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Who Profits from Deepwater Cronyism

Is a Danish company’s purchase of Rhode Island–based Deepwater Wind relevant to a discussion about corporate cronyism in our government?

Providence-based Deepwater Wind announced Monday that Orsted has entered into an agreement to buy it. Orsted says it’s paying $510 million. …

Deepwater Wind says it’ll expand in the coming years, making Providence and Boston the two major hubs of the company’s U.S. offshore wind activities.

The time line goes like this:  To his shame, Republican Governor Donald Carcieri guaranteed long-term profits for a green energy company run by his former chief of staff.  Earlier this year, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo surprised Rhode Island by announcing a secret deal to guarantee the company more profits (and then immediately began fundraising off it).

Now the company’s owners have sold it off to ∅rsted, no doubt at tremendous personal profit.  There’s a reason CEO Jeffrey Grybowski hands out about $4,000 per year to key decision-makers in government, with Gina Raimondo taking the lead since 2010, at $6,300 total.  So far this year, Grybowski has given the max to Raimondo, Democrat Aaron Regunberg, Republican Allan Fung, and Republican Patricia Morgan — hedging his bets, it would seem.

Rhode Islanders should push back against these gambles.  If companies from anywhere in the world can make make a profit in Rhode Island while offering its people something for which they are willing to pay, then we should welcome them for that mutually beneficial exchange.  But when our political overlords force us to guarantee profits, the benefits are always imbalanced toward connected insiders.

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Raimondo Effort to Buy Votes Could Hurt Children

Imagine a journalistic universe in which the Providence Journal, rather than simply passing along Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s day-before-the-primary pledge to hand out more free pre-K, had done a little bit of research into the subject matter:

Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Monday that if reelected she will guarantee that every 4-year-old in the state has a spot in a pre-kindergarten classroom.

“I don’t think that you should have to be wealthy in order to have a chance to have a good, high-quality pre-K,” Raimondo said, sitting in front of a classroom of preschoolers at the Heritage Park YMCA.

As regularly followed in this space, the value of universal pre-K is, at best, questionable.  The policy may even be a net harm to children and (although not yet researched) to their families.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the people who report on the government’s activities stopped doing so from the premise that more government involvement in our lives is most likely to be a good thing?

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Center To Spread the Word About Public Employees’ Restored Rights under Janus

I have big news. We’ve launched a major new campaign designed to inform public servants of their recently restored First Amendment rights, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Janus v AFSCME case. You can see our new website at MyPayMySayRI.com. As a consistent champion of constitutional rights for all citizens, we believe that public employees deserve to know that they now have full freedom when it comes to deciding whether or not it is in their best interest to pay union dues.

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Fairness on Roads and Bridges

How about we end the day with some conspicuous fairness?

So… that 24/7 Wall Street index showing Rhode Island with the worst roads and bridges in the country.  The bottom line is that this result can’t really be pinned on our current governor, Democrat Gina Raimondo.  Yes, one could point out that the data appears to be from 2015 and 2016, during which time she was in office, but that was early in her term, and she was working on RhodeWorks.  Yes, one could suggest that her program’s emphasis on increasing revenue means that RhodeWorks goes in the wrong direction and that the introduction of tolls makes it a net negative, or even a potential disaster, but that’s outside the scope of this index.

More importantly, that very view of RhodeWorks illustrates the long-term predicament into which our state has allowed itself to sink, beginning well before Gina Raimondo was a public figure.  The money we pay into government for things like maintaining infrastructure doesn’t actually go to those things, and nobody currently in office (who is able to do much) challenges the insider game that draws the funds away.

Earlier today, Gary Sasse tweeted the observation that it’s “hard to improve road conditions regardless of money if road builder, RIDOT, union axis is not addressed.”  One can only reply (as I did) that this axis is the one thing in Rhode Island that can never be challenged, because it is the essence of the state.

It shouldn’t be the essence, though, and it should be challenged.  That’s where criticism of Raimondo would be fair, especially to the extent that people supported her based on the promise that pension reform was only the beginning of her reform of the insider system (as insufficient as it was).  Roads and bridges are a long-running problem, in our state, but placing ambition over real reform is Raimondo’s own betrayal.

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Fun-Sized Observations on UHIP and Out-of-State Donations

Rhode Island tourism appears to be having some success with its “fun-sized” series of ads, and the branding idea also provides opportunity for political commentary — as with Mike Riley’s quip about “fun-sized taxes.”

