Take a look at RIPEC’s board of directors – they are largely bankers, lawyers, health care professions and business executives – and it shouldn’t surprise that the pro-business lobby and advocacy organization wants the DEM to be subservient to a proposed commerce secretary.
Of course environmental management is in no way, shape or form simply a function business development. And that the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council thinks it should be shows clearly why – despite it’s name – it can’t be trusted to recommend public policy. This is more like something the US Chamber of Commerce would propose to a conservative Republican than anything an open-minded Rhode Islander would consider.
RIPEC offered to author a report on the efforts of the EDC after the 38 Studios debacle (And make no mistake, Chafee didn’t reach out to RIPEC to do this – despite the way it’s being cast by the media – RIPEC reached out to the governor) But instead, the business-backing organization used the opportunity to try to recast economic development in a way that would best benefit its supporters rather than Rhode Islanders.
The most egregious example of which is its recommendation that the Department of Environmental Management be put under the custody of its proposed commerce czar. This is not only a ridiculous idea, it also undermines one of the Ocean State’s best economic advantages: its well-maintained natural habitat and public access to it.
It’s akin to the teachers’ unions suggested the Department of Education be put under the custody of a labor secretary. Or, for the matter, Save the Bay suggesting the EDC be run by DEM. There may be areas of overlap in these examples – and perhaps even opportunities for improvements – but to suggest that one be put under the rubric of the other belittles the importance of the function that gets the demotion.
The 140-page report offers no justification for this huge policy change, probably because one doesn’t exist.
I’m not surprised that RIPEC thinks our natural habitat should be managed by someone concerned primarily with commerce, but I will be surprised if any politicians think this is a good idea.
Rhode Island should have someone who wakes up in the morning thinking about business – in fact, I’m pretty certain it does with the director of the EDC – but it should also have someone who wakes up in the morning thinking about the environment.