Opinion

Tinfoil-Hat Rants, not Reason, Drive Rhode Island Planning

A sensible plan to help lead the Ocean State into an uncertain future dominated by a changing climate is ignored to keep U.N. officials from taking governmental control

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It’s been six years since the RhodeMap RI effort first began, with a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Two years later, in 2013, the General Assembly passed a law requiring state officials to craft a plan to help guide Rhode Island’s future. They did just that, but the initiative has since been held hostage by unhinged claims and conspiracy theories.

In late 2014, Kevin Flynn, the then-associate director for the Rhode Island Division of Planning, said instead of addressing questions relating to the plan’s 100 or so recommendations, he had been beating back accusations that RhodeMap RI is an assault on personal rights and a coordinated effort with Agenda 21, a favorite conspiracy theory about the United Nations scheming to impose global mandates.

He said then that he had never seen a planning process generate such controversy.

During a December 2014 State Planning Council meeting, where the non-binding RhodeMap RI plan was approved unanimously, opponents of the initiative shouted “socialism,” one guy gave Nazi salutes, and another greeted the 26-member council in Russian.

The council members were called “cowards” and accused of treason, as they explained that the plan was based on sound research and public input and didn’t authorize land seizures or set the stage for some kind of federal-government takeover.

The mothballed plan, overseen by the Division of Planning, outlines how Rhode Island, its demographics and its economy are changing. It encourages the Ocean State to take advantage of its many assets, such as some 400 miles of coastline, its fisheries, ports and marine industries, its location along the Northeast corridor, its collection of farms, its tourism industry and its respected universities.

The plan, based on research conducted by experienced professionals, also highlights Rhode Island’s many challenges, such as high unemployment, the high cost of doing business, high per capita health-care costs, gaps in private and public funding for business expansion, crumbling infrastructure, a lack of affordable housing, and gaps in child care and transportation.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which funded the two-year planning for RhodeMap RI, would be the primary funder for programs that would address housing needs, business development and environmental stewardship, including initiatives that would ensure inclusion for minorities and low-income groups.

When the plan was unveiled, then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee said RhodeMap RI took a broad look at economic development. He said it addressed issues such as public education, energy, climate change, public health, transportation and social equity.

But RhodeMap RI opponents, such as the Rhode Island Tea Party, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity and Citizens Against RhodeMap RI — now RI Rising — have been attacking the plan ever since, claiming the template for state planning and economic development would strip away municipal authority.

The Center for Freedom & Prosperity concluded that RhodeMap RI, with its “big government and anti-enterprise approach,” would negatively impact the free-market capitalist system that “has raised the standard of living of more people across the world than any other system ever devised by man.”

The plan’s opponents singled out HUD in their opposition, arguing, nonsensically, that the federal agency is propagating a top-down, big-government agenda. RI Rising called the initiative a “social-engineering plan in disguise.”

HUD already provides federal money to Rhode Island cities and towns annually to fund such things as road repair and new police vehicles. The state also received HUD funding to help repair the damage caused by extensive flooding in March 2010 and Superstorm Sandy two years later. Local governance remains.

Nevertheless, similar fear-mongering campaigns nationwide have succeeded in turning back HUD-funded planning efforts, by linking the programs to conspiracy theories, such as the international planning guideline adopted by the United Nations 25 years ago.

“In recent years, Agenda 21 has become an effective rallying cry, organizing tool and bludgeon that right-wing groups have been using to beat back local sustainable growth and anti-sprawl initiatives, including … bike paths,” according to a 2014 report by the civil-rights advocacy group the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The attacks have caught city councils, planning commissions and smart-growth advocates across the country off guard, leaving them scrambling to mount a defense.”

Rhode Island lawmakers never really tried to play defense. The plan’s biggest proponent, the unfairly maligned Flynn, retired, and state officials acquiesced to tinfoil conspiracies trotted out by those backed by special interests or by those afraid of brown and black people.

Opponents of RhodeMap RI have spent years scaring people into thinking that federal and state agencies would take control of municipal governance and property rights. Their theories are nothing more than fake news.