Surprisingly, though, I haven’t yet seen the adjective applied to the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP).  As has been widely reported, the state government is planning to spend another $156 million on the project, bringing the total up to $648 million:

In a request to the U.S. government for federal money to pay the bulk of finishing the computer system, the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services this week said its new Unified Health Infrastructure Project budget “reflects the necessary personnel and contracted staff to support enterprise-wide efforts to move the system towards compliance and to address mission-critical operational concerns.”

In other words, despite two years of emergency troubleshooting since the biggest piece of the project went live, the technology still isn’t working as designed, and Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration is planning for another year of development work, plus ongoing maintenance and operations.

So what is “fun-sized,” here — the budget or the lines of people that we’ve seen waiting for government services?  One could envision videos for both possibilities:  In one, the camera starts zoomed in on a pile of money and then zooms out to the entire cost for this non-functional software; in the other, it zooms in on a couple of people talking and then zooms out to the entire line of people wasting their day trying to correct problems with payments from the government.

Neither of those videos will be produced, though.  In contrast, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo has a big, big campaign budget and is producing lots of targeted videosOut-of-state donations have long donated the governor’s funding stream, with non-Rhode Island donors contributing 66% of the money she raised during the second quarter of this year.

We’ll see if out-of-state interest in our governor is enough to buy her another term despite her presiding over this massive debacle (among others).

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Truck Tolls: *Sigh* No, Peter and Gene, We Cannot Conclude that Truck Drivers Support Them

Every Thursday morning, as you probably know, WPRO’s Gene Valicenti hosts RIDOT Director Peter Alviti on the WPRO Morning News for a half hour plus segment. (Yeah, I know, I find it annoying, too.) Alviti takes questions from callers and spends a significant amount of air time promoting Governor Gina Raimondo’s wasteful, unnecessary, highly damaging RhodeWorks toll scheme.

On July 19, Alviti ratcheted it up a notch by involving his host.

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Conservative Policies Produce Rapid Economic Growth

For eight years, progressive-left politicians have told us that the ‘new normal’ for economic growth would be limited to the 2% range. And for years, our Center and other free-market advocates argued that major tax and regulatory reductions would reverse this course and lead to rapid economic growth, meaning more money and prosperity for families. After this week’s 4.1% GDP growth report, there can no longer be any doubt that we were right.

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Next/Last Round of Toll Gantries: Raimondo Administration Solicits Public Comment on an UNFINISHED Environmental Assessment

A couple of weeks ago, Governor Gina Raimondo’s Department of Transportation announced the locations of the balance of ten toll gantries and released an Environmental Assessment [PDF] of them. They also announced that hearings to take questions and comments on the E.A. would occur in three locations on July 27 – tonight, as a matter of fact.

Yes, that’s right, RIDOT is holding public hearings on a very significant project on a summer Friday evening. Quite similar in spirit, as a matter of fact, to the scheduling and location of the hearing for the first Environmental Assessment – in that case, two days before Thanksgiving hard by a cow pasture in South County so remote, the cows themselves need GPS to get there.

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No Space Between Governing and Campaigning

Brian Gallogly is right to lament on Twitter the politicization of the Community College of Rhode Island under Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo:

CCRI President Hughes setting a new precedent by standing in front of a campaign banner & essentially endorsing Gov. Raimondo for reelection. Prior Rhode Island college presidents stayed neutral so they could work well with whoever won.

However, the fault is not all hers.  Gallogly’s response is to a tweet from Raimondo announcing her “second term universal job training and education plan.”  The governor includes a video of her announcement and speech (bookended with words from CCRI President Meghan Hughes) at CCRI.

The problem is the ambiguity between an official policy announcement and a campaign event.  Under this governor, there is no space between the two.  Governing is campaigning, and campaigning is governance. At some point, that practice transitions from simply poor taste to corruption, and a governor becomes something more like a potentate.

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Super Governor Promotes Basic Services (with Big Bucks)

What’s one advantage of having an unprecedented war chest to fund the re-election campaign of an unpopular governor?  Well, as Spencer Rickert points out from Smithfield, the candidate can buy town-specific videos naming specific road repair projects that were “fixed by” the candidate:

Gina Raimondo fixed Capron Road Bridge in Smithfield to make Rhode Islanders safer and put our construction crews back to work. Under Gina’s leadership, we have already fixed more than 75 bridges and roads, in every community in Rhode Island, as part of a 10-year, $4.7 billion investment in the state’s infrastructure.

