Cheer Up Rhody! It is summah aftah all!
At the height of summer in Rhode Island, WRNI political analyst Scott MacKay says it’s time to count our blessings and take stock of the good things about our cozy corner of New England.
Rhode Islanders have long taken a strange glee in running down our state. The cry of `Only in Rhode Island’ greets every new report of political corruption, official buffoonery and economic gloom. Mired in our glass half-empty attitude, Rhode Islanders grouse about everything from the weather to the unemployment rate.
But with the sun shining and ocean beckoning, it’s the season to celebrate all that we love about Rhode Island. So here’s our once a year paean to the Ocean State, done with some help from our friends at Bryant University’s Chafee Center for International Business.
The sailboats are back in Narragansett Bay, the Stanley Cup is on its way to Providence, home to the Providence Bruins, and baseball reigns at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. Want to tee it up at a Donald Ross designed golf course? We’ve got more of those per capita than just about anywhere else.
While our unemployment rate is high, at more than 10 percent, this also means that about 90 percent of us have jobs. While elements in the business community grouse about high taxes, it is notable that according to the Bryant statistics, Rhode Island ranks 14th in the nation in the percentage of households headed by millionaires. Guess not every rich person wants to live in Florida, as some would have us believe. Even the wealthy, it seems, don’t want to live in a place that resembles Reservoir Avenue with palm trees and where walking the beach at this time of year is akin to doing push ups in an oven.
Our business climate may not be the nation’s best, but Rhode Island is home to such economic powerhouses as CVS, the largest drug store chain in the country; Textron, the original conglomerate and GTECH, one of the world’s largest lottery companies. Hasbro, the nation’s second largest toymaker, is headquartered in Pawtucket and just announced an expansion in Providence. TACO, a leading manufacturer of heating and cooling equipment, calls Cranston home and other leading brands, including Amica, Amgen and Citizens Bank, have a large presence in our state.
Our health care facilities are top notch. We rank second best in emergency medicine and have the nation’s second highest rate of electronic medical prescriptions. Our state has a among the lowest obesity rates and is 7th in the percentage of residents with health insurance coverage.
Too many Rhode Islanders take our state’s attractions for granted. Outsiders don’t. Why do you think people pay $2,000 a week or more for a cottage near one of our sparkling South County beaches? We rank number three in the country in the number of restaurants per capita. Where else can find a greater variety of food within an hour’s drive?
Even our water is better than most. The Scituate Reservoir, which supplies more than 60 percent of our state with drinking water, has the second purest water in the U.S
We love to complain about our educational system, but we are home to such colleges as Brown, Providence College, URI, Bryant, Roger Williams and the Rhode Island School of Design. If you think young people don’t want to come to Rhode Island, try getting your kid into PC, Brown or RISD.
The news may be full of tales of crime and violence, but our state has one of the nation’s lowest violent crime rates. No state has more historical sites per capita. Where else can you walk streets that were around in colonial times?
And where else do you get a state holiday celebrating Victory Day in August, the perfect time to visit a clam shack, fire up the backyard grill or slather on the sunscreen and head to Matunuck.
The weather has been steamy, so being Rhode Islanders, we kvetch about the heat. How soon we forget last winter’s snow. At least you don’t have to shovel humidity. So put the complaints on hold and enjoy the summer. Fall will be here soon enough.
Scott MacKay’s commentary can be heard every Monday on Morning Edition at 6:35 and 8:35. You can also follow his political reporting at the WRNI `On Politics’ Blog at WRNI.org