So what happened with the disruptive snow and wind we were supposed to get yesterday? That’s the question of the morning. Something seems to have changed in the Rhode Island psyche after the “December Debacle” in 2007. That year, the timing and handling of a snow storm, particularly in Providence, under Democrat then-mayor-now-congressman David Cicilline caused a nightmare for commuters and children. Suddenly, hesitation to disrupt our entire community gave way to being “better safe than sorry.”
Once that old New England toughness lost its dominion, the ordinary incentives of government and politics took over. If the governor or mayor closes down government and implements parking bans, not only do they give some key constituencies a day off, but they mitigate the risk of something going wrong. Relatively few Rhode Islanders will even think to wonder about considerations like this, as expressed in a GoLocalProv article appearing this morning:
“Let’s go macro,” said [Providence restaurant owner Bob] Burke. “On any given day the state has $150 million in economic activity. What did we produce [on Wednesday] — $10 million? Are we a state that can afford to give up $100 to $125 million in economic activity without a really tough fight? On Wednesday, they went down in the first round!”
Similar views were expressed by Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity. “The lack of concern for small businesses by bureaucrats and elected officials looking to make themselves look good – when they prematurely issue parking bans, large truck bans, or shutting down government operations – directly leads to a loss of business and productivity in the private sector,” said Stenhouse.
Whatever it is that’s changed in the Rhode Island psyche has freed government officials from the need to actually make decisions. Either business people have given up trying to assert their influence in an often-hostile government or those who take the needs of businesses lightly have increased.
Perhaps the change has to do with the “government plantation” that effectively replaces Rhode Islanders who are driven to turn their time into money with others who are more likely to seek government services. Those who work for government get paid no matter what, and those who are the recipients of its beneficence are a step removed from caring about where the money comes from.