RhodeMap RI embraces such sinister ideas as increasing transportation options, protecting open space, increasing affordable and energy-efficient housing, expanding education and job opportunities, and better planning for future growth that emphasizes renewable energy. It’s not part of some devious plan that would allow the U.N. secretary-general to make zoning laws for the town of Foster.

Opponents, though, have continued to stoop to any level necessary. During a Statehouse hearing in May 2015, Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Center for Freedom & Prosperity, leveled a race-related remark as he questioned the motives behind the plan.

“Who are these people that seek to mandate skin color and income level mixes in our own neighborhood?” Stenhouse asked.

Other opponents, mostly older white guys and gals, have argued that government shouldn’t attempt to promote social equity or focus on improving urban areas. They point to a contentious affordable-housing debate in Westchester County, N.Y., to justify their conspiracies.

Stenhouse has called RhodeMap RI “a Trojan horse for an agenda out of Washington, D.C.” He has described the plan’s livability principals and growth centers as plans for “utopian villages” and “just fuzzy talk of green, walkable neighborhoods.” He has claimed the plan creates a “constitutional crisis” for the state by affording the Division of Planning unchecked authority over municipalities.

At a Center for Freedom & Prosperity rally before the plan was approved, Stenhouse promised to make conditions “politically toxic” for politicians who supported RhodeMap RI.

Shortly after the State Planning Council’s 2014 vote, Sen. Leonidas Raptakis, D-Coventry, said he planned to introduce legislation exempting his district from RhodeMap RI recommendations. His pandering was insulting on at least two fronts. One, the restaurant owner must think municipal officials in his district need a law to inform them that recommendations are only suggestions. Two, he inferred that not one of the 100-plus recommendations in the plan was worthy of consideration.

The hard work of those who spent hours upon hours creating a plan to help address Rhode Island’s changing landscape and better prepare the state for an uncertain future was essentially reduced to rubble by babble similar to all that ranting about Obama taking everyone’s guns away or the Affordable Care Act’s “death panels.”

General Assembly members embraced this prattle, declaring that RhodeMap RI posed a grave threat because of its connection to affordable-housing mandates and to eminent-domain laws — the same laws that will be enforced should a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico be built.

Rep. Justin Price, R-Exeter, sponsored a 2015 bill that allowed municipalities to reject RhodeMap RI suggestions. Rhode Island municipal officials already wielded that power, since, presumably, they all have brains. The self-employed contractor proudly noted that his legislation would keep “the power in the state, doesn’t let the federal government decide what we are going to do as far as our statewide planning and housing.”

RhodeMap RI doesn’t mandate, suggest or even encourage the outsourcing of governance to federal authorities, but facts have become an inconvenience these days.

Many of RhodeMap RI’s recommendations are designed to be adopted locally — outside of the General Assembly, and without federal government or even U.N. approval — such as suggestions about coastal development, methods for formalizing workforce development, and technical assistance for working farms.

Some of the plan’s social-equity elements call for English language education, access to job training, and programs that foster ethnic and racial diversity in the workforce.

But far too many Rhode Island legislators showed little interest in the plan’s goals or its substance. Instead, they wasted time inventing a story about a U.N. bogeyman and his D.C. sidekick who will suddenly appear when “RhodeMap RI” is repeated three times in a row by a liberal, Communist, socialist, bicycle-riding tree hugger.

During an April 2015 House Committee on Oversight hearing, several lawmakers berated Flynn about RhodeMap RI’s wickedness. They expressed deep concern about a scenario that is as improbable as a Godzilla attack on the Statehouse: HUD forcibly requiring municipalities and/or property owners to forfeit their rights.

Rep. Brian Newberry, R-North Smithfield, said he was concerned about “dictates from Washington, D.C.” “That’s what is at the heart of this,” he said.

No, at the heart of this is fear-mongering and lies, and a collective unwillingness to acknowledge needed change and plan accordingly for the future.

Rep. Karen MacBeth, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Cumberland, said public perception is that “somebody on the federal level is going to be able to come in and dictate what they do with their property, or who they sell their property.”

That perception only exists because people like Stenhouse, MacBeth, Newberry, Price and Rep. Michael Chippendale, R-Foster, worked so hard stoking baseless fears.

