RhodeMap RI Meeting Explodes Into Controversy
Thursday, November 13, 2014
A video showing the RhodeMap RI meeting from Wednesday, November 12 shows consortium members of the economic plan calling meeting attendees opposed to the plan "racist" and "Ku Klux Klan."
The video opens with text saying, "Panel member calls opposition Tea Party racists...when no one identified themselves at tea party patriots."
RhodeMap RI is billed as a "coordinated and forward-looking effort by the state to make Rhode Island a better place to live and work by mobilizing state and community assets in a whole new way. Through RhodeMap RI, the State seeks to strengthen our economy, meet current and future housing needs, and plan for future growth through the development of an integrated plan that will also include strategies for transportation, land use and environmental protection."
The video shows Social Equity Advisory Committee member Joe Buchanan pointing at the opposed off-screen, saying, "I don't see a person of color over there -- you don't know what goes on in our community."
A moderator asks Buchanan to stick to talking about the plan, to which Buchanan replies, "You tell the Ku Klux Klan that," referring to the opponents.
"The next step now is next Thursday morning. [The plan] was adopted by the consortium, now the state planning council will vote to adopt it in the state economic plan. I think they do allow public comment, and we'll be there again," said plan opponent Mike Stenhouse with the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. "Obviously they got caught off guard yesterday, they don't know how to defend this because they're indefensible."
On Wednesday, Stenhouse had said of RhodeMap RI, "What we see is a coordinated national-state-local scheme where federal agencies are poised to seize unprecedented levels of control over local land-use and housing issues. Property owners and local officials are about to lose sovereignty over their own affairs to the federal government."
"This demonstrates the point that I've been making that RhodeMap RI isn't about economic development but rather about a radical social equity agenda," said Stenhouse of Wednesday's meeting altercation. "This isn't an economic plan for the people of Rhode Island."
Related Slideshow: 7 Strategies for Rhode Island Economic Development in 2014
What will it take to move the Rhode Island economy forward in 2014? GoLocal talked with elected officials, candidates, and leaders for their economic development plans in the coming year.
Below are key elements of the economic priorities for Governor Lincoln Chafee, Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed, House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, gubernatorial hopefuls General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Ken Block, and RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity's Mike Stenhouse.
Governor Lincoln Chafee
Speaker Gordon Fox
"Among the many pieces of legislation the House will address will be issues of higher education affordability, expanding apprenticeship opportunities, and offering help to our manufacturers. We will also look closely at our tax structure to make sure we are competitive with our neighboring states, including the corporate tax and the estate tax, and I will carefully review the recommendations of the commission studying our sales tax.”
Senate Pres. Paiva-Weed
Greg Pare, spokesperson for the Senate President, said that the Senate is planning to issue recommendations soon on workforce development initiatives to address the skills gap among Rhode Island job seekers.
"An example of a proposal anticipated in that report is the elimination of state’s Indirect Cost Recovery on the Job Development Fund, which is about $1.2 million this year. Those funds would be directed towards job training and skills development programs to provide immediate impact and help workers gain the skills necessary to succeed in today’s economy."
Gen. Treasurer Raimondo
"To grow our economy, we need to make Rhode Island a leader in manufacturing again. Great things can happen at the intersection of government, higher education, and the private sector. Rhode Island is lucky to have thriving institutions in each of these three sectors, and we need to foster collaboration among them to find solutions to our challenges, and spark our economy.
By promoting partnerships in high-growth areas, [Rhode Island Innovation Institute] will help grow our manufacturing base, and create new, high-quality jobs."
"First, we need to fix Rhode Island’s broken Unemployment Insurance program. The state’s Unemployment Insurance tax, paid by employers, is ranked worst in the country by the Tax Foundation. It is one of the factors that makes Rhode Island an uncompetitive place to do business. Also, it is inherently unfair that a large group of businesses are effectively subsidizing the payrolls of a small group of businesses who misuse the system. There is a simple change to state law that can fix this problem."
"Rhode Island’s temporary disability tax (TDI) is broken, and places an unnecessarily high tax burden on Rhode Islanders. This tax, paid for by employees, will be reduced by changing the way we manage the program. As Governor, I will substantially reduce the cost of purchasing this insurance by requiring that Rhode Island’s program adhere to national norms."
"To best encourage new job creation, I propose the following tax incentive: exempt from future capital gains taxes any new investments in Rhode Island-based businesses. This change would create a powerful incentive for investors who are deciding where to locate a new business, or where they relocate an existing one. This proposal has the potential change the economic playing field for Rhode Island."
Minority Leader Newberry
“It would be overly ambitious to set being #1 as a goal right now, but we think 25, the middle of the pack, is a reasonable goal to set, one we think we should pursue, and one we can achieve,” said Newberry. "One of the initiatives is a requirement that every bill receive a fiscal evaluation before it can be heard by committee, better insuring that legislators know the real cost of the legislation they are acting on."
"Another proposal would exempt social security income from RI state income tax, making Rhode Island more tax-friendly for our seniors and keeping them here rather than migrating to more tax-friendly states."
“Strong action is way overdue here. Nearly 60% of Rhode Islanders now believe that the state is headed in the wrong direction. We think they’re right, and our central goal is to get it turned around."