
HUD & Federal Intrusion

November 19, 2015, Alpine Country Club in Cranston, RI

The RI Center for Freedom for Prosperity Accepts the RI Farm Bureau’s 2015 Navigator Award

The award recognized the Center “for being the faithful and undaunting watchdog and protector of freedom and prosperity granted to all Rhode Islanders,” in raising awareness about the federal HUD agenda implemented in RI called RhodeMap RI, which could threaten the property rights and values of farmers throughout the state, as well as other private property owners.

In accepting the award on behalf of the Center’s board and staff, CEO Mike Stenhouse thanked the Bureau for standing with other concerned citizens against the intrusive federal power and land grab by HUD. Stenhouse drew parallels to a topic raised earlier in the evening by a speaker from the American Farm Bureau, about how the federal EPA has similarly been seeking to control more and more local land through its controversial, so-called Clean Water Act, which would further restrict land use for many farmers.

RIFarmBureauAward-MS   … RIFarmBureauAward2        ?

Stenhouse added that private property ownership and rights to develop land are fundamental precepts of America’s free-enterprise system, and that the Center would continue to fight against federal and state mandates that would restrict those freedoms.

Also receiving Navigator awards were: Representative Patricia Morgan (R, D26) for her work in fighting proposed tolls, which would directly impact farm trucks; and Senator Susan Sosnowski (D, D38) for her legislative support of farmer’s issues.

The RI Farm Bureau is the voice of thousands of Rhode Island farmers when it comes to dealing with issues that impact the agriculture industry.

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.

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

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.

*****

MEDIA ALERT

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
OSTPA
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:
PRARI
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.

THE PRESS CONFERENCE & RALLY:

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.