A False Sense of an Economic Vision, RhodeMap RI is the Most Damaging Policy the State has Seen in Recent History.
OSTPA has been very clear about its opposition to RhodeMap RI, a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, developed with HUD (Housing an Urban Development) money and relying on future HUD money to meet its goals.The big question is whether or not accepting HUD money will ultimately result in relinquishing local zoning control to the federal government.
Based on an accumulation of court cases and documents from HUD, the answer appears to be an emphatic "Yes". While the toxic nature of the plan stems from the reliance on HUD money and ultimately, the strings attached to that money, many have refused to understand the insidious nature of the plan and of accepting HUD money, particularly now and into the future.
The Politifact article couldn't have made it any clearer.The RI Division of Planning made the statement that there is nothing in RhodeMap RI that "takes away local government control and local zoning control." Not so.
After discussions with national experts, Politifact drew the conclusion that the statement "doesn't acknowledge the strings attached to the HUD grant".
We have heard town councilors state that they have no concerns that they are abiding by their signed HUD contract that states they are in compliance with "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" (AFFH). We have heard town councilors state that they will wait for other towns to figure it out. Some town councilors have stated that the Westchester County case, because it is larger, is much different than RI, it wouldn't happen here. Some town councilors have stated that they have been accepting HUD money (via Community Development Block Grants) for years and have never had an issue with the federal department.
These opinions have been expressed in spite of evidence to the contrary, evidence that clearly shows there has been a change in HUD's enforcement of AFFH. This change in enforcement has resulted in forcing cities and towns to build affordable housing at the census tract level (a few neighborhoods), not at the municipal level, thereby superseding local zoning laws.
If you think your municipality is safe because you have substantial affordable housing, you are wrong. A judge in the Westchester County case clearly stated that "affordable housing" is not equivalent to "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing".
It is incumbent upon city and town councils to educate themselves about the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing issue and to obtain an opinion from the Division of Planning as to who will be held liable in the event that HUD finds the municipality is not in compliance with Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.
RhodeMap RI has the potential to inflict severe damage on the authority of local communities and it is flying under the radar. If your town council has not been educated on the issue, please contact us and we can arrange to have someone speak at your next town council meeting. RhodeMap RI has been adopted and as of today, is the State Guide Plan. That means your local comprehensive plan must, by law, embody RhodeMap RI's goals and visions.
Speaker Mattiello has been very quiet on the issue since he made the statement that the plan would be shelved. Where is his legislation to do just that? If nothing is done legislatively, this plan will not be shelved.
Providing a Balance in Two Branches.
You know him for his research on and grassroots effort to eliminate the Master Lever (straight party ticket voting). This session, former gubernatorial candidate Ken Block is on a mission to bring balance to two branches of state government via the power of a Line Item Veto. As we have said in the past, RI is one of only a handful of states where the Governor cannot accept the budget and cross out just one item deemed inappropriate for the state's economy.
In our lopsided distribution of power in this state, Line Item Veto would help to balance the scales between the General Assembly and the governor's office. Help Ken, help RI. Sign his petition to indicate a groundswell of support for more balance in our branches of government.
Coming Up This Week.
The perennial bad bills are up this week - Card Check, an attempt to make it intimidating when voting whether to join a union; and, "elbowing out the little guy" when it comes to obtaining state contract work by requiring a complete list of subcontractors as part of the bid process.
A good bill is up for a hearing this week - term limits for representatives and senators.
Then there are the newer ideas like mandating business regulations regarding what some representatives consider a "hostile work environment" and alleviating the post traumatic stress disorders that apparently some have suffered from these environments; and, after years of mandating higher costs for National Grid, now mandating that the utility cannot charge customers for higher costs!
LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS 2/10/15 - 2/12/15
TUE, FEB 10
House Judiciary Chairman Keable
Room 101, Rise (4:30)
H 5031 Term limits for Representatives and Senators, maximum 12 years.
H 5124 Prohibit candidates from running for office if they have not filed all campaign reports or if they have outstanding fines.
Sponsors: Melo, Amore, Serpa, Lombardi, Costantino
House Corporations Chairman Kennedy
Room 203, Rise (4:30)
H 5218 Caps rate increases without General Assembly approval at National Grid, rather than addressing the fact that the General Assembly has mandated increased costs to National Grid.
Sponsors: Lancia, Diaz, Regunberg, Roberts, Price
H 5221 Caps (public utility) electric rate increases rather than addressing the fact that the General Assembly has mandated increased costs to National Grid.
Sponsors: Corvese, Azzinaro
Room 313, Rise (4:30) Chairman McCaffrey
S 54 Exempts fire districts with no tax and / or policy making authority from certain posting requirements of the open meetings act.
Sponsors: Pearson, Felag, Sosnowski, Ottiano
WED, FEB 11
House Health, Education and Welfare Chairman McNamara
Room 101, Rise (4:30)
H 5160 Requires school committee and town councils to approve Mayoral Academy Charter School application, all in an effort to retain funding for their inadequate schools. Remember the letter to Chafee stated that there were 12,000 applicants for 1,200 spots.
Sponsors: Serpa, O'Grady, Casey, Phillips, Melo (mostly public union members or relatives in public unions)
THU, FEB 12
House Labor Chairman Shekarchi
Room 101, 3:30 pm
H 5180 Card Check – Removes secret ballot. Allows intimidation in the process of voting whether or not to allow unionization in an organization.
Sponsors: Blazejewski, Johnston, Hull, Bennett, McKiernan (Johnston and Hull are public union members)
H 5149 "Abusive Work Environment Prevention Act". A nanny-state bill claiming to curtail certain activities considered hostile, citing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other diseases resulting from the theoretically hostile environment. Payday for litigators. More business regulation.
Sponsors: Hull, Bennett, Slater, Blazejewski, Diaz
H 5150 More mandates to make it difficult for the little guy to obtain state contracts. Require that bidding procedures include a list of subcontractors to be utilized.
H 5196 Allow drug and alcohol testing of state and municipal employees who operate taxpayer funded vehicles.
Sponsors: Morgan, Giarrusso, Chippendale, Price, Nardolillo