2014-04-10 / Opinion

Take an Island-Wide Perspective

To the Editor:

All residents of Aquidneck Island should take deep, deep cleansing breaths.

Tolls: The mandate of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is to manage and maintain the bridges assigned to it. Currently all bridges serving Aquidneck Island and Jamestown are the responsibility of the authority. The Sakonnet River Bridge was recently rebuilt by the DOT after falling into disrepair. Support for the management and the maintenance of the RITBA bridges comes from tolls primarily generated by traffic on the Newport/Pell Bridge. A Sakonnet toll (a reasonable and rational toll structure) would generate needed revenue for all four bridges while lifting some of the burden of bridge maintenance over salt water from Rhode Island residents and sharing it with users from out of state. Fees on R.I. registrations, licenses, and inspections burden only Rhode Islanders. Out-of-state travelers literally get a free ride.

Water, Sewer, Cesspools: The City of Newport is spending significant monies to upgrade water, sewer, and storm drain infrastructure. Both Middletown and Newport were forced into these projects by a consent agreement stemming from a lawsuit. The alternative would have been to defend the indefensible in court while the putridity of our surrounding waters continued and existing infrastructure fell into permanent disrepair. Currently the cesspools of Portsmouth drain into connecting bays and rivers shared by all of us. If two communities must clean up the mess, so should the third.

Schools: The economy of scale resulting from a unified school system is only as valuable as the shared feeling of community. That sense of community is individually defined and can be very selective. A cooperative venture changes the focus. Align school calendars, curricula, grading, and graduation expectations. Share among us the best of what each has to offer. Our children already have joint experiences and look upon the community with wider lenses. Perhaps in a generation we might be blessed with community members and leaders who not only support education and the funding of it, but also have the ability to view issues from an island-wide perspective. Carolyn Booth

Newport

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Ms. Booth: From the NCCVB

Ms. Booth: From the NCCVB Website. http://www.discovernewport.org/ Look for the red link at the bottom. Industry Resources. Use the search area to locate from G-L Look for the Global Insight Tourism Report for 2010. That free ride generated $930 million in state tax revenue in 2010. And they spent $711 million dollars in Newport. Total Impact of Tourism • In 2010, the total economic impact of travel & tourism (direct and indirect) was $2.37 billion. This represents 5.0% of RI Gross State Product • The ratio of the total impact to total expenditures reveals that 67¢ of each tourism dollar spent in Rhode Island is retained in the state. The remainder represents import leakages. This share is fairly typical for a diversified state like Rhode Island and higher than many other states. • Over 41,900 jobs – direct and indirect – were created by travel & tourism (TSA) economic activity. This accounts for 9.3% of total employment in RI. • $1.32 billion in wages & salaries were generated by travel & tourism (TSA) in 2010. • Tourism (TSA) generated $930 million in federal, state, and local government taxes in 2010, with the state and local tax contribution making up 8.4% of all RI state gov. revenue Regional Share of State Expenditures by Category ($M) Accommodations Entertainment Food Retail Transportation Total Balance of State 9.50 43.57 194.04 69.41 84.13 400.86 Blackstone Valley 21.96 472.43 227.12 56.44 84.75 862.70 Block Island 76.34 53.65 21.83 44.58 18.32 214.72 East Bay 5.09 37.33 104.34 44.80 46.90 238.53 Newport 204.67 172.32 216.98 74.17 43.79 711.67 Providence 127.05 341.00 313.09 343.19 272.11 1,396.45 South County 182.57 82.35 238.14 147.53 47.56 698.16 Warwick 57.25 65.66 168.52 84.55 235.39 611.36 Total 684.44 1,268.32 1,484.06 864.67 832.96 5,134.44 After the Navy moved out (or was kicked out) in the 70's, Newport leaders at the time had a vision and followed it. The way to fill the hole in the economy was tourism. I do not think that Newport leaders want to mess with this revenue stream. But they are in a Catch 22. They do not want the toll on the Pell to go up. The 2008 Transportation Study was ill-conceived to try to get fast money to cover debt problems at RIDOT and RITBA because money has been taken away from infrastructure for 40 years. The Infrastructure Bills simultaneously weaves its way through all these problems to have no toll on the Sakonnet, no increase on the Pell, no more RIDOT debt, and enough money to fix all State roads and bridges. BY the way, RITBA nad broowed $128 million in bonds. The interest on those bonds is $91 million. That is $91 million gone out of state. I offer to meet to give you more information. Respectfully, Ray Berberick

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