Thanks to all their howling at the moon, which easily distracted Statehouse leadership, such as House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, state officials now avoid any mention of RhodeMap RI. ecoRI News contacted both the governor’s office and the Division of Planning to discuss the status of RhodeMap RI. The Division of Planning ignored two e-mails. The governor’s office passed our request along to the Department of Administration.

Rhode Island’s collection of elected lawyers, restaurant owners, builders, bakers and candlestick makers continue to ignore years of professional planning work because of a manufactured dystopian story about U.N. blue hats storming the Statehouse and city/town halls throughout Rhode Island to force residents to ride bicycles, grow vegetables and wear Birkenstocks.

After RhodeMap RI was approved, Mattiello released a statement that said, in part, that, “With the amount of controversy involved and opposition expressed, I am disappointed that RhodeMap RI was approved. If this plan intends to set the direction for our state, it really needs the support of Rhode Islanders. … RhodeMap RI has diverted attention away from the goal of improving our state’s economy. … I prefer to focus my attention on making sure that Rhode Island develops a stronger, better and more vibrant economy that creates new jobs. This plan goes far beyond the scope of economic development strategy.”

His entire statement, most notably the last sentence, is frighteningly naive. The House speaker seems to believe social and economic justice, planning for the future, acknowledging a changing population and landscape, environmental protections, access to affordable health care, fixing and maintaining infrastructure, providing more transportation choices, building more affordable housing and responsible land-use planning for the second-most densely populated state don’t have anything to do with economic development.

Rhode Island’s success hinges on more than eliminating the car tax and creating short-term construction jobs. But Mattiello, like Gov. Gina Raimondo and other Rhode Island “leaders,” recently dismissed RhodeMap RI recommendations to build a 420,000-square-foot corporate office park outside of a developed urban area. They support the clear-cutting of forest to build a 900-megawatt fossil-fuel power plant.

They continue to embrace an economic development plan that focuses on stealing business from neighboring states with corporate tax incentives that end up placing a heavier tax burden on Rhode Island’s residents. They measure Rhode Island’s success by how they help CEOs and shareholders become richer.

RhodeMap RI, with its warts and all, created a pragmatic path the Ocean State could follow into a future that will undoubtedly present increased stresses on natural resources. Instead, we seem determined to bulldoze our way hopelessly through the woods.

Frank Carini is the editor of ecoRI News.

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  1. The stated goal of Land Use 2025, which is cited numerous times throughout RhodeMap RI, is, and I quote;

    "If we are successful, this Plan’s recommendations are followed, 63 percent or more of the State’s landscape would remain as open, undeveloped land in 2025. One of our greatest challenges will be to permanently preserve as much greenspace as possible in both the rural areas and within the built environment." (pg. 85 of Land Use 2025)

    The ONLY way this can be done is by taking property by force. RhodeMap suggests achieving this goal by discriminating against single family homeownership by way of placing a large majority of the property tax burden on single family homes to subsidize mixed use, high density housing. Once it becomes unaffordable to live in the "suburban sprawl" (RhodeMap’s words, not ours) and house values plummet due to excessive taxation, people have no choice but to sell their property to the state and move into the mixed use, high density living conditions of growth centers.

    You are misinformed, Mr. Carini.

  2. "The ONLY way this can be done is by taking property by force."

    This is utterly ridiculous, fake news, typical Tea Party hysterics. Readers need only ask, "Well, how did all the protected green space we currently have on the map come to be? Forced land takings? Police evictions? Martial law? Little green creatures descending from hovering, shiny silver objects in the night?

    No, the land was bought, at market prices, by the state, by the towns, by the several private conservation organizations we are blessed with in Rhode Island.

    We have two "green" state eminent domain takings in our history, and the crackpot right can rest assured that the big middle and the left wing are solidly behind him in determination to see that such history is not repeated. Those were the Scituate Reservoir and Big River Reservoir land takings.

    Scituate was a century ago and resulted in the Reservoir that without which, Mr. Stenhouse take note, there would be no foundation for property in Rhode Island at all. Big River was a different. Yes, the residents and land owners were bought-out, but Rhode Islanders were at first troubled and then appalled at the spectacle when they discovered—entirely through the non-partistian coalition activism of citizens—that the water was not needed. No, they did not succeed in reversing the land taking, but they did stop the dam, at no harm to water our supply or economy, and did preserve the land as valuable watershed and outdoor recreation for the entire public of the state. And more important for the future, the action threw down a political marker, "This sort of thing is not going to happen again."

