Monday, February 8, 2016

No Shadow for the Independent Man

Even though there’s snow on the ground, there’s the distinct feeling that we’ve lurched ahead into spring and into the maelstrom of a crazy political year. The groundhog was shadow-free. Football fans faced Monday morning bleary-eyed after the big game and the equipment truck rolled out of Yawkey Way this week full of hopes (and equipment) for the 2016 season. Pitchers and catchers report in week, giving us time to learn the many new faces and names in the line up and to consider how they will fit into the Red Sox championship run.

At the State House, the session is in full swing and Governor Raimondo’s budget address last week was chock full of her ideas to get Rhode Island back on track. Critics and fans can agree that she has no shortage of energy and confidence that she can drive a multi-front agenda unlike any predecessor in recent memory. Her RhodeWorks initiative — retooled to take advantage of federal dollars and with language that ensures passenger cars will not be tolled — appears to have enough support in the General Assembly to be voted on this week. She is in a familiar position: leading the charge on something that no really wants to pay for, but we all know we need. At 50th in the country, our roads and bridges are an embarrassment — and getting worse all the time — so kicking the can down the road is not an option. Tolls are part of the cost of doing business for a trucking company and something they pay far more for in other states, so contributing to the maintenance of our roads should not be too much to ask as they pass through our state. After discussing this for nearly a year, it’s time to finalize the plan and get our roads fixed.

It’s time for Providence to move forward too. The city has been teetering on the brink of financial collapse for more than five years and the bill is going to come due. With so many of Providence’s problems tied to lucrative contracts doled out during the Cianci administration, Cianci’s passing will allow for the debate of Providence’s future to move in a productive direction. Even after his time in office, Cianci wielded outsized influence on Providence and its citizens over the airwaves, defending his own actions, giving voice to his allies and ripping down anyone who disagreed with him. Without his voice in the debate, one wonders if move Providence away from its past will be an easier lift.

Lastly, after talking about the 2016 race since 2012, we’re just taken the first hill in what will be a rollercoaster of a presidential campaign. Republicans are dropping like flies, allowing for a smaller stage and more oxygen for the frontrunners. Trump is wearing thin, Bernie’s catching fire and the tease of a Michael Bloomberg candidacy made us middle-grounders very excited at the prospect of a presidential candidate with a history of being a consensus builder. While we sit and wait, there’s a truck pulling out of Boston and heading south for Spring Training, paying tolls in most states along the way.

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