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PowerPlayer: State Rep. Candidate Mark Binder

Monday, October 01, 2012


This week’s PowerPlayer is State Representative candidate Mark Binder. Mr. Binder was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about why he’s running and the biggest issues facing Rhode Island.

1) You're running for State Rep. in District 4 against Gordon Fox. Tell us why you should replace the House Speaker.

The fact that Gordon Fox is the House Speaker has been a great advantage to my campaign. Reps in other districts may have been able to avoid blame for 38 Studios, but there is no way that $75 million could have been added to a dead EDC bill and suddenly brought to a vote without Mr. Fox's knowledge, approval and encouragement.

After 20 years in the General Assembly, Gordon Fox has left the voters of our district behind. He may have started out as a progressive, but as Speaker of the House his role in blocking a bill that would have stopped payday lending abuses and avoiding a vote on Gay Marriage, plus the last-minute mash-up of the Office of Higher Education and the Board of Regents don't reflect the interests of this district, or the State.

2) Unemployment is still well above the national average. What are the three biggest issues preventing Rhode Island from creating more jobs?

I've been struggling with that question as I walk the campaign route. People say, "How are you going to create jobs?" And when I ask them, Do you want more State workers? they say, "No." Then I ask them, Should Rhode Island be handing out loan guarantees to create jobs? and they say "No."

  • I think that the biggest barrier to job creation in Rhode Island is the pay-to-play and who-do-you-know back-room mentality of government. It's illegal for companies based in the US to bribe foreign nations, but when a Payday Lending company gives a former Speaker of the House $50,000 to ensure that reform legislation doesn't pass it's called lobbying.
  • Improving the education systems -- from Kindergarten through College -- is a huge priority. There are corporations that leave Rhode Island because their employees don't want to put their kids into the public schools. That needs to change. We need to stop using high-stakes testing as a metric for teacher and school evaluation. If you want to use tests to help students, great. But when you make a teacher's salary dependent on the test scores you limit learning and encourage a "teach-to-the-test" mentality.
  • Streamlining the process of licensing and permitting will make everybody happy. That said, Rhode Island has a variety of unique communities each of which are fiercely independent. There are times it's useful to know exactly who the right person to talk to solve a problem. Instead of campaign contributions and lobbying expenses, the state could create a free "business concierge service" that can serve as a business-to-government interface would be a better use of taxpayer dollars than loan guarantees.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

When I'm not running for office I work as an author and small publisher. Most days I’m in the office or on the road, but Fridays are different. I wake up at about 7am and mix up a batch of bread dough for the evening's challah and go to the office to write and make phone calls for two hours. In good weather I bicycle, but if it's inclement I'll drive. At 10 am I'll go to Eyes of the World for a yoga class. After a shower I grab a bite and either go back to the office or out for a presentation in a local school or library. At 3pm I pick up my daughter at MLK Elementary School, rush home, and get the chickens into the oven for dinner. A lot of Jewish people host Shabbat dinners on Friday nights. For me, it's important to take time and gather my family and friends together. I'm a newlywed. My wife and and I have a blended family. She's got two children and I have three. We light candles, break bread, drink wine, laugh and talk.

4) You've made 38 Studios a major campaign issue. Give us some thoughts on last week's EDC report.

After reading the entire report I have some serious questions.

  • The RIDEP report calls for a “strong and capable” leadership to take initiative in government. I don't think we have that. We have a divided legislative leadership that stages fights and squabbles to maintain power and control. Gordon Fox didn’t attend the hearing for the release of the report, and only issued a tepid statement afterward that didn’t say much. I can't see the current "leadership" creating a commerce secretary that would be both autonomous and sufficiently funded.
  • The report also calls for folding the Department of Environmental Management under the "Commerce" umbrella. This would be a huge mistake. One of the best things about Rhode Island is our environment. It's taken decades to restore our rivers from the pollution of unregulated business interests, and the job's still not done. Yes, it might be better to combine the DEM and the CRMC, and to make it easier and speedier to understand how environmental regulations will affect a business. Even now, nations like China are just beginning to deal with the long-term environmental impact of the products that they manufacture at lower cost.
  • At the heart of this report is the assumption that it is government's job to serve business. I think it's the government's job to serve and protect the interests of the people. And as far as I'm concerned, despite Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, corporations are not people.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I was a computer programmer in high school and college. I learned that you don’t bet $75 million on a piece of software that doesn’t exist.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: Mark Twain

Favorite Restaurant: Tie between The Ivy Tavern and Apsara Palace

Best Beach: Scarborough -- after 4pm when it's free and the tourists have left

Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: Nonfiction: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Fiction: The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child is page-turning

Advice for the Next Mark Binder. Start from your center. Listen to what other people have to say. Take time to think and mediate. Make a choice. Then act.


Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan.


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