    Be assured, Tea Party RI, when you embrace a cause that makes some common sense, you’ll find plenty of common sense allies to help you with it right here on earth, right here in Rhode Island.

  3. Did you even bother to read what I typed Bill? How is the state going to achieve the goal of 63 percent, nearly two-thirds of the State’s landscape, of open, undeveloped land? People are just going to walk out of their houses and move into high density housing for the fun of it? Is that your contention?

    Why not respond to what I actually said like an intelligent adult, as opposed to just hurling personal attacks? Is that possible or is that all you have to offer?

  4. I’ll repeat what I said, it is utterly ridiculous to claim that the state, particularly given our history of state takings for reservoirs, is going to seize 63%, or any percent, of the state’s undeveloped, privately held land by force. Conservation/outdoor recreation lands are bought by state, local and private entities. Notice that you, in both your retorts to the article, don’t mention a shred of evidence supporting that they are not, that the state seizes land by force.. What you deal in is fear-mongering. Fear mongering as crazy as anything on the left.

  5. So people are just going to voluntarily give up their single family homes to move into high density housing Bill? Simply yes or no please. If yes, HOW will they get people to voluntarily move out? Please let us know, it will make us struggling middle income earners feel so much better if you were to share your wisdom on how we will willingly give up everything we’ve worked to achieve.

  6. Nobody would have to give up anything they achieved, bought or built. Single-family or multi-family homes would not be taken by force. That’s not what Land Use 2025 or RhodeMap RI mandates, encourages or even suggests. Rhode Islanders – whether they be liberal or conservative, black or white, Christian or Muslim — wouldn’t allow it.

    If homeowners and families were being forced off their property to create green space, golf courses, firing ranges or a wall on the border of Connecticut, ecoRI News could be among the media covering these illegal/unconstitutional activities.

    The point of the column above, besides noting the over-the-top fear manufactured by ignorance and/or selfishness and pushed by pandering politicians, is that we need to have honest and open conversations about what we want our state to look like now and in the future. Do we want to leave our children and grandchildren a hellscape devoid of life, or one that still has beautiful vistas, swimmable beaches, clean water, hiking trails, animals, insects, plants, and favorite fishing holes?

    If needed conversations are shouted down by conspiracy theories — like the ridiculous Agenda 21 — and our elected officials, from both parties, are too scared to call bullshit, future generations will be left with fewer options and less diversity. They, and the rest of life on this plant now and in the future, deserve better from us.

    What RhodeMap RI did was provide a template to help us better prepare for the future. It was hardly perfect, but it did address some of the many challenges we face now and our kids will face 50-100 years from now. Instead of having important conversations about making the plan, and thus the present and future, better, we get distracted by howling Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians and continue to drag ourselves down the same worn path.

    Planning for the immediate future and for the years beyond that is about changing our land-use practices and ending our political infatuation with special interests. It’s not just about economic development. In fact, if we better address social and economic justice and acknowledge the importance of environmental protections, the economy will come along for the ride.

    Responsible planning means not building a corporate office park in the Johnston woods when the state already has plenty of paved-over, infrastructure-ready locations that need to be redeveloped. It means not cutting down Hopkinton forest to build a 20th-century travel plaza a few miles north of another such facility. It means not building a fossil-fuel power plant in the Burrillville woods to help an out-of-state company create a better overseas market for its energy.

    You could, if your family had a piece of highly valued property, come to an agreement with the state and/or a private organization, such as The Nature Conservancy, to sell your property and protect it from future development. No one, however, is going to force you to do that.

    It’s about conservation easements, making better use of vacant retail/office space, and redeveloping brownfields — yes with some taxpayer money, but it’s a better investment than bombs — and not creating new ones. (see links below)

    It’s about having adult conversations about what we need to do.

