Vote Yes on Question 2 for clean water, Narragansett Bay and our economic recovery
by Save The Bay Executive Director Jonathan Stone
This opinion piece was published in the Westerly Sun on February 25, 2020.
Rhode Islanders, if you want clean water, love Narragansett Bay and care about what we leave to future generations, then you can take action now by voting yes on Question 2 in our March 2 special election. Early voting is underway, so you can cast your vote now.
Question 2, the $74 million “Beaches, Clean Water and Green Bond,” would allow for upgrades to safe drinking water facilities and wastewater treatment plants ($15 million); for new and re-built community parks and recreational facilities throughout the state ($8 million); and for long-overdue improvements to state beaches, parks and campgrounds ($33 million). The economic impact of investing in our beaches, parks and campgrounds alone is significant. “The Economic Impact of Rhode Island’s State Parks,” a University of Rhode Island study, indicated that in 2016, state-owned beaches, parks and campgrounds hosted an impressive 9.4 million visits, generated $311.9 million in consumer spending and yielded $38.8 million in tax revenue, while supporting 3,709 jobs for Rhode Islanders.
The bond would further support the protection of the farmlands and forested lands that are essential for Rhode Island’s food economy and climate strategy ($3 million), and the Municipal Resilience Program, which provides grants to cities and towns grappling with the impacts of climate change ($7 million). It invests in the dredging of the upper Providence River ($6 million) and upgrades to the Woonasquatucket River Greenway ($2 million), improving access, amenities and connections to Rhode Island’s network of greenways and bike paths.
While some may question Rhode Island’s ability to borrow following the challenges of 2020, it’s worth noting that this is an ideal time to make long-term investments that protect our water, air, forests, farmland and communities. General Treasurer Seth Magaziner has affirmed that Rhode Island can afford to borrow for these projects, noting, “With interest rates near historic lows, this is a good time for Rhode Island to use bond financing to spur economic recovery.”
What’s more, the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank reminds us that voter approval of $15 million for clean water projects alone will generate another $60 million in matching grants from the federal government—funds that should not be left on the table. This means that the proposed “Beaches, Clean Water and Green Bond” gives Rhode Island voters an opportunity to both address Narragansett Bay’s short- and long-term needs and leverage millions of dollars in federal support for our economic recovery.
Whether you vote early or on March 2, remember how many residents depend on a clean and healthy Narragansett Bay for their livelihood and quality of life. For over four decades, Rhode Islanders have overwhelmingly voted in favor of investments in our environment, notably Narragansett Bay. Now, as the Ocean State recovers and rebuilds, it’s more important than ever that we continue to protect our environmental treasures for generations to come.
Jonathan Stone has served as the executive director of Save The Bay since 2009.