RhodeMap RI: Bipartisan Group of Legislators Calls for Delay; Cite Its “near-total lack of an economic development focus”

The following statement was received via e-mail this afternoon. Attached was a letter addressed to Kevin Flynn, Associate Director of the R.I. Division of Planning.

State Planning Division Faulted For Pursuing “Predetermined Result” With Little Economic Development Focus

Senators, Representatives To File Legislation To Correct Imbalance

State House, Nov 18 – A group of five Republican, Democrat and Independent legislators today called for a delay in approval of the hotly-criticized RhodeMap RI.

The legislators want to correct an imbalance that seems to exclude meaningful action to improve Rhode Island’s poor economic performance, something the State Planning Division has continually tried to characterize as the goal of the effort.

In a letter to state Planning Division head Kevin Flynn, the five legislators said the plan was flawed as a result of a pre-determined result, unrepresentative input and near-total lack of an economic development focus.

“Calling RhodeMap RI an economic development plan is disingenuous, and the process lacks the transparency the public deserves. Moving forward with it in its present form is a disservice to the state,” wrote the group.

“A review of the RhodeMap RI process shows little attention to real economic development issues. While important, its “Guiding Principles” – transportation, affordable housing, community and neighborhood development – ignore most of the key drivers of economic activity: a clear economic vision, labor, capital, knowledge & innovation, and market geography among others.

“We have strong doubts that the desired result – a growing, economically-thriving, job-creating Rhode Island – will be achieved even if all of RhodeMap RI’s goals are met. It is an entirely misdirected effort if attracting investment, stimulating business growth and creating new jobs is the goal,” said the group.

One of the signers, State Representative Patricia Morgan, said that RhodeMap RI was hijacking government resources and attempting to dictate all manner of individual and community decision-making in the name of economic development.

“While touting that it is an economic development effort, the RhodeMap report states in one appendix that ‘the goal of all of these plans is to eliminate disparities along race, class, gender, and other dimensions of diversity.’

“Pardon me for misunderstanding,” said Morgan, “but this is Doublespeak. “

“Whatever this is, it does not sound like economic development. These stated social equity goals are not unimportant, but to hide this objective behind a curtain of economic development is to commit fraud on the people of Rhode Island.”

“This is not government at its finest, but at its worst,” she said, “and the public needs to be protected from these governmental excesses. It is particularly troubling that the business community was largely uninvited to this planning party. It knows better than any central planner what Rhode Island needs to regain its place as an engine of prosperity.“

“A plan that reforms current policies that are crippling our state’s job climate is needed, not just another layer of government spending and regulation,” said Morgan.

State Senator Marc A. Cote of Woonsocket concurred, and pointed out that their concerns were shared by others.

“We are not alone in this assessment,” said Cote.

“A number of other responsible organizations, including the RI Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC), have voiced similar concerns. We believe it is incumbent on the Division of Planning to take these views into account before encouraging approval of the plan as it exists today.

“None of us can support the focus of RhodeMap RI in its present form. It is off the mark as an economic development blueprint, and without the detailed economic focus it requires, it fails entirely in its stated goal. “

“Given the potential importance of this effort, we would suggest the Division of Planning delay final consideration of RhodeMap RI at this time.

To assist the Division in refining and revising its approach to RhodeMap RI, the legislators will file legislation in the House and the Senate at the opening of the next session of the General Assembly to extend the statutory deadline for CommerceRI and the Governor’s Advisory Board to devise the mandated five-year economic development plan, and provide for its integration with RhodeMap RI.

The five signatories to the letter to Flynn included State Representatives Patricia Morgan (R- Coventry, West Warwick, Warwick), Anthony Giarrusso (R-East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and State Representative-Elect Blake Filippi (I – Block Island, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly). State Senator Marc Cote ( D- North Smithfield, Woonsocket) was joined in the letter by State Senator-Elect Mark Gee (R- East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

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