A few weeks ago, I wondered why the lead marketing officer for the state government of Rhode Island would be hired by and work through the quasi-public Commerce Corporation. Now, WJAR’s Patricia Resende reports that the state’s new “chief innovation officer” will operate under a non-profit organization that’s affiliated with Rhode Island College:
[Richard] Culatta will work out of Rhode Island College’s Office of Innovation, which is financially supported by the Rhode Island College Foundation. The Office of Innovation is expected to be the core driver behind the state’s efforts in innovation.
“The role of the Chief Innovation Officer will be about opening up government and using data to solve problems,” Raimondo said in a release. “We need new approaches, both in the way government operates and in the types of businesses we attract and nurture here.”
As the foundation’s Web page emphasizes, it is “a separate entity” and “the primary source of private support to the college” (emphasis added). At the beginning of December, Resende reported (strangely) that Culatta was headed to Rhode Island for a high-level job with the state that hadn’t yet been defined. Now, Patrick Anderson reports that Culatta’s cabinet-level position will come with total annual compensation of $237,600 plus benefits.
Few Rhode Islanders would dispute that their government is a drag on the state, but one must question the wisdom (and the constitutionality) of establishing a shadow government for critical functions. I’ve asked the governor’s office from where the money for this position will actually be coming. Budget documents for the current fiscal year show a $98,000-per-year chief innovation officer housed in the Secretary of State’s office that was not in last year’s budget, but it isn’t clear whether that is a different position.
More imortantly, Rhode Islanders should be wary of all of the pieces that Raimondo is putting into place (perhaps with advance knowledge of the blueprint that the Brookings Institution has developed for redesigning our home). When the armada of non-profits, quasi-publics, private partners, and government agencies is fully assembled, with a plan to dictate Rhode Island’s future development, voters may have little recourse for stopping it, especially with the nearest election two years away.