By LARRY TAFT and GEORGE NEE
How would you like to be part of an investment that benefits you, and the economy? You can help to protect Rhode Island’s open spaces and farmland, create world-class parks and bikeways, prevent stormwater pollution of water resources, and clean up polluted properties for safe and prosperous development. Oh, and on top of that, there are partners who will add to the investment and deliver even more bang for the buck.
Even better, these funds have a proven track record of success in boosting the state’s economic interests while maximizing the value of Rhode Island’s natural resources.
You can be part of this special investment scenario by voting to approve the Green Economy Bond (Question 6) on the Nov. 8 ballot. It will provide $35 million to increase and continue many successful ongoing environmental initiatives, an amount that will be matched by community funding and grants that will increase its value.
The Green Economy Bond helps the environmental causes that Rhode Islanders have rallied to support in the past, such as protecting Narragansett Bay and open spaces, upgrading parks in all our cities and towns, providing enhanced recreational opportunities, and turning polluted former industrial sites into locations that are ripe for future business growth.
The Green Economy Bond will assure that these enhancements play into the state’s economic goals. The bond will help create conditions that attract innovative and tech-savvy businesses, support thriving local food and arts communities, and enhance public transportation through the creation of pedestrian and bike-friendly transit routes. It will also bolster the economic engine of tourism that already supports nearly 40,000 jobs and generates more than $3.2 million a year from people who come to enjoy the resources of our historic and beautiful coastal state.
Past statewide investments have helped out across the board, and the Green Economy Bond will support those critical areas of interest. It provides funding for historic state park development, as well as land acquisition to fill gaps in our state parks and wildlife management areas. It reaches out to communities to provide matching funds for local recreation development and open space conservation.
The bond will promote bikeway networks that connect businesses and green spaces. And through the ongoing backing of stormwater pollution prevention initiatives and brownfield cleanups, local municipalities will continue to enjoy dramatic benefits from increased economic, environmental and societal health, and revitalized development in communities on lands once shunned as unusable.
Rhode Island has a tradition of environmental stewardship unmatched in the United States. Since the first Open Space and Recreation Bond was resoundingly passed in 1985, Rhode Island voters have passed every subsequent bond with over a two-thirds majority. From the urban corridor to the rural countryside, this unshakeable voter support would make any individual politician cry with joy. The power of environmental protection and green projects has been recognized as an invaluable economic force.
The need for initiatives that enhance these areas of interest and concern have been folded into short- and long-term planning from individual communities up to the state level. But the state and communities need the financial backing to carry out these strategies.
Investment in the state’s future through the Green Economy Bond is a move that is a wise and rock-solid commitment to Rhode Island’s economic health. It’s a commitment to environmental health. It’s a commitment to the health of all Rhode Island residents. Everyone will enjoy the benefits for years to come.
Larry Taft is executive director of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. George Nee is president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO.