John Ornberg’s excellent letter to The Sun (“How to improve the economy: End R.I. corruption,” March 25) replied to that of Marcel Valois (“R.I. has many selling points to attract business,” March 21), the head of Commerce RI, a renamed, old, inept state agency.
Mr. Ornberg correctly criticized Mr. Valois’ focus upon “rebranding” our bad business climate. I fully agree. Like it or not, if Rhode Island is to prosper, we must attract business. But “rebranding” Rhode Island — pretending that we are a business-friendly state — is like putting lipstick on a pig.
Businesses don’t waste time on government cosmetics. Businesses do the math. They look at the costs of taxes, utilities, insurance, labor, litigation, and wasteful regulations. Rhode Island fails in every category.
Businesses look at a state’s political system. Our political corruption — a bribe to get permits, an expensive inside lawyer to get rezoning, a campaign contribution to kill recurring bad regulations and laws — is another deterrent.
Businesses look at the political power of labor unions. Unions were once necessary to protect workers from terrible pay and dangerous working conditions. Now they often are themselves the predators. Unions dominate our legislature. They impose mediocre performance at maximum cost. Businesses won’t choose to become objects of union prey.
No “rebranding” will bring businesses and their jobs to Rhode Island. Only a profound reform of our tax, regulatory and political systems will do so. And only we voters can do this. We must start in this November’s elections.
We should re-elect legislators such as Rep. Sam Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37). He recently sponsored a bill to allow business tax exemptions. We must encourage honest small business owners, homemakers and retirees to run for office. And if political parties nominate more union advocates, we must vote independent.
Let us build a new tax, regulation, and political climate that will attract business on its own. So we won’t need a Commerce RI to “rebrand” our state.