No, the video does not provide any evidence that Rhode Island’s Democrat governor, Gina Raimondo, was at any point out in the field repairing Capron Bridge Road, but the online video does bookend her initial use of the RhodeWork signs to promote her own name.  Just so, the video claims:

In Smithfield Gina Raimondo is investing $8 million in roads and bridges

If that means the Raimondo family has taking $8 million of its own money and generously donated it to the cause, this might really be breaking news.  As Alan Gianfrancesco comments to Rickert’s post:

She did not fix anything. We did. With our high sales tax, gas tax, corporate tax, nookie tax, toothpick tax and animal waste picking up tax.

Tell the truth.

Over the months that John DePetro and I have been discussing the election, I’ve wondered how effective standard political materials could be (even when inflated with millions in campaign funds) after four years of scandalous failure on the part of state government.  Will people forget UHIP, “Cooler & Warmer,” and all the rest because the governor is claiming credit for fixing roads, or will they bristle at the notion that spending more of our money (including with tolls) to do what should be the normal operation of government is some sort of act of altruism on her part?

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​National Trucking Unloads on Rhode Island’s Truck-Only Tolls

This afternoon, the American Trucking Associations filed suit against Gina Raimondo’s RhodeWorks truck-only toll scheme, stating that it violates the Commerce Clause, citing its discriminatory nature and challenging its constitutionality. (View the lawsuit here.) Tune in now to 630 WPRO now, by the way, to hear the famous Mike Collins talking to John Loughlin (filling in for Dan Yorke) about the lawsuit.

The national truckers are not messing around: they are represented by ​Mayer ​Brown, the fifteenth largest law firm in the United States. Heavy artillery has been cut loose on a highly destructive, unnecessary new revenue program. On a certain, visceral level, that’s a beautiful thing and one wishes that this would happen with far more bad government programs.

Unfortunately, a highly likely outcome of the case will be an order to the State of Rhode Island to either desist tolling trucks or make it non-discriminatory by spreading the cancer to all vehicles including cars. Yet not one but two studies confirmed that tolls of any kind are not needed to repair Rhode Island’s bridges.

There have been many unanswered questions swirling around Gina Raimondo’s highly dubious, highly destructive toll plan.

Why was Governor Raimondo only capable of coming up with a cutting-edge, outside-of-the-box program that is destructive and burdensome rather than positive and propitious?

How did RIDOT get the truck counts and diversion rate, a critical basis for restricting tolls to only certain classes of vehicles, so wrong?

How did RhodeWorks tolls explode from $400M (per Governor Gina Raimondo in August of 2016 at Minute 15:00) to a completely open-ended, multi-billion dollar revenue stream?

Did Gina Raimondo, Nicholas Mattiello and Theresa Paiva-Weed truly believe that tolling trucks only, something that no other state does – a “unique approach” as RIDOT itself admits – was going to pass a legal challenge?

But the biggest question: if the lawsuit goes sideways and RhodeWorks tolls are ruled unconstitutional, will Nicholas Mattiello, Gina Raimondo and all Rhode Island legislators stand by their promise that tolls will never go on cars and scrap the RhodeWorks tolls?

[Monique has been volunteer spokesperson for StopTollsRI.com since tolls were first proposed three+ years ago and began working for the Rhode Island Trucking Association as a staff member in September of last year.]

After years of citizen outrage against truck-tolls in the Ocean State, the American Trucking Associations and three motor carriers representing the industry are brining a federal lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island on constitutional grounds likely to cost taxpayers millions.

Tolls Force ATA Lawsuit That Could Cost Rhode Island Taxpayers Millions In Legal Fees

After years of citizen outrage against truck-tolls in the Ocean State, the American Trucking Associations and three motor carriers representing the industry are bringing a federal lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island on constitutional grounds likely to cost taxpayers millions.

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A Plank in the Moderate Platform

Although one can’t really claim it to be a “moderate” idea, a policy pledge that Bill Gilbert sent out as a Moderate Party press release would be really fun to watch:

The Moderate Party’s candidate for RI Governor is advocating a tit-for-tat response to the current administration’s inappropriate use of eminent domain to seize private property for construction of a new PawSox stadium. “If elected I will work with the State Properties Committee to acquire Raimondo’s and Mattiello’s real estate for the public use and public good. I will convert these areas to public parks and open space forever named after each of them,” said Bill Gilbert.

Raimondo and Mattiello have threatened the rights of every tax-paying property owner in RI by passing a law that says they can use money never appropriated by the voters to confiscate a person’s land and give it away to billionaires, so they can build a PawSox stadium. Gilbert stated, “It’s governmental thuggery at its worst!”