    — Frank Carini, ecoRI News editor

    http://www.ecori.org/smart-growth/2016/12/19/historic-broadwall-farm-permanently-protected-for-agriculture
    http://www.ecori.org/smart-growth/2016/12/16/dem-awards-13-million-to-redevelop-brownfields
    http://www.ecori.org/smart-growth/2016/9/5/ris-big-empties-leave-economic-environmental-void

  7. Rhode Map is much ado about nothing, planning documents have always been routinely ignored.
    But its useful for the establishment to feel good about their plans even as they undermine it with promoting power plants, office "parks" and casinos in natural areas.
    Its also useful for the tea party types to scare their followers and pander to their right-wing funders who evidently care nothing about the environment, the beauty of the countryside, or rebuilding urban quality of life.

  8. Someone should remind Mike Stenhouse and Justin Katz that zoning that excludes many types of housing and mixed use is more of a conspiracy against the free market than anything in RhodeMap. If anything, the carbe-outs to allow a small percentage of affordable housing types (rowhouses, apartments, duplexes, and the like) is a valve to open up the market against the social engineering of zoned exclusion.

    Sigh. Keep fighting, Frank!

  9. How do you suggest rural communities pay for services (water, sewer, schools, etc.) required by high density affordable housing? By raising already too-high property taxes? That would result in even higher income disparity in those communities by forcing the middle class out, so only the rich could afford to live in the non-affordable houses.
    Also show some respect for the hard working, not always high earning, often conservative (Republican) taxpayers who have been preserving most of our open space for a long time before any plan was proposed. This article and many of the comments are as much of a rant as the so-called rant it is protesting.

  10. Dan, speaking of rants, please point out where the column disrespects hard-working, low-earning conservatives, liberals, socialists or Marxists. My criticism touches Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, conservatives and so-called liberals. The plan is much, much more than the alleged ramming of high-density housing down the throats of rural communities. Planning for the future isn’t about rural vs. suburban vs. urban. Responsible planning isn’t an attack on the middle class. I’ve always been middle-classer and I sure as heck don’t fell like getting beat up. However, there’s plenty of governmental policy clawing at the foundation of the middle class. It started with Reagan and hasn’t relented. — Frank Carini, ecoRI News

  11. One only has to read today’s LA Times to understand the road where RhodeMap, RI will take you if you are not careful –
    "California won’t meet its climate change goals without a lot more housing density in its cities".
    "The primary question in meeting the reduced driving goals, Boarnet and other planning experts said, is whether cities and counties will sign off on the massive amount of housing needed in already developed neighborhoods. Local governments, not the state, largely govern the approval of new housing."
    These plans are not local. These plans are not "unique" to localities. These are plans of central planners and they are Global planners.
    Beware.

  12. Backed by the Koch brothers, the stink tank Center for Freedom and Apple Pie was organized to disrupt a RI constitutional convention. When Rhode Islanders decided NOT to hold that convention, the Center found itself in danger of losing its national backing. Desperately searching for an alternative boogie man, they fell upon poor RhodeMap RI, mostly because it was the only other major state initiative underway at the time. Their problem? RhodeMap was more of pussy cat than a dragon. Filled with mostly innocuous and common sense recommendations, it offered little fodder for firing up the radical right. No problem! In the true spirit of the new alt-right, the Center simply made shit up. Knowing that few people would bother to actually read the document, they were able to fabricate outrageous and preposterous lies about what RhodeMap says and use their sponsor’s funds to publicize those bogus claims throughout the state. The comments below show once again that, not only were people taken in, but a surprising number still believe the baloney. Imagine what might have been if the same amount of time, energy, and money spent spiking RhodeMap was directed toward constructive planning for economic development. Instead, RhodeMap was effectively shelved and RI continues to implement economic development in the same old more or less random way it always has. (sigh)

  13. Does anyone actually read for intent? Read for what’s missing (that it might be put in as to achieve a common ground for conversation)?

    Anyway, @RITeaParty, what percentage of land in Rhode Island is currently ‘open landscape’? The use of the phrase ‘would remain’ seems to suggest that the % of land which is ‘open landscape’ in Rhode Island already exceeds 63% (it does); as such, how does the claim that land would need to be taken by force in order to achieve the number fit into this narrative?

