This year’s general election will feature seven extremely important referenda question for voter approval or rejection.
Question 1: Would allow table games to be added as another form of gambling at the Newport Grand slots facility.
Approve. Gambling is gambling, whether it’s at slot machines or at gaming tables. The facility is already there; it’s already functioning. Adding table games will not increase any perceived “bad influences” caused by the facility. Indeed, it will serve to add revenue to both the City of Newport and to the state’s treasuries. Even if state voters approve, the final approval will be up to Newport voters. If they reject, there will be no gaming tables. It just makes sense to approve the question.
Question 2: Would deny a gambling facility the ability to change locations within a municipality without the approval of the municipality’s voters.
Approve. This question was added to placate Newport voters by assuring them that Newport Grand cannot relocate because of growth caused by adding table games unless Newport voters approve of such relocation. Since gambling is such a sensitive issue, major changes to a gaming facility should certainly be approved by local voters.
Question 3: Shall there be a convention to amend or revise the state’s Constitution?
Approve. Anyone who has lived in Rhode Island for more than a few years realizes that our legislators are inordinately beholden to special interest groups for their reelection support. Thus, very little that is controversial and that requires political courage to change ever gets changed in our state. A prime example is the decades it took to get the master lever removed, and the continued failure of our legislature to fix such things as our broken system for selecting judges, our redistricting process that favors one party, the lack of a line-item veto for the governor, the lack of reasonable term limits for legislators, the dangerous concentration of power in the hands of the Speaker of the House, and so forth.
Opponents of a convention claim such a mechanism opens the door for special interests to eliminate or reduce civil rights and individual liberties. That’s hogwash! The U.S. Constitution protects such rights and liberties through the first ten amendments to the nation’s Constitution, which, of course, trumps all state constitutions.
When elected representatives consistently refuse to listen to the people, and special interests keep getting them elected term after term, the only thing the people can do to change things is take matters into their own hands. That process is through a Constitutional Convention.
Remember, too, that the voters have the final say on the recommendations of a Constitutional Convention. The voters will need to approve any changes to the constitution.
Question 4: Would allow the state to sell bonds to borrow $125 million to build a new engineering facility at URI.
Approve. With the state’s budget deficit already projected to reach $173 million next fiscal year, $296 million the following year, and $464 million by 2018, it is easy to argue we can’t afford to keep borrowing more and more money.
That said, the new engineering facility would contribute to economic growth and offers the potential to attract teachers and students whose innovations and skills could build a more promising economic future for the state.
Question 5: Would allow the state to sell bonds to borrow $35 million to fund capital improvements, preservation and renovations to various artistic venues in Rhode Island, such as Trinity Repertory Company, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Providence WaterFire, Newport Performing Arts Center, etc.
Aprove. While this bond would contribute to the state’s debt, which is of cocern, we believe the arts are an economic driver and we especially like this is for bricks and mortar and the requirement of matching funds from the arts entities.
Question 6: Would allow the state to sell bonds to borrow $35 million to fund mass transit hub infrastructure improvements around the state.
Approve: This referenda question will contribute to the state’s economic growth and the welfare of our working poor in the short term. Economic growth is dependent on companies finding workers, especially at the high end and low end of the employment spectrum. High-end workers generally have cars, those at the low end many times do not. Improving mass transit will improve the lives of low-income workers by providing more employment transportation, better transportation access to health care facilities, and better opportunities to move away from crime-ridden neighborhoods. Perhaps it would even allow some who seek work to exit the public dole.
Additionally, mass transit improvements will enhance our state’s tourism industry. Getting around our beautiful state without having to rent a car is a major factor in the decision-making process of many potential visitors as they select a vacation destination.
Question 7: Would allow the state to sell bonds to borrow $53 million to fund clean water initiatives, open space acquisition, and improvement to Roger Williams Park and Zoo.
Reject: Some of the planned uses for this borrowed money, $28 million, are for good purposes – brownfield remediation, flood prevention and water pollution abatement projects. However, almost half the borrowed money, $25 million, would go to improvements and renovations at the Roger Williams Park and Zoo, to the purchase of open farmland, and for the purchase or renovation of municipal recreational facilities - projects that can wait until our state recovers from its economic malaise. None of the borrowed money would go to projects that would have a short-term impact on our economy. So, it doesn’t make sense to further burden our taxpayers with such debt right now.