The inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness enshrined by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, are at risk.
Nearly 240 years later, these basic rights and other fundamental principles of our representative democracy in Rhode Island are likely to be subverted by Rhode Map Rhode Island (RMRI), the so-called state economic development plan, especially if implemented in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) recently promulgated final rule on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). (Citation: 80 CFR 42271-42271).
Erroneously represented to be a far-reaching economic development plan by its advocates, it has been criticized by a vast and growing number of Rhode Islanders, in large measure led by the diligent and doggedly determined Mike Stenhouse of the non-partisan Center for Freedom and Prosperity and Barrington citizen Gary Morse, who both make a strong case for seeing RMRI as a social engineering document focused more on promoting social equity and HUD’s “Livability Principles.”
RMRI was funded with a federal Sustainable Communities Initiative Grant of $1.9 million dollars from HUD in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the federal Department of Transportation (DOT). Some public officials believe these federal grants are free money. They are not. There are always strings.
In spite of the positive spin and deliberate mischaracterization by some of RMRI’s being a state economic development plan, rather than what it really is — a social engineering document promoting social equity principles directed by HUD — a strong group of detractors has come forward to educate the public and speak truth to power. Mr. Stenhouse and Mr. Morse are leading figures in this effort. They are joined by others, including URI Professor Len Lardaro, the RI Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC), Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, and many other organizations who agree that the plan is deficient as an economic development document.
Among the likely risks of implementing this plan and accepting grants that impose undesirable legal obligations on recipients are a loss of local government autonomy on matters of local zoning laws, an adverse impact on private property rights, especially with regard to single-family housing, increased property taxes, and the violation of the home rule provisions of Article XIII of our state constitution. Also, the potential for abuse of the state’s eminent domain power is real.
Since approval of RMRI by the “appointed” members of the state planning council, there has been an overwhelming outcry of concern by the citizenry that has motivated members of the General Assembly to respond by taking action to preserve local governmental sovereignty. This past June, a portion of the most oppressive components of the controversial RMRI was the focus of House bill H6040A, which sought to eliminate the requirement for any city or town to be forced to change its local zoning ordinances in order to comply with state guide plan adoption of federal mandates.
In addition, assurances have been given by leadership in the General Assembly that RMRI goes well beyond what was intended by the legislation that enabled its creation and that it has been safely put on “the shelf” never to be incorporated into the state guide plan. Some of us believe that putting it on a shelf is not enough — a stake needs to be driven through its heart.
In an effort to further inform residents of the East Bay communities and help to enlighten state and local elected officials of the dangers of RMRI and HUD’s final rule, the Bristol Republican Town Committee will be hosting a non-partisan symposium titled, “RhodeMap Rhode Island: What Is It and How Might It Affect You’ on Saturday,” October 10th from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the Burnside Building (2nd floor), 400 Hope Street, Bristol.
Mike Stenhouse and Morse will be guest speakers. Both gentlemen have been instrumental in leading the opposition to RMRI and are as knowledgeable as anyone on the harm this plan presents.
All are welcome to attend and ask questions. Political party affiliation is of no concern. The intent of the meeting is to inform the public and elected officials. We hope that local elected officials and state representatives of the East Bay region will make the time to attend and learn more about a state plan and federal policy the will likely adversely affect the freedoms and liberties of the citizens of Rhode Island.