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Friday, July 15, 2011

OSPRI caught lying – Again!

The Providence Journal's Politifacts calls OSPRI out for lying in one of their high-profile reports. This is the second time this year that OSPRI has been caught lying.

And this time, they also lied about Charlestown!

The Ocean State Policy Research Institute (OSPRI) is a far-right “think tank,” a creature of the RI Statewide Coalition. Except for a think tank, they don’t seem to think very well. For the second time in 6 months, one of their major research reports has earned a FALSE rating from the Providence Journal’s Politifacts.
The last time was in February when their much publicized report, “Leaving Rhode Island,” claiming the rich were being driven out of Rhode Island by high taxes – was also labeled “FALSE” by Politifacts. Statistics show the rich are actually coming to RI in larger numbers than they are leaving.
Their new report, the 2011 Rhode Island Piglet Book,” claims to have identified millions of dollars in government waste and dubious spending. Politifacts focused on one claim in the report, that Rhode Island used $250,000 in federal stimulus money to “provide digital television to the state’s inmate population.”
They found the project never received federal stimulus funds. The state used its own funds to pay for the mandated switch-over from analog TV to digital, providing only basic stations (sorry, OSPRI, no HBO). The prison warden noted that TV is an essential safety measure – without it, idle inmates would need far more prison guards, costing far more than the state paid to switch to digital so they could keep the sets on.
I read the report and followed the links in it to the OSPRI website. I saw that OSPRI claims Charlestown is a major offender when it came to abusing federal stimulus funding. According to the “Piglet” report, Charlestown had over $7 million in dubious federally-funded projects. OSPRI listed another $8.9 million in wasteful projects on their website. There are 14 projects total listed on the website, totaling more than $16 million in federal waste just in Charlestown, according to OSPRI.
But are OSPRI’s claims true? How much federal stimulus money did Charlestown waste?
OSPRI’s claims about Charlestown’s misuse of federal stimulus money rate a “Pants on Fire.” According to Town Treasurer and acting Town Administrator Patricia Anderson, none of the projects listed on the OSPRI website or the OSPRI “Piglet” book received federal stimulus money.
None of them. Nada. Zippo. As the Politifacts folks noted when they labeled OSPRI’s claim about the federal money spent on digital TV, as false Isn’t the purpose of a 38-page report with 412 footnotes to get the facts right?”
And to get the facts so desperately wrong about Charlestown is pretty amazing, given that OSPRI’s godfather organization, the RI Statewide Coalition, is based in Charlestown.
OSPRI made the same mistake on the Charlestown projects as it did on the state prison TV claim (and probably many others). They looked at an early “wish list” of projects and assumed the projects were all actually funded. As you may recall, when the first federal stimulus money was appropriated, there was a rush at the state and local level to come up with “shovel-ready” projects to quickly put people to work.
The stupidest claim on OSPRI’s list for Charlestown is the claim that we wasted $4 million building beach pavilions at our two town beaches. We didn’t. We had “shovel-ready” plans for high-end beach facilities that had been rejected by town voters. So those “shovel-ready” plans went on Charlestown’s wish list, along with $3 million in renovations for Cross Mills and the rest that are listed below.
We didn’t get federal stimulus money for any of these projects, according to Town Treasurer Anderson. However, we did do several of them using town funds. These included the salt barn and the barn painting. Voters also approved a greatly scaled down $1.2 million bond to build new beach facilities with our own money.
Here is OSPRI’s list of Charlestown’s “wasteful” federal stimulus projects – none of which was, in fact, funded by federal stimulus funds. Most were not funded at all and never happened.
·        Remediation of Kenyon Piece Landfill $500,000
·        One orthophotography flyover event $50.000
OSPRI is one of those ultra-right organizations that believes just about ANY government spending is a waste. They are developing a pretty good track record for being willing to lie and cheat to press their ideological point. It’s time for their RISC godparents to reel them in because frankly, they make RISC look pretty stupid, too.
Author: Will Collette