Monday, April 7, 2014

REP. DENNIS CANARIO (PORTSMOUTH/TIVERTON) NAMED DEPUTY MAJORITY LEADER IN RI HOUSE

Congratulations to Representative Dennis Canario (Portsmouth/Tiverton) on being appointed a Deputy Majority Leader in the RI House of Representatives (link below). It's great for the East Bay to have another East Bay member of the General Assembly in a leadership position, especially someone who is such an ardent opponent of Sakonnet Bridge tolls.

http://www.eastbayri.com/news/government-politics/rep-canario-named-deputy-majority-leader/

Brian Medeiros
Tiverton, RI

Thursday, April 3, 2014

GOV. CANDIDATE GINA RAIMONDO VOICES OPPOSITION TO SAKONNET TOLLS

Democrat candidate for Governor (and current RI General Treasurer) Gina Raimondo expresses her opposition to Sakonnet tolls (link below). Most announced Democrat & Republican candidates for Governor (not sure if Pell has taken a stance yet) have come out against Sakonnet tolls. 

It will be difficult for any candidate in upcoming primaries who doesn't oppose tolls to explain to voters how he/she supports tourism while also supporting one of the biggest hindrances to it. And since the next Governor will almost certainly be someone opposing tolls, it's added incentive for the General Assembly to eliminate the tolls now. 


http://www.eastbayri.com/news/on-bristol-waterfront-raimondo-lays-out-tourism-plan/


Brian Medeiros

Tiverton, RI

Monday, March 31, 2014

RI TURNPIKE & BRIDGE AUTHORITY'S AGENDA IS NOT IN RHODE ISLAND'S BEST INTEREST

The words and actions of RI Turnpike & Bridge Authority should leave no one in doubt that the agenda of this quasi-public agency is considerably different from that of most Rhode Islanders.

Legislation that would create reliable Statewide transportation funding has been presented to the General Assembly. This would not only provide a long-overdue funding system for maintaining infrastructure, but would do so with mostly existing State-funds, without imposing new taxes or economy-harming tolls. While most can see the wisdom and necessity of this system (every area newspaper has endorsed the legislation), RITBA's perspective is very different.

RITBA has threatened to "return" the Sakonnet Bridge to the RIDOT if they are denied Sakonnet toll revenue (see link). This is curious, since if the legislation is approved, RITBA will become a part of RIDOT, with responsibility for only Newport's Pell Bridge. They've also threatened the jack up Pell Bridge tolls. This is also interesting, since they've claimed Sakonnet tolls are needed for maintenance of all four bridges currently under their control. Yet, if maintenance on the other three (Sakonnet, Mt. Hope, Jamestown) transfers to the new funding system, RITBA still says it will need MORE revenue from the Pell. This shows clearly that RITBA's financial shortfalls come from it's own financial decisions and not the "burden" of the other three bridges.

The irony is that although RITBA has been claiming that Sakonnet tolls are needed to fund maintenance on that bridge, the funds from the 10-cent tolls have NOT been used to maintain the new bridge, which RIDOT has been maintaining. Clearly, RITBA has already-existing financial problems, and is looking to tolls-revenue as an open-ended means to a taxpayer-bailout of their troubled operations, not the best means of maintaining infrastructure without harming the economy.

Although Sakonnet toll opposition has been persistent and widespread, RITBA has been operating in a alternative universe. A year ago, despite bills in the General Assembly to abolish tolls, and a pending lawsuit to overturn them, RITBA spent millions of dollars constructing the toll-equipment. It appeared at best to be an effort to force their will on our elected officials, at worst an irresponsibly premature decision that will further harm their troubled finances when tolls are eliminated. Like the expenses incurred with the construction of their new facility in Jamestown, it's the kind of decision that breeds resentment in Rhode Islanders being told we must bail RITBA out from their own bad decisions.

At a recent hearing on the transportation-funding bill, the director of RIDOT opposed the bill because although his department would receive all the funds it would need to maintain infrastructure, the funds would not come mostly from existing funds and not "new revenue".  It's worth noting that the RIDOT director is a member the RITBA Board of Directors, and he acknowledged at a later hearing that this legislation would take RI from "worst to first" in infrastructure. Clearly, RITBA's primary concern is not having sufficient funds to maintain infrastructure, but acquiring the ability to toll their way out of a financial hole.

