Affecting Columnists Across the Sections

Perhaps it’s grasping at straws for something on which to hang some optimism, but judging from the cross-section unity among columnists, perhaps the common wisdom in Rhode Island is rocking in the right direction. On page A2, LifeBeat columnist Mark Patinkin head-fakes a silver lining and then highlights the problems of the state in the form of a humorous wishlist, such as:

  • Interstate bridges strong enough to support trucks. …
  • Requiring General Assembly members to demonstrate fifth-grade proficiency in math so they can make Column-A equal Column-B instead of having a $500-million-or-so deficit. …
  • A post allowing Steve Laffey to take care of the few dozen other crossing guard-like contracts in the state.
  • Physician remibursement rates a bit higher than those in Ghana so we can keep good docs from fleeing the state. …
  • A governor’s veto that cannot be overridden by opposition leadership casually snapping its fingers.

Meanwhile, in the business section, looking toward Rhode Island’s future made columnist John Kostrzewa so depressed that he leaped categories from business to history:

As I prepared a forecast of Rhode Island’s economy, the data was so dismal that I decided to get out of the office for a different view. I headed for the ocean and stopped at a spot I’d passed by hundreds of times — Blithewold.
I walked the grounds of the 33-acre estate in Bristol, on Narragansett Bay, and learned about the fascinating history of Augustus Stout Van Wickle, the coal baron from Pennsylvania who developed the property.
But I had a question.
Of all the places he could have lived, why did he pick Rhode Island?

And of course, the drumbeat’s echo can still be heard where it arguably began (within the paper), on the editorial page:

Rhode Island’s beauty, superb location, coastline and institutions of higher education should make it a magnet for well-educated people and shrewd entrepreneurs. Yet, U.S. Census estimates say, its population has declined for the last four years — and, last year, declined more than that of any state, beating even Michigan, battered by the decline of the U.S. auto business.
Maybe one of the most crowded states could use a little more breathing space. But what is alarming is who seems to be leaving: It appears to be the state’s working-age (and heavily taxpaying) population, including highly educated residents who are looking for work. Unfortunately, as mounting state and local budget deficits show, Rhode Island cannot function at its best unless it has a vigorous economy, with jobs to keep young, ambitious and educated people, and tax revenues to pay for its government programs.

Maybe — just maybe — the same refrain will start to enter the general public (even those with an interest in the status quo) and effect change.

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