Kudos to Governor Linc Chafee for going out in style with proposed bond issues for Little Rhody that would benefit public transportation, the environment, and the arts.
Chafee’s latest (and last) budget includes funding for public transit to the tune of $40 million for two sorely needed new mass transit hubs in Providence. Anyone who has ridden the state’s buses knows that the majority of travelers are going to school, work, the grocery store, or medical appointments, and that these routes provide a lifeline to these folks’ everyday lives. Yet the perception remains that only “those people” use it. That theory would work, unless you count Jorge — who relies on public transit as his main way of getting where he wants to go — as one of that ilk.
The Lincster also proposed a $75 million environment bond that would fund everything from reducing water pollution to public drinking supply improvements to shellfish acquisition and management. These are critical areas of concern for The Biggest Little, which wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Narragansett Bay, the state’s largest economic and environmental resource and asset, hammered like a spike through the heart of the state.
And then there’s the $35 million bond proposal for arts and culture that plays to the strength of Vo Dilun’s artistic community, one of the most renowned in the country. While there may be some concerns about this funding being administered by the RI Commerce Corporation (better known as the former Economic Development Corporation, proud brokers of the corrupt and cheesy deal with Curt “Bloody Sock” Schilling and his 38 Studios fiasco), the fact that Commerce RI will coordinate with the RI State Council on the Arts brings optimism. (P&J hope that local arts leaders such as AS220’s Bert Crenca and storyteller/Roots Cultural Center co-founder Len Cabral will have loud and influential voices into where the money eventually goes.)
If you care about these bond issues, there is one thing you have to remember: if these budget proposals are not approved by the General Assembly in committee, you will not get a chance to vote for them on the November ballot. So put the heat on your local reps and senators right now and let them know that if they deny the people’s ability to choose whether these investments are worth it — because General Assembly leadership puts a kibosh on them and never lets them be put on the ballot — they’d better start looking for another gig come the day after the November election. When the public is allowed to choose to spend money on great economic boosters like these, they invariably fly through at the ballot box with staggering approval numbers.
(Full disclosure: Phillipe has worked on public, private, and state organizations to support land and water bonds since 1985, and is a member of the Coalition for Transportation Choices, which heartily promotes public transit funding in Rhode Island. Jorge, as mentioned above, is a public transit advocate and a huge player in, and supporter of, the Little Rhody arts community.)