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Mon May 17, 2010
With summer on its way, Scott MacKay says our state's not so bad after all
By Scott MacKay
Providence, R.I. – If you follow the news, you'd be forgiven for thinking that a cloud hangs over Rhode Island. There seems to be an endless stream of stories about government corruption, bad schools, high taxes, soaring unemployment, and flooded basements.
Rhode Islanders seem to take a perverse glee in all that's wrong with their state. The cry of `Only in Rhode Island' greets each new revelation of political chicanery, criminal behavior or economic failure. Stuck in our half-empty glass mentality, Rhode Islanders wallow in a rut.
But spring is in the air, boats are being eased back into the cobalt shimmer of Narragansett Bay and the thrill of the grass and the crack of the bat are back at McCoy Stadium. In fact, there are many reasons to embrace our little slice of southeastern New England. Here are some examples - courtesy of Bryant University's Chafee Center for International Business, which has compiled more than a few.
With all the hue and cry from the business community and some politicians about high taxes, it's notable that according to Bryant, our state ranks 14th in the nation in the percentage of households headed by millionaires. Guess all the rich people haven't left for Florida, as some pols would have you believe. Even the wealthy, it seems, don't want to live in a sunny state that resembles Bald Hill Road with palm trees.
Talk to the people who just opened Carbon Ocean Yachts in Bristol. The principals say they moved here because they could hire some of the best boat-builders in the world.
Rhode Island is home to such world-class brands as Hasbro, Taco, CVS, Fidelity, Amica and Textron. Maybe the presence of so many top businesses in such a small place is due to our transportation system, and Green State Airport, ranked among the nation's tops for on-time efficiency.
Despite all the grousing about health care costs, we are among the top states in many indicators of good health. We have fourth lowest rate of adult obesity in the nation. We rank 2nd best in emergency medicine, 7th in the percentage of residents with health insurance, and 11th on a list of the healthiest states. Even our water is better than most: the Scituate reservoir is ranked second among water supplies for the country's top 100 cities.
Rhode Island is home to such world-class colleges as Brown, Bryant, URI and Rhode Island School of Design. If you don't appreciate just how many smart people crave the chance to come to our state, try getting your kid into Brown or RISD.
TV news and newspaper are full of stories about crime in Rhode Island. But when it comes to violent crime, workplace deaths and natural disasters, the Providence metro area is one of the country's safest, ranking 6th overall.
And there is no state with more historical sites per capita.
This list goes on and on. What's more remarkable is that we are a tiny speck of a state; it would take 200 Rhode Islands to fill Texas, if anyone cares. We're an historical accident, a state only because our first white settler, Roger Williams, couldn't get along with the 17th century theocrats in Massachusetts.
Hopefully, the sun will soon burn away some of our-self-loathing and cynicism. If that doesn't work, there's always a trip on the Block Island Ferry, a tee time at Triggs, a visit to a clam shack or a day at Misquamicut. Of course such diversions can't solve our many challenges, but they can help warm the state's winter-weary soul and fuel some optimism. Enjoy the summer.