A coalition of community partners from throughout Rhode Island, including leaders from state and local government and environmental and labor organizations, today kicked off a campaign in support of the 2021 Beach, Clean Water, and Green Bond. The $74 million bond will appear as Question 2 on the ballot for Rhode Island’s March 2 special election and gives voters the opportunity to approve major investments in clean water, state beaches and parks, outdoor recreation, farmland and forested land, and community resilience to climate change. Included in the $74 million is:
- A once-in-a-generation investment of $33 million for state parks, beaches, and campgrounds
- $15 million for drinking water and clean water (upgrades to drinking and wastewater treatment facilities, combined sewer overflow prevention, stormwater management, etc.)
- $7 million for municipal resilience (matching funds for towns and cities to strengthen municipal infrastructure and increase climate resilience)
- $6 million for the second phase of dredging the Providence River in Downtown Providence (to improve water quality, remove odors and unsightly mud flats, expand public access to the riverfront, increase water depths for boating, and ensure the viability of WaterFire)
- $4 million to build a 7-acre park on former I-195 land in Providence, on either side of the pedestrian bridge that opened in 2019
- $4 million for local recreation grants (to build and upgrade community recreation facilities; it is the most popular grant program run by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM))
- $3 million for natural and working lands (to conserve forested land and preserve farmland), and
- A $2 million grant for the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council to continue its work developing, improving, and rehabilitating public recreational projects and infrastructure along the Woonasquatucket River and its Greenway. The “Woony” runs from North Smithfield and Glocester through Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston, and Providence.
The live introduction of the new Yes on 2 coalition began with Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea explaining the process of voting on these items during the covid pandemic, stressing that all voters need to re-apply for mail ballots, even if you voted via mail ballots in the last election.
The 2021 referendum special election will be held March 2. The mail ballot application deadline is February 9. In-person early voting begins February 10 (hours vary by municipality). In-person early voting ends March 1. Mail ballots must be received by the Board of Elections OR must be placed in a ballot drop box by March 1.
Rhode Island voters may vote their ballot in one of four ways: by mailing their completed mail ballot via USPS; placing their completed mail ballot in any of the dedicated ballot drop boxes located around the state; voting an in-person early emergency mail ballot at their local Board of Canvassers; or voting an in-person ballot at their assigned polling location on Election Day. Voters that request and receive a mail ballot MUST vote by mail ballot – they may not vote using either of the two in-person methods.
“Green bonds support what we love about Rhode Island — clean blue waters, beautiful parks and beaches, and vibrant communities,” said Janet Coit, Director of the DEM. “In the past year, the value of these investments has come into sharper focus as Rhode Islanders have explored our open spaces in greater numbers, looking for places to unwind and forget their troubles. People in every community can feel and enjoy the benefits of clean water and places that are accessible for public recreation. We owe it to our families to keep investing in quality of life – and we owe it to the generations to come who count on us to be good stewards of our beautiful state. Pay it forward.”
“By voting yes on Question 2, Rhode Island has the opportunity to invest in the new green economy and create hundreds of new jobs while at the same time protecting our cities and towns against the effects of extreme weather and rising sea levels. I urge all Rhode Islanders to vote yes on Question 2 to spur economic recovery for our state,” said Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner.
“The Rhode Island General Assembly made sure to include the bond measures in this year’s budget because we recognize that bonds are investments in all Rhode Islanders,” said House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick). “Approving the referenda questions on the March 2 ballot will fund projects that will jolt our economy and accelerate a badly needed recovery.”
“One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare is the systemic inequities in our society and how far we must go to address and repair them,” said Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence). “Clean water, access to parks and recreational opportunities, more resilient communities – these are matters of equity and justice. The programs funded through Question 2 provide community investments needed to support outdoor recreation and improve quality of life in urban areas whose residents deserve the same access to these public goods as other communities.”
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“Communities across Rhode Island depend on the preservation of our waterways, green spaces, and other natural resources. Past iterations of this bond have helped Pawtucket and its residents with over $1.6 million in grants for 2020 for new and refurbished outdoor recreation and infrastructure like the Blackstone Bikepath and work around the incoming commuter rail station. As a state, we rely heavily on the economic benefits that come from these resources and it is our responsibility to keep these spaces up and running and create the opportunity to expand these vital facilities for every resident,” said Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien.
“Communities like Warren have benefited in the past from the funding opportunities provided through green bonds in a myriad of ways,” said Warren Town Manager Kate Michaud. “Studies show that for every $1 invested in resilience infrastructure we can save $6 in recovery costs. Additionally, green bond funds can unlock millions of federal and private sector dollars and create well-paying jobs for our residents, all while protecting the environment and increasing recreational opportunities. In these times of economic hardship, it is more important than ever to spend public dollars wisely and to capitalize on every opportunity to maximize those dollars for the greatest public benefit.“
“Investing in the state’s water infrastructure is critical to building and maintaining healthy and resilient communities,” said Jeffrey Diehl, CEO of the Infrastructure Bank. “This Green Bond will leverage federal funds to make Narragansett Bay and our rivers cleaner, our drinking water safer, and support thousands of well-paying jobs for Rhode Islanders.”
“The RI AFL-CIO strongly urges voters to approve Question 2,” said George Nee, President of RI AFL-CIO. “Working people will achieve many benefits from its passage: job opportunities, cleaner water, expanded recreation, protection of our infrastructure, and an improved quality of life. We are a better state because of past investments, and we will be an even better state when we vote to approve Question 2.”
“I would love to see a deeper investment in our beaches and parks — not just so that others can see that Rhode Island is truly an incredible place, but so that we, and future generations, can continue to enjoy quality time with our family, friends, and especially with nature,” said Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council Board of Directors member Jenn Recinos.
“Rhode Island voters have always stepped up when given the opportunity to vote for clean water,” said Save The Bay Director of Advocacy Topher Hamblett. “It’s a big part of who we are. Over the past several decades, we have worked hard to turn back pollution and reclaim the health of our local waters, but we have to protect the progress we’ve made. Let’s continue to build on that progress for our kids and our grandkids. That’s why voting Yes on 2 is so important; you’ll be voting for clean water, for Narragansett Bay, and for generations of future Rhode Islanders.”
In Rhode Island, any statewide general obligation bond measure must be put to Rhode Island voters in the form of a referendum. Bond measures are proposed by the Governor through inclusion in the annual budget request to the Rhode Island General Assembly. Both houses of the legislature must approve the inclusion of each bond measure in the final budget as passed. The House and Senate may raise or lower the amounts of bond revenue requested by the Governor through this process. Proposed bond measures that remain in the budget are put on the ballot (usually held in November) as statewide referenda.
The Yes on 2 Coalition partners include: Save The Bay, the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Clean Water Action, the Rhode Island Land Trust Council, the Environment Council of Rhode Island, the Providence Foundation, and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
To download a fact sheet on the Beach, Clean Water, and Green Bond, visit www.dem.ri.gov/greenclean. For more information about the Yes on 2 Coalition, visit www.voteyeson2ri.com, or follow “Yes on 2” on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YESon2RhodeIsland.