Superman isn't coming. We have no golden goose. We have no direction. So, what exactly are we doing here? What's our plan?
Rhode Island is amidst a crisis. We have crumbling infrastructure, crippling debt from public obligations, failing schools, and despite recent improvement, our unemployment rate is among the nation's highest.
Rhode Island -- in its current form -- lacks identity. Are we a blue-collared manufacturing state? Are we a leader in higher education? Are we a cradle of innovation? We don't seem to know what we are. We want it all, but earn none. As the old proverb goes, If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.
We point fingers at our leadership, but how can a captain helm a sinking ship when the wind is blowing in every direction -- except forward?
Providence Plantations was founded nearly 400 years ago as an innovative solution to an imperfect settlement along Massachusetts Bay. Roger Williams looked to reinvent the Puritanical model, and sought creative solutions to challenge the unforeseen challenges that arose upon settling in the unforgiving conditions of what is now known as New England. It is no accident that Roger Williams and his band of Boston-misfits not only survived in the conditions that were supposed to eradicate them, but thrived.
Now, we refer to that original settlement as the Creative Capital.
Where is the creativity?
Pound foolish, but penny foolish as well
Neither Gina Raimondo, nor Nick Mattiello are at the root of this problem. Don't look toward Linc Chafee or Don Carcieri either. Blame me, blame your neighbor, blame that person in the mirror.
Yes, our collective leadership has led us down some interesting paths, and these paths have often failed us. 38 Studios, The RI Convention Center Authority are the two that come to mind -- but they are not the only ones.
20 years ago, Rhode Island offered incentives to major financial institutions such as Bank of America, Citizens, Sovereign to expand their footprint in the Ocean State. With the incentives came jobs. And with the subprime mortgage crisis and subsequent financial collapse, those jobs disappeared. Rhode Island invested in business, but failed to diversify. When our sole house of cards collapsed, so did our prosperity.
We were overzealous in handing the Rhode Island Convention Authority what essentially equates to a blank check. The authority manages operations at the RI Convention Center, Dunkin Donuts Center, and Veterans Memorial Auditorium along with several parking garages in the city -- all of which are funded with public resources, and operate at a loss,
We threw more good money after bad, and followed these poor investments with more poor investments. We tossed public money in the form of $75 million loan guarantees to Curt Schilling and his 38 Studios video game project. It failed.
Now, we are gun shy. A mere mention of spending public money for any longterm project draws out the torch and pitchfork mob. And this mob's core is not that of a divisive, political left versus right conflict; it is that of a lover scorned, fearful to trust again.
Fix everything, Sacrifice nothing
So, here we sit in 2015. The economy is still sputtering, and we face much darker days ahead. Our pension system is grossly underfunded, our bridges and roads are in deplorable condition, and we all want a cure, but we aren't willing to cope with the side effects.
It is time to stop blaming our elected officials. They aren't to blame for our lack of progress. We are.
Our government is supposed to be a reflection of the collective needs and desires of our populace. However, we don't have a unified voice, not even close. We can't even agree WHAT our problems are, so how can we ask our leadership to fix it?
Sneakers in a drier
Rhode Island is not really a blue state. It is certainly not a red state. The conservatives in Rhode Island have harnessed the power of social media to compensate for their minority status in the state. The liberals seem to be in cruise control, hiding behind their numbers, brimming with overconfidence in their perceived invulnerability. It may be akin to the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare.
The end yields nothing of a collective voice. It yields noise.
What do we want? We don't seem to know.
When do we want it? Yesterday!
And I certainly won't pretend to know how to fix our state, but I do know that these solutions will never be found in the haystack of noise that we have created. Progress will occur when we can unify, and open our minds to new ideas, and when we accept that this growth will be both painful, and at a cost.
The solutions that we need will hurt. Sacrifice is never easy, but without it, we are merely a sinking ship with a broken mast.
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