    Folks, the dogmatic fight against any ‘government regulation’ whatsoever is unfortunate at best and destructive to its core at worst — as can typically be said of setting oneself for or against anything on ideological grounds, but that’s a separate dialogue. There’s a lot more to say about this, but unless someone is interested in mixing it up in an exchange of ideas, I’ll not waste anyone’s time, including my own and leave it at this: Systems of governance and economics, social structures in general, are tools at our disposal as a species to achieve whatever ends we see fit — to entrench and align oneself exclusively with one ideology or another is not unlike a carpenter insisting that a hammer, saw, nails, and wood are the only way to go, EVER, arguing they’ve worked so well in the past, power tools have been known to cut off fingers, screws can strip, and if anyone says otherwise, you will END them.

    @FrankCarini — your article here is comprehensive and informative and a touch polemical in that it paints a picture of a rather 2-dimensional narrative — ignorance, fear and darkness vs. experience, goodness, and light; informed planning vs. knee-jerk right-wing hokum. Yet, between the lines, it feels like this all unfolded with a little more complexity than all that. Perhaps though, that’s just me having difficulty believing that this simply could not have gone any other way. Aside from the flaws in the plan itself, could this have process have gone any differently as to engender a different outcome? What do you see here? Were mistakes made or are we simply FUBAR.

  14. Ben, excellent commentary. The point of the column, at least in my head as I typed away, is we need to stop fear-mongering from hijacking every conversation about planning responsibly for the future. I don’t believe the nonbinding RhodeMap RI is some perfect vision of what should do, but, like the Affordable Care Act, it was a good starting point to tackle a complex, and sometimes controversial, issue. But we can’t even begin an adult conversation because of all the manufactured hysteria. — Frank Carini, ecoRI News editor

  15. Thank you Frank and EcoRI News for shedding some respected perspective on this potentially useful tool for planning at all levels in RI.

  16. No tell all these enlightened central planners to stop engineering our community. Let the free market decide.

  17. First, we at the RI Tea Party are not going to speak for or defend the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity. The RI Tea Party is a completely separate entity.

    As par for the course for those who adore politicians and government, without proof and obviously any concrete knowledge of the situation, leftist simply dismiss any opposition to government intrusion into people’s right to live and choose as they wish as crazy and a conspiracy theory.

    As one of the few who have actually read RhodeMap RI, here are more quotes to prove this is, without question, an effort to destroy private property rights and local zoning in Rhode Island:

    Pg. 116; "The economic pressures on landowners, combined with the limited opportunities of traditional zoning, contribute to a haphazard, sprawling pattern of development.”

    Who seriously believes that where they live is limited by their right to zone their neighborhoods as they wish and believe the “sprawl” of single family homes is haphazard??

    Next page:

    Pg. 117; "Challenges related to public transit and housing in these areas can be addressed, at least in part, by continuing to aggressively pursue a robust growth centers program."

    What are growth centers? Mixed use, HIGH DENSITY housing.

    Pg, 122: "Adopt mixed-use development zoning which incorporates village-like amenities, services, and housing options for a mixed-age, mixed-income residential population, and includes by-right multi-family or other denser housing models for rural and suburban centers."

    BY-RIGHT – in other words, developers have the RIGHT, without any input from the community, on how much and where they place subsidized, mixed use, high density housing.

    Pg. 148: “Higher density housing, particularly in suburban and rural areas, should be allowed at different scales in every Rhode Island community."

    By community they mean census tract.

    Pg. 160: “The State should consider the creation of a permanent commission on property taxation to establish a system of universal, understandable and fair standards for the municipal taxation of
    property throughout the state."

    This was already tried last year when they tried to impose a statewide, two-tier property tax in which affordable housing pays nearly NOTHING in property taxes while nearly the entire burden is put on single family homes. This way, those in affordable housing can use resources and vote in any service or amenity they wish without any affect on their pocketbooks because the burden would be placed on the single family homeowners.

    This is the main mechanism to force people out of single family homeownership and into high density housing. The only people who will be left living in their own home will be the rich who can afford to pay exorbitant amounts of money in property taxes. Families struggling to maintain the lifestyle they worked to achieve will be forced into mixed use, high density housing.

    Concerns about RhodeMap are real and well founded. Those who defend it wish to destroy the American dream in pursuit of a utopia that will surely end in hell.