Of course, if Gilbert were to win, Raimondo would simply be a private citizen, making the plan feel less appropriate, not to mention pointing to the reality that best way to impose a consequence and improve the function of government (and its respect for our rights) is to knock bad actors out of office.  In that regard, Gilbert’s candidacy is arguably at cross purposes with his intentions, creating the possibility that he’ll deprive a non-Raimondo candidate of victory by bleeding votes.

Indeed, the Moderate Party has arguably been one of the leading causes of Rhode Island’s inability to impose accountability on governors for two election cycles, now.

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How Is the Governor Not Excommunicated?

Election season — with opposition from can’t-get-to-his-Left Matt Brown — is pushing Rhode Island’s progressive governor Gina Raimondo to shore up her support from those on the fringe of her party, as the Associated Press reports:

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says she would like the state legislature to return for a special session on abortion rights following the announcement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

WLNE-TV reports that Raimondo called the need to codify Roe v. Wade “more urgent and necessary than ever.”

Here’s a serious question Roman Catholics may rightfully be asking themselves: How is Governor Raimondo not excommunicated from the Church?  Here she is, a prominent Catholic, explicitly encouraging extraordinary steps to preserve the right to kill unborn children in Rhode Island in the face of still-speculative and distant change in federal law.

On both the grounds of the disposition of her own soul and her highly visible role in undermining Church teaching, how she can possibly continue to be recognized as a Catholic in good standing?

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It’s Wednesday; Do You Know Where Your Governor Is?

Rhode Islanders wondering where their governor is need only turn the news media… in California:

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is set to hold fundraisers for her re-election campaign Wednesday in Hancock Park and Studio City.

The first fundraiser will be a noon lunch at the Hancock Park home of Cynthia Telles, the director of the Spanish Speaking Psychosocial Clinic at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is set to attend as a “special guest,” according to an invitation obtained by City News Service. …

The second fundraiser will be from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Studio City home of Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali.

Tickets for both fundraisers are $1,000, the maximum individual contribution allowed under Rhode Island law…

Telles is a big-time Democrat insider and enthusiastic board member of for- and non-profit organizations, like GM.  Naftali seems to be most notable as a fundraiser for Democrats, including, recently, Maxine Waters, who is currently under fire for encouraging mob action against Trump administration officials.

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The Governor’s Brief Walk on the Tightrope of “Tolerance”

Perhaps it’s misplaced to take too seriously Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling, today, acknowledging the authority of the President of the United States to set immigration policy within the boundaries of the Constitution and federal law.  Still, I think something telling in this paragraph is worth brief consideration:

“Rhode Island was founded on the idea that freedom of worship is an inherent human right. I’m disappointed that the Supreme Court sided in favor of President Trump’s immoral and unnecessary Muslim ban. Our state has always been strengthened by the contribution of immigrants. It’s now more important than ever that we show the world that there’s a place for everyone in Rhode Island. No matter your race, where you’re from, your immigration status or who you love-you are welcome here.”

First observe the illogic:  The statement begins by referring to “freedom of worship,” which has nothing to do with this case.  The Trump administration is not seeking immigration restrictions because the immigrants will come here to worship.  It is not seeking to screen travelers based on their religion, rather than the countries from which they’re traveling, or to prevent worship once they’re here, but rather to prevent terrorism.

Now fast-forward to the end.  Raimondo notes that “there’s a place for everyone in Rhode Island,” elaborating that the categories applying to that assertion are race, country of origin, the legality of one’s presence in the country, and sexual orientation.  Note what’s missing.

Yes, yes, I’m tempted to quip that Raimondo — who uses her government office to discriminate against school boys in an official annual contest — doesn’t mention biological sex, perhaps because men aren’t necessarily welcome.  But more to the point, see how she’s dropped that “freedom to worship” thing?

Of course, I sympathize with the challenge that she faced in writing this statement.  She could have reinforced the “freedom of worship” point by welcoming people “no matter what God or gods they follow, or if they don’t believe in God at all,” but that would have been clunky.  She could have welcomed people “no matter what you beliefs,” but what about people who believe in outrageous things like the Second Amendment and the traditional definition of marriage, let alone the humanity of children prior to birth?

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Wasted Opportunity – 2019 Budget Graded “D-” by the Center

When will Rhode Island’s political leaders remember of the real needs of families? Despite a large and unexpected revenue windfall and clear policy lesson, resulting from the recent federal tax and regulatory cuts, Rhode Island’s General Assembly has wasted an opportunity for reform and, instead, are seeking to maintain the status quo in the FY2019 Budget.

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