Governor to hold economic forum today downtown

Thursday, November 6, 2008

In light of the current economic situation and high unemployment rate in Rhode Island, Gov. Donald Carcieri ’65 is holding an economic forum at the Rhode Island Convention Center this afternoon to figure out solutions to the problem.

The forum looks to set priorities and make specific plans to deal with the current crisis, according to an Oct. 23 press release.

“I have asked our state’s top business and labor leaders, policy makers and academics to work with my office to identify the root cause for Rhode Island’s historical pattern of being the first to feel a national recession and the last to pull out from economic downturns,” Carcieri said in the release. “We need to better understand what is broken if we are to fix the problem.”

University of Rhode Island economics professor Leonard Lardaro, who will not be at the forum but will speak in the morning, said he is not convinced as to the potential effectiveness of this forum. Rhode Island needs to pass legislation to solve this crisis, he said, and this forum might delay that process.

“We need the legislature to convene an emergency session to deal with this crisis,” Lardaro said. “We can’t wait anymore.”

Matt Jerzyk ’99, editor of progressive political blog Rhode Island’s Future, held a similar view. He said the governor has failed to take accountability for the issues and adequately deal with them thus far, and is not confident this forum will rectify that. He said it was “certainly a day late and a dollar short.”

Jerzyk said the government needs to bring business leaders and experts around a table and create a strategic long term plan for the economy. “We have various ideas that have independently been existing in our economy for the last 20 years,” he said. “We have never developed a strategic plan that looks five or 10 years out and has specific things we want to achieve.”

But, he said while this forum seems to be on the right path, Carcieri has not yet shown the leadership that makes Jerzyk believe the forum will be successful.

“I’m not so optimistic at this point, considering his lack of leadership thus far,” Jerzyk added.

Justin Katz, the creator and administrator of the conservative blog Anchor Rising, said the forum is a good idea but will probably not lead to much action.

“While these things can be worthwhile, in Rhode Island they tend to be exercises in futility. You get a bunch of different opinions, everyone chats for a while, has brunch,” Katz said. “Nothing really comes from it.”

Rhode Island needs to cut taxes and invest in improving infrastructure to make the state more attractive to commerce, Katz said.

But, he added, neither the administration nor Rhode Islanders seem adequately concerned and ready to act towards solving the problem.

The governor is also holding a meeting Friday morning to discuss and plan resolutions for small business owners.