195 Commission Head So Rhode Island

It’s difficult to read the Providence Journal’s profile of Colin Kane — whom Governor Chafee has appointed to head the powerful commission addressing the land freed up by the I-Way project — without feeling that strong sense that there are two Rhode Islands: His family’s relationship with the Chafees goes back to 1976, when Kane’s father was a principal of a Providence elementary school and his mother was PTA President at the Chafee’s neighborhood public school. Senatorial candidate John Chafee encouraged Mrs. Kane to run for state representative, and she did, and she won.
Colin went into construction — on the development end — and was an early mover on a policy that essentially pushed some zoning decisions into the state’s purview:

The partners jumped into the affordable-housing market before a slew of private developers flooded communities with similar proposals. The change in the law had suddenly made private developers eligible to bypass local zoning regulations –– as long as at least 20 percent of their proposals were affordable-housing units.

He’s become known around the State House for advocating for causes that help developers, and his mother wants him to be governor. All of this is fine, as far as it goes, and reading between the lines of the article, I suspect Kane and Anchor Rising readers would agree on a number of issues. This land development panel, however, stinks of the state’s usual habits. Consider:

Chafee said 70 people jockeyed for the unpaid spots on the Route 195 commission.

It would be naive in the extreme to think that public spiritedness provided more than a gloss of motivation. This is how Rhode Island sluices around power and influence. It’s how the insider club rewards itself, sets its members apart, and constructs public policy to reward them.

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mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

“when Kane’s father was a principal of a Providence elementary school”
I had the pleasure of attending that school during Principal Kane’s tenure. He was an amazing man who singlehandedly kept order over the students and faculty. If Colin has just 10% of what his father did, then I actually feel better about this commission.
When I was in fourth grade, a bully had pushed me to my breaking point. I chased him through the halls, finally catching up with him at a stairwell. I tossed him down a flight of stairs before teachers arrived and restrained me. Apparently I was so hungry for justice on the little jerk that I sprained the teacher’s arm trying to finish what I started.
I was naturally sent to Mr. Kane’s office, where he closed the door and told me that what I did was wrong, but he wished he could throw that little bugger over a stairwell himself. He’d take care of the issue with the teacher’s arm if I wrote an apology to her.
I think that if the same thing happened under anyone else, there’d be EMTs, police, and union reps involved. I give credit to the guy for caring enough to see what happened for what it was and give me a chance to make things right without resorting to ‘the system’.

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