A plan to redevelop a section of the city from Providence Place mall to Olneyville along the Woonasquatucket River has run into a riptide of opposition from business owners who see it as a stealth attempt to seize their properties.“This is an industrial area,” said Lemus, who came to Rhode Island from El Salvador in 1980 at age 11. “They call it blight, but we call it an industrial area. They want to make it mixed-use, residential; they want to have people walking, bicycling the street. But it wasn’t designed for that, it was designed to conduct business.”
Lemus said he and his brother spent four years making improvements to their property after they bought it — with no taxpayer help. “There is no tax stabilization, no tax breaks, there’s no money pulled out from any place in the city. We don’t owe anybody anything.”
This is a toxic combination for businesses: the sense that others are getting special deals and the knowledge that state and local governments can come in at any time, following a questionable process, and change the rules around everything in which you’ve invested your life. In those circumstances, fewer people will take risks and work to build dreams in Rhode Island, either because they’ll go elsewhere or simply conclude that they’re better off going along to get along.
In settling on the ideal economy, there is a balance to be struck between individual freedom and government-supported predictability, but too much government brings its own instability as somebody other than the invested individuals makes decisions according to their own ideology or interests.