In a recent chat with North Providence’s Mayor Lombardi, he told me that North Providence’s population has been essentially unchanged 30 years at 32,000 residents. The population can’t grow because there’s no more room for expansion.
The town has also resisted the demographic changes caused by an aging population, attracting young families with a comfortable living environment and moderate housing prices. Unlike many Rhode Island towns, the student population has also been stable,
I looked into the situation afterward.
In many ways, a stable population is great — there is no need to build new roads, to expand utilities, or grow the police force. Even the schools have little need to be expanded or consolidated.
But not everything is stable – the decline in Rhode Island’s jewelry industry means that the taxes to provide city services has been shifting, putting new pressures on the property taxes paid directly by property owners.
The options are limited: increase taxes, reduce services — neither of which are desirable — or find alternative sources of funding. Typically those alternative sources are re-distributive, moving tax money from some communities into others.
A much more difficult path is to increase commercial development in the town to replace what had been lost when the jewelry industry collapsed. That’s the path that Mayor Lombardi has been taking.
Imagine how much easier the Mayor’s Lombardi’s job would be if the entire state was friendlier to businesses. What if Rhode Island had simplified regulations that were easy to understand and comply with and if state property taxes were competitive with our neighbors?
Fixing these things are within the scope of the legislature. As Lt. Governor I will be adding my voice and insights where I can, prodding and coaxing, but ultimately these things are up to the voters. They are the ones who tell their representatives in the legislature what is important to them.
If you agree with my message of an efficient and effective government that works for the people, then consider nominating and electing people throughout the state government who will work with me to make it happen.
While you’re considering things, maybe you’ll consider running for office yourself.