Senate Inaction Could Throw EDC into Flux
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
With six of Governor Lincoln Chafee’s nominees to the board for the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) yet to be confirmed by the Senate, there is some concern that several key projects the board oversees could face setbacks.
“We don't have a core,” said Colin Kane, who chairs the 195 commission. “I do have some concerns if we won't be able to create a quorum. Without a quorum, it would be difficult to make progress.”
“Everyone is well aware of the quorum issue and they are doing their very best to manage it,” he continued.
As of the time of publication, committee hearings had not been set for any of the nominees, but Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed told WPRI on Monday that the General Assembly session may end up being extended until next week to handle confirmations.
Part of the tension over the situation stems from the growing animosity between Chafee and Paiva Weed. The Senate President was said to be upset by the resignation of EDC director Keith Stokes in the wake of the 38 Studios collapse and she was angered by the Governor’s decision to execute and executive order recognizing same-sex couples that were married out of state.
But if the confirmations don’t take place, projects like the 195 redevelopment and the airport expansion would face questions moving forward. While the EDC board would still be able to function, not having its 13 members would make things more difficult, Kane said.
“Hopefully we don't have to face challenges,” he said. “It is hard to set down a machine once it is up and running, that is my concern. We're making extraordinary progress on the 195 project. Everything is working really well. We're functioning to the extent that challenges from the EDC won't stop us from doing great things.
Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said he too is concerned about the potential for a smaller quorum, but said he is confident in the Governor.
“I am concerned about the potential lack of a quorum to decide important issues for the state,” he said.
For Gil Lantini, founder at RI Small Business Journal, the problem isn’t with existing projects; it’s with future work. Lantini credited leadership in the city of Providence (Mayor Taveras and Economic Development Director Jim Bennett) with having a great vision.
But he said there is reason to be concerned.
“Moving forward in the state, how will we attract new businesses? Without strong EDC state leadership, it will be a challenge,” he said. “I think every city project is different. There will be big problems for the state if we don't have enough leadership for future economic development.”
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