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Dan Lawlor: The Political 1% Need to be Held Accountable for 38 Studios

Monday, May 28, 2012


Carcieri is out of office, Keith Stokes has resigned, while Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and House Speaker Gordon Fox still roam the halls of political power.

The Assembly leaders, the political 1% of Rhode Island, thus far appear unaccountable for their actions in the ongoing 38 Studios fiasco. This needs to stop.

Clearly, in the short term, the goal should be to work toward a solution. I'm sure for everyone involved, honestly, hoped for this company to succeed, to contribute and to grow. However, now, in light of recent events, holding the legislative leaders who manufactured this crisis accountable - either in the ballot box or in the chamber - would appear wise.

There is a possibility that the state will owe 112 million dollars to creditors (slightly less than the entire budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities). This is astonishing, depressing, and enraging. Carcieri, Fox, Costantino and Paiva Weed, with likely the best of intentions, helped concoct and approve this taxpayer-funded bet. We all lost.

There are children in Providence and South County in physically run down schools because "there's no money."

Property taxes are higher because "there's no money."

There are homeless people dying on the street because "there's no money."

There are homes being foreclosed on because "there's no money."

There are college students paying more tuition at RIC and URI because "there's no money."

Interest rates are higher for student loans because "there's no money."

There are roads crumbling because "there's no money."

Well, apparently, there was money. There was money for out of state investors looking to open up a video game company, there was money for big-deal property tax exemptions for large businesses, there was money for the people who donate, who wine and dine, who go to Capital Grille, who have a good laugh over drinks.

This Chicago-style handshaking has not worked out well for working people in this state. This insider handshaking creates special deals, excludes those outside the networks, undermines trust in government, and has not exactly produced an economic powerhouse these last few years.

Someone once told me, referring to the shadow world in the marble statehouse, "There's a whole politics behind the politics, and that's where things really happen." Politics behind the politics.

In her 1988 book, Convictions, former Attorney General Arlene Violet wrote, "Big polluters are also big contributors. Through the tactics of the jobs issue, they keep alive their influence and hold on politicians. The public never really does have a chance." While talking about polluting companies, the world of insider deals seems to hold true all over the place.

From a certain angle, Carcieri, Fox, Costantino and Paiva Weed took a risk. If it had worked, we'd be having champagne in the Biltmore celebrating the beginning of Providence Renaissance 2.0. Instead a key business of our new economy just closed its doors. I don't doubt the intention of our elected leaders to do good or their desire to see good in this state - but we need to look at the results.

I'm not a fatalist. We're not destined to be stuck in the mud. We need transparency and consequences. Unless our elected leaders can fix this situation, they should consider not continuing in their current positions...or perhaps, simply, the voters will not return them to office.

Too many people are hurting in this state -looking for work, expecting better schools, demanding better treatment- for there to be no consequences for the loss of 112 million dollars. What will you do to fix this, Mr. Speaker and Madame President?


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