TILTING AT WINDMILLS AND WORSENING STATE’S ECONOMY: State Representative Arthur Handy, Democrat of Cranston, has joined with Brown University’s Divest Coal group to introduce a bill in the General Assembly that would mandate a reduction in Ocean State greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2035 and 85 percent by 2050.
First, such reductions are virtually impossible unless we restrict our activities to those prevalent in the agricultural age before the invention of automobiles and manufacturing, and before Rhode Islanders enjoyed the luxury of electricity and natural gas. Second, while we do need to reduce GHG emissions, the draconian restrictions envisioned in the bill would make it almost impossible for businesses to function in our state. The requirements in the Rhode Island bill are even more restrictive than those imposed by our country’s most leftist state, California. That state envisions a reduction of GHG emission of 80 percent by 2050, yet we want to boost that number to 85.
If we want Rhode Island to continue its downward economic spiral, then by all means we should pass this bill.
RAIMONDO AND POINT JUDITH CAPITAL: Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, one of the Democratic candidates for governor, is knocking the other major Democratic candidate, Gina Raimondo for her association with Point Judith Capital, a venture investment firm that manages almost a million dollars of the Providence pension fund. One of the criticisms of Point Judith Capital and, indirectly, Raimondo, is that the firm negotiated a win-win deal with the city that provides the company a hefty management fee if the investment tank and a 20 percent cut of profits if the investment succeeds. It was certainly a smart move on the part of Point Judith Capital and surely Gina Raimondo had a lot to do with it.
So what’s wrong with this picture? Nothing at all! Gina Raimondo was a smart woman who was in business to make money for her company and for its investors. And, by all accounts, she succeeded. And, by the way, the Providence pension investment with Point Judith is also succeeding. It’s made about a half million dollars on its less than one million investment.
There’s an old saying that if you want to catch a crook, hire a crook to help you. The same thing applies to making our state successful and profitable. The corollary to the crook scenario is this: If we want to improve our economy, we should hire someone who has a proven track record of economic success.
Gina may not be the best candidate for governor. After all, Allan Fung and Ken Block are still out there and both have very successful track records. But, without doubt, Gina is a very strong candidate who should be highly considered. Rhode Island could do far worse.
IT’S SUNSHINE WEEK: No, it doesn’t mean we will experience Sol’s bright glow and warmth all week. Rather, it is a week devoted to promoting the importance of “sunshine” flooding the wealth of public information our federal, state and local governments insist on hiding from us. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that spawned government spying on American citizens, government at every level has retreated into a cocoon of secrecy, slight of hand and behind-closed-doors meetings that deny citizens and their informers, the news media, the ability to observe government actions. Transparency in how our governments operate is the foundation that allows citizens to ensure that we are ruled by an effective, efficient and just government.
Here in Rhode Island, our legislature - the very body that made the law - violated our open meetings law 44 times last session, mostly in the chaotic last week of the session. As John Marion of Common Cause RI said, “When Public scrutiny is most needed, that’s when they (legislative leaders) failed to notify the public most often.” Let’s use sunshine week to tell our local, state and national representatives that we want more, not less, access to how government functions on our behalf.
ANTI-GUN LAWS AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE: Several so-called “gun control” bills that are outright unconstitutional are being considered by our legislature. Such laws are hard to enforce and are seldom obeyed. Over 300,000 gun owners in Connecticut have refused to comply with that state’s unconstitutional ban on certain firearms and magazines. Similar laws here would likely also be disobeyed. Surely our legislators don’t want over 100,000 otherwise law-abiding Rhode Islanders to become felons with the stroke of a pen.
LET’S TEACH RHODE ISLAND HISTORY: A bill has been introduced in our legislature that would require extensive teaching of African-American history in all Rhode Island schools. Curriculum decisions are normally made by local school committees, but this bill would make African-American history an exception. Its teaching would be mandatory throughout the state.
Should African-American history be taught in Rhode Island? Yes. But it should be taught as an integral part of a multi-year course on Rhode Island and American history. We should be teaching our children about the contributions made by all races, nationalities, religions and philosophical viewpoints that have had an impact on our state and our nation.
Native Americans, Irish, Italians, French, Portuguese, and African Americans, were only some of the peoples who created our state and nation, while Dominicans, Liberians and others are now making their influence felt. Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, and other religions all affected how our history played out. Numerous philosophical viewpoints from those of Roger Williams to those of Thomas Dorr to those of Dr. Martin Luther King were instrumental in our historical maturation.
Yes, Rhode Island and America have a very diverse history that is well worth teaching to our school children. However, let’s not restrict it to the history of African-Americans.
HOUSING AGENCY WASTING OUR MONEY: The Rhode Island Housing agency was created years ago to use taxpayers’ money to help develop affordable housing in Rhode Island. In nepotistic conjunction with a private, non-profit organization called Stop Wasting Abandoned Properties (SWAP), an oxymoron if there ever was one, Rhode Island Housing has failed miserably in its mission to provide affordable housing and in its mission to protect taxpayer dollars. In 2007 and 2008, it purchased three Providence lots that many would call practically worthless for $1.4 million. The assessed value of the three lots was only $806,000. All three lots remain undeveloped.
This public agency that is charged with carefully using taxpayer dollars to help low-income families obtain affordable housing paid $600,000 more than the three properties were worth and then lent SWAP $733,000 to develop two of the properties. SWAP has not developed them and also has not repaid the loan. It now owes the taxpayers over $1 million in principal and interest on the loan and owes the city of Providence $106,000 in property taxes on the vacant properties.
It doesn’t help the taxpayers to learn that the executive director of SWAP is married to the executive director of Rhode Island Housing. The nepotism and politics don’t stop there, however. The chairman of Rhode Island Housing was a member of SWAP’s governing board and also worked on Governor Chafee’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, after which Chafee named him to chair Rhode Island Housing.
How can public agencies and the non-profits they fund protect taxpayers’ money when their executives are in marital and political relationships with one another and with state politicians? What shot do Ocean State’s taxpayers have with such crap going on?
BILL WOULD OUTLAW COMPETITION: In an egregious move to butt-kiss labor unions at the expense of the state’s economy, a Rhode Island Senate committee approved a bill that would disallow non-union companies from bidding on public works projects valued at over $1 million. Not only would such a non-competition law help further destroy free enterprise in Rhode Island, it would make all public works projects far more costly - thus, once again, causing taxpayers to pay more so union fat cats can line their pockets and contribute even more to sycophant legislators who will then push for more anti-business laws. When will this vicious, economy-destroying cycle stop?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal about why Russia’s President Vladimir Putin felt safe from a strong American response when he invaded Crimea, said of Mr. Putin, “He’d taken Mr. Obama’s measure during the Syria crisis and surely judged him not a shrewd international chess player but a secretly anxious professor who makes himself feel safe with the sound of his voice.”