EDITORIAL

In support of the bond questions

Posted 2/17/21

Rhode Islanders may still be mentally fatigued from the recent presidential election - which went about as tumultuously as could possibly be expected - however there is another election of crucial importance coming up in a couple of weeks on Tuesday,

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EDITORIAL

In support of the bond questions

Posted

Rhode Islanders may still be mentally fatigued from the recent presidential election – which went about as tumultuously as could possibly be expected – however there is another election of crucial importance coming up in a couple of weeks on Tuesday, March 2, that could make a big impact on the state’s ongoing recovery from COVID-19.

During the upcoming special election, the state will ask voters for permission to borrow as much as $400 million in bonds to fund initiatives including environmental resiliency, affordable housing, cultural and historic preservation, economic development, educational upgrades and infrastructural renovations. Seven questions will appear on the ballot, and our story in this week’s edition breaks down the details of what is included in each.

Alongside the story is an endorsement from Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who believes that given the severity and extent of the economic damage wrought by COVID-19, a large bond package is exactly what the state needs to create short-term construction jobs and invest in long-term projects that will ultimately benefit the state’s economic health for years to come.

We agree with Treasurer Magaziner both in his assessment that bold steps should be taken to provide relief during times of crisis, and in his assessment that the state can afford to take on more debt – and should take on more debt while interest rates are historically low. The work included in the scope of this bond needs to get done regardless, so why not do it at a time where you will save money on interest payments over the lifetime of these bonds, and at a time where thousands of Rhode Islanders need to get back to work?

Going right down the line, it’s hard to find an issue on the ballot that isn’t worthy of your support.

 

 

QUESTION 1

will bolster the state’s two public universities by allowing for renovations to two of their most important buildings and keep the state competitive in its STEM, medical training and fine arts offerings. It will provide updates and renovations for CCRI’s campuses that will encourage more students to partake in the Rhode Island Promise initiative – increasing their academic opportunities and eventually adding value to the state’s workforce.

 

 

QUESTION 2

 should be an easy decision for any Rhode Island resident – whether you’ve lived here for generations or moved here recently. Narragansett Bay is the state’s heart, soul and its very bloodstream through which its economy thrives or languishes. Making improvements to public parks and beaches adds value to our most essential natural resource – our open space – and prioritizing infrastructural safeguards against the advancing march of climate change is inarguably the wise and right thing to do.

 

 

QUESTION 3

would provide more funding to build more affordable housing – of which there is a severe need in the state. Simply uttering the phrase “affordable housing” is enough to spark panic in certain self-minded circles, but we cannot be a successful community or preside over a successful economy when over one third of our population is forced to spend a third of their money on housing. Everyone deserves a clean and decent place to stay for an affordable rate.

 

 

QUESTION 4

has already faced opposition from some groups who do not trust the Department of Transportation – and while it is not our place to advocate on behalf of DOT’s efficiency, we find it irresponsible and unrealistic to advocate against shoring up our transportation infrastructure when a simple cross-state drive will reveal just how badly such an investment is needed.

 

 

QUESTION 5

like Question 3, is an initiative that may not directly affect every Rhode Islander, but indirectly will play a huge role in Rhode Island’s future. Children have been adversely affected by the pandemic in many ways – missing school and crucial socialization time. Parents working from home or those who have been laid off have learned firsthand how fragile our childcare system is, and it is not a problem that will go away on its own. Investing in more early learning facilities is another wise decision that will pay dividends in the future.

 

 

QUESTION 6

 the smallest item from a monetary standpoint on the ballot, could make one of the more visible differences in the state. Rhode Island has a vibrant history and culture of fine arts, which should be kept and celebrated. The money from this bond would go towards big improvements at some of our most popular and economically important fine arts establishments, and would create an opportunity to preserve more of our historic structures worthy of protection.

 

 

QUESTION 7

is a bit more nuanced in its potential impact on the state, but its merit is nonetheless justified. The “site readiness” model utilized at Quonset would be a valuable model to be replicated elsewhere in Rhode Island, and shoring up the infrastructure at one of our state’s most economically significant ports to be ready for future industrial activity – such as offshore wind – is another investment we should make now, not later.

When discussing bonds, the natural inclination of skeptics and cynics is to assume the worst when it comes to what debt actually means. They see the national turmoil that COVID-19 has wrought on the country and assume, understandably, that now is not the best time to incur more bills down the road.

However, we would argue that this specific moment calls for aggressive action on the part of our representatives and enthusiastic buy-in from all residents. These bonds will create work in the short-term and make the state a more desirable, equitable and cleaner place to live in the long run. The fact that it requires borrowing more money is simply not a good enough argument against these initiatives given the state’s financial rating and today’s low interest rates. Debt can be paid over time, but deferred maintenance will only lead to more problems and a steeper price tag to fix them.

We strongly urge each Rhode Islander to study these ballot initiatives and to support them through a “yes” vote – either by voting early at your local Board of Canvassers or at the polls on March 2. Let’s help kick start Rhode Island’s economic recovery.

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