Three local vocal opponents of RhodeMap RI – Rep. Anthony Giarrusso, Sen. Lou Raptakis and Senator-elect Mark Gee – remain skeptical of the plan, even as none of them have fully read it (find the plan here).
“I got to the first six or seven pages and I saw duplication and and I had all of these questions,” said Gee. “I said I’m going to make an assumption here that these following pages are just the same treatment.”
Sen. Giarrusso said he had not read the full report but had read the executive summary and other “bullet points.” He said State House staff had done a lot of research into the plan, on which he had relied.
“I don’t trust government. I don’t trust the Planning Council,” Raptakis said. He plans to file a bill in January exempting East Greenwich, Coventry and West Greenwich (communities he represents) from the plan.
RhodeMap RI came about after the General Assembly passed a law calling for the creation of an economic development plan for the state following the state-backed 38 Studios fiasco. The state Planning Council got a $2 million grant from the federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to draft such a plan.
The conservative Center for Freedom and Prosperity has spearheaded the effort to discredit RhodeMap, citing fears of HUD-funded low-income housing projects and a loss of local control.
There are no such projects attached to RhodeMap, although the plan does call for better access to basic needs – food, housing, health. (Over the weekend, the Providence Journal’s “politifact” team took up a HUD claim made by the center’s Mike Stenhouse here, deeming it false.)
“I will file the bill because I want to make sure we protect the communities we represent,” said Raptakis about the exemption bill. He noted town officials in Coventry and WG signed statements opposing the plan and four EG Town Councilors signed a letter asking the Planning Council to delay its vote.
Raptakis said he was worried there could be mandates overriding local zoning laws in the plan. Only the General Assembly or local government bodies can pass laws that mandate zoning changes, but, Raptakis said, “I would rather be safe than sorry.”
He expressed particular frustration with what he perceived as a lack of communication on the part of the RhodeMap team during their nearly two years of work on the plan.
“They should at least have consulted with us,” Raptakis said, as well as town and city councils.
The RhodeMap team held a series of public meetings around the state, including one at the EGPD Community Room in October 2013. No local public officials attended the East Greenwich meeting.
Raptakis said he had not read the plan, which is 186 pages, but had read “some of the outlines.” He said he had based his knowledge about the plan from opinion pieces he had read and meetings he attended organized by the group Property Rights Alliance of Rhode Island (PRARI), which is opposed to RhodeMap.
He said his opposition was not about HUD or a fear of low-income housing.
“I’ll always welcome affordable housing projects,” he said. But he reiterated that he wanted to make sure RhodeMap was “not a new conduit for accepting HUD dollars, not a loophole to circumvent our existing zoning laws.”
Sen.-elect Gee said he also was concerned about the potential loss of local control if RhodeMap was enacted, even as he acknowledged there was no specific language in the plan indicating a loss of control.
At the state Planning Council meeting last Thursday, before the panel voted on RhodeMap, Gee was one of those who spoke, likening the plan to communism (find the video here).
When asked why he was opposed to RhodeMap, Gee cited a 10-unit East Greenwich Housing Authority project now being built on South County Trail. The former Town Council member said EGHA projects were not subject to town oversight and that that was wrong.
“The development on Route 2 did not go through the normal vetting process. You have some neighbors there who were very, very upset,” he said. “You’ve jammed 10 units into a space big enough for a single home.”
Gee resisted the idea that opposition to RhodeMap was based on fears of low-income housing.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with poor people moving into the neighborhood,” he said. “I do think it has something to do with social engineering. And there are some people who feel they’ve chosen a particular community and they’re concerned with change.”
In addition, Gee said he thought an economic development plan should have included more business people.
“Planners are not business people. They’re not decision-makers in the world of commerce. They’re very versed in planning,” he said. “Given all the controversy and lack of confidence and trust in government, this could have waited a few more weeks,” he said.
Like other opponents to RhodeMap, Giarrusso expressed a fear that even though there was no language in the plan that would compel communities to abandon their zoning laws, there might still be something hiding in the plan.
“We’re hoping there’s not a devil in the details,” he said. “The big fear is they really want to abolish the single-family home.”
Giarrusso said opposition was not about keeping poor people out of affluent neighborhoods.
