Increasing funding for our roads , bridges, and stormwater drainage by a $6 million bond financing is necessary and timely. The Westerly Town Council has it right in this case. But we cannot ignore other future major infrastructure needs, especially our elementary school reconstruction program, which is fast approaching. Because of the condition of our roads and bridges, Rhode Island ranks highest in the nation in vehicle repair expenditures. I have had personal experience unhappily in that regard. This is totally unacceptable and has a very negative impact on all aspects of our local economy.
Because of these two major expenses, our operating budget must increase or other line items must be reduced. But I have seen no sacrifice in any area of town government to balance out these additional costs. Our state economy still lags the region and the nation. Rhode Island’s unemployment and under-employment rates are nearly the highest in the nation. There are a few segments of our local economy that seem to be doing very well as manifested by the new vehicles I see on the roads. Those are everything contributing to home construction and remodeling, landscaping, and general government. Housing prices are still soft generally. The rest of the local economy has improved only minimally.
Much of the blame for the state of affairs can be attributed to failures upstate in the legislature and governor’s office to restructure our state’s tax code and regulatory environment. We can’t ignore it. We just have to deal with it and do our best. What we can’t or shouldn’t do is spend money on astro-turfing a football field in this economic environment. And it shouldn’t in any way be financed with a 20-year bond issue when the material has a life expectancy of 8-10 years.
In this election year, there are many new faces running for town council. That in itself should be telling. People are unhappy with recent events and the status quo. I only hope they educate themselves on all the candidates and issues before voting this year.
Richard C. Anthony