State Report: Cranston Controversy, Rocky Point & a Corrupt Mayor Resigns

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nostalgia is in the air this week as the State House Report tackles Rocky Point Park and father-daughter dances. Aside from reminiscing, GoLocal also delves into a pair of economic issues involving the state’s recovery and business regulation. Lastly, we examine the demise of former Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau.

RI economist says tepid recovery is losing steam

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Although July marked the state’s 29th consecutive month of recovery, a local economist contends that the state’s lukewarm recovery is losing steam.
According to his “Current Conditions Index” for July, University of Rhode Island Professor Leonard Lardaro argues that the state’s rate of recovery has begun to slow. The loss of momentum is particularly evident in the manufacturing and retail segments, says Lardaro. In fact, retail sales fell by 1.6 percent in July, the first time it has declined since August 2011.
Despite the slow in recovery, the state’s employment landscape is looking better, according to Lardaro. While the state’s official data presents a more dismal picture, Lardaro says that the overall employment is roughly 7,000 higher than what official data shows. Despite a minor bright spot in overall employment, Private Service-Producing Employment, a vital labor market indicator, has slowed drastically.

The state’s unemployment rate for July was 10.8 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point from June. Rhode Island’s unemployment rate is currently the second highest in the country.

RI to purchase 82 acres of former Rocky Point for park

This week as the state announced it has reached an agreement to purchase 82 acres of the former Rocky Point Park in Warwick. The deal, which was revealed on Monday, triples the size of the public park currently there.
The state will reportedly spend $9.65 million for the massive plot of land. Taxpayers need not worry about the cost, because the money comes out of a $10 million open space bond previously approved by voters in 2010. Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian called the deal one of the largest open space purchases in Rhode Island history.
The state’s purchase comes three years after the city of Warwick bought 41 acres of Rocky Point land to establish a public park. The newly purchased 82-acre plot will be developed into a State Park, according to state officials.
“Rocky Point is a Rhode Island icon,” said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said at a news conference Monday. “It’s a strong memory for those of us of a certain age. We’re going to preserve those memories and the feeling that has always been here at Rocky Point: to recreate.”
Despite the announcement, the deal is far from finalized. The land purchase must first be approved by the State Properties Committee and then win court approval, which could take several months.
Opened in 1847, Rocky Point Park was a popular amusement park until it closed in 1995. Rocky Point was primarily known for its Corkscrew roller coaster and Log Flume water ride.

Father-daughter dances banned in Cranston

The Cranston school system announced on Monday that it is banning father-daughter and mother-son dances, because they violate the state’s gender discrimination laws.
The ban is the result of one complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a mother who said her daughter was not allowed to attend a father-daughter dance, according to Superintendent Judith Lundsten.
Lundsten also added that although federal laws against gender discrimination allow for gender-specific events, Rhode Island law does not.
Lundsten detailed the school district’s reasoning in an August letter stating, “I acknowledge that many of these events have long traditions and for many parents, these types of gender-based events are not an issue, however, this is a public school system and under no circumstances should we be isolating any student from full participation in school activities and events based on gender,” according to WPRO.
Cranston Mayor Allen Fung said he was “utterly disappointed” in the verdict. Earlier this year, Fung was at odds with the ACLU over the Cranston Prayer Banner case in which a U.S. district judge ruled that Cranston West’s prayer banner was discriminatory.
Despite Monday’s ruling, the School Committee has written a resolution asking that the state law be amended to allow for father-daughter dances, according to The Providence Journal. The committee will vote on the resolution Monday night.

RI looks to ease business regulations

The state’s new and existing business may soon find some much needed relief. On Tuesday, Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced that his administration will conduct a review of 1,638 state regulations currently on the books.
Each regulation will be reviewed in regard to how it affects businesses. Regulations that are considered hindrances to businesses may be revised or repealed. Chafee has ordered his cabinet members to complete the review in 18 months.
"Sometimes, its difficult to do business here," said Governor Lincoln Chafee, "so, if we can get it more easy to do business coupled with our exceptional quality of life, we're going to be a winner," Chafee said at Tuesday’s Business Expo in Warwick.
In July, Rhode Island was deemed the worst state to do business in, according to a CNBC study. It marked the second straight year that the Ocean State finished last in the nation.
Click HERE to view Rhode Island’s Department of Business Regulation page.

Central Falls mayor resigns, will plead guilty to corruption 

Earlier this week, Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau resigned from office and agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of fraud. Moreau submitted his letter of resignation to the Secretary of State early Wednesday, just several hours before federal prosecutors charged him with fraud.
Moreau’s fraud charges stem from his association with long-time friend and political contributor Michael Bouthillette. Starting in 2007, Moreau gave Bouthillette all of the boardup work in the city, which was the result of a surge in foreclosed homes.
Moreau is scheduled for arraignment Sept. 27 at 2 p.m., according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. He is expected to plead not guilty in next week’s appearance, and then plead guilty before a U.S. District Court Judge at a later date. Bouthillette will be arraigned before a magistrate judge on Oct. 5.
A special election will be held for mayor, according to State Revenue Director Rosemary Booth Gallogly.
Elected in 2003, Moreau was stripped of power in 2010 when a state-appointed receiver stepped in. The receiver filed for bankruptcy in August 2011 amidst a $6 million deficit and $80 million in unfunded pension liabilities.

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