2017-04-27 / Opinion

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Protecting Taxpayers From Another 38 Studios

To the Editor:

The mistakes made in the funding of 38 Studios cost Rhode Islandtax payers millions. The legislature owes it to the public not to repeat those costly mistakes with the Pawtucket Red Sox stadium.

There is an initiative by the Pawtucket Red Sox owners to build a new baseball complex in Rhode Island. Last week, I introduced legislation(H6128), with support from the House and Senate GOP caucuses, to prevent the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation (RICC) from directly funding any aspect of a baseball park without General Assembly approval. This legislation would require approval from the Legislature before the RICC could provide leases, loan guarantees, grants or any financial assistance for any baseball park, recreational facility or an ancillary facility development.

The RICC currently has the authority, without any legislative oversight, to provide up to $15 million in equivalent tax credits, loans or grants to any entity. In addition, the RICC can issue $15 million for ancillary development like a parking garage or mixed-use retail facility. The RICC can also provide funding in subsequent years to the same projects. The potential exists that Rhode Island taxpayers could be on the hook for another 38 Studios debacle.

Since the RICC (formerly Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation) was rebranded, it has provided over $104 million in economic stimulus funding. I am a member of the General Government Finance Subcommittee and the RICC proposed FY18 budget is $76 million and includes another $33.8 million for Economic Development Initiative Funds.

The goal of the RICC is to attract long-term, well-paying STEM, hightech and manufacturing jobs. Investing in a baseball stadium does not meet that goal. A majority of the jobs at a ballpark are not

Public support is lacking as well. In 2015, a Hassenfeld Institute survey found that 74 percent of those polled opposed the use of taxpayer subsidies for a minor league baseball park. I am a baseball fan, but not a fan of taxpayer funds being used for a private business venture in which the return on investment has a history of being a net loss for taxpayers. I do believe that the use of legislature budgeted taxpayer funds for infrastructure upgrades (roadways, utilities, sidewalks, etc.) to support the renovation of the existing stadium or building of a new ballpark is a reasonable expectation from the government.

Coincidently, on the same day as the H6128 announcement, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Ballpark Adds to Hartford’s Fiscal Strains” that supports this claim. The article delved into the city spending $68 million to cover most of the construction costs to build a 6,000-seat Double A minor league baseball park. Hartford’s mayor said that the ballpark will never generate enough money to pay back the debt. Rhode Island taxpayers have already invested nearly $30 million over the last 20- plus years in the Pawtucket stadium. The General Assembly, which can be held accountable to the public through elections, should provide oversight on how large amounts of taxpayer dollars are spent. We should learn the expensive lessons of 38 Studios.

Rep. Kenneth Mendonça
House District 72

Legacy for the Future

To the Editor:

For 27 years, the Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT), with the help of the island community, has tirelessly worked to conserve farmland, watershed areas and open vistas on our beautiful island. The Land Trust is close to accomplishing another major feat by protecting Spruce Acres Farm. Spruce Acres Farm is a spectacular 23-acre property straddling the Middletown/ Portsmouth line. Currently private, Spruce Acres will become publicly accessible. In addition to offering nature trails and stunning bird and wildlife habitats for residents and visitors to enjoy, this property would expand the Center Island Greenway, a natural midisland corridor of conserved land that helps protect the watershed area around Sisson Pond, one of the island’s seven drinking water reservoirs.

Hundreds of concerned individuals, the towns of Middletown and Portsmouth, foundations and local companies have already contributed $1.7 million of the $2.1 million required to permanently conserve Spruce Acres. As a former ALT board member and a lifelong Islander with a deep appreciation for the positive impact ALT has made to the quality of life here, I urge all of you to show your support for this important effort by making a gift of any amount to help conserve this parcel. Generations from now, your gift will continue to make a difference in the lives and health of those who live and visit here. What a wonderful legacy.

Bill Corcoran
Newport

Work Here, Live Here

To the Editor:

One of the values that was instilled in me from an early age was the value of work. My father recently celebrated 50 years in the Laborer’s Union; his job was important to our family, and the powerful example of him going to work day in and day out continues to be one of the key influences in my life. I’m sure that many of us have similar stories about family members who taught us by their example.

Unfortunately, many people here in District 13 and all over Rhode Island cannot find jobs and are being forced to relocate. New graduates are forced to leave our state and people remain unemployed or underemployed. And we run the risk of falling behind on jobs in the new economy.

This needs to change. We need to create jobs in this district that offer people the opportunity to live and work here.

One of the many things I admire about former house president Teresa Pavia-Weed is her commitment to the transformation of the city’s North End, now known as the Knowledge District. I share that commitment, which for her, as for me, is born out of a desire to create new jobs for our residents, breathe new life into an under-utilized area of the city and to give Newport a winning platform for economic prosperity. The potent combination of the city and the state working collaboratively to create this district will yield dividends, particularly for our younger residents who seek employment opportunities in the city in which they live.

As the old truism goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. In the same way, creating jobs will benefit all of the constituents in our district. I think about my father’s example, and it inspires me to work hard in my endeavors. Should I have the privilege of representing this district in the General Assembly, I will work with the business community, state and local government, and the constituents of Newport and Jamestown to bring good jobs to this district and keep them here.

David Allard
Candidate for Rhode Island
Senate District 13

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