  18. @RI Tea Party, supposing, for a moment, that you’re actually speaking to my post, I am left somewhat baffled by the choice to sidestep what was actually said. In response to your post:
    1) re: Pg. 116: Where people can live is, indeed, limited by zoning. I cannot, for example, simply rebuild an old warehouse to spec and call it mixed use and avail the space for rent — unless I’m, say, the Struever bros. As for the assertion that it is not haphazard, you’re asserting that it does not cleanly meet the definition "lacking any obvious principle of organization" — the onus is on you here to to demonstrate otherwise. Developments grow from the mind of any given developer combined w/ the specific ordinances and momentary leanings of any given municipality, and that’s about it — which ultimately lands squarely as market demand which continues to yield, contrary to what so many would like to claim, sub-optimal results, at best.
    2) re: Pg. 117: Yes, that’s correct, and?
    3) re: Pg. 122: not my area of expertise and certainly a point of discussion, though hardly grounds for dismissal of the entire body of work.
    4) re: Pg. 160: another potentially fine point of contention, meriting further discussion.

    So reading all of that, I’m left grappling w/ the conclusions you’re drawing here. Sounds a whole lot like propaganda and fear-mongering. The machination you describe here echos the same rationale as the decimation of urban centers resulting from ‘white flight’, as decried by the left. You’re pointing to a couple of points you find contentious and jumping to a conclusion of intentional destruction of a way of life. Argue for what you’re arguing for here already. You think the goal of reducing the rate of sprawl is unwarranted. That’s fine for you to say(I disagree), but say it. This flowery narrative of an erosion of individual freedoms and rights (not unlike your claim for adoration of politicians and government — @eco RI has been MORE than harsh w/ government and politicians alike) is stomach-churningly disingenuous; it’s also a substance-less claim to undermine the argument of another party without providing meaningful evidence — it kind of makes it sound like you do not believe your argument stands on its own.

    @Frank Carini — Without being sourceful in transforming the narrative, we are stuck to repeat it, over and over again and our commitment to a fair, just, sustainable society will never be realized. This evaluation, while fair in its criticism of knee-jerk, reactionary opponents, has a missing piece, which is an assessment of what there is to learn from this experience; I don’t believe it’s that the roadblocks to progress for the environmental movement are tin-foil-hat wearing fucks.
    Are we to assume that the primary players in this situation are ‘bought and paid for’ special interests or is there something more complex and subtle afoot here? My sense is the latter. For example, it seems the mere mention of eminent domain in the document represents something that, for some, more or less inexorably disqualifies the document, and even the entire conversation, outright, especially as being funded by the federal government; further I don’t think that down-playing that single concern or while pointing out the vicious machinations birthed by that concern as a means to defend it necessarily serve to shift the conversation; it’s a non-negotiable for them. The simple reality is that the premise of a distant, intangible specter of somebody’s land being ‘taken’ in exchange for fair market value (or otherwise as some might imagine), especially given how improbable we relate to that as being, is insufficient alone to stir up enough sentiment to ‘foil’ the plan on its merits and flaws alone and so folks that feel that way go ‘fishing’ for other objections and there’s no shortage to be found. Onerous as the task may be, it is the task of good progressives everywhere to include those with such non-negotiables in the conversation from the get — after all, it’s not like the challenge faced by those defending the environment is to convince those who are clear it’s the necessary thing to do that it’s the ‘right’ thing to do, it’s to meaningfully engage those with other priorities in seeing WHY it’s necessary, that they might take up the mantle as well.

  19. Hey Ben,

    I was responding to everyone in general. Nothing you said stuck out as very insightful or particularly meaningful.

    I am simply citing why RhodeMap RI is dangerous and not an economic development plan. People’s property rights are limited by zoning. The point is that the solution to this problem isn’t more top down, politically driven decision making in relation to private property.

    What you consider “sub-optimal results, at best” is what people have chosen throughout history. You really believe YOU know better than them in regard to what is best for that property? How arrogant and irrational.

    The other points, again, prove that RhodeMap is not an economic development plan, it is a social engineering scheme designed to impose a certain outcome, by use of force, upon the citizens of Rhode Island.

    I am citing facts, that’s all. If that strikes fear in you, maybe you should reconsider your advocacy. Your fear says a lot more about you than it does about us.

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