Carcieri’s challenges

By IAN DONNIS  |  December 27, 2006

Meanwhile, the New England Economic Partnership found in November that Rhode Island, in a repeat of an old story, was faring poorly in job creation compared with Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Deal With Turnover: A certain degree of staff turnover is typical from term to gubernatorial term, but it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to get things done.

Ken McKay, Carcieri's chief of staff during his first term, and the manager of his successful reelection effort, is already gone, having taken up a perch at the Providence office of Brown Rudnick.

There’s speculation that McKay’s successor as chief of staff, Jeffrey Grybowski, one of the administration’s big brains and a key aide during Carcieri’s first term, could leave within a year. Gubernatorial spokesman Michael Maynard says Grybowski “has no immediate plans to leave that post,” although such a statement hardly ensures that he’ll be around for the long haul, either.

On the state department director level, Ronald Lebel and James R. Capaldi are leaving the Department of Human Services and the Department of Transportation, respectively, and additional changes might be on the horizon.

Pursue Property Tax Reform: While it’s not hard to find critics of Rhode Island’s property tax-based system of funding public education, steeling the appetite for change remains a lot more difficult.

Carcieri has signaled his ongoing support for the consolidation of some urban school districts, a concept first broached in the summer of 2005. While a greater degree of regionalization probably makes sense in such a small state, the advisability of grouping poor communities like Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls remains open to question.

Manage The Next Crisis: In October 2003, the Phoenix’s Brian C. Jones pointed out how, in contrast to the popular image of a bloated state workforce, a number of state departments have been left with too few workers to handle important jobs — including those of food safety inspectors, probation officers, hospital inspectors, and highway bridge inspectors. Budget cuts could place more of a strain on the state workforce, potentially putting Rhode Islanders at greater risk.

While a disaster on the magnitude of the Station fire seems unlikely, history teaches us to expect the unexpected.

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Ian Donnis:  idonnis@phx.com

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