Monday, September 28, 2015

Time to put 38 Studios in the rear view

The last pitch of the year has been thrown at Fenway and all that remains of the Red Sox' 2015 season is a few meaningless games and the inevitable winter-long post mortem. New England sports writers are sharpening their pencils and planning their offseason shredding of the players, the staff and the front office. With the exception of the last few weeks of great games, this was a season to dissect and then forget. We've said it before: there's always next year.

A similar after-action analysis is happening in Rhode Island. With the release of a ridiculous number of documents from the failed 38 Studios deal, all Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to wallow in the misery of a deal gone bad and relive the bad decisions that caused a big financial loss for Rhode Island's taxpayers.  Unlike the Red Sox season, there are no bright moments to remember and nothing to build upon - just another sad chapter in the long running Rhode Island series called "How not to run a state." From the desperate attempts of the Carcieri administration to get an economic development win to the backroom machinations of the now-incarcerated Speaker and his cronies, the documents give us insight into how the whole deal came to be — and then became unraveled. While members of the media are providing plenty of coverage and legislative leaders have agreed to hold hearings, I am left wondering whether an endless examination of the 38 Studios debacle is even productive.

Don't get me wrong - Rhode Islanders deserve transparency and we should hold any criminally culpable parties accountable - but the unfortunate truth is that we are unlikely to discover anything that we don't already know or suspect. I'm not sure if it makes me a cynic or an optimist but I think that focusing too much effort bemoaning the mistakes that were made is actually going to hold us back. As locals we don't appreciate some of the best things our state has to offer and our negativity prevents us from seeing - and promoting - our best attributes. Our bad attitude and our willingness to crow about how bad Rhode Island has created a self-fulfilling prophecy and so even the most optimistic Rhode Island cheerleaders are driven away. In order to be competitive, we are going to have to be attractive to businesses and sometimes that means a tax break or an incentive. A “never again” hangover from 38 Studios will stunt our growth as much as high tax rates. Other states have had similar failures in economic development - and certainly Rhode Island has managed to waste millions on other errors over the years - so we need to acknowledge 38 Studios for what it was - a big mistake - and then look ahead to better days.

Just as the Fenway Faithful don't walk away because of one bad season, we shouldn't give up on the Rhode Island’s economic recovery because of one deal gone south.  

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