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Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

Let's Bring #610boulevard to Prime-Time

The proposal for a 6/10 boulevard is getting important traction, but still hasn't made it to prime time TV or radio. If you think the #610boulevard is important, make your voice heard to your local media--whatever that is--so that we can get this discussion going outside of the blog-o-sphere and Twitter.

Getting It Wrong on Tolls
Are you "singled out" if I give you $2 (instead of $4) for every $1 you pay? 

Yes--for a large subsidy. 
The media has done a good job of reporting on the cost of trucking to our bridges, but has made the classic "false balance" mistake of bad journalism. Much like the New York Times' recent mistake to refer to climate deniers at Pope Francis' encyclical announcement as "climate skeptics", the attempt to balance arguments by offering the position that trucking is being "specially singled out" is omnipresent and objectively false. If you cause three-quarters of a problem, pay for 20% of it, and are being asked to pay double that, then the end result is that you're still getting away with paying less than $0.50 on the dollar for what you use. Journalists need to start stating that facts, and not creating a false debate.

Burying the Lede on 6/10
We've got multiple Republicans and Democrats from very different vantage points talking very publicly on Twitter, and in Statehouse Committee meetings, about the need to address 6/10 creatively through a boulevard. Yet this is not part of what we discuss. How can we move forward without all the most important information?

@TransportPVD @NBC10_Cierra @NBC10 @RhodeIslandGOP We believe boulevard design should be studied! Sounds good.
— Patricia Morgan (@repmorgan) June 15, 2015

How often do you go to the store and haggle over prices without looking at what you're buying? This is the central question that irks me about the toll debate. I have a growing calm and faith much of the time that rethinking Routes 6 & 10 is at least happening, and that not only is it happening, but it's happening in a broad and bipartisan way. But I'm also really bothered by the disinterest of the Fourth Estate in this issue. We we're very lucky to find ourselves on a variety of independent media with strong readerships like Eco RI News, RI Future, and GCPVD. Ian Donnis of RINPR featured us as item #10 on his "Things to Know" list at "On Politics". And even TV anchor Ted Nesi tweeted our idea out to his many Twitter readers. But what about discussing it on actual radio or TV shows? I'm really concerned that this is being left to eggheads on Twitter to read about in 140 characters (fingers pointed at myself there, too) and not making its way to the general public that may get its news primarily in snippets of radio on TV. I know that that's where my immediate family get their news from.

Do you feel like our transportation system is getting too complicated, without
resolving your mobility needs?
A False Link Between Tolls & Endless Debt
Where I've agreed with the Republican caucus has been in their concern over debt, but that's about as far as the agreement has gone (debt is a hallmark of the "suburban ponzi scheme" that Strong Towns blog talks about). As Director Alviti has correctly pointed out, since Rhode Island is #50 in the country for the state of its bridges, and threatens to have as many as 40% of its bridges in structural delinquency within a decade's time, the cost of pushing off action is much higher than the financing cost of fixing the bridges. 

Alviti describes this as having a hinge that is broken on a door, and financing to pay the five or ten dollars to fix it now, or waiting until the door falls off in order to avoid the financing cost. This is true up to a point. The other truth is that we have too many doors. We've got doors on the ceiling, and doors on the floor. We don't have enough windows, and our roof is falling in. But we've gotta' fix them doors. So yeah, we're in a huge mess of debt service because of unsustainable spending. But that's not connected inextricably to tolls on trucks. Trucks have to pay because they cause the damage. We're only incidentally connecting the equity and fiscal sustainability issue of truck tolling to bonding in this instance. We should be trying to reduce the amount of borrowing we do and also pay for what borrowing we do equitably.

So the media needs to stop having this repetitive discussion just of financing. There's a middle ground to be had between where the RI GOP is--in questioning $200 million of debt service for $700 million in projects--and where Governor Raimondo apparently is--which is just going forward with that plan and not questioning the need to rethink our road system. In order to address the cost of these projects in any real way, we have to talk turkey about the projects themselves. Can we cut costs in half on the 6/10 Connector by making it a boulevard, like Toronto is poised to do? Can we greatly increase the environmental sustainability of that route, and its development potential, the way that San Francisco, New York, or Portland Oregon have? These are not questions for after the toll discussion. These questions are in the thick of it. We can't decide to do one thing or the other, fiscally, until we decide what the end goals are, at least in broad strokes.


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