Arts, education, environment on the ballot

Seven state bond referenda are up for approval in the March 2 special election

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 2/23/21

Your vote matters, and if you thought you were done with this particular civic duty for at least a year or two, you're wrong. There will be a special election on March 2 and it involves some …

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Arts, education, environment on the ballot

Seven state bond referenda are up for approval in the March 2 special election

Posted

Your vote matters, and if you thought you were done with this particular civic duty for at least a year or two, you're wrong. There will be a special election on March 2 and it involves some important state borrowing and spending decisions — spending that, in many cases, has become even more needed due to the impact of the pandemic.

The seven referenda questions include: $107,300,000 to provide capital improvements to higher education facilities at URI, RIC, and CCRI; $74,000,000 for environmental and recreational purposes, including beaches and parks, clean water, and local recreation projects; $65,000,000 for affordable housing and community revitalization; $71,700,000 to match federal funds for improvements to the state's transportation infrastructure; $15,000,000 for physical improvements and development of licensed early childhood care and education facilities; $7,000,000 to support the Cultural Arts and the Economy Grant Program and the State Preservation Grants Program; and $60,000,000 for industrial facilities infrastructure improvements. 

More detailed information on each of these referenda can be found at vote.ri.gov.

Arts organizations, in particular, have mobilized to encourage passage of their referenda, which would allocate monies to Trinity Rep, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, and other organizations as determined by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA). The arts have taken an especially hard hit during the pandemic, with venues closed and theaters dark. Proponents of Question 6 point out that the two principal beneficiaries of this bond are alone responsible for $34 million in annual economic activity; directly or indirectly employ nearly 900 full-time, local workers; and create more than $1.7 million in state revenue.

The Island Moving Company said in a statement that support for Question 6 "will put Rhode Islanders to work, while helping arts and preservation organizations from Westerly to Woonsocket navigate and recover from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an opportunity to strengthen our state’s leadership position at the epicenter of New England’s burgeoning creative economy."

In their statement, The Gamm Theatre said that "Voters overwhelmingly approved a similar, $35 million bond initiative in 2014. That initial investment sparked a groundswell of construction and renovation activity across the state, creating more than 1,000 local jobs and generating millions in economic activity."

Trinity Rep, which stands to be the bond's biggest beneficiary, wrote, "Trinity Rep would use the $2.5 million from this bond measure toward a major renovation and expansion of our 100+ year old home, the Lederer Theater Center. The historic 1917 building needs extensive renovations to transform from a World War I-era theater to a fully-accessible 21st century educational and community center. Renovating this space, which has been in the planning phase since 2017, will support dynamic, world-class dramatic experiences and add the flexibility to host even more diverse programs, events, classes, and convenings that are accessible to a broader community."

While the deadline has passed to request a mail-in ballot, in-person early voting has begun, and will be available through March 1; call your town hall to confirm in-person voting hours in your community. To vote in-person on election day, you can find your polling place and hours at vote.ri.gov. In both cases, for in-person voting, be sure to bring an ID and wear a mask.

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