Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s veto of legislation that would have given the Providence Redevelopment Authority the power to construct buildings reveals a principled, if wrongheaded, approach to economic development.
The bills were an important part of the proposed $260 million redevelopment plan for the South Street Power Station in Providence.
The governor noted in his veto statement that the private sector is better suited for real estate development than the public sector. This sentiment is appealing, but it does not recognize the important role the public sector has in economic development, especially in a state as weak as Rhode Island.
In addition, Gov. Chafee noted that there was “no principled reason” to give such power to an agency only in a city with more than 100,000 residents, as if the needs of Providence are identical to those of Little Compton (with fewer than 4,000 residents).
The key to resolving this problem is for the legislature to pass a more well-thought-out bill early next year, one that keeps this important project on track and smart development policies in play. •