December 30, 2009

Re: Morfessis Withdraws

Justin Katz

Just in from the governor's office:

Governor Donald L. Carcieri today announced that Ioanna Morfessis has chosen not to accept the position of Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (EDC) due to a personal family matter. The Governor spoke with Ms. Morfessis late Tuesday afternoon.

"While I am disappointed that Ioanna will not be leading the EDC, I respect and understand her decision, and wish her and her family well," said Governor Carcieri. "On behalf of myself, and all those she has had the opportunity to meet and work with these past several weeks, I extend my best wishes and prayers to her and her family."

"Due to recent knowledge of a family member's serious health challenges, it is with deep regret and a heavy heart that I withdraw as the Governor's Executive Director designee for the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation," said Ioanna Morfessis.

"Over the past year, through the work of my EDC review panel, the House and Senate leadership, and the business community, we have made a united commitment to improve our economic development strategy," continued Governor Carcieri. "Rebuilding our economy and getting people back to work is our most important priority. I am confident that we will build upon the efforts of this last year to strengthen the EDC and continue to move our economic development strategy forward."

Governor Carcieri has contacted House and Senate leadership to discuss an alternative plan that he expects to announce next week.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I look forward to seeing "the plan". So far I have not seen a coherent strategy or action plan for the EDC that I could believe would have any positive effect on RI's economy.

Here is the existential problem: If the EDC continues to function merely as a public relations agency and small-time "deal broker" for tax incentives and other subsidies it should be disbanded and the $5 million annual budget saved. If the EDC wants to be effective in its mission, it should propose a comprehensive reform of the state's tax, regulatory, and labor law regime and demand that the General Assembly pass it.

And who in the Governor's office has the guts to take that bold action?

Posted by: BobN at December 30, 2009 9:16 PM

You know what I never understood? Why we need to hire a person as the director of the EDC in the first place. Isn't that the governor's job? It's kind of like electing a mayor, then paying a hundred grand so he can hire a chief of staff to do his job.

I wish I had the luxury of hiring a person to do my job so I could attend to the "other" things.

Posted by: michael at December 31, 2009 9:38 AM

I'm not sure how other states do things, but isn't the over-reliance on boards and commissions in RI a leftover from the pre-separation of powers days? The RI legislature wanted a method by which they could exercise executive authority, so they created all these quasi-executive agencies where they could control the membership (and in some cases, I believe, even directly sit on the boards). With SoP, some of these boards and commissions have become largely untethered from anything.

One possible reform to consider would be pulling something like the EDC into a more traditional "cabinet" structure. When a new governor is elected, he would pick a new EDC head, sort of a "secretary of commerce" for RI. However, I don't know how easy it is to recruit people for state-level positions that have a politically limited tenure, i.e. does a Peter McWalters take the state education commissioner position, if he knows he won't likely be able to keep it for 17 years. And is that a good thing or a bad thing.

All of that said, I would have to place board reform on the lower-end of a list of RI priorities at the moment.

Posted by: Andrew at December 31, 2009 11:24 AM

I have a brother-in-law (well, an ex-brother-in-law) who works for Mass Development, which I believe is the Massachusetts counterpart to the EDC. He's always putting together financial packages to help businesses expand, find new locations (did a lot of work at the old USAF base), and they get tax-free bond funding for nonprofits.

I do not know if how their agency works is fundamentally different from RIEDC, but it sounds like they are effective and could be worth looking at as we in Rhody tries to get our act together yet again.

Posted by: david c at December 31, 2009 12:41 PM

This person was either sold a false bill of goods or didn't understand what she was getting herself into.

Either way RI looks stupid again.

This is another wake up call for the taxpayers to face the obvious fact that their government didn't do its job (all three branches) and wherever possible they need to be voted out in 2010.

Without massive changes that shrink government, balance the budget, lower taxes and create jobs Rhode Island does not stand a chance.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at January 1, 2010 10:41 AM

Life happens! There are times when things crop up in a family that require one to reset priorities. Don't doubt for a second that Ms. Morfessis has pressing family matters that are keeping her out west. The only people who look stupid here are Sen John Tassoni and Sol. lol

Posted by: Tim at January 2, 2010 9:00 AM
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