An op-ed in today’s Providence Journal by Portsmouth resident Dexter Liu is a story I’ve heard time and again in my years writing in Rhode Island:
Rhode Island has been home for 30 years. I’ve enjoyed working in Newport, raising a family in Portsmouth and being part of the Aquidneck Island community. Our roots run deep here, so the decision to move is terribly bittersweet. We’ll miss friends and favorite haunts, but alas, it’s farewell, Rhode Island.
The early comments to the post are all-too-common, as well. One sentiment is that people who find it too difficult to live or do business here should just take off. (One hears similar sentiments when some business objects to new regulations that are supposedly “for the worker,” as if the state has such a healthy economy that it can dismiss any business that can’t thrive in the worst business climate in the country.) Another sentiment is that there must be some bigger reason for the move. As Mike Berry puts it: “No one leaves just because they don’t think the state government is running efficiently.”
This is the problem, though. People don’t leave only because of taxes or regulations. They generally leave (or don’t come in the first place) at times of transition or decision. So, yes, a son graduating high school and heading off to college is a time of transition, but deciding what to do during that transition is an open question. And it explains quite a bit about Rhode Island if people see life changes as an opportunity to escape the state.