Why a ‘Smart Growth’ Agenda in This State Arouses Tea Party, Property Rights Activists

Bruce Katz speaks at a 2008 event at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Carrie Devorah/WENN/ Newscom)

One of the biggest sources of grants in the nation’s smallest state rakes in taxpayer dollars while advancing centralized planning of environmental controls that burden entrepreneurs and taxpayers alike, its critics charge.

The Rhode Island Foundation received hundreds of thousands of dollars from taxpayers over the past few years even as it awarded money to promote “sustainable development” and “smart growth” that undermine job creation and the best interest of taxpayers, say public officials and citizen activists familiar with the foundation’s plans.

To commemorate its 100th anniversary, the Rhode Island Foundation touts a “diverse range of projects” built around Centennial Community Grants. But its critics charge that the nonprofit institution has become devoted exclusively to pushing a progressive, even radical, agenda.

“This is all about HUD bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., working to take away local control on zoning so they can determine who lives where,” tea party activist Mike Puyana says of a “smart growth” plan backed by the foundation.

With almost $1 billion in assets, the foundation bills itself as Rhode Island’s largest grant-maker, awarding more than $30 million a year, according to annual reports. Tax records show the foundation concentrated its most recent donations on left-of-center organizations, with …read more