Referendum questions: NO on 1, YES on 6

yeson6RI Future has had few posts about the 7 referenda questions on the upcoming ballot, so I’d like to share my thoughts on Questions 1 and 6 and hope others will post on other questions.

Question 1 authorizes a new casino in Tiverton, apparently to have another 1000 slot machines and dozens of table games.  As a math teacher, I can’t help but think casino gambling is a tax on the mathematically challenged as it is a device to almost inevitably take your money and send some to the state but a lot to a gambling corporation operation, that GoLocal reports is headed by a Florida millionaire. Opponents note its location is particularly suited to taking money from low income and elderly people, some of whom may wind up desperately needing assistance.

This is hardly economic development.  There is also an environmental issue, which has been noted on ecori.org as it will sacrifice about 48 wooded acres in beautiful Tiverton. Issues pertaining to water quality, runoff from about 1,300 parking spaces (no way to get there but drive,) wetlands, and wildlife are still to be addressed. Proponents say they will be responsible but the article noted Lincoln’s Twin River operation expanded with  24 hour operation, indoor smoking allowed, and an unauthorized parking lot. Finally with southeastern MA also likely to develop a casino we are may well wind up with two nearby failed casinos in an already overbuilt industry. “No” on 1!

I also want to call attention to Question 6,  the $35 million “green economy” bond.  Of that total, $5 million is for restoring “brownfields” – contaminated sites that if cleaned up become available for being safely developed. Another $8 million will go for open space purchases at the local and state levels, $9 million for local and state parks, $3 million for stormwater pollution controls, and $10 million to extend our bike path network.

All this should help both our economy and environment. The environment benefits from cleaner beaches and waters, from the preservation of special natural areas, from non-polluting transportation choices, and from removal and disposal of contamination. The economy benefits from potential reuse of old industrial sites where existing infrastructure often can be efficiently utilized, from growing the tourist economy, and from the enhanced quality of life that can help attract progressive companies and entrepreneurs to invest here. We’ll never have the cheapest energy or cheapest labor, but we can promote our natural beauty, access to clean beaches and parks, and an extensive bike path network.

All these programs being funded have a long successful record of accomplishment but all need new resources. For example, without the bond, there will be no more local open space grant funding which has helped local communities preserve open space for 30 years.  State funds for open space are critical for matching and leveraging Federal, foundation, and private conservation efforts.   Bike path development has slowed with the need to fix our deficient bridges, but the bond can help finish the Blackstone Bikeway, bringing it to central Woonsocket and Pawtucket with their sites (e.g. Slater Mill, Museum of Work and Culture) integral to the new Blackstone National Park that the bike path can help promote.   The bond can also help complete the South County path by bringing it to the beach at Narragansett, another way to strengthen the tourist economy as well as provide a healthy, clean, scenic, low-cost, useful, and safe way to travel for many Rhode Islanders.

While incurring additional debt is a legitimate concern and never to be taken lightly, watch out for those negative voices that like to denigrate Rhode Island and foolishly sneer at efforts to improve the environment and economy.  Yes on 6!

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Referendum questions: NO on 1, YES on 6, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

Barry Schiller served on the Board of the Transit Authority 1995-99.
He can be reached at bschiller@localnet.com

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