Providence, RI -- It is the mission of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity to engage in a rigorous and honest debate about important policy issues. Conversely, at least one bill sponsor and her Committee partisans disagree; instead preferring a rigged, one-sided debate, in a demonstrably hypocritical process.
Despite a prior appeal from the Chairman and a motion from other committee members, the House Committee on Municipal Government disregarded fairness and passed a bill that would shut down open and legitimate debate on an issue of great interest to many Rhode Islanders. This after rejecting improvements to the bill as formally suggested by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.
H7989A, which will soon move receive a full House vote, would create a commission unfairly stacked with affordable housing advocates and without any legitimate representation of property owners, taxpayers or good government groups. Following its testimony on the original bill earlier in the month, the Center was asked by the Chairman, Rep. Robert Craven (D, N. Kingston), to work with the bill sponsor, Rep. Shelby Maldonado(D, Central Falls), to work out an arrangement whereby the nonprofit Center would be allowed to appoint at least one additional commission member. Maldonado rejected the concept, instead choosing to keep alternative voices off of the commission, which might disrupt the commission from reaching its pre-determined conclusions.
Also, despite passionate appeals and a motion from Rep. Blake Filippi (I, New Shoreham) and Rep. Justin Price (R, Richmond) for the Center to be able to designate a commission member, the Chairman allowed the Democrat-controlled committee nonetheless to rubber-stamp Maldonado's bill.
Hypocrisy? Even the legal council for the Speaker's office was consulted in a ploy to put down the motion. However, both his and the Chairman's claims that amending the bill in any substantial way, ostensibly by designating the Center to appoint an additional commission member, then immediately voting on bill, might violate the state's Open Meetings Act. Incredibly, just moments later, the committee passed a sub-A version of the bill that indeed added a new commission member who had the favor of the bill sponsor.
The bill is flawed not only in that it creates an unfair commission membership, but it is also based on a misleading premise, while making unsupported racial implications.
Also rejected by Maldonado, was language suggested by the Center to correct the bill's inaccurate and inflammatory language. The bill states that multiple localities are not meeting and have disregarded their required "state-mandated" affordable housing "thresholds". as the Center pointed out in its testimony, no such mandates exist in state law.
The bill language further cites that "institutional" and "discriminatory actions" that limit home ownership must be addressed. The Center called on the sponsor to provide direct evidence of such provocative accusations, or withdraw the language. This appeal was also rejected.
The Center does not oppose the commission concept and welcomes the opportunity for a public debate. However, it is the Center's position that it is necessary to have a fairly constructed commission that will explore all sides of this controversial topic; and, by virtue of the high level of research and public awareness it has raised on this issue, that the Center has earned a spot on the commission.
The Center maintains that the commission must be designed to properly debate the Brookings Institution, RhodeMap RI, and the federal government's HUD agendas, as they relate to this topic, which the commission is obviously designed to advance. The Center also believes that the commission's formation should be premised on accurate and tempered language.
Ironically, the committee's actions occurred less than one week after Rob Astorino, Executive for Westchester County (NY), the poster-child for HUD infringement on local sovereignty, spoke of HUD's heavy-handed tactics at a fundraising event for Center in the Chairman's own district in North Kingstown.
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