Citizens Financial Group Shows an Inevitable Outcome for RhodeMap Central Planning


Frank Carini makes points in his ecoRI editorial, today, with which conservatives will find it difficult to disagree.

Last December, at a Grow Smart Rhode Island transit conference, Gov. Gina Raimondo talked about the importance of developing around dense, transit-accessible hubs. Less than four months later, the governor is celebrating a project that will do just the opposite.

Last week, the Citizens Financial Group announced plans to build a corporate campus on open space in Johnston, off Greenville Avenue and outside Route 295. The proposed 420,000-square-foot facility is expected to house 3,200 current employees. The campus will reportedly feature an on-site cafeteria, fitness center and walking paths.

Yes, developing Rhode Island’s extensive and intrusive state guide plan was “a waste of time” (and worse than that).  Yes, the amount of taxpayer resources that politicians have promised (and will continue to promise) to Citizens for its new Johnston compound is offensive.

The step that Carini does not appear willing to make, however, is to come to broad conclusions about the very nature of central planning.  Consolidating power in order to prevent people from doing things you don’t want them to do will mean that only people with enhanced leverage will be able to do those things.

Citizens can promise politicians a good talking point and labor unions a bunch of jobs, so manacles like the state guide plan won’t apply to the company.  Meanwhile, smaller, more-localized homeowners and companies will be limited to the restraints that the bank found too restrictive, ultimately giving the finance giant market leverage in addition to all of the exceptions and handouts.  Meanwhile, land that has no value to those who lack the political pull to get around the government plans is less expensive for entities that do have such pull.

This is what happens when planners don’t look at incentives, acknowledge their legitimacy, and seek to accommodate them in a way that works best all around, but rather seek to slip restrictive rules into place below the awareness of most of the people who will be affected.