By supporting the current legislation, State leaders can finally create a Statewide system of transportation-maintenance, without the economic destructiveness of Sakonnet tolls. It's time for everyone in the State, including RITBA and RIDOT, to put the well-being of all Rhode Islanders above personal agendas.

http://www.heraldnews.com/article/20140319/NEWS/140315705/1994/NEWS

Brian Medeiros
Tiverton, RI

Friday, March 28, 2014

NEW HOUSE LEADERSHIP HAS OPPORTUNITY TO SOLVE TWO MAJOR PROBLEMS AT ONCE

The fact that the new leadership team in the RI House of Representatives features two East Bay members (see link below) can only be a positive for the effort to eliminate tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. Having Rep. Jay Edwards (Tiverton/Portsmouth) as the Majority Whip and Rep. Ray Gallison (Bristol/Portsmouth) as the Chair of the Finance Committee should give the major concerns of East Bay residents and businesses a clear voice in discussions as the effort to eliminate the tolls moves forward.

The new House leadership has a unique opportunity to solve two enormous problems at once. By enacting the Statewide transportation-funding bill crafted by East Bay legislators, State leaders can both finally put a reliable infrastructure-maintenance process in place (mostly without new taxes or fees), and also eliminate the wildly-unpopular, economy-destroying Sakonnet tolls. If they fail to act, neither issue is going away. Even RIDOT had to acknowledge that the funds generated would take the State's infrastructure from worst to first in the nation. And given that most (if not all) candidates for Governor oppose Sakonnet tolls, and opposition in the East Bay will only grow more vocal, Sakonnet tolls will not stand.

It's rare that such an opportunity is available to political leaders. There are two possible outcomes. One scenario is that State leadership approves the transportation-funding bill, and are hailed for both stepping up to address infrastructure needs and preventing the economic-disaster tolls would create. The alternative is that State leadership fails to take this opportunity to address infrastructure needs, the tolls continue and increase, and the battle on both fronts gets more heated and complicated.

The new leadership has rightfully called the economy and jobs their top priority. Passing the transportation bill will support this goal by improving our failing roads and bridges, as well as stopping the economic damage (and lost tax revenue) resulting from tolls. It's a historic opportunity that the voters of Rhode Island should push their elected officials to take, and not push these problems further down the road.

http://www.heraldnews.com/article/20140327/NEWS/140326396

Brian Medeiros
Tiverton, RI

Thursday, March 27, 2014

REP. JAY EDWARDS NAMED HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP, REP. RAY GALLISON NAMED FINANCE CMTE CHAIR


Congratulations to Rep. Jay Edwards (Dist. 70: Tiverton/Portsmouth) on becoming the House Majority Whip, and Rep. Ray Gallison (Dist. 69: Bristol/Portsmouth) on becoming the Finance Committee Chair (links below). It's great to have the East Bay represented in leadership, especially at this crucial time as the Transportation Funding / Sakonnet Toll-eliminating bill is under consideration.


http://www.eastbayri.com/news/government-politics/rep-edwards-is-new-house-majority-whip/

http://www.eastbayri.com/news/rep-gallison-expected-to-be-named-house-finance-committee-chairman/

Brian Medeiros
Tiverton, RI

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SAKONNET TOLLS AREN'T ABOUT MAINTENANCE, BUT ABOUT BAILING OUT RITBA

The Statewide transportation-funding proposal carefully created by East Bay legislators balances a number of concerns: it creates a reliable Statewide transportation funding system, it does so with mostly existing funds, and it does so without imposing new, economy-crushing tolls. RI Turnpike & Bridge Authority own words demonstrate that their primary concern isn't what the people or their representatives want, or what's best for the State, but receiving a taxpayer-funded bailout of their operations through tolls.

Rather than take responsibility for their financial situation and examine their own operations, RITBA is determined to force tolls to cover their shortfalls. Never mind that their efforts to kill the transportation-funding bill (see link below) will also kill the best chance for the State to finally create a transportation-funding system, the lack of which is why the infrastructure is in such bad shape in the first place.

The fact is that the proposed system would assure funds for proper maintenance without tolls. And most of the money collected on Sakonnet tolls would NOT be for maintenance of that bridge, but to bolster RITBA's operations elsewhere. RI legislators' focus needs to be on what's best for the people of RI, not RITBA's desire to balance it's books on the backs of taxpayers.

http://www.providencejournal.com/business/content/20140318-ri-turnpike-and-bridge-authority-threatens-to-give-sakonnet-river-bridge-back-to-state-if-higher-tolls-not-approved-april-1.ece

Brian Medeiros
Tiverton, RI

Monday, March 17, 2014

A DECADE OF THE SAKONNET TOLLS RUNAROUND

Some don't realize that the East Bay went through an extensive effort to stop tolls on the new Sakonnet Bridge a decade ago, and we were given ironclad assurances by State officials that there would be no tolls. The current administration decided to simply disregard those assurances, and the extensive work done in rejecting tolls. This senseless runaround the East Bay has faced since tolls were dredged back up 2 years ago (see link to article below) reinforces the negative perceptions many have about government: can we trust anything we're told by OUR state government?


Brian Medeiros
Tiverton, RI