— Newport —

July 26, 2010

Those with Time to Wait

Justin Katz

Money's somehow ever a factor in Rhode Island. Perhaps the tourist-attracting conspicuity of Newport mansions emphasizes the distinction between those with and those without (and the various gradations between). Perhaps the geography and historical, unplanned New England layout of the roads uniquely places working-class neighborhoods so near to the vistas that draw wealth. Perhaps the long life of the local architecture has led wealthy families to break up their land or subdivide their houses for apartments in proximity to others able to keep their estates whole.

Or it could be the discrepancy between those who can afford to tolerate the mess of the state's operations. After all, crumbling infrastructure has a sort of quaintness, and poorly run and business-unfriendly government only imposes a sort of premium, from the perspective of residents with the wealth to absorb the cost. Only those striving to improve their circumstances need suffer from the absence of opportunity.

It must be said, however, that money shapes the community in ways that can't help but be accessible to all. Unique (sometimes overwrought) architecture and the maintenance of the open spaces of bought-up land help to define an area. The specialty shops with crafts and arts that only the wealthy can buy may still be treated as free-entry museums. And then there's the interesting eccentricity that seems more refined among the rich. I think, here, of a statue that the distracted driver might spot on Rhode Island Ave., in Newport, while on the way to work.

Even if life leaves too little time or cash for more overt pastimes, only a slight turn of the head or turn of the wheel will lead to tastes of repose and feasts for the imagination — albeit with the pangs of longing for the time to linger and the observation that she's waiting for someone to come from within, not to pass by, without.

February 19, 2010

A Negative Approach to Governance

Justin Katz

And around and around not-my-town goes:

Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), whose district encompasses neighborhoods on both sides of the Sakonnet River Bridge, has introduced legislation that will prohibit tolls from being charged on the bridge. ...

Instead, Rep. Edwards proposes placing a toll on Interstate Hwy 95 (I-95) in Westerly and in Pawtucket as an alternative revenue source.

As a political matter, it's an easy call to reject state-level policies that will affect one's subregion negatively. And sure, perhaps there are marginal justifications for putting a toll in one place rather than another. However, this is just gamesmanship. If Rep. Edwards wishes to submit legislation that will solve the acute problem of a toll proposal while addressing the underlying difficulty, he should propose that the General Assembly allocate money from its general revenue to the basic infrastructure matters to which it ought to be going before anything else.

Of course, that would require the risk that people in his own district might dislike the decreased revenue for the ancillary government expenditures that would have to be cut, such as nanny state programs, inside deals, and union giveaways.