“I think everybody wants everybody to do well,” he said. But, he added, “there’s this perception that if you don’t live on the water in Jamestown, somebody’s doing you a disservice. Not everyone can drive a Ferrari.”
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So clearly Ms. McNamara is trying to make this a partisan issue when the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans in RI oppose this plan. And the basis for this opposition is not just “what’s inside” but also the “who and how.”Clearly you have no idea how this process began and what it became. The original consortium represent folks from private sector. (Construction, maritime industry, small and large business to name a few) Discovering the nature of RMRI was primarily a social equity program most private sector members never returned to subsequent forums.
So what you had left was a crew of appointed Progressive thinkers writing policy having massive taxation and economic implications. Forget reading the plan. Just read the bios of the folks on the board. Most are connect to the social service sector of our government with only one of the 25 having an economics background.
These politicians simply wanted to slow the boards vote until they were able to read and digest the plan. I guess Ms. McNamara would rather our legislators subscribe to the “Pelosi- vote first, read later ” form of governing.
Gov and the board knew darn well that more time means more publicity. More publicity means more opposition from everyone and we can’t have that now can we.
Glenn, thanks for commenting. I think the who and how are relevant so I appreciate your input. Ultimately, however, the plan must stand as its own document, so I think reading the plan is relevant. As for slowing the process down, the people who voted on RhodeMap are not the people who will act on it. Those people – our state legislators – will now get the opportunity to use the plan, or not. That was one of the main points of the story, that the plan alone is just that, a plan. Now, legislators get to decide what to do with it.
Elizabeth, your headline is a political statement, not a reportorial one. Most everyone in this debate seems to have relied on the Executive Summary, which I believe State Planning assembled to carry the main points of the plan, and most of the legislators I know did read and rely on the summary, at minimum. If you are concerned that policies are implemented and laws get passed without legislators reading every word, I suggest you set your sights on the General Assembly. Last session, more than 2,500 bills were filed, and more than 1,100 enacted; I assure you many words slipped by without any elected official having read them.
But you ignored the main point:The EG Town Council, and our State Representative and State Senator, did not call for rejection of the plan, but only more time to consider its implications and consideration of the fact that a new Governor and new administration was just a month away. There was politics going on here, but it had little to do with what our local officials were urging as a responsible way forward.
Chuck, thanks for commenting. Our legislators and the Town Council will get time to weigh in on the plan IF AND WHEN the General Assembly decides to act on it. My headline was my story – that three vocal opponents of the plan who are our representatives had not read the full plan. They don’t have to read the full plan. Constituents, however, are better off knowing where elected officials get their information.
Elizabeth, there will never be “a bill” for the General assembly to vote on, as you surely know. RhodeMapRI is a policy document, and as general as it is (if it were really specific as to its objectives, no one would vote for it as Lardaro at URI has noted), it can only be enacted piecemeal. As for “our representatives,” they got to read it the same place it was available to the public. And that was also one of the problems. But you continue to ignore the main point, which was not whether or not the plan should have been approved, but when and under what circumstances.
I didn’t say there was a bill. I said the plan would need GA action for it to be enacted – whole or piecemeal. As for what you consider the main point, the vote wasn’t my concern so much as the positions of our elected officials – what they think about the plan, what they read of the plan and where they got their information. That’s valuable information to me.
You are incorrect in stating how the GA will vote on this. This is done through HUD and EPA grants, effectively bypassing the GA. This is why there is so much opposition since we will no longer have a voice, locally speaking. Are you more comfortable having these three legislators stop or slow a policy they haven’t completely read and understand, or rubber stamp a policy they haven’t read?
As for reading RMRI. There isn’t really much to read. The real nuts and bolts are found when you read HUD policy. When a municipality signs on to a HUD or EPA grant the municipality agrees to adhere to HUD or EPA regulations, which change regularly and are tens of thousands of pages long. HUD is already ramming housing initiatives down the throats of East Greenwich residents. Can you imagine what the EPA will do, seeing that EG is sandwich between the Big River management area and the ocean?
I’m quite happy with these three being brave enough to voice their concerns.
Glenn, I don’t know how else to say this: the GA is the only body that can enact RhodeMap.
Incorrect. Ms. McNamara. RhodeMapRI has been officially adopted as part of the overall state guide plan.It requires no further action from the General Assembly. It will likely spawn executive orders, state agency regulations, state legislation, and local legislation.