The Future of Rhode Island

March 24, 2014

Almost two years ago I began a campaign for State Rep from District 4. Fueled by my outrage over the blatant irresponsibility of Gordon Fox, my state rep, regarding the 38 Studios disaster, I started a grass root campaign to unseat the “Speaker.”  Despite being outspent by 10 to 1, we came close to victory.

Two years later, Mr. Fox is now spectacularly under investigation for any of a number of probable irregularities that we brought up during the campaign. Even worse, the political landscape that enabled this man to exert power is in danger of remaining fixed in place.

During my campaign I realized that the ingrained habit of our elected legislature was to delegate much of its power to its so-called “Leadership” and then spend the remainder of the term begging for scraps.

Let me be blunt. Any representative who votes for the sort of “Leadership” that enabled Gordon Fox to abuse his power is betraying the interests of citizens. We, the people of Rhode Island did not elect you to submit to the whims of lobbyists and special interests and corporations. We elected you to serve the people.

I believe that Rhode Island is an incredibly fortunate and special spot on the planet. We are strategically located on an idyllic patch of coastline along the Northeast Corridor. We have Universities and farmland, and a population of creative and hardworking individuals who value freedom and innovation. We are small enough to know each other—sometimes too well.

For too long the political conversation has been framed by special interests. The purpose of our State Government is not to create jobs, however much that may be a method for getting votes. The purpose of our State Government is to create an environment where people can live and work and thrive. This means protecting our landscape and natural resources, paying for education that teaches beyond tests, and offering powerful reasons for people to live and work here.

We are a small city-state. We can’t compete with our neighbors on payoff-like tax incentives.

We can, however, reform our government so that it represents the interests of its citizens over the interests of businesses and cronies.  We can use the departure of the so-called “Speaker” to give individual legislators a more powerful voice. Today we are governed by a legislature that abdicates its power. Tomorrow that can change. We can use the opportunity of a Constitutional Convention to create a more balanced government with true checks and balances.

It would be easy for me to assume that the downfall of Gordon Fox provides an opportunity for me. Having come so close, many people have asked, “Are you going to run?”

Wouldn’t it be nice, I think, to throw my hat into the ring, coast to an easy victory, and then shake the foundations of power? A nice story, but a challenging, and by no means certain, reality to create.

I am a writer and a storyteller. I have spent more than 30 years developing a powerful and compelling body of work for children, families and adults. If you haven’t heard or read my stories of hope, laughter, love and adventure, then I my work there isn’t done.

But beyond my own selfish desire to write and sell my books and stories, I believe that the public interest would be better served by an open race, with excellent candidates, fierce competition and no one with a clear advantage.

Therefore I am announcing my intention at this time not to run.

The future, however, is something that remains always possible.

Thank you.

—Mark Binder