EDITORIAL: Central Falls - Let’s Merge It
Monday, May 24, 2010
It is time to end the pain and start the first step in regionalization in Rhode Island – merge Central Falls into another community.
Central Falls is now broke, under federal investigation for corruption, and nationally known for being called out by President Obama for its failed schools. Sadly, those troubles are only some of the issues.
Google Central Falls and you’ll find that its consistent claims to fame are that it is the answer to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not trivia question. We don’t mean to minimize that the town was part of the Industrial Revolution, and that it was an important part of Rhode Island manufacturing history or that it was a springboard community to many Rhode Island families immigrating to America and to a better life. But keeping it as its own little financial hell only works to stigmatize homeowners, students and the future.
With less than 5,000 families living in the “city,” Central Falls is now in a catastrophic situation – hundreds of houses are boarded up, while many more houses in the town are “underwater,” where the value of the home is less than the amount owed on the property.
There is nothing wrong with the people of Central Falls and there is nothing wrong with its history – a history that can endure as a section of Lincoln or Pawtucket. Today, the city is in financial decay. Residents are hard pressed to make an investment in their homes as it will be decades (if ever) for the town to rebound and homeowners to recoup their investments. Even the rosiest future would allow the city to recover to what? Rhode Island’s poorest town, with no land, and with no resources for future development.
Let’s get some of the facts out to try and combat any perceptions. Central Falls has less than 20,000 residents and they are shoehorned into a space of 1.3 square miles.
Central Falls was once anchored by a range of manufacturing companies – but now only a fraction remain.
By every measure the city is one of the poorest, or the poorest. Median household income is approximately half that of the average RI family. The poverty rate for children in Central Falls is 40.9%, or nearly three times the RI average of 16.9%, according to Kids Count. Other cities and towns in Rhode Island have opportunity – they can attract new companies, potentially expand their tax base, and stabilize their economic condition. Central Falls realistically cannot.
The merging of Central Falls does not need to be a negative.
It can become a section of another city or town just like Rumford is to East Providence or Slatersville is to North Smithfield. The schools can keep their names and the residents would benefit from a broader tax base that protects them and creates a future. For Rhode Island, for Central Falls – lets merge the city and create a